Iceland is a fascinating country. If you read our blog you probably enjoy the outdoors and will love the beauty of rugged Iceland.
Below are some of the things to keep in mind should you choose to visit this stunning country.
Driving in Iceland
We drove 2,712 km in Iceland. That’s almost 1,700 miles, or nearly the distance from Oakland, California to Dallas, Texas.
Andy did all the driving and found it to be pretty straightforward. He felt as if he was still in the States because we drove on the right side of the road and the steering wheel was on the left.
The familiar driving position coupled with roads, landmarks and towns being very well marked limited stress behind the wheel, allowing him to focus on the driving and avoiding distracted tourists behind the wheel of their rentals.
Even though getting around was pretty easy, we relied on Google maps everyday (particularly when Laurie – the copilot fell asleep) and for the most part it worked well to get us close to our hostels and landmarks.
Renting a car is easy in Iceland. Our recommendation is to rent from the major companies located at the airport. You’ll recognize most of the names there – Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc.
While it costs a bit more to rent from the major brands, the counters are at the airport proper avoiding the up to 90 minute wait for a shuttle to the offsite location.
We rented from Firefly, an off site company. Thankfully we only waited about 30 minutes for the shuttle van to pick us up. The car was cheap and worked well, until it didn’t.
We don’t know if this would have happened with rentals from the major companies but we experienced brake failure and received a haphazard explanation that they are usually too busy to maintain their fleet consistently.
Andy found this explanation unacceptable and hopes the major companies hold themselves to more stringent repair requirements.
One more tip – Park far away from other cars, particularly in windy places. Park facing the wind so your door doesn’t rip off the car when opening it. No joke.
Also, if you are thinking about renting a camper, we have no direct experience with this but saw A LOT of campers on our travels.
Using American Credit Cards for Purchases
You can use a credit card in most places in Iceland.
Gas stations are well spread throughout the Ring Road. American credit cards generally do not work at gas stations since there is no pin associated with it for purchases (debit cards don’t work either).
Because of this, as an American you must use gas stations with attendants to either purchase a prepaid card inside or kindly ask them to unlock the pump and pay afterwards.
Gas stations serve as mini grocery stores and many have cafes associated with them. We can’t speak to the quality of the food but at least you can count on them to have something to eat.
We had WiFi everywhere we stayed and only needed to worry about cell coverage while on the road.
In terms of international phone coverage there are some options:
You can buy a SIM card as you would in any other country so long as your phone is unlocked.
Another option is to use international plans through your carrier. Both AT&T and Verizon offer international plans for $10 per day which extend your home plan to wherever you are. Our pre-trip research indicated decent coverage with Verizon but less was said about AT&T.
At times there was slow Internet speeds but we had service almost everywhere.
You can drink water from the tap. The water is delicious and, according to Iceland, chemical and additive free.
While you can buy bottled water we never felt the need.
Some of the water in the geyser belt smelled of sulfur but we never got sick.
We chose to skip the fancy commercialized hot springs (Blue Lagoon and Mývatn Nature Baths) and instead spent time and money at the public pools. They were awesome! Most have kid pools, water slides, lap pools and hot tubs and cost around $10 per person.
Year round, this seems to be a popular way for adults to relax while keeping their children entertained.
Seasons and When To Visit
Summer is the most popular time to visit Iceland. The weather is generally nicer with long hours of daylight. This also equates to more people.
You can access more of the country in the summer than you can other times of the year. For example F Roads that lead to Iceland’s interior are only open and accessible during the summer months.
In the shoulder seasons there are less visitors and flights and lodging are cheaper, but the weather is unpredictable. And even though there is less daylight your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis is slim.
Winter brings more darkness and your best chance to see the northern lights. These are their coldest months but from what we read and heard, the Ring Road is open all year round (major storms close parts of the road at times) and you get to see the waterfalls and other attractions with the added beauty of snow.
Verdur.is has the most accurate weather for Iceland. We checked this website every evening to know what to expect the following day.
We also checked it to track Aurora Borealis activity.
Road.is has the most up-to-date road conditions info for all of Iceland. This is another website we checked every evening to ensure we could get to where we wanted to go.
Thanks for reading our Iceland blog. We hope our posts will be useful when you plan your trip to this magical land.