If you’ve decided to finally see the Northern Lights and hot springs with your own eyes, there is only one thing that can make your Icelandic experience more unique. It is renting a campervan! With this type of travel, there is no need to worry about where to sleep and how to get from one place to another. Here are our campervan rental tips in Iceland and we hope they will be useful for your journey!
Keep reading to discover all the benefits of traveling through Iceland in a campervan and everything you need to know before you hit the open road.
Why You Should Explore Iceland in a Campervan
Iceland is quite “campervan-friendly”. You can rent your van at Keflavik Airport. That is where all travelers arrive. Iceland’s Ring Road connects most towns and enables travel all over the country. There are many rental companies that offer affordable prices for campervans.
If you opt for this option, you will be killing three birds with one stone. A campervan provides accommodation, transportation, and a place to cook. If you’re able to save on meals by cooking, you will have a lot more money to spend on other things.
In addition to that, a campervan gives you freedom and independence. You can decide where you want to go and when you want to hit the road. No need to book a transfer in advance and adjust your schedule to fit the driver’s timetable. You are your own boss!
Tips for Campervan Rentals in Iceland
Make an itinerary and follow it
Wherever you go, it is easy to get lost if you don’t have a plan. Many people tend to get confused when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going.
Assuming you have a limited amount of time and have to catch your flight back home, you should make an itinerary for your trip to Iceland and follow it very closely. It’s ok to miss a few sights or add an extra pit stop on the way, but make sure you can see everything you wanted to see and make it back in time for your flight.
Find a reliable rental company
If booking with a reputable company means spending a few extra bucks, that’s what you have to do. Finding a reliable rental company is crucial to the success of your trip. If you want your trip to go smoothly, you need to find an honest company with good service.
You want to be sure that the company will offer helpful advice in case of any trouble on the road. Many travelers recommend the company Cozy Camper, so you can trust that it’s a good one! By the way, book your van in advance. Waiting till the last moment to book may leave you with an old and overpriced vehicle.
Pay attention to the size of the van and equipment
Campervans in Iceland come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you’re traveling in a pair, you might be leaning towards booking a larger van just for the added comfort. Before you do that, consider the cost of such a vehicle.
Not only will you have to pay more in rent, but you will also have to spend more on gas, which is already expensive as it is. Your van should be equipped with a gas stove and a sleeping area. Campervans don’t have showers or toilets.
Be prepared to drive manual
Most campervans in Iceland have a manual transmission. If you’re used to driving manual cars, you won’t have an issue. However, if you prefer driving automatic vehicles, you need to book yours way in advance. In that case, prepare to pay more for it, too.
Get a Portable Power Station
In order not to drain the van’s battery, you could buy (or rent) a portable power station for your gear. If you are a photographer or video editor like me, you would need to charge multiple devices at once. A portable power station will be your buddy on the way 🙂
Mind the speed limit
You might feel comfortable speeding in your hometown because you know where all the radars are. That won’t work in Iceland. If you get caught breaking the speed limit, you will get a hefty fine for putting yourself and others in danger. Be mindful of the speed limit and don’t cross it. Usually, the limit in cities is 50 km and 90 km on main roads.
Keep an eye out for gas stations
Finding a gas station in Iceland is not a difficult task, but we still recommend you fill up on gas whenever you can. At times you will find yourself driving on long roads with no signs of life for hours. On these roads, you won’t see a gas station for miles, so it’s best to be prepared!
Create a list of campsites
Knowing where the nearest campsite is will make finding parking for the night that much easier. You can visit this website to see a map of all the best campsites in Iceland, as well as campsites that are open all year long.
If you’re traveling in the winter months, bear in mind that not all campsites will be open. In many cases that means you can still park there, but won’t have access to the showers and toilets.
Don’t park just anywhere
In Iceland, you can’t just park wherever you please. Parking on the side of the road is illegal and there aren’t too many parking lots on mountain roads.
If you’re picking up food from a gas station, you can leave your car there for a few minutes, but that’s about it. If you’re planning on camping somewhere for the night, you need to find a designated campsite.
Be careful to not run out of food
In terms of budgeting, you’re better off shopping for the week on the day of your arrival. Take note of the equipment in your van and shop accordingly. Your campervan might have a small fridge, so take only what you know can fit in it.
Also, keep in mind that you won’t see grocery stores on every corner. Take a trip to the grocery store and stock up on food that won’t go bad, like pasta and rice.
Have a spare credit card with your name (just in case)
Your credit card from your country might not work in some Icelandic gas stations. Some will require you to use a card with pins.
You will also need a credit card with a high limit when you’re paying for your campervan. The thing that many rental companies do is – reserve the insurance amount without taking it off your credit card.
For that, a debit card just won’t do. To avoid any confusion, get a travel credit card just for this occasion. You might not need it, but it’s good to have!
Pack warm clothes even in summer
Iceland stays cool even in the summer months, so you should account for that when you’re packing. Regardless of whether you’re traveling during high season or low season, you need to pack some warm clothes.
Campervans usually have a heater that you can turn on at night. If you don’t want to do that, you should bring a sleeping bag to keep you warm at night.
Don’t overpack, as you’ll be short on space
Campervans are pretty small, so pack strategically. If you can bring a backpack or duffle bag instead of a suitcase, do that. Bring thermal wear, wet wipes, and other necessities. Remember that the more you pack, the tighter it will be in the van. If you want to keep a decent sleeping area, don’t overpack.
Pack some cleaning supplies
This might not be necessary if you’re only visiting Iceland for a weekend. However, if you’re renting a van for 3 or more days, you will definitely need some cleaning supplies.
At the very least, you can get a few packs of wet wipes to keep your mess at bay. Have a designated trash bag and take it out regularly. Wipe the floors and countertops to keep your area tidy and cozy.
Camping in summer is better
That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? For starters, you don’t need to carry heavy jackets and warm shoes in summer. You can save a lot of space in your suitcase or backpack by packing mostly light clothes. It’s also worth mentioning that many campsites close during the winter months.
That means that taking a hot shower at a campsite is much easier in summer. Not to mention, the colder months are much more prone to bad weather, which makes you want to cuddle up by the fire and take a steaming hot bath – things you can’t do in a campervan.
Cook simple meals
Even though most campervans feature a gas stove, don’t expect any luxury. Your rental car will likely be quite petite, so you need to think of meals that are quick and easy.
Those include anything with pasta, rice, canned tuna, and oats. Load up on fruit and vegetables you can keep outside of the fridge for a few days, like bananas, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and such. There is not much room for meal prepping when you’re doing wild camping.
Example of Easy Meals for Campervans
- One of the easiest meals to cook in a campervan must be breakfast burritos. Cook some onions and black beans on a pan, and use the same pan to fry up your eggs and bacon. Slice some veggies and roll everything into a tortilla.
- Another easy meal you can make in your makeshift kitchen is any kind of one-pot pasta. All you need is some veggies of your choosing, a sauce, and your favorite type of pasta. Boil your pasta till it’s al dente, save some pasta water, and add your sauce and veggies. Quick, easy, and filling.
- Utilize your leftovers and make fried rice. All you really need is some day-old rice and eggs. Use any meats and vegetables you have; it’s a great way to eat all of your food before it goes bad. Fry your rice, meat, and veggies in a pan, push the resulting mix to the side, and scramble some eggs on the other side of the pan. Add soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and any other sauce you like.
Splurge on insurance
For starters, you’re going to have to opt for car insurance at the car rental place. There isn’t really an option to opt out of it. It’s also good to purchase additional insurance, such as travel insurance.
You probably don’t know much about the road conditions in Iceland. Gravel road insurance is a must! The little pieces of gravel on the road can shoot back at your car, chipping the paint or causing damage to the windscreen.
Strong wind will add to that disaster, and only gravel road insurance can save you. If you’re not familiar with the roads, insurance might save you a few bucks.
Be prepared to pay camping fees
Iceland is quite strict on its campers. You can’t just camp anywhere; you need to find a designated campsite. Those might charge you between $10 and $20 per person per night, so be ready to pay camping fees. You might also have to buy a couple bucks extra for using the showers. Even with these fees, camping is significantly cheaper than staying at a hotel.
Plan your showers
If you’re traveling in winter and unless your campervan has a bathroom, you need to plan your showers in advance. Not all campsites have showers that are included in the price, so you might have to pay a few bucks extra.
In the winter months, many campsites shut down and close their showers, so you won’t be able to use them at all. One solution that frequent travelers came up with is showering before going to a pool. The pools and spas in Iceland have nicer showers than the campsites and you don’t have to pay extra to use them.
Drink tap water
Much like in many European countries, Icelandic tap water is good to drink! Even more, it’s actually recommended. What do you think all the glaciers are for, anyway? Keep a water bottle by your side that you can fill with clean drinking water virtually anywhere.
Save up for gas
Iceland is quite expensive, especially when it comes to alcohol and gas. You’ll have to spend quite a lot on gas, so save up for it. You can save money by cooking in your campervan instead of eating out.
Plan your meals and buy your groceries in advance. Bear in mind that even with these expenses, you are still better off camping than staying at a hotel and eating at restaurants.
Keep some cash on you
Finding a bathroom on the road shouldn’t be a problem, but you might have to pay a small amount to use it. The same applies to showers and bathrooms in campsites. Because of that, always keep some cash on you. You only really need a little bit, as you won’t be charged more than a few bucks to use the bathroom.
Must-see Stops in Iceland and nearby Campsites
Iceland boasts amazing nature and breathtaking views all around. No matter where you go, you will find something pleasant to look at. However, it’s good to have a plan. If you don’t know where to start, start with the Golden Circle.
The first three items on this list belong to the Golden Circle and are a total must-see! It shouldn’t take you longer than one day to see them, but take it at your own speed.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is the first stop on the Golden Circle tour of Iceland. This is a great first stop, as it not only showcases Iceland’s fascinating geology but also teaches its visitors about Iceland as a country and functioning society.
It is the first of Iceland’s three national parks. It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If UNESCO says it’s good, it’s got to be good!
Where to Camp near Thingvellir National Park?
There are two campsites in Thingvellir, one of which remains open in winter as well. Visit this website to find the exact location of the campsites, as well as the prices and all the necessary information.
Geysir, also known as the Great Geysir, is the second stop on the Golden Circle route. This geyser is the father of all geysers (at least in Europe). It is the first geyser discovered in modern Europe and its name served as the origin for the word “geyser”.
Geysir is still active, but it doesn’t erupt very often. You can visit the Haukadalur geothermal area for free. Beware of the water, it’s very hot!
Where to Camp near Geysir?
There is a campsite located a short 5-minute walk from Geysir itself. It is called Campsite Geysir and it’s a lovely place for campers. The campsite is within walking distance from the only shop and restaurant around, which is very convenient if you need to stock up on food or want to enjoy an outing.
The site is surrounded by tall trees, adding a layer of privacy and making for an awesome spot in nature. It is a bit more expensive than other campsites in the area, as you’re paying for the location.
Gullfoss is the third and final stop on the Golden Circle. It is located in southwest Iceland by the Hvita river. The word Gullfoss can be translated as Golden Falls. It is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, and for a good reason! The falls are absolutely stunning. Gullfoss is a great place to visit in summer and winter.
Where to Camp near Gullfoss Falls?
Skjol Campsite is located between Geysir and Gullfoss, so you can stay there at any point during your travels along the Golden Circle. The campsite doesn’t have a kitchen, but it has a restaurant, so you can switch it up for a night and eat out. Overall, the place is very friendly and comfortable.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the main events for everyone who comes to visit Iceland. It’s a geothermal spa where people come to relax and enjoy the healing powers of the water. The best way to describe the Blue Lagoon is as a massive hot tub. It is the biggest one of all the hot tubs you’ve ever been in!
Where to Camp near the Blue Lagoon?
The Grindavik camping site is located not far from the Blue Lagoon. The campsite’s showers are included in the fee, so you can scrub yourself clean! It is also not far from the airport, making it a convenient location for your last night in Iceland.
Jokulsarlon is the name of a glacial lagoon that is located near Vatnajokull National Park. When you see it, you won’t believe it’s real. The water is so perfectly blue and clear, it looks like a postcard. In the water, there are chunks of icebergs from the nearby Vatnajokull Glacier. It is truly a magnificent sight.
Where to Camp near Jokusarlon?
The closest campsite you’ll find is called Svinafell. The location of the campsite is beautiful. You will be falling asleep to some outstanding views if you choose to stay there overnight! Visit the campsite’s website to find out about the prices and facilities Svinafell offers.
What to Know About Iceland
You can speak English to everyone
It’s always nice to learn a few words in the language of the country you’re visiting. While I recommend you do the same for Iceland, it isn’t absolutely necessary. Surely, locals will appreciate your effort, but most people speak English fluently.
That means bringing a rain jacket and a pair of hiking boots. You’ll need them, even in summer. If you’re going to visit a waterfall (and I hope that you are), you will get wet. That’s when the jacket will come in handy! Hiking boots are great for any terrain, so you’ll appreciate them when you’re out and about admiring Icelandic nature.
Take a glacier tour
Don’t shy away from taking a glacier tour with an experienced guide. They will help you get close to a glacier and see it in all its glory. Doing so alone is simply too dangerous. You will regret not going, so wear a pair of comfortable hiking boots and get to work! You can choose from a number of different tours here. Tours vary in duration and price.
Take it easy
You might feel compelled to pack your itinerary as tightly as possible with sights to see. Fight that urge. Soon you’ll find that stopping at one place will take a lot longer than you anticipated. Plus, you need to account for the distances between places. There is no need to stress yourself out.
Enjoy the moment and appreciate everything you see on the way. If you want to spend the whole day in Thingvellir National Park, so be it! There is no way to fit everything in one trip anyway, so take it at your own pace.
Final Words about Campervan Rental Tips in Iceland
Many travelers choose to spend the majority of their time in Iceland in Reykjavik. While the capital city is gorgeous, the country has a lot more to offer. So, rent a campervan and go on an adventure!
Whether you are renting or building a campvervan, there is just no way to get the most out of Icelandic nature without a car and an open road. You might not want to sacrifice your comfort at first, but you will quickly understand why it’s worth it after you see one of Iceland’s natural wonders, be it a glacier, mountain, volcano, or lagoon.