While planning our trip to Iceland there was a lot of information about renting a car in Iceland that I could find, however much of it was conflicting and after actually doing it I believe that a few important pieces were left out. Renting a car in Iceland should by no means be intimidating, and honestly I don’t understand how people can travel here without renting one for at least part of the trip.
1) Bring music
Radio is very mixed and will not be available for large periods of time around the country when you get away from Reykjavik. Unless you can manage to keep up conversation for the hours you will be driving, I would advice a CD or 2, unless you happen to get a car with satellite radio, which would be even better.
2) Get a standard transmission
Not only will you save money by renting a manual, but with a country as spread out as Iceland, even if you are not good with driving one it won’t really matter much. As a plus it will be a great chance to improve your ability. Now if you have no idea how to drive a manual, you may not want to use this as your first time to learn, but even with very basic experience you will be fine in Iceland.
3) If you want to explore, go with a 4X4
Although not required for a trip during the summer months, you will still be able to take some good trips “off the beaten path” if you get a 4WD car, and if you do choose to do so you will be happy. The country is beautiful and getting to the more remote places lets you really get a feel for that point.
4) Additional Insurance?
This is more of a personal preference of how much “risk” you are willing to take. I personally declined any additional coverage as the “recommended” was an additional 20 Euro per day and my travel credit card that I used provides insurance for rentals (primary actually). Now is there some merit to getting the insurance, yes, and many highly recommend it, but when it comes down to it only you can decide if the extra cost is warranted.
If you follow the speed limit you will get passed a lot, but you will also avoid high speeding tickets if you get caught. While it is true that most of the speed traps are well marked and easy to slow down before (they really do tell you when they are coming up), a 10 km/hr over speeding ticket is about 23,000 kr (nearly $200), and it is easy to miss the signs if you are busy viewing the beautiful country. My advice would be to just stick under the limit and avoid the chance of a surprise ticket a few months after getting home.
If you have a smartphone, don’t waste the money. Driving around anywhere in Iceland except Reykjavik is very easy as there are just not that many roads. Download google maps for offline viewing for the areas that you will be in, or just get a old fashioned map without GPS capability, either way it will be easy for you to get around.
Renting a car in Iceland can be EASY, so go ahead and enjoy the country at your own pace, not in the back of a tourist bus!