Are you interested in taking a trip to Iceland at some point in the future? If so, you’ll want to make sure that the trip is absolutely perfect. There are plenty of things that you’ll need to take into consideration. However, you should put more effort into choosing your rental car. So, what do you need to know about renting a vehicle in Iceland? Below, you’ll discover 13 Iceland car rental tips to ensure that you get the best car and have the most enjoyable experience possible, from the friendly people at Iceland in 8 Days.
Conduct Thorough Research Before Booking
Tourists who plan on renting a car once they arrive in Iceland should start with research. Focus on the top car rental companies with a high customer rating. In most cases, these ratings along with reviews can be found on the company’s website. However, if you want to get the truth, you will need to visit a genuine review website. Remember, real people write these reviews and provide these Iceland car rental tips, so they are a wealth of information, regardless if they are positive or negative.
The gold standard for transportation to and from the Keflavik Airport is by renting a vehicle. There are numerous car rental agencies throughout the airport. Additionally, separated from the main airport terminal is a bank of large warehouse-looking buildings, each housing a car rental agency, making the options plentiful.
Car rental options inside the airport’s arrival and departure terminals are:
- Avis Rental Cars
- Budget Car Rental
- Bilaleiga Akureyrar (Holdur Car Rental)
- Europcar Iceland
- Hertz Iceland Rent-A-Car
Car rental options located outside of the main airport terminal, accessible by the free car rental shuttle bus.Click to expand list of rental car companies outside of the KEF main terminal
Why Renting A Car?
Renting a vehicle when traveling in Iceland is highly recommended for many reasons. The most important reason being that Iceland, while a “small island”, is massive enough and dispersed enough to need transportation to make your travel in this beautiful country worthwhile.
By utilizing their own rental vehicles, travelers are able to budget, organize, and maximize their trip and itinerary with a far greater degree of freedom than alternative transportation methods. The vehicle selection needs to be a proper reflection of the time of year and planned places of visitation. For example:
- If you are wanting to travel the Ring Road in the winter months, it is highly suggested to get a vehicle that not only is equipped with winter tires, but is also a 4×4.
- When you are wanting to travel in the summer months, and are looking to travel inwards from the Ring Road to places such as Haifoss or Landmannalaugar, it is also highly recommended to use a 4×4.
- If you are wanting to travel in the summer months, and are looking to stick to the main roads, a 4×4 is not truly necessary, and most companies have removed winter tires.
Complete A Full Inspection Of The Vehicle
While most rental companies inspect each of their rental vehicles, when they are returned to their lot, this may not always be the case. In fact, it is not unusual for some imperfections on the interior or exterior to be overlooked. To save yourself grief and money later at the end of your trip, inspect the vehicle carefully. If there is anything that the inspectors missed, be sure to point it out. If you do not, you could find yourself responsible for the damage, even though you were not the one that caused it.
A Top Iceland Car Rental Tip: Get The Extra Insurance
When driving in Iceland, there is a pretty good chance that you’re going to encounter ash and ice. You’ll probably drive frequently on gravel roads. With this in mind, the risks are pretty high. There is a good chance that your vehicle is going to get damaged one way or another. With this in mind, you need to protect your vehicle with extra insurance. It might increase the cost a bit, but it is well worth it!
Watch Out For Wildlife
While you’re at it, you’ll want to make sure that you keep an eye out for wildlife. If you drive in New York, you don’t have to worry about this often. However, when you make the switch to Iceland, you’re going to encounter all types of wildlife. You’ll probably cross sheep, horses, and birds. Make sure that you keep your eyes on the road, so you do not run into any wildlife along the way.
Be Cautious Of Speed Traps
Iceland is very similar to other countries in the world. The police want to make sure that you’re always sticking within the speed limits. With this in mind, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll run across speed traps along the way. There are many fixed traps in Iceland. Plus, the police vehicles are equipped with mobile speed detectors. Be cautious and avoid getting a ticket!
Choose An Accommodating Vehicle
Before choosing a vehicle, you should sit down and think about your traveling group. How many individuals are going to be traveling with you? Are you going to Iceland on your own? Or will you be visiting the area with the entire family? If you’re going to be traveling with multiple people, you’ll want to make sure that your vehicle can comfortably accommodate them all. If you’re traveling alone, you can always opt for the beautiful sports car.
Gas Up In Advance
Iceland is full of wide open roads and countryside. It is possible to drive for hundreds of kilometers without running into anything. This includes gas stations. With this in mind, you need to do your best to ensure that you do not run out of gas on the side of the road. This is something that happens to many first-time Iceland visitors. Before hitting the open road, you need to make sure that your rental car is filled with gasoline. This will ensure that you do not get stranded in a country that you know very little about. Your vehicle’s GPS will be able to point you in the right direction. Use it to find a gas station near you.
Check For Mileage Limits
While you’re at it, you should be very cautious at the rental facility. There is a possibility that your rental company of choice will impose mileage limits on your vehicle. This can be terrible and it’ll definitely take a toll. If possible, it is always best to get a rental vehicle without any mileage limits. This will give you the freedom to cruise around as much as you wish. If you do not have mileage limits, you’ll want to make sure that you stay within the limits. Nevertheless, paying more to avoid the limit is best.
Look Out For Weather Changes
You also need to make sure that you watch out for weather changes. Iceland has erratic weather. Therefore, you should be prepared for anything that is going to come your way. One minute, you might be driving through heavy rain. The next, the road might become slippery. You should always be cautious. Drive carefully and be prepared to make adjustments at a second’s notice. Keeping up with the weather in the area is also a very good idea.
Obey The Speed Limit
When driving in Iceland, it is crucial to obey the speed limit. In populated areas, the speed is posted between 30 and 50 kilometers per hour. In rural areas, the speed limit is 80 kilometers per hour on gravel roads and 90 kilometers per hour on paved roads.
By obeying the speed limit, you will avoid speeding tickets and accidents. It is also important to wear your seatbelt at all times when you are in your vehicle. Iceland police officers are not afraid to write you a citation for disobeying any of these laws.
Avoid Drinking When Driving
Another big no-no is driving under the influence. Just like any other country, Iceland laws prohibit motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. If you plan on drinking during your visit to Iceland, it would be wise to utilize the public transportation system. Taxis and trains are also available in more populated areas, so you can get to and from your motel and bar without being involved in an accident.
Iceland police officers are always on the looking for intoxicated drivers. And, driving under the influence would definitely constitute a citation and arrest. In case you are not familiar with drunk driving laws in Iceland, a blood alcohol level higher than 0.5 will land you in jail and put you at risk of having your license revoked.
Do Not Use Your Cellphone When Driving
Like most countries, Iceland has an issue with drivers utilizing their cellphone behind the wheel. Not only will you put yourself in danger, if you choose to ignore this law, but also you will put innocent people in danger. If you feel the need to utilize your cell phone when driving, invest in a mobile phone headset or earpiece. This device will allow you to communicate with others in a hands-free manner. So, you can accept and make calls via the headset and still focus on the road in front of you.
Do Not Delay Paying Speeding Tickets And Parking Fees
A speeding ticket in Iceland will cost you a hefty fee. While these mishaps do not always constitute immediate attention, it will be in your best interest to pay them immediately. To avoid speeding tickets, you should obey the speed limits. Just remember that the speed limits will vary in different areas. Once you leave Iceland, you may find it more difficult to pay the ticket.
It is also crucial to note that many cities and town in Iceland have traffic enforcement cameras. These cameras are positioned in areas, where traffic is congested. To alert motorists of these cameras, officials have posted signs up a short distance from the camera. This gives motorists enough time to slow down and heed the speed limit. Just like America and other countries, Icelandic police will not issue red light speeding tickets for at least 30 days after the violation is detected. This means that if you are caught speeding, you may not get the citation for several months after you return home. In most cases, these tickets can be paid over the phone.
To avoid parking citations, you should always pay the fees as soon as you exit your vehicle. In addition to this, never stay past the time limit. Doing so will ensure you a parking ticket, which will cost you anywhere from £8 to £20. If you do happen to receive a parking citation, you should pay it before you exit the country.
On-Site Returns During Business Hours
It is not unusual for someone to return a rental car after hours. Some rental car services will allow their customers to return rental cars to the airport. In fact, they will have garages set up specifically for rental cars. However, to prevent a mishap, it will be in your best interest to return the vehicle to the company. Once you return to the lot, an attendant will perform a walk-around, checking for mileage and damage.
If you are not present for this inspection, you could risk being charged for damage that you did not cause.