Driving in Iceland: Travel 101 Tips

Iceland is a great country to get a on self-drive road summer road trip! The scenery is so scenic and we were so thrilled by the beautiful landscapes presented to us while driving on the roads. Driving in Iceland does have its challenges – while the main roads were paved with asphalt, most mountain roads were paved with gravel and the surface was loose, the roads can get quite narrow and is definitely dangerous when speeding, some bridges were single lanes where only 1 car can pass through on a 2-way road and as if not daunting enough, the weather in Iceland can change rapidly which adds to the adventure on the roads.

Driving around the Skaftafell area towards glaciers

Driving around the Skaftafell area towards glaciers

Driving under severe fog which appeared suddenly on a bright sunny road after a bend

Driving under severe fog which appeared suddenly on a bright sunny road after a bend

Before we finally decided on a self-drive holiday, we were contemplating to use Reykjavik as a base and purchase day trip tours from the many tour operators available (eg. Grayline). However after doing the sums, we realized that it was more economical to rent a car for our family of 5. Selecting a car rental company was another science and after some research, we finally decided on Blue Car Rental. They have an office which is a stone’s throw from the Keflavik Airport and when we arrived, they provided a pick-up service to bring us to their company. How convenient!

Rental office near the Keflavik Airport

Rental office near the Keflavik Airport

I’ve never rented cars on holidays before and this being the first, it was really nerve wrecking as the main concerns were driving in unfamiliar territory (in my country, we drive on the right side and Iceland is on a left-hand drive! *Gulp*) and keeping the rented car in pristine condition to avoid incurring extra charges! We read on some websites that we should be meticulous when checking the car before leaving the rental company as otherwise, we may be liable for any unmarked scratches or damage. Hence during inspection, we hawked down at any scratch or suspicious damage we could spot! Another point to note is that the winds in Iceland can get really strong in the country side and we have heard of unfortunate stories of people having to pay for damages for wind-damaged car door hinges. So please take note and hang on to the car door for dear life!! 🙂

For the trip, we rented a 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser as only such 4WD are allowed on the F-roads (mountain roads). The roads in Iceland can get quite rough at times when off the main roads. We were just so glad we chose the Land Cruiser! The vehicle we rented ran on a diesel engine and while we thought that diesel would be a cheaper fuel as it costs 30% lower than petrol in my country, we were so wrong! Diesel is actually priced the same in Iceland.

Rough roads on a volcano: Drive up to Snæfellsjökull

Rough roads on a volcano: Drive up to Snæfellsjökull

We drove all the way up a volcano to see a glacier!

We drove all the way up a volcano to see a glacier!

Driving through a glacier! - on Snæfellsnes

Driving through a glacier! – on Snæfellsnes

Navigation was a breeze using the GPS provided with the rented car. However, we found that it was much easier to locate places using GPS coordinates rather than spelling out the Icelandic name of a location which turned out no matches for a couple of times on the trip. FYI, we rented a mobile wifi device from Trawire (complete with a car charger for exigencies). Hence, we had internet connectivity on the road to check for location coordinates. If all else fails, good ol’ giant road maps should also do the trick (with limitations, of course)! 🙂

Giant maps come in handy on a road trip. Trouble is always trying to fold them back! :)

Giant maps come in handy on a road trip. Trouble is always trying to fold them back! 🙂

Our mobile wifi device with car charger rented from Trawire

Our mobile wifi device with car charger rented from Trawire

That said, the rest is all easy – kick back and enjoy the beautiful scenery on the most epic road trip I’ve had so far! 🙂

Reflections - Random scenery along the road

Reflections – Random scenery along the road

Random photo taken from inside the car - scenic views everywhere

Random photo taken from inside the car – scenic views everywhere

Lazing horses and a curious ram

Lazing horses and a curious ram

Land cruisers' journey to the centre of the earth - Snæfellsnes

Land cruisers’ journey to the centre of the earth – Snæfellsnes

Driving is a pleasure when surrounded by such beautiful scenery! - Land of fire and ice (Skaftafell area)

Driving is a pleasure when surrounded by such beautiful scenery! – Land of fire and ice (Skaftafell area)

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2 responses to “Driving in Iceland: Travel 101 Tips

  1. We also rented a car in Iceland a few years ago with friends and it made for a great adventure – and blog post! Every minute of the drive was scenic and the photography and hiking superb.

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