Renting a Car in Iceland

I’ve talked before about the value of renting a car while traveling – I think it gives you the ability to really see a country in way that you can’t with a tour bus. On our trip, an Iceland car rental was no exception. We rented a car from Route 1 Rental Car for our last three days and used it to explore the countryside at our own pace.

So what advantages did the rental car provide?

It allowed us to explore on our own schedule. Iceland’s tour operators offer trips to almost every single destination on the island, with a tour bus to match. However, these trips often come with an 8-10 hour long timetable. Start and end times are planned as well as stops for pictures and eating.  Our car allowed us to leave when we were ready, stop to take pictures of charming farms and amazing mountain scenes and eat when the mood struck us. It enabled it us to change our plans and be more flexible when needed.

It helped us beat the crowds.

When we had the misfortune to time a stop with a tour bus we noticed that the site would be swarmed with tourists. However, if we waited for the bus to depart we would have the place nearly to ourselves. If you are on a tour bus, you are almost always with a crowd – in your own car, you can avoid them.

We were more comfortable.

The car was like our own mini moving apartment in Iceland. We could play our own music, carry food and drinks and pack everything we thought we would need. In our trunk we had hiking boots, snow pants, extra sweaters, long johns and a dry change of clothes. We had everything we needed to hike a glacier, snorkel at Silfra or enjoy a windy walk on the Vik’s black sand beaches. Even when the quickly changing weather took us by surprise, we were prepared. When there wasn’t a restaurant for miles  we had plenty of snacks to keep us going. And on the rare occasion that the landscape got monotonous we had endless jams to keep us entertained.


Vik's Black Sand Beach


We saw more of Iceland

The car gave us a great view of the amazing scenery we passed on our drives. If we saw something we wanted to take a closer look at, we simply slowed down or drove closer. If we read about something that seemed interesting, we took a quick detour. We were also able to take longer days than a tour bus would have allowed. We stopped at several amazing waterfalls, we visited the Skafatall Glacier, we took a tour of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and we visited the amazing landscape at Vik.

On another day, we took a self guided tour of golden circle with additional stops for Silfra Snorkeling and Dog Sledding. Having our own car allowed us to take an extended dinner at the Gulfoss Hotel and gave us a chance to stop and pet some of the famous Iceland Horses.

We saved money

Although renting a car can be expensive, it allowed us to save money in several areas. Route 1 Rental Cars brought our car directly to our hotel and allowed us to drop it off at the airport. This meant that we were able to drive ourselves first to the Blue Lagoon and then to the airport, saving money on transportation.

We also used the car to get to several of our excursions meaning we didn’t have to pay for the bus to take us. Tours of the Golden circle can be up to 8,000 ISK – almost $150 for the two of us. Since admission to all three parts of the golden circle were free, we saved a ton by doing it ourselves with the rental car.

So is driving in Iceland hard?

Yes and no. The roads are really strait forward and easy to navigate and there are very few crazy drivers. In fact, I found the roads much more easily managed than in the US.  Plus, since it never gets dark this time of year, there was no fear of running late and having to do night driving.

On the other hand, Iceland driving laws are much stricter than I am used to. The speed limits are strictly imposed (no going 55 in a 50) and there are speed cameras everywhere. Also, the legal limit is 0 – so no glass of wine with dinner.

Overall renting a car in Iceland was a great experience and I recommend it to anyone who is planning a visit. If I had to do it again, I would have taken more time and driven around the entire country on the ring road.

_____________________________________________________________________________________Disclaimer: Thank you to Route 1 Rental Cars for providing us with a complimentary rental car for our stay in Iceland. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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6 Responses to Renting a Car in Iceland

  1. Mega says:

    i so agree with you about renting a car and seeing wayyy more of the country that way. i have done that recently on a few trip and truthfully i feel like i truly got to know the country that way. it was pretty cool :) hopefully i can do this in iceland one day too.

  2. Holly says:

    Don’t forget the disclaimer that if you’re going in winter/real early spring a 4WD is a MUST! we’re lucky we had such great weather or it might have been tough to get some places! :)

  3. I’ve heard from several people that Iceland in particular is a place where having your own transportation is a HUGE bonus. It looks like the countryside is gorgeous, so it’s nice that you were able to see it on your own time… and that it was actually more cost effective to do so! Also, really cool that your rental car company was able to bring the car to you!

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