Renting a car and driving around the Ring Road is a great way to see Iceland. If you come here on vacation, your best bet is to rent a car and hit the road with nothing but your suitcase and your favorite playlist. During your Icelandic road trip, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. From car rental companies to things to watch out for to planning which gas stations you will stop at (yes, you need to do this in advance), here’s a quick primer to help you make the most out of your trip to Iceland. We hope our car rental tips and advice will help.
Car Rental in Iceland – Best Car Rental Companies
First and foremost, you’ll want to get a rental from a reputable, local company. This may seem like obvious advice but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t really do their research when renting a car in Iceland. Check out Google Reviews or Trip Advisor to see the top companies and what people have to say about their experiences with these providers. It’s always a good idea to support locally owned and operated businesses, so we wholeheartedly recommend that.
The level of customer service is a huge factor to consider when reading honest, customer-driven reviews of car rental companies. Nothing is worse than having to deal with a rude or incompetent customer service agent if your car breaks down or you have another problem with your rental. Cheap car rentals may be ideal for your pocketbook, but sometimes it’s better to spend a bit more and receive excellent customer service.
Check out our 2018 Car Rental Guide for an overview of the best car rental companies in Iceland.
Practical Advice – Plan Your Stops at Gas Stations in Advance
Google Maps will be your best friend in Iceland for many reasons. In addition to providing driving times and distances for your trip, it can help you plan out your route by showing you where gas stations are located. Iceland’s roads, even the main ones, can get quite remote. Once you’ve left Reykjavik, you’ve can never be sure when your next chance to fill up your tank will be. We recommend that when you are looking at a map to decide your stops and where you will stay overnight, you also look at which gas stations are along the way.
Decide on where you will stop for gas so you never have to experience that dreaded feeling of seeing the reading on the fuel tank slink dangerously close to E without knowing where the nearest gas station is. Stay out of the scary red zone, plan your fuel stops in advance, and top up at reasonable intervals.
A quick tip: many gas stations have food and mini-supermarkets, If you haven’t stocked up at Bónus or some other discount supermarket chain, take advantage of these roadside oases to buy snacks, provisions or just some Icelandic hot dogs.
Watch Out For The Sheep!
You may think I’m joking but this piece of advice is 100% serious. In many ways, Iceland is unlike anywhere on earth. If you’re a city slicker who is not used to country roads, you’re in for an unusual surprise when driving in Iceland. We let our beloved animals roam free and graze to their hearts’ content, so you’ll see sheep everywhere. Unless you’ve traveled somewhere like New Zealand, Scotland, or other countries with large rural areas, sheep blocking the road (or dashing out in front of your car) is probably not something that you’re used to. Well, be very careful and watch out for our wayward, adventurous friends. You’ll end up paying the cost of these little guys to their owner (and incur the wrath of an Icelandic sheepherder) should you hit a beloved member of the flock.
Care For Your Rental As If Your Life Depended On It
Yes, this is another obvious point but hear me out. For some reason, people seem to think that they can take risks with rental cars that they would never take with a vehicle that they have actually purchased with their own hard-earned cashed. Photos and videos of sunken vehicles and flipped cars litter the internet. Car rental horror stories exist in many forms, and no one wants to be that person returning from a vacation to Iceland thousands of dollars in debt to the car rental company. Make sure there is no damage or anything to repair when you hand the keys back in Reykjavik or the counter in Keflavik.
On a related note, if your rental doesn’t already include it, be sure to get the minimum of Sand & Ash Protection for your car. This also goes for Gravel Protection if you plan on exploring the country’s F-roads (mountain roads) in a 4×4 vehicle such as a Jeep. While many people tend to pass on opting for the insurance on their car rentals (I know I normally do), Iceland is different. The weather here is more extreme than anything you’ve ever seen and you don’t want to be responsible for unexpected damage brought on by Mother Nature bringing on a sudden sandstorm or tons of roadside volcanic ash blowing onto your vehicle.
Beware Icelandic Weather Conditions and Road Closures
As you can tell, Iceland is known for its extreme elements. People don’t call it The Land of Fire and Ice for no reason! There are a few websites that will serve you well during your trip. The homepage for the Iceland Meteorological Service will keep you up to date on weather conditions for the area where you plan on driving. Additionally, you’ll want to monitor the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) website. This body is responsible for all of Iceland’s 8,077 miles (13,000 km) of roads. On their webpage, you’ll see regular updates, notices of road closures, and any other information that can affect travelers.
Things to Keep in Mind When You Rent a Car in Iceland
Driving in Iceland is a fun, relaxing, enjoyable way to experience all that our small and increasingly popular island has to offer. That being said, it would be foolish to assume that you don’t need to exercise some precautions in order to prevent your Icelandic vacation from going awry. I want you to have an unforgettable trip, and hopefully, these quick pointers will help you do just that. Happy (and safe) travels!
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