Quick Tips for Driving in Iceland

 

 

Who doesn’t love roadtrips, right?  If given the choice, Neil and I would roadtrip in every country we visited.  We’ve rented cars in Aruba and Italy, enjoying the freedom of an open road and personal space.  On our trip to Iceland, we’ve added another country to our list of roadtripped destinations and of the many miles we’ve clocked, the kilometers in the land of the midnight sun were some of the best yet.  If you’re checking out theGolden   Circle, theSouthCoast, or doing the entire Ring Road, consider these tips for driving inIceland.

 

In summer, Iceland was made for road trips! Rent a car and head out to the natural wonders of Iceland.

Make Reservations in-town at Tourist Information

Information is free and so are the bookings.  So use your resources extensively.  After many days of considering our car rental options, we ended up right where we began our visit: at the Trip information shop at 54 Laugavegur in the 101 (downtown district).  Rates are the best in town.  Cars are located a few blocks away, at a nearby cathedral, for immediate driving.  Rentals are based on a 24 hour day, so drivers can pick up their car in the middle of the day and return it on the following midday.  Automatic transmission is readily available and all cars include a GPS navigator.  We’d researched Sad Cars, Backpackers Hostel, and other agencies.  While most were charging 12900 ISK (US$100) per day, we got our Suzuki Swift for US$75 per day with GPS and drop off at the airport.  We rented through Trip information because Sad Cars gave us the shaft.  After walking half an hour to their office, we discovered

 

 

Free Parking at Cathedral

While street parking is metered and private parking a premium, consider leaving your car in the parking lot of Reykjavik’s main cathedral.  It’s free and legal.  Our rental agency leaves part of its fleet there.  So, when we wanted to start out on our trip the car was waiting for us just up the street and to the rear of this massive house of worship.

 

Automatic Transmission Without Fees

While some companies may try to sneak an extra fee in there, note that many tourists drive inIceland.  Automatic transmission is a common request for which many companies have now just included in their standard price.  However, these “standard prices” aren’t always reflected during online reservations.  So make your arrangements in person directly with the agency once you arrive.  We almost gave up on our roadtrip toIceland’s South Coast because Sad Cars (I know—should have known) cancelled our internet car rental reservation.  They didn’t even email us.  We found out after walking out of town to the office by the BSI bus station.  Then they even tried to keep our money.

 

Renting a car and seeing Iceland on your own will let you stop by natural wonders just off the Ring Road.

 

R4R Cheaper Rates

At the tourist information booth where we rented our car, we opted for a special discount called R4R or ready for rent.  This meant that we got a very nice discount, shaving $10 a day off our rate.  In exchange, we had to return the car clean, inside and out.  This may seem like a trick.  But most gas stations have free brushes and hoses to clean cars and the vacuum costs 100 ISK (less than $1).  We stopped at an N1 gas station near the airport to clean the car for 10 minutes and saved US$20.

 

Always Have Lights on

Besides seat belts and a zero tolerance law,Iceland is very serious about using your lights 24/7.  You must have them on from the moment you turn the ignition.  Storms sweep in without warning and happy white clouds can blot out the sun.  If your lights aren’t on, on-coming traffic will flash you until you use them.  On our trip, we only saw police cars on the highway.  One vehemently flashed his brights at me until I remembered what I’d forgotten to do.

 

Check Your Credit Card for Premium Car Insurance

When the agent asks if you want the premium insurance for your rental, know first that your credit card most likely provides its own form of premium insurance for your joyride.  Check first and then reserve accordingly.  Neil and I opted out of the extra costs.  To be honest, our car had some dings and gravel marks on it already.  So the few that we may or… may not have) added didn’t make much difference.

 

Drop Off atKeflavik Airport

Try to schedule the driving portion of your trip for the last few days in Iceland.  Neil and I had 8 days for our stopover on the way to Amsterdam.  We spent the first few days, enjoying all the free stuff in Reykjavik.  Since we had a homestay in the centrally located 101 district in the capital, we didn’t need a car.  So when it came time to see theGolden Circle and explore theSouthCoast, we arranged a drop off at the airport.  On the morning of the flight, we drove back from Vik and left the car at the Geysir Rental Office at the airport, saving 4400 ISK (US$39) on a shuttle transfer or Flybus ticket.

 

Follow the Signs

Not only are national parks and natural sights free to the public, they are also well marked on the road.  The symbol is a four-cornered clover that will appear next to top sights like Gullfoss, Geysir, and –Soleheimjokull– Glacier.

 

Take a car and head out into the midnight sun in Iceland

Roadtrip with Local Musicians

While some people enjoy silence on a roadtrip, Neil and I like to groove to national bands when we cruise down the highway.  Before grabbing your car at the cathedral, consider purchasing a CD at a store like Skifan.  We bought a disc by a local band called Retro Stefsen.  Neil had discovered the band while taping their live set at a club called Factory.  Their eclectic groove was the perfect mix for long drives between our stops.  Another Icelandic band, Of Monsters and Men, has gained international popularity and is another option for rolling with the locals.

 

Any tips I missed?

About Melissa Ruttanai

Melissa is a social media coordinator, pro-blogger, and certified teacher. Her travel obsessions have brought her to 33 countries and 25 US States. Her work has been published by at DINK Life, International Living Magazine, Escape From America Magazine, Trazzler and On Holiday Magazine. Connect with Melissa on Google+ Twitter: @WorldWinder and Facebook.com/WorldWinder
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4 Responses to Quick Tips for Driving in Iceland

  1. Judy Kaye says:

    Your investigation into all the ins and outs of your travel advice subjects is indeed overwhelming! You show so many invaluable tips on ways to go about things, and save money while you’re at it, including so many things no one would have imagined to think of.
    You truly give an array of suggestions beyond compare – hope you continue in your mission to give invaluable advice and get recognized for the service you offer –
    With many thanks from all you’ve helped and hopefully the many future beneficiaries.

    • Thanks Judy! We try to make the most of our independent travel which means getting good value. As Neil always says: I don’t mind paying a considerable amount of money for something… as long as it is worth it:) Iceland was definitely worth it.

  2. Van says:

    Hi,

    Thinking about planning a trip in either May or September of next year to Iceland and Norway. We are automatic transmission drivers and that’s my biggest concern with renting a car.

    Wondering if you travelled to different areas and stayed in different places, or just stayed out of a hub and drove from there? I’d like to see the Golden Circle, fjords etc. Suggestions on whether I should get accommodations in a specific area and travel out from there, or if we should stay in different towns?

    • Hi Van!
      Driving around Iceland was one of the highlights of my 14 month trip in South America and Europe. Automatic transmission is not a problem since lots of tourists request this. On the main strip of the 101 (downtown), lots of shops offer car rental. We went to the tourism office and got a car within the hour. Driving around Iceland is very easy, especially if you are interested in seeing the major sights as you mentioned.

      Everything is a circle. You are either going one way with all the exit numbers going up or you are headed the other way with numbers going down. I’d definitely recommend the drive.

      Accomodation is crazy expensive. So if you can camp, do it. Especially by the waterfalls. it’s popular and gorgeous.

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