It is no secret that Iceland is a pricey destination. Even though you can easily find affordable flights to get to Iceland, the expenses you incur once there usually more than outweigh the bargain. Obviously, food and lodging are not optional, but renting a car and spending on gas could technically be avoided. So is it worth it to splurge on a rental car? The short answer is a definite yes. Keep reading to know why.
1. Car rentals are super expensive, but so are group excursions and transfers
You could opt to book guided bus tours and airport connections instead of renting a car. All in all, however, two people traveling together would be spending upwards of USD 360 for airport transfers ($50pp), a Golden Circle day tour ($80pp), and a Northern Lights tour ($50pp). That does not even include taxis in Reykjavik or transportation to the Blue Lagoon. If booked in advance, a car rental will cost you about the same (USD 90 per day; probably a bit more in summer), but will give you more flexibility and comfort.
2. Visiting Iceland by car is easy
There is no need to take part in guided tours to visit Iceland. Instead, prepare your trip and know where to go using one of our free itineraries (like our Reykjavik & The Golden Circle itinerary). Iceland has invested a lot in tourism. Roads are well indicated, and well maintained. Plenty of public infrastructure is also available along the way (parkings, restrooms, …). Basically, if you are comfortable driving at home, it will not be much more complicated to drive in Iceland. Car rental companies let you choose between automatic and stick shift cars, and all cars are equipped with winter tires in the snowy season. These tires make driving on snow as smooth as driving on dry roads in the summer. As long as you have an itinerary and a GPS or app, you are good to go.
3. You can better deal with the changing weather
One thing you do not want is to be at the mercy of mother nature. The weather varies a lot in Iceland. It rains (or snows) pretty hard on a regular basis, and it can get pretty nasty at times. However, within 15 minutes, the scenery could be completely different and the sun could be shining again. If you arrive at the wrong time with a tour bus, you are out of luck. With a car, you will have the option to stay sheltered and wait until the bad weather passes. Moreover, it will give you the flexibility to adapt your itinerary according to the weather forecast.
4. Don’t let a strict schedule and random people ruin your vacation
There’s no flexibility when joining a group tour. You have to follow a rigid schedule, and cannot personalize your itinerary. With a car, you can take part in the same visits, but on your own terms. For example, if you need to deal with jetlag, you can decide to start the day extra early/late. Depending on your interest, you can also decide to cut short or extend your visits. If you see Icelandic horses along the way, you can actually stop and pet them. Another main drawback of bus tours is that you arrive at the designated stops during peak hours and are forced to compete with groups of 30-50 people for best viewing spots, all within the limited allocated time. These people will likely also ruin your pictures, and take away from the calm and serenity the Icelandic nature normally offers. Having a car at your disposal will help you avoid these drawbacks, and more.
In the summer months when there is daylight almost 24/7, you can explore at your own pace and strategically avoid some of the crowds. When we came from the US, we chose to sleep later in the mornings, but kept visiting until 11pm. In the winter months on the other hand, days are so short that you do not want to waste any of that precious daylight because of someone else’s schedule.