07.02.2020

Your Guide to Driving a Motorhome in Iceland

Seeing the Northern Lights is the #1 item on many bucket lists. Is it on yours?

If so, you’ve probably dreamed of a vacation in Iceland. But the Aurora Borealis isn’t the only thing to see in this beautiful country.

Between the volcanoes, the glaciers, the Icelandic horses, and the countless waterfalls, Iceland is a nature lover’s dream destination. The question is: How will you get around to see it all?

Motorhome rental in Iceland is an ideal way to explore the rugged countryside. From compact camper vans for 2 people to luxury motorhomes for 6 people, there’s a vehicle that’s perfect for your needs.

Are you ready to plan a motorhome trip through Iceland? Here are 9 tips to turn your dream into reality.

hills in Iceland

1. Pick the Right Time of Year

Before you start researching Iceland motorhome rentals, you first need to decide which time of year you’ll visit.

During the summer you can enjoy dry, mild weather and exceptionally long days—the sun doesn’t set until almost midnight! Because summer is the busiest season, roads and campsites tend to be crowded and prices for everything are higher.

Winters are the opposite, with long nights, overcast skies, and much colder temperatures. However, this is also the best time of year to see the Northern Lights. Prices drop considerably during the off-season, although many roads and campsites may be closed or inaccessible.

The “shoulder” seasons during the spring and autumn months provide a happy medium. It’s not too cold or too dark yet, and you’ll miss the summertime crowds. And unless the snow has arrived very early (or stayed very late), most roads and campsites remain open during the shoulder season.

2. Plan a Loose Itinerary

Once you’ve decided on your travel dates, you need to create a general itinerary.

Many travelers plan to drive Iceland’s 828-mile long Ring Road. As the name suggests, this is the main road that loops around almost the whole of the island. You can complete the drive in as little as 4-5 days, but you’ll be able to slow down and enjoy more if you take 7-10 days.

Don’t have that long? Opt for the Golden Circle route, which hits all the major highlights in the southern portion of the country. You can even do this route as a day trip out of Reykjavik if you’re really crunched for time.

Expert tip: The weather in Iceland is wildly unpredictable. Do some research and select a few sights you really want to see, but don’t over-plan. An unexpected windstorm or rainstorm can (quite literally) put a damper on your plans.

Also, half the fun of a motorhome trip is taking time to explore. By not cramming too much into your itinerary, you’ll be free to slow down and explore hidden gems along the way.

river in Iceland

3. Motorhome vs Camper Van

As mentioned at the outset, you have a few different options for your vehicle. Your selection should depend on the size of your group, your itinerary, and how many “bells and whistles” you want.

For example, two people on a budget who don’t require a lot of luxury may be perfectly happy in a camper van. It provides a place to sit and sleep, as well as space to make simple meals and store your belongings.

If you’re traveling with a larger group (up to 6 people) or you want a little more comfort, a motorhome is the way to go. Motorhomes not only offer more space but also a basic kitchen for preparing meals, as well as a toilet and a small shower.

Be sure to research the different types of vehicles the company offers before making your decision. You don’t want to pay for more than what you need, but you also don’t want to feel squished during the drive.

Bonus tip: Most of the motorhomes for rent in Iceland come with a manual transmission. Some companies do offer automatic vehicles, but be sure to book these well in advance (and be ready to pay a premium).

4. Factor in Fuel Costs

An often overlooked item when planning a motorhome trip is the price of fuel. If you come from a country like the US, where fuel is relatively cheap, you may be in for some sticker shock when you land in Iceland.

Prices fluctuate between $7-$8 per gallon (1.50-2.00 euro per liter), which can add considerable cost to your driving vacation.

The bigger your motorhome, the more those fuel costs will add up. Be sure to factor that into your budget as you’re planning your road trip.

abandoned plane in Iceland

5. Understand Your Insurance

Insurance is mandatory in Iceland and basic coverage is included with all rental policies.

Depending on your itinerary (or your comfort level), you may wish to purchase additional coverage. Icelandic road conditions are as unpredictable as the weather, so you can never be too careful. There’s a lot to be said for peace of mind.

It’s also important to read the fine print so you understand exactly what is and isn’t included with your motorhome rental insurance. For example, if you get a flat tire, who pays for the repair and replacement?

Be sure you clearly understand what’s included, and if in doubt—ask!

6. Premium Items & Extras

Some companies offer “all-inclusive” packages, while others provide only the vehicle and let you decide which extras you want.

Like your insurance policy, make sure you know what you’re getting with your rental. Ask about items like:

  • Mobile Wi-Fi
  • Bed linens
  • Prepaid cleaning fees
  • Prepaid fuel
  • Extra drivers
  • Garmin GPS system
  • Baby seats
  • Extra propane gas tanks
  • Camping equipment
  • Tables and chairs

Another helpful hint? Make sure you know the company’s opening and closing hours and when you can (and can’t) pick up or drop off your motorhome. If your flight arrives very early or leaves very late, you may have some time to kill before the office opens.

You can consult the FAQ page for more helpful advice.

Iceland church with road

7. Know Where You Can (And Can’t) Go

A motorhome or camper van can handle most major roads just fine. However, there are restrictions when it comes to “F” or mountain roads.

Located mostly in the country’s interior, F roads are unpaved gravel tracks often riddled with ruts, rocks, and potholes. They’re only suitable for 4×4 vehicles and strictly off-limits to 2-wheel drive vehicles (such as motorhomes).

During your drive, you’ll pass dozens of beautiful campgrounds where you can pull in and spend the night. Many offer hot showers, toilets, WiFi, and other conveniences.

If you’re in an uninhabited area, it’s generally fine to park in a “wild” area for the night, as long as you’re not trespassing or damaging the fragile ecology.

But be aware of new laws that limit where you can spend the night in the southern half of Iceland. In and around Rejykavik or the Golden Circle roads, you’re only allowed to sleep in designated campsites.

8. Prepare for the Elements

Even during the summer, temperatures in Iceland rarely get above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celcius). Nighttime temperatures hover around or below freezing year-round.

Iceland is no place for shorts, tank tops, or flip flops. Pack a swimsuit for the hot springs, but otherwise be prepared for cold, wet, and windy weather.

Bring plenty of layers you can pile on or shed throughout the day, including a waterproof outer layer. Quick-drying materials are best, as you never know when you might get caught in a passing rainstorm.

Many motorhomes include a heating system, but you should still prepare for chilly nights. Pack or rent a warm sleeping bag or down comforter to keep yourself toasty throughout the night.

Expert tip: High winds are common across Iceland, especially in the northern regions. Be sure to hang on to your valuables and take extra care when opening your vehicle door.

mount kirkjufell Iceland

9. Stock up on Supplies

Distances can be long between towns, especially in the northern half of the country. Even when you get there, you probably won’t find the selection of items you’re used to at home.

Before you set out, be sure to stock up on fuel, water, food, and toiletries. Kitchen space is limited in a motorhome, so choose items that are easy to store and prepare.

If you have dietary restrictions, stock up on specialty food items before you leave Reykjavik so you know you’ll have what you need.

Alcohol is notoriously expensive in Iceland, but visitors are permitted to bring one bottle into the country with them. If you missed that opportunity, pick up a bottle on your way in at the duty-free store.

Last tip: Iceland has some of the cleanest, best-tasting water on earth, and you can drink it right from the tap. Bring a refillable bottle and top it up every time you stop.

mountain road in Iceland

Ready for Your Iceland Motorhome Adventure?

There’s no doubt about it. A motorhome is the best way to explore all that Iceland has to offer.

Iceland motorhome rentals allow you the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. It also helps you save money by combining your transportation and accommodation into one package.

Is this sounding better and better to you? If so, it’s time to inquire and find the perfect vehicle to suit your needs.

Contact us today with any questions. Together we’ll help you select the ideal motorhome so you’ll be ready to experience the trip of a lifetime!

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