How hard can it be to go for a run across Iceland’s capital city and find our camper rental place? You would think that would be an easy feat, especially when Reykjavik’s population is only 119,000 people. We discovered hard way even with a map, that’s not the case.
It was about 10 km from our hostel to get to the rental place. No big deal, we have done runs like that before. We were scheduled to pick up the vehicle at 8AM so we gave ourselves a good chunk of time to get there. Regardless of the buffer time we had allotted ourselves, we still got lost and showed up late.
During the planning phase of our Iceland trip, Mom and Dad had found and rented a campervan from one of the few places that still had rentals available. Given that we had waited a little too long to book our vacation wheels, the camper selection was sparse. The rental agency that we used was called KúKú Campers and as the name insinuates when we saw our transportation for the next two weeks we really felt like we were going coucou. A camper, or should I say vehicle turned camper, painted firetruck red with a splash of fire and ice graphics on the side was what would be our home base for the foreseeable future. It was in that moment when my parents first laid eyes on the throwback 70’s hippy mobile, that Icelandic Cheech and Chong were born.
Once you looked past the overwhelming amount of color, the car was a little cramped for space but ultimately did the trick. We had plenty of drawers filled with camping equipment in the back, a fold out bed and mattress for my parents (who slept in the camper) and a roof rack that provided extra storage space for our collection of baggage. Thankfully Mom and Dad had their gear in waterproof bags to put in the roof rack. It may not have been a 4-wheel drive but it certainly got us safely around the island at an affordable price.
Iceland is a country with no trains and virtually non-existent city buses, so renting a vehicle to tour the island is without a doubt the way to go. Having the ease and flexibility to come and go as you please is a great benefit when visiting this country, as there is so many natural landscapes to see and photograph. As with any car rental agency, we were provided with a bunch of rules and regulations to follow when using our rental camper. Checkout some of our favorites!
1. Don’t Go Off-Roading: Perhaps the most important rule in this country, the highlands of Iceland are no place for the fainthearted. Unless you have an all-terrain vehicle and a good plan, you will find many signs warning against heading onto the F roads and with good reason. With limited cell service, few backcountry gas station and rapidly changing weather, agencies strongly recommend having 2 vehicles before venturing into this barren landscape. If you don’t believe me just check out my Rescue Ranger blog post to find out how unforgiving the back roads can be if you are not prepared.
2. Check the Wind Direction: You may laugh at this rule like we did, but the force of the wind in Iceland is surprisingly strong. Being an island country with minimal tree coverage, there is little shelter that is offered against mother nature’s elements. That is why car rental agencies ask that you make sure to check to wind direction before you open your car door to get out of your vehicle. The first few times we stopped at our camping sites for the night, my door nearly got ripped off of its hinges from the sheer force of the wind. To avoid damaging the car and the paint job make sure to park your vehicle facing into the wind and always hold on to your door when you are getting out.
3. Watch Out for Sheep: If you hit it, you buy it. That is the rule of the road here in Iceland when it comes to these fluffy farm animals. Sheep are found everywhere in the country and have free range to graze anywhere they please during the warm months. Bearing this in mind, if a sheep decides to randomly run out on the road in front of your car and you hit it, you are expected to reimburse the farmer for the cost of his now dead sheep. Rest assured there is nothing to fear if you keep your eyes peeled.
4. Drive the Speed Limit: Nobody likes paying hefty fines especially when it is a few weeks after their vacation. You may not notice a strong law enforcement presence in Iceland but don’t be fooled, cameras and speed traps are there waiting to catch you. Keep in mind while driving that the speed limit for paved highways outside of localities is 90km/h, the speed limit for rural gravel highways is 80 km/h and the speed limit for any urban area is 50 km/h.
Be safe when traveling in a foreign country, know the rules of the road and most of all have fun. Camper, SUV, car or hippy mobile, no matter what your transportation of choice is, when you are visiting Iceland renting a set of wheels is the most practical way to go. We hope that if you ever make your way to this country that you have as much fun as we did in our Cheech and Chong mobile.
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