This blog post was updated on June 16, 2017.
I drove over 2,000+ kilometers and made it all the way around Iceland’s Ring Road (you can read about my 7-day journey here). I saw some amazing natural beauty and met some wonderfully warm and friendly people, and it was probably the best road trip of my life!
If you’ve just got a week and are still not sure about driving through the whole country, think again. It’s very much doable. Here are 10 tips I learned along the way, and which I want to share with you so that your Iceland road trip will be a walk in the park.
1. Stock up on booze at the duty-free
In Iceland, excluding bars and clubs, you can only buy alcohol in state-run “Vinbudin” liquor stores, where prices, like most things in Iceland, are quite high (we’re talking about $30 for a 10-pack of beer). Prices at the duty-free are almost half to one-third the price! Stock up thoughtfully before you embark on the road, cos you’re going to need that beer at the end of a long day’s drive!
2. Book two-way tickets on FlyBus
A photo posted by Reykjavik Excursions (@reykjavikexcursions) on
If you haven’t arranged to pick up your rental car at Keflavik Airport itself, FlyBus is the easiest way to get to and from the airport and the capital city of Reykjavik. I would recommend buying the return trip as well, as it adds up to a bit of savings. FlyBus operates comfortable buses frequently, and will drop you off right at your hotel, hostel, or vacation home. They’ll also pick you up at a convenient location (usually at a hostel or hotel) close to where you’re staying for the trip back to the airport. You can’t miss their counter at the airport.
3. Book your rental car for after August 31
If you’re visiting at the butt-end of summer, remember to book your rental vehicle from September 1. The end of the summer months means it’s the end of the tourist season, which means car rental prices, as well as accommodation prices, come down drastically. Plus, early September guarantees you’ll still get plenty of sunshine.
4. In Reykjavik, eat at places close to the harbor
Food prices in Reykjavik, and around Iceland as a whole, are notoriously high. We’re talking about $40-50 a main dish at a nice restaurant, with a draft of local beer costing you about $10. Make sure you eat around the harbor area, where food is a lot cheaper (about $20-25 a main dish) instead of the trendier city center area.
5. Shop at a Bonus
Bonus is the name of a popular store where you can pick up whatever snacks and liquids you may need for the road at very cheap prices. They have stores all around the country, but Reykjavik is a good place to stock up if that’s your starting point.
6. Watch out for sheep while driving
There are sheep all across Iceland. Unfortunately, they aren’t the smartest of animals, so use caution when speeding around the Ring Road as you may see a flock trying to cross the road to greener pastures. Don’t be a bleating idiot – watch out for the woolly little fellas.
7. Remember your credit card PIN
You won’t have to use cash for anything in Iceland. From hot dog vendors on the street to gas stations, credit cards are taken EVERYWHERE. However, at gas stations in particular, you’ll need to know your PIN for your card, even though you wouldn’t have bothered memorizing it. As I couldn’t remember my number I had to purchase a gas card from one station, but this is not a cost-effective move. Dig up that PIN, wherever it’s buried!
8. Give way at one-lane bridges
You’ll come across single lane bridges across rivers at many places around the Ring Road. Etiquette is – whoever gets to the bridge first has right of way. The person on the other end has to wait till the other crosses completely. Be patient and also very alert: Sometimes the bridge is slightly elevated from the road level, which means it’s hard to see cars on the other side.
9. Puffins leave end of August
While whale watching can be done almost year-round (especially from Reykjavik), catching a glimpse of these amusing little creatures (trust me, you’ll get an overdose of them, as they’re on tourist souvenirs of all sorts) can be a little more seasonal. They usually fly away from the islands surrounding Iceland around August 31, but in some parts may hang around till mid-September. Do your research beforehand.
10. Stay with Icelanders!
Forget hotels. Staying in the home or on the farm of an Icelandic host or family will make your experience all the better. You’ll feel like you’ve understood the country and its people better after chatting with your hosts over breakfast or dinner, and you can leave the country having made some new friends!
Do you have any tips for hitting the road in Iceland? Let us know in the comments.
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