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.
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.
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.
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?