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Everything you need to know about getting around Iceland

Iceland can be pretty during the summer, but most Singapore travellers head on up during year-end to see the Northern Lights. So whether you're chasing after the lights or just want to experience Iceland any time of the year, you're definitely going to need a car or some other mode of transport. Here's Michelle of the Munching Traveller to give us the lowdown on getting around Iceland.

Editor’s Note: We wanted to bring you this article written by one of our Skyscanner Storytellers, a community of passionate travellers. Hope you enjoy this one. Iceland is on our bucket list and if it’s on yours too, this article will help.

In this guide:

How to get around Iceland?

You’ve booked your trip to Reykjavik, Iceland and are wondering how to get around? I was also in this dilemma last year after I’ve decided to head to Reykjavik in early December.

Here are some of the ways to get around Iceland, the good and the not-so-good:

1. Join a Group Bus Tour

The good:

  • Snooze in the bus until you reach your next destination
  • Fuss-free, no prior planning needed
  • A variety of tours to choose from – ranging from a day trip, to two or three
  • Some of these tours also include exciting activities (think: Ice Caving, Glacier Walks, Diving, Snorkelling, et cetera)
  • Relatively affordable if you want to visit the Golden Circle (about SGD 98)

The not-so-good:

  • All the disadvantages of joining a group tour, waiting for the others in the tour, get shepherded from place to place, and dining at expensive places
  • The attractions can get quite crowded as the many tour companies often take the same route
  • Since Iceland has shorter days during winter, most of the glacier lagoon tours are 2D1N tours (which means more $ for accommodation)

2. Hire a Private Bus Service / Private Driver

The good:

  • All the advantages stated above except that it is MUCH pricier
  • Don’t have to squeeze with the other tourists
  • Have the option to be driven by the locals!

The not-so-good:

  • Expensive!

3. Take the Iceland Public Buses

Yes, they do have public transportation in Iceland.

The good:

  • Inexpensive way to get around Iceland

The not-so-good:

  • You will need to buffer for more time to get from place to place, the public transport in Iceland is relatively underdeveloped. Many of the locals have their own cars to get around

4. Self-drive!

This is probably one of the more popular option to get around Iceland! I find the cost to be relatively comparable to the group bus tours, but if you are travelling in a group of 3 or more, this option will be much cheaper!

The good:

  • Travel at your own pace
  • Get to places that the tour buses cannot go to (Think the abandoned DC plane, Solheimasandur)
  • Opportunities to stay in interesting hotels

The not-so-good:

  • Extensive planning required
  • Winter driving may be hazardous

Depending on your needs, select your best option and have fun travelling!

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Renting a car in Iceland

We went along with Blue Car Rental. Although it is not the cheapest car rental company in Iceland, it has relatively good reviews online and includes Theft Protection (TP), Gravel Protection (GP), Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), and the Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) for free. During winter, they will also provide studded winter tires for all cars.

We paid 54,000 ISK (about 690 SGD) for:

  • – 4 days of an auto 4WD car rental (45,600 ISK)
  • – 1 additional driver surcharge (2,400 ISK)
  • – Additional Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP) (1,500 ISK per day)

Should you wish to look for a cheaper car rental company, consider using Skyscanner Car Hire

FAQ: Is a 4WD required?

4 wheel-drives are required for off-road driving. However, during winter, most of these roads are closed so we used most of the main roads. But for the sake of safety, I would advise first-timers to Iceland to pay more for the 4WD. The winds can be really strong when driving in the South Coast, and we literally saw the smaller 2WDs swerve off the lanes.

FAQ: Is Additional Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP) needed?

Drivers are advised to add the additional sand and ash protection, especially when you intend to drive to the South Coast. You would be driving on gravel roads most of the time and strong rain or wind may cause damage to the body and windows of the car. When we returned the car, our car didn’t look as white as the above, so do purchase additional insurance for a peace of mind.

FAQ: Do we need to reserve the cars in advance?

Do book your car online prior to arriving to ensure that there is a car for you (especially during the peak seasons). You wouldn’t want to end up with a situation where you do not have a car, spoiling your entire trip.

When we returned the car, we noticed a group of teenagers at the Blue Car Rental office asking for a car but to no avail. I overheard the car rental staff to advise them to wait as there are some cars that will be returned.

FAQ: Where can we collect the cars?

Blue Car Rental has two locations:

  • 1. Keflavik International Airport (walking distance or take the shuttle bus)
  • 2. Reykjavik City (pick-up service at an additional cost of 3,000 ISK)

Since Blue Car Rental just shifted to their new office when we were there, they offered us free pickup service at our accommodation! 🙂

The Process

When you are at the office, they will get you to sign some forms, and show you to the car.

Do remember to take pictures of the cars, especially problematic areas (dents, scratches, etc) so that you have some form of evidence if they charge you for damage upon return.

After the administration are done, you are ready to go!

I hope these information helps in booking your cars in Iceland! Have a safe trip!

Start your car hire search right here

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Tips on driving in Iceland

Cars and Roads

  • Do bear in mind that Iceland cars are left-hand drives, which means the driver will be sitting on the left side of the vehicle.
  • People in Iceland drive on the right side of the road. (This shouldn’t take that much of a getting used to if you are a proficient driver, just pay more attention to your right and left turns.) I
  • In the outskirts, roundabouts are a way to regulate traffic. When you enter a roundabout, remember that the vehicle in the inner circle will have the right of the way.
  • You also may come across many one-way bridges: slow down and ensure that there is no vehicle coming from the opposite side before you proceed. It will also be useful to use your hyperbeams to indicate to oncoming vehicles, or to check for oncoming vehicles before heading onto these bridges.
  • DO NOT STOP AS AND WHERE YOU WANT. Although self-driving accords you the privilege of travelling and stopping in your own time, be considerate and do not stop in the middle of the road. Especially when there are only two narrow lanes, find an appropriate space to stop and walk to your destination.

Driving Regulations

  1. Drivers are obliged by law to ensure that headlights are switched on at all times.
  2. The speed limit in the cities is 30km/h to 50km/h, 80km/h on gravel roads, and 90km/h on paved roads
  3. Drivers and passengers will need to put on their seatbelts at all times.
  4. Younger children and infants will need to be seated in safety seats.
  5. Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited.

Additional Safety Tips

  1. Get your car rental company’s emergency number and store it in your phone
  2. National Emergency Assistance Number: 112
  3. Use to check for weather and road conditions before heading off
  4. Download the Safe Travel App to update your location so that help can come when you need it!

Iceland is generally quite a safe place to drive, if you adhere to the above. Just be careful that sometimes there will be errant drivers, so stay alert and slow down whenever you are unsure. Happy driving! 

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This article was first published on The Munching Traveller as a series. It’s been republished and compiled here with permission.