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Just got back from a road trip in Iceland



Europe > Iceland > Useful Info
Updated on Nov 07, 2018 Useful Info

Everything you need to know to rent a campervan in Iceland

I just got back from my 8-day Iceland road trip where I drove around the ring road (route 1 which goes around the entire country) on a campervan. Personally I believe it's the cheapest way to see Iceland outside of Reykjavik

Renting a campervan is straightforward, here's some useful info to keep in mind from my experience:

  • Why get campervan instead of a regular car: a couple of reasons:
  1. Much more space for stuff, sleeping, and relaxing
  2. Save money and hassle. In the winter you won't need to rent hotels on your road trip, saving you on average $150-$200 a night. In the summer you don't need to pitch tent everywhere you go
  3. They're designed for overnight sleeping, so you can get a good rest in them. Regular cars are crammed and they don't have the proper ventilation to get the humidity out and keep the inside dry overnight. In the winter it's actually pretty dangerous to sleep in regular cars because there's just not enough heat when the car is not moving
  4. You don't need to keep the car running overnight. The systems related to sleeping (e.g. heating and light) are all powered by a secondary battery that easily last the evening and overnight
  5. Campervans come with cooking equipment and eating utensils
  • The 3 major campervan rental shops in Iceland as of October 2018 based on what I saw on the roads there:
  1. CampEasy (https://www.campeasy.com): these guys are probably the biggest one. I saw their campervans EVERYWHERE in Iceland. I didn't book them because I read some negative reviews about them before I went to Iceland, but after seeing how many cars they have on the roads I imagine they can't be too shabby.
  2. Kuku Campers (https://www.kukucampers.is): their vans have "Don't worry, be sexy!!" written on their sides, which make them really distinctive. I saw quite a bit of their vans around Icleand, especially in the south around the Golden Circle.
  3. Go Campers (http://www.gocampers.is): I booked these guys. Overall really happy with everything. Their prices were among the lowest as well. I saw a couple of their cars in Iceland, but not as many as CampEasy or Kuku.
  4. Happy Campers (https://happycampers.is): I've came across them during my research. Apparently they provide free airport pick up and drop off
  • Driver's license: Iceland doesn't require the International Driving Permit (IDP), just your regular driver's license from home. I had no issues getting my van with my New York license
  • Manual or automatic transmission: most shops should have both. I rented an automatic. Manuals are slightly cheaper than automatic
  • Insurance: all the rental shops include a default CDW in the base price but with a 2500 euro deductible, but they offer additional insurance for gravel, sand and ash protection. I recommend getting all these additional insurance options. Before I went to Iceland I didn't think I needed them, but having driven around the entire country I can tell you that your car WILL be hit by gravel all the time. There are lots of non-F roads that are gravel with ridiculous amount of pot holes all over the country. For e.g. my windshield got damaged by flying gravel on route 1 (i.e. the main paved ring road) when an oncoming truck sped past me. It's just unavoidable
  • Types of roads: there are 3 types of roads in Iceland:
  1. Paved roads: the easiest to drive on. The entire ring road (route 1) and many of the smaller highways (numbered with 2-3 digits) are paved roads. The road condition was excellent and snow was mostly shovelled very promptly. I'd estimate 70% of my trip was driven on a paved road.
  2. Gravel roads: these are smaller roads numbered with 2-3 digits. 2x4 are allowed to go on them but they are in really rough shape. Speed limit is lower. Gravel is one problem, but from my experience the far bigger problem is the potholes. There are so many potholes on almost all the gravel roads I drove in Iceland that it's hard to go faster than 35 miles an hour in most places. I'd say 30% of my trip was on a grave road.
  3. F roads: they are specifically labeled with "F" in their names. These are mountain roads. You are not allowed to go on them unless you have a 4x4. The F roads are almost all in the interior of Iceland. Some F roads require river crossing as well, and you need to know that there's no insurance anywhere in Iceland that covers water damage
  • Should you get a 2x4 or 4x4: I really don't think a 4x4 is necessary unless you want to explore the interior of Iceland (where it's mostly F roads). 2x4 can go on all the paved and gravel roads (i.e. all the non-F roads), and 99% of the sights in Iceland can be accessed by a 2x4. When I planned my trip, I was going to get a 4x4, but I realized literally the only place on my list that required a 4x4 was Mælifell, located here, and a 4x4 was almost double the price of a 2x4. Plus, even if I got a 4x4 it didn't mean I could go to Mælifell, because getting there required river crossing in the car. There's no insurance that covers water damage, so crossing river would've been 100% risk to me. You can look up how to do river crossing on your car but unless you have prior experience doing it, it's highly recommended that you don't do it
  • What the campervans come with: they will provide everything you need to drive, cook, and sleep. You shouldn't have to get any other equipment
  • Wifi: rental shops will offer mobile wifi for around 15 euros a day. I didn't get it because I got a 10GB SIM card at the airport for $30 for 8 days. Much better value in my opinion. If you have more people maybe it's worth getting the mobile wifi
  • Navigation: get a SIM card or mobile wifi to use Google Maps, and skip the GPS units that rental shops offer. Cellphone reception was very good all around the ring road with LTE speeds almost everywhere. I think in the interior of the country there's very little coverage
  • Speeding: from my experience, the highways around Reykjavik and around Akureyri (2nd largest city in Iceland, all the way in the north) have speeding cameras once in a stretch, but these are always preceded by signs warning you of their existence. Aside from the speeding camera, in my 8 days there I only saw one actual cop with speed gun, around Reykjavik. Outside of Reykjavik and Akureyri there wasn't a single speeding camera or sign that I saw. I was going at 70 miles an hour most of the time (the speed limit is 55 miles an hour, or 90 km/h)
  • Fuel: there are lots of gas stations all over the country. You shouldn't ever have issues with fuel even in remote areas in the north or the Westfjords. That being said, my rule was to basically fuel up whenever it went below 1/2 a tank. Google maps is pretty good at showing you where the gas stations are. The vast majority of the gas stations are not manned, meaning not even a convenience store. Everything is automated with credit card payment
  • Food and cooking: most campsites should have kitchens you can use, even in the winter. If not, your campervan should have the basic cooking equipment you can use. As for ingredients, you can get fresh produce and meats from one of the two main grocery chains in Iceland: the cheaper Bonus and the more expensive Kronan. You can google map their locations easily. Most gas stations are not manned and no convenience store, but some will have a limited selection of packaged stuff (like sausages and bread)
  • Shower: almost all campsites have shower facilities. But keep in mind that, in the winter (mid October - March), many of the shower facilities may be closed
  • Bathroom: there's no shortage of places to pee around the ring road (including in nature). For #2, campsites all have bathrooms (with toilet paper provided), even in the winter where campsites are closed, the bathrooms should remain open
  • Snow tire: in the winter (mid Oct - March), make sure your van is equipped with snow tire and tire studs. Even the main highway (route 1) can be covered in snow in the west and north of the country.
  • When to book: as early as possible, especially in the high season (April-mid October). I went in the low season in late October and I booked about 1 month in advance
  • Where to pull over on highways: yes there are many scenic spots along the highway in Iceland. The highway is designed to let you admire these spots, with picnic and stop areas once every few miles. Other than these areas, there's barely any shoulders on the highways once you leave the Reykjavik area that it's really dangerous to pull over
  • Where to park overnight: 2 things to know:
  1. Legally, you can only park the van in designated campsites around the country. These campsites are usually a parking lot in one of the towns, all have bathroom and shower facilities in the summer, and they will usually cost around 2000 ISK ($17) per night. In the winter (mid October - March), many of these campsites will close down, but you can still park in them and use their bathrooms for free but they just won't have other facilities like shower. Your rental agencies should provide you with a list of all these camp sites for any time of the year (this is the list from Go Campers, for example). You can follows signs with this symbol on it to find campsites in Iceland:User submitted photo of Iceland
  2. In actuality, this is from what I've seen, there are many stop areas along the highways that far away from any settlements that campers have parked overnight in. By stop I mean a little picnic areas that you come across once every 3-6 miles. Some of these spots have pretty nice views of the ocean and mountains that I frankly was tempted to camp in them myself. These places are remote, not lit up (most of the ring road outside of settled areas are not lit up), and Iceland is so sparsely populated that even though you're not supposed to camp in them, these rules are hardly enforced. Obviously these places don't have ANY amenities, including bathrooms. Finding them is not hard, you literally just drive along the highway and you'll see them throughout the day
  • Getting to and from the rental shops: most of the rental shops are in the suburbs of Reykjavik, but almost all of them provide free pickup and drop off services to Reykjavik. Go Campers for example picked me up from the centrally located BSI Coach Terminal. They also will offer airport pickup and drop off services for a fee, I think around $50 (don't quote me on it though).

Photos of my campervan

User submitted photo of Iceland

User submitted photo of Iceland