Rent a car in Iceland: 20 Tips for Self-Driving in Iceland
Looking to rent a car in Iceland? These tips will help you make informed decisions so you can focus solely on exploring prime attractions or rare gems during your time in the country.
Visiting Iceland is an incredible experience. The land of fire and ice is blessed with a magnificent landscape of waterfalls, fjords, glaciers and lava fields. The best way to explore Iceland and immerse yourself in the surroundings is to simply drive around in a rented vehicle as much as possible.
MyCar Rental In Iceland is a leading car rental provider sought-after by solo tourists, families and traveller groups seeking the freedom, flexibility and ultimate enjoyment of experiencing the country on their own terms! Whether you’re planning a road tripping adventure, considering golden circle tours or on a short trip that will cover a few attractions such as the famous Northern Lights, you can rent a car from us for all your explorations.
Why rent from us?
At MyCar, we focus on making sure you have no trouble getting around the country, and offering the best vehicles that deliver a safe and comfortable trip. Our assurance:
- The newest models of Toyota vehicles
- A platinum insurance option with zero liability
- An up to 20% discount on longer rental contracts. We want to make your longer stays in Iceland as convenient as possible
- Fuel discounts and free coffee on the road
- Free airport pickup and drop-off
- Unlimited mileage – we don’t impose any limit on how much you want to drive
Sounds like something you might be interested in? Find out more about MyCar Rental Iceland here!
|Index. Guide to Self-Driving in Iceland|
Tips for Driving around Iceland
Before you get behind the wheel, it is best to understand the particularities of driving in Iceland. Ideally, you should begin your search in advance so you have enough time to compare rental providers and choose a reliable company that offers good value for your money. This apart, make sure you have adequate coverage, opt for the right type of vehicle, and stay aware of unique encounters and cultural habits during your trip to south coast or even just a lava cave.
1. Watch out for Hidden Fees
Ideally, the car rental Iceland service you choose should have their rates publicly posted on their website. Compare rates and identify the most affordable option aligned to your budget.
Beware of companies that add hidden fees to contracts. This is a frowned-upon practice in general, but unfortunately, it can happen. You should know exactly what you are paying for – standard car rental service, insurance, and any other costs should be optional no matter whether you’re opting for car rental Keflavik, a national park tour or travelling off the beaten track into Icelandic wilderness.
Also note that while car rental prices can vary by season, within a single season, there are no price fluctuations. As an example, we have three seasons: the low season starting October 1-May 31, followed by the middle season from May 1 – June 30, and again from August 22 – September 30, and then the high season from July 1 – August 21. Prices remain consistent within each season, going up or down as seasons shift.
2. Avoid Shuttle Costs
Since you’re most likely arriving in Iceland via plane, you should consider how you will travel from the airport to your accommodation, and back for your departure from Iceland. For convenience’ sake, select a car rental company that offers free shuttle bus rides to and from the airport. It’s cheaper, and you can avoid waiting in line to get on a local bus.
3. Check for Insurance
If you’ve ever rented a car before, you know you may need at least some auto insurance. Companies will insist on it because it protects both you and them in the event of accidents. However, it’s important to understand what type of insurance you need to drive in Iceland, and what exists to add extra costs to your rental.
Your insurance policy may already cover some costs, but you need to check if it applies internationally, and what situations it’s eligible for.
Here are the types of policies you truly need:
• Gravel, sand, and ash protection – Sand, gravel and ash protection covers your rental car against leftover volcanic ash or sand from the country’s sand fields. It pays towards the costs of repair for chipped paint or windshield damage sustained by the vehicle.
• Collision/third party liability – You are driving in a foreign country, and don’t know the roads, so it only makes sense to protect yourself in the event of an accident.
You may also be offered theft insurance, but since you’re in the safest country in the world, that may be an overkill. As long as you don’t leave the doors open with the keys in the ignition, the chances of the car getting stolen in Iceland are very slim.
Remember to read the contract terms before you sign. If you’re not sure what some items mean, asked the car rental representative directly. Some companies like MyCar offer zero liability insurance for full protection in more severe situations, so you should also ask about these options as well.
4. You May Not Need a 4WD
If you’re staying only in Reykjavik, a small car will suffice. But if you plan to criss-cross the country, make sure you’re travelling in a 4WD, which is designed for off-road trips. Ultimately, your itinerary will decide whether your car rental Reykjavik should be a small, economy car or a sturdy 4×4.
However, if you will be visiting the country during the winter, the weather conditions may warrant the use of a 4WD. Check the weather and route you plan on taking before deciding which vehicle model to rent.
5. Choose the Right Vehicle
While we’re on the subject of cars, let’s talk about how to choose the best one for your needs. As mentioned above, first consider the route and weather conditions to see which type of car is best suited for your trip.
Additionally, because you’re driving in a foreign country, possibly even for the first time, you should look for extra vehicle features that can make your ride safer: collision sensors, guidance tech that will help you keep to lanes easily, GPS navigation to take the shortest routes, and emergency assistance options.
We work exclusively with Toyota 2019 vehicles, because they are the safest options for driving around the country. And the hybrid choice can offer more power with less fuel consumption and pollution, which is always a nice feature!
6. Don’t Stop in the Middle of the Road
The natural of beauty of Iceland awakens the photographer in all of us! The temptation to stop your car to capture the scenery around you is high. Or you may want to check your map or even just take a break.
Avoid stopping in the middle of the road – there are legitimate reasons behind this advice. Icelandic roads are very narrow, with many turns, so stopping right in the middle of the road can put you and other drivers in danger. If you need to stop, make sure you pull over in an area designated for it, like a nearby parking spot.
7. Understand Icelandic Roundabouts
There are many two-lane roundabouts in the country, particularly in Reykjavik, so it helps to know how to approach one. The golden rule is that the car in the inner lane has the right to exit first, so be sure to give the right of way if you’re in the outer lane.
Additionally, you always have to use the turn signal when exiting the roundabout as well as if you’re not leaving on the first exit. This is to indicate to other drivers what you’re doing.
8. Stay Connected Online
Iceland and excellent 4G coverage go hand in hand! Make the most of the reliable connectivity by remembering to keep your phone charged to 100% or alternatively, carrying a power bank along. The advantage is that you can forego the car rental company’s GPS and use your phone app instead. However, make sure exercise safety and keep your eyes on the road.
Portable routers are available as an extra option with car rental plans. MyCar models provide routers that can accommodate up to ten devices.
9. Hold Your Door!
You haven’t experienced the true meaning of strong winds until you get to Iceland. When you enter or exit the vehicle, hold the car door tightly to avoid a powerful blast of wind from shutting the door or worse – pulling it out entirely.
Don’t underestimate the intensity of Icelandic winds, which can reach 30-40 mph. At these speeds, you too will need to cling to something solid (think a signpost or fence) to avoid being blown down to the ground.
10. Don’t run out of gas
Whether on day tours or long off-road adventures, make sure you don’t run out of fuel with no gas station in sight. When you’re driving through any city, always stop for gas to get a full tank. Check the map to see any marked stations along your ride, but don’t risk cutting it too close.
11. Book your accommodation and visiting spots in advance
Popular attractions in Iceland attract significant tourist traffic, which peaks from mid-June through August. Hotels, hostels and other accommodation at these locations are overbooked, leaving you with fewer options.
Start researching accommodation at least a month before your trip. We recommend you check out Eldey airport Hotel, B&B airport Hotel, and Start Hotel,Gentle Giants tours, Into the Glacier cave tours, and Friðheimar restaurant first when planning a trip.
12. Help a hitchhiker
Hitchhiking is very popular in Iceland, and as a general rule, we always stop to pick up an on-foot traveler. And you can do the same! Remember, you’re in one of the safest countries in the world, and picking up hitchhikers doesn’t pose any risks.
13. Watch out for animals on the road
In Iceland, you’re more likely to encounter sheep in the wild rather than your fellow two-legged friends! We have roughly 800,000 free sheep and only 323,000 people. Keep an eye out for sheep or other animals who may be roaming the same roads as you.
14. Drive within the Speed Limit
In urban areas, the speed limit is up to 50km/h, while in the countryside you can go as fast as 90km/h on paved roads, and 80km/h on gravel roads. But if you’re thinking you can go even faster because you’re surrounded by Icelandic nature, think again. We have active speed cameras in all possible locations, so there is a high likelihood that you will be found out.
But we’ve got you covered. Our Toyota cars show you the speed limit on the dashboard and let you know if you’re driving too fast.
15. Drinking and Driving?
Iceland does not tolerate drinking and driving, and has set the blood alcohol content limit at 0.05%. By comparison, the U.K. has a 0.08% BAC limit.
We can’t tell you how many drinks you can have before hitting Icelandic roads because it greatly depends on your tolerance to alcohol. But we’ll say this: your best bet is to not drink at all if you’re driving.
16. Pay Your Fees
As you may not be so familiar with the roads here, there is a possibility of getting a parking fee or a speeding ticket if you’re not careful. If you do, consider paying on the spot, as that generally includes a discount on your fee. If you pay later, you’ll have to cough up the full amount.
17. Be careful when driving in winter
Driving in the snow has its particularities, but you generally need to be more cautious during the cold months. We recommend requesting studded tires for extra winter-driving safety and to go for a 4×4 vehicle from our Toyota fleet.
18. Slow down on bridges
Most Iceland bridges are single-track roads, which operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, if you arrive first at a bridge, then you may proceed, but with caution. Drivers on the other side will wait until you exit the bridge before they go. Some longer bridges may have passing places you can stop in to let other cars pass.
19. Check the Weather before Heading out
To prepare for any Iceland trip, you need to check the local weather forecast. Some roads may even closed owing to poor weather conditions. The best resources to get accurate info on these topics are:
Safe Travel Iceland for road conditions alerts
Vedur.is for weather forecast from Icelandic Met Office
Road.is for road conditions information
20. Pack the Right Clothes
The golden rule is to dress in layers. The biggest problem with Iceland weather is that it’s unpredictable – you could enjoy a sunny morning, rainy midday, and a snowy afternoon all in the same day. Layers will prepare you for all possible weather conditions. Our tip is to carry extra clothes with you on the road in case you start feeling a bit chilly.
We hope that our guide will help you rent a car in Iceland with confidence, at a good price. Try MyCar Rental, a preferred provider of car rentals in Iceland: we promise quality vehicles at a competitive price and a number of value additions that make your Icelandic experience more convenient, comfortable and enjoyable.