Top Tips For Renting a Campervan In Iceland

Renting a camper van in Iceland is a nature lover’s dream vacation. After all, one does not go to Iceland to spend all their time in a hotel room, but most don’t want to brave the cold nights in a tent. The Ring Road, or Route 1, circles the entire island nation of Iceland. We’ve talked about this fantastic journey before, but its popularity means we get a lot of requests for more insights into traveling in Iceland.

Exploring Iceland in a campervan is one of the best ways to tackle the Ring Road and explore other regions like the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Western Fjords, and even the highlands (with a 4×4 campervan rental!). Thanks to your freedom in a campervan, there is no other way to do it. However, there are some things I learned after renting a campervan in Iceland to help others on their Iceland journey!


Tips for Renting a Camper van in Iceland!


Have a General Iceland Itinerary

Cameron In A Happy Campers Camper Van On An Icelandic Gravel Road

We’ve now driven a campervan around Iceland twice, in each direction around the country. We followed the Ring Road most of the time but had no problems venturing off. The name of the Ring Road should be pretty self-explanatory. It’s a road that covers around 1,300 kilometers and circumnavigates the whole country of Iceland – like a ring! The entire route should take about 16 hours if you drive non-stop – but who wants to do that?

It’s impossible to nail the perfect itinerary around the Ring Road as the weather is often fickle and works on its own schedule. Our suggestion is to travel at your own pace. It doesn’t matter if you go fast or slow or miss some sights. As long as you are happy traveling at the pace you are going. If you’re looking for a good amount of time, we suggest somewhere between one and two weeks. We went for ten days, and it felt like an ideal time. It left us wanting more, but never tired of the trip.

When planning your itinerary, map out all your stops beforehand, but always leave time in the schedule for unplanned stops. There will be plenty of unplanned stops in a country as beautiful as Iceland, and it’s best not to feel rushed. We try our best to avoid setting our days to a strict timetable because we know we will never be happy if we do that. There are so many extraordinary things to do and see in Iceland!


Choose a Reputable Iceland Campervan Company

Cameron With A Happy Campers Van In Front Of A Church In Iceland

Determining your rental company is one of the first steps in planning your Iceland campervan trip. We drove around the Ring Road (twice) in a Happy Campers van (both times) and loved it. Happy Campers is a family business run by locals; when we picked up our vehicles, we dealt with one of the family members.

We were checked out by the Sverrir or the “Happy Boss.” While his son was responsible for setting up our booking, another picked us up from the airport. They’re a family business wanting to show visitors the best of the country, and something we appreciate.

The van comes with all you could need for a camping trip in Iceland. It has awesome features, such as a heater for cold nights, a running water sink, and a fridge/freezer. If you want to learn more, read our Happy Campers review


Choosing Your Campervan


Manual vs. Automatic
Camping in Iceland Ring Road Trip Happy Campers Van

You should be prepared to drive a manual campervan in Iceland. As with the rest of the world (besides the US), most campervans in Iceland are manual, but with so many Americans visiting Iceland, automatic vehicles have become more popular. If you require an automatic car, book well in advance and expect to pay a higher rate. Almost all the “budget” camper van companies, like Wicked Campers, are manual vehicles.


Campervan Size
The Rental Fleet Of Camper Vans
The various rental van sizes

Consider the size of your campervan before you book. A few different size options are ideal for one, two, three, and up to five people.  We went with a Happy 2 for the two of us. The van was spacious and comfortable for two people.

However, a larger campervan has reduced fuel economy, so you’ll be paying more for that larger vehicle in more ways than one. Gas is really expensive in Iceland, almost $8 a gallon. Think carefully about the campervan model you choose and how much driving you’ll be doing.

I’d also hesitate to try to squeeze as many people as you can in an Iceland campervan to save on costs. It will make for an uncomfortable sleep! The converted work van is far more comfortable than the budget-friendly passenger vans. We were able to work, relax, and cook within the van.


When to Book Your Campervan

Cameron Inside A Campervan in Iceland

If you plan on renting a campervan in Iceland during the summer, you should start planning and booking your trip at least six months in advance. Campervans sell out fast, especially between June and October, the busiest time in Iceland. It’s possible to squeeze in a last-minute trip, but you must be flexible with dates and accept a short rental period. We have a post about the best time to visit Iceland and what to expect in each season.


What is Included in the Happy Campers Campervan?

The Kitchen Inside Iceland Camper Van
Inside our Happy 2

Our Happy Camper was equipped with everything we could possibly need for ten days on the road. That included things like:

  • Gas Stove with Gas
  • Cooler
  • Privacy Curtains
  • Pots and Pans
  • Plastic plates, cutlery, and drinkware
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Dustpan
  • Two pillows
  • Two blankets
  • Mattress
  • You can pay extra for an inverter, chairs, a table, a BBQ grill, and a WiFi hotspot

Insurance on the Campervan

Cameron With A Camper Van In Iceland

When checking out a camper van in Iceland, you have many options for choosing insurance. Happy Campers includes CDW, which is mandatory in Iceland. If you go with the standard insurance, your liability limit is €2500. They also offer packages that reduce the waiver, such as sand and gravel damage.

We went with the gravel insurance, but I found it a waste, as the roads were great in Iceland during June and October. It could have been more useful if we had traveled during the winter and windier months. Also, look into what your credit card covers for auto insurance.

Most American credit cards offer auto rental insurance as a benefit, and I recommend calling your credit card company beforehand to double-check what they cover. If you don’t have a credit card, it’s time to get one, as they provide a slew of benefits for travel.


Inspect Your Iceland Campervan

Happy Campers Van On A Smal Bridge In Iceland

If you run into a guardrail with your campervan rental, you’ll be charged for damages. If someone else ran into a guardrail before you and you don’t note it when you pick up the rental car, you could also be charged for damages. Always, always, always inspect every single rental car you get with great detail—inside and out.

Note any damages with the company and take photos just in case. Cam and I are meticulous about renting car dings, scratches, windshield cracks, and cigarette burns.  Never assume that a scratch or ding is unimportant or big enough to note. When you return your rental, ensure you get a sign that everything was okay on the car so they don’t return it and try to charge you later.

We’ve been blamed multiple times for things like “excessive sand on the floor in Mozambique,” random pieces of cheap plastic falling off in Mexico, and even being charged for a small scratch on the hubcap in South Africa. Take photos and put up a fight if you think you are in the right.


Get the Right Credit Card

Natasha In The Happy Campers Iceland

This brings me to my next point—credit cards with primary rental insurance. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my favorite travel credit card for many reasons, but the primary rental insurance is one of its best perks (along with Priority Pass membership). When you put your rental campervan on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you get primary coverage worldwide for up to $75,000.

That works out great since we are nomadic and don’t have a car or home. Car rental companies in Iceland and worldwide love to scare customers and upsell all their insurance packages. You need to make sure if you need it or not before falling victim to their trap. Call your credit card company, and always find out before you get to Iceland


Campervan Pick-up and Drop Off

Natasha Stands Outside Camper Van At A Campsite

After the rental company has sorted out all the paperwork, you’ll be asked if you want to be shown around the vehicle. We always feel foolish agreeing to this, but it’s always worth it! Unless your rental vehicle is precisely the same as your home car, several systems will likely be different. If you choose an Iceland campervan, you 100% should be shown around. There are a lot of aspects to a campervan!

When the agent shows you around, ask them to show you how all the essential systems function. You should be completely happy with using your Iceland van rental when you depart – remember, you are legally responsible for it. So, ensure you know how to operate the headlights, indicator lights, hazard lights, and windscreen wipers. Also, be sure to understand how to engage reverse gear.


Expect a Hold Charge for Your Iceland Campervan

The Rental Office Of A Campervan Company in Iceland

Every one of our fifty or so rental cars has put a hold on our credit card for the rental period. Holds can range anywhere from a few hundred bucks to $1000+ in some countries. The “excess charge,” as it is called, is typically stated in your reservation details, but it is easy to miss.

We know they must put this hold on our card, but it can be a massive shocker if you are unsuspecting and end up over your credit limit on your credit card. These excess charges are for scenarios where you disappear with the car, are never seen again, get in a crash, and refuse to pay.


Rent Your Campervan From Keflavik Airport (KEF)

Happy Campers Rental Office

If you plan to rent a campervan to get around, pick it up and drop it off at the airport. It could end up saving you a buck. There is no public transport, and the FlyBus, one of the only buses from Reykjavik city to Keflavik Airport, is 4000 Icelandic Kroner one way.

That’s a $30 airport transfer on a bus! I recommend picking up and dropping off your car at the airport to save on this fee. If you want to rent a camper, Happy Campers has a location at the airport. We had an enjoyable experience with them. They provide a free transfer to their offices from the airport and neighboring hotels — as we arrived late in the evening, an airport hotel made the most sense as it was cheaper than the van.


Gas for Your Iceland Camper van

A Cute Gas Station In Iceland

Be prepared to spend some money when you head to the pump in Iceland. Gas costs a little over $2 USD a liter, or almost $9 a gallon! We paid with tap everywhere in Iceland and never needed cash for the gas stations.

Be aware of distances between fuel stations. We found them all over Iceland and never ran low on fuel, though there are some stretches where there is nothing for miles. For our 10-day itinerary, we spent around USD $400 on fuel—YIKES. On our next trip to Iceland, we spent nearly USD $600 on fuel for 13 days. Make sure to budget for this one, as it’s easy to forget.


A 4×4 Iceland Campervan is Not Necessary for Exploring

Campervan In Front Of Waterfall Iceland

If you’re planning to drive Iceland’s iconic Ring Road (Route 1 around the country) or the Golden Circle, a 4×4 vehicle is unnecessary. Most of the roads are paved and easy to navigate with a sedan. If you want to go down an unpaved or unmarked road, ensure your car can handle it first! We saw numerous small sedans trying to push their car too much down bumpy roads and getting stuck or tearing out the bottom of their rental!


4×4 campervan if you want to get into the Highlands

Landmannalauger

If you plan to drive to places like Landmannalaugar or anywhere in the Iceland Highlands, you’ll need a 4×4 for the “F Roads.” In Iceland, F-roads, also known as mountain roads or highland roads, are a specific classification of roads that traverse the country’s remote and rugged interior. The “F” stands for “Fjallvegur” in Icelandic, which means “mountain road.” These roads are unpaved and typically only accessible during summer when conditions are more favorable.

F-roads are characterized by challenging terrain, including gravel, rocks, river crossings, and steep inclines. They often require vehicles with high ground clearance, four-wheel drive (4WD), and specialized equipment to navigate safely. Due to their remote nature and difficult conditions, traveling on F-roads is considered an adventure and requires careful preparation and caution.

Not every rental car or campervan can travel on F-Roads, and you’ll need to rent a 4×4 specifically if you want to get into the Icelandic Highlands. This can add to your trip’s cost, but it’s worth seeing the beautiful Highlands. Happy Campers offers 4×4 campervan rentals equipped to travel on these roads. Don’t drive a car not rated to handle the F Roads down an F-Road. If you damage the vehicle, insurance from your rental car agency is typically voided, and you could pay large for your mistake.


Make Sure You Don’t Have Mileage Limits

Roads In Iceland

It is common for Iceland campervans to have mileage limits. Usually, this is something like 200 km/day that can be driven. Of course, they can’t know which days you drive 200km/day and which days you are not, so it all adds up. Say you rent a car for six days, and it has a mileage limit of 200 km/day.

That means that for your total rental, you will have 1200 km of free driving. If you return the car after driving 1300 km, you will be charged for the overage of 100 km. If you want complete freedom when driving around Iceland, choose a rental with unlimited mileage.


GPS While Driving Down The Road In Iceland

It’s worth mentioning that distances and speeds in Iceland are recorded in kilometers rather than miles. This can make sights seem further away than they are, although the winding country roads you’re likely to encounter mean travel times are a little longer than those in the US.

We think navigation is a must whether traveling alone or as a group. It takes much of the stress out of driving on roads you aren’t used to and relying on road signage. You might be happy using paper maps, but it’s not normal for them to be supplied with a rental car so that you may opt for the GPS instead.

Smartphone apps such as Google Maps are brilliant free alternatives. They give you the additional advantage of knowing up-to-the-minute traffic and road conditions. You should download a map of Iceland from Google Maps to your phone while on Wi-Fi. If you forget to do this, Reykjavik Airpot has free WiFi where you can download Google Maps to your phone before you hit the road. Our last rental came with free unlimited WiFi and navigation around the country.


Watch for Speed Traps!

Iceland has numerous camera speed traps around the ring road. So it’s best to always stay within the speed limit. Fines are extremely expensive in Iceland. Between ISK 50,000 and ISK 150,000, it’s best to follow the rules. The good news is there is always a sign warning you about the speed camera a few hundred meters before. If you are speeding in Iceland, now is the time to slow down!

You may think you will get away with not paying for a ticket because you are a foreigner and leaving the country. However, the rental car company has a copy of your credit card and is authorized to charge it in circumstances like this.


Drinking and Driving in Iceland

Natasha Holds A Glass Of Sparkling Wine At Sky Lagoon

This should go without saying, but drinking and driving is a grave offense in Iceland. The threshold blood alcohol test (BAT) level is extremely low. Drivers can be charged with DUI with a BAT as low as .05%, and yes, foreigners can be charged too. The Icelandic people take this very seriously, and most do not drive if they plan on drinking. If you want to go out for a night at a bar, ensure you have a responsible way back to your accommodation.


Seatbelts and Safety in Iceland

It’s a legal requirement for all passengers to wear a seat belt or safety belt when the engine is running. Likewise, using a cell phone while driving in Iceland is not permitted to make calls or send/receive SMS text messages. You can use your smartphone for navigation purposes, but it must be hands-free only (such as safely stowed on the windscreen), and you must not program navigation while the vehicle’s engine is running. I recommend getting a phone holder for your car dashboard for your travels.


How Much Will an Iceland Campervan Rental Cost?

Cameron Making Sandwiches In Iceland In Back Of Campervan

It depends on the season! Your rental car will cost significantly more in the summer than in the off-season months from October to February. Happy Campers offers low-season, mid-season, and high-season rates. So, if you want to save money, book a car rental in the off-season. Otherwise, you should be prepared for a moderately expensive trip.

Our last trip was in the high season. We planned a two-week trip around the summer solstice and midnight sun—the rental cost ISK 689,000 or around USD 5,000. Our other expenses, including fuel, groceries, coffee, activities (hot springs), campsites, and a couple of restaurants, came to around USD $2,000. So it was 7,000 for two people or 3,500 a person for a two-week trip. This represents the typical campervan trip, as we neither held back nor lived it up.

If you’re on a budget, here are some tips for getting a good deal on a campervan in Iceland:

  • The sooner you book, the better. Campervans, especially with the good companies, sell out fast.
  • Do your research and choose companies with good reviews. They are often the ones who won’t rip you off with extra charges.
  • Avoid peak season, which is late June-early September.
  • Opt for more affordable activities. Instead of a spa, go to a public pool. Avoid costly tours and go on free hikes.
  • Make sure to cook all your own meals and coffees.
  • Plan your route to minimize driving distances and save on fuel.

Emergency Numbers in Iceland

112 is the single emergency number in Iceland. Remember it and store it in your phone if you ever need it. You never know when you’ll face a life-threatening situation – but remember, only use it if necessary. Safetravel.is puts up all relevant alerts and warnings and should be checked regularly when driving in Iceland. I also like joining relevant Facebook groups to stay updated on travel situations. People are generally quite helpful!


Do You Need an Iceland Van Rental to Have a Good Time?

Natasha In A Field Of Lupines In Front of Skogafoss

No! Iceland campervans are not essential to your enjoyment in Iceland. However, they will greatly enhance your experience, especially if you are short on time or want to explore as much as possible with endless freedom. There are no hotel bookings, making sure you get somewhere by a certain time, or checking out—just pure freedom. If you love the great outdoors, parking under the northern lights or midnight sun, and enjoying home-cooked campervan meals instead of expensive Iceland restaurant food, then a campervan is for you.


How to Enjoy Your Iceland Campervan to the Fullest!


Hold the Door on your Iceland Campervan

The Back Doors On A Camper Van In Iceland

It’s not our first time in the North Atlantic, as the climate is similar to Scotland, Ireland, and the Faroe Islands. Iceland gets a lot of weather! The North Atlantic and Iceland have some seriously high winds. When you’re exiting a car, hold firmly to your car door—otherwise, it may blow right off the car and not be covered by insurance. We’re not kidding — every rental agency in Iceland has to replace several doors a season.


Enjoy Your Sleep

Cameron Leans Against Camper Van In Iceland

Expect it to be pretty cold in Iceland. Our van had a heater we could run all night if we wanted, and it kept us toasty warm in the brisk Autumn air on our first trip. On our second trip in the summer, we even used it on a few cold, wet evenings for a little added comfort in the evenings. We used the heat more as a luxury in the summer than a necessity. If you’re renting a van without a heater or don’t want to run the heat all night, bring a warm sleeping bag.

I suggest bringing a down comforter from home if you’re looking for comfort. The beds in campervans can be quite firm, and a camping pad will make all the difference. When you’re ready to camp for the night, park the van on a level surface unless you enjoy sleeping with your feet higher than your head. The key here is to bring everything you’re comfortable with to make the van feel like home for the next week or a few days. If you love your pillow from home, bring it!


There’s No Bad Weather, Just Bad Clothes

Cameron On A Hike In Iceland

Remember that you’re traveling around Iceland in a campervan. The smallest models don’t leave much room for a massive checked bag. Packing a duffel bag or backpack with soft sides that can be stuffed under a seat is a great option. Along with a soft-sided bag, we highly recommend packing cubes — the cubes made organizing our clothing for our trip much easier.

The obvious thing to pack is warm-weather clothing, even in summer. Not as obvious is the warm-weather clothing you’ll want, even in summer. We suggest everyone pack a down jacket, rain jacket, sweater, wool socks, and a travel towel, regardless of season. The towel is really important if you go to hot springs and public pools. We have a post on what to pack for Iceland if you want more recommendations.

Here are some things we’d recommend to make your campervan more at home in Iceland.

  • Coffee press
  • Thermos
  • Camp Tea Pot
  • Favorite Coffee
  • Headlamps
  • Travel Towel
  • Inverter
  • Down Slippers
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Packing Cubes
  • Favorite pillow
  • Camping pad
  • Leatherman (I carry the Wingman model)
  • Tripod (Photograph the Northern Lights!)
  • Specialty food products
  • Phone Dry Bag
  • Down comforter
  • Spare camping burner

Stay Organized

Kitchen Inside The Camper Van
Kitchen Area On Our Last Night — Still Organized After Two Weeks

It’s crucial to keep your Iceland campervan organized on your Iceland trip. This is important in more ways than one. It won’t take long to figure out that loose items in the back go everywhere when driving. We worked hard to keep the back of the van organized so we didn’t lose anything.

This meant we could easily access anything, keeping the small space from turning into a pigsty. Two weeks in a van with two people would be easy to let everything get out of hand. Also, pick up basic cleaning supplies like a rag and multi-purpose cleaner/wipes. Our van came with a brush that we used to keep our floor clean — we also never wore shoes inside the back of the van. Without this, then it would have been a disaster zone.


Choose a Good Campsite

Cameron Stands At A Standard Campsite In Iceland

You can not camp freely in a motorized vehicle in Iceland. You must have written permission from the landowner or, in other words, a receipt. There are a plethora of campsites around Iceland in the summer, and Happy Campers created this map on their website to help you find one.

Iceland’s camps are generally decent, with showers, toilets, and sometimes even WiFi facilities. The average camping fee ranges from ISK 1600 to ISK 3000 per person per night. Sometimes, showers are not included in this price, and ISK 300-500 for a three- to five-minute shower is not included. We cannot recommend reading reviews enough when picking campsites.

We wouldn’t stay in a campsite below a 4.0 on Google Reviews and always ensured there was hot water and clean facilities at the campsite before paying. This led to us having a very positive camping experience in Iceland. If you don’t want

Keep in Mind…

Cameron In The Back Of Our Campervan Rental

The majority of campsites close down for the winter. We drove the Ring Road once in October and found many campsites closed on September 30th. The availability of campsites will depend on the time of year. Traveling in October, we found it to be hit or miss.

The good news is that even when the campsites are closed, they are still accessible,, and you can technically still park there and camp if need be. This means you don’t have to pay, but you won’t have access to facilities like toilets during the offseason. When we visited in October, we spent a lot of time at the public pools for their facilities.

Almost every campsite in Iceland is open by June – perfect for campervanning Iceland in the summer!


Eat Good Food!

Iceland Grocery Store Fresh Produce

We are no strangers to prepping easy meals, and we’ve improved. Iceland’s campervans don’t provide much prep space, so stick to simple meals. If you want to learn about food costs, we have outlined them in our guide to grocery stores in Iceland. Here are the common meals we made in our campervan.

  • Wraps: These are super simple. Cameron made hot wraps by cooking a stir fry in a pan using vegan hoisin duck, frozen veggies, and mushrooms. Dish it out in some wraps and top with vegan cheese. (You can use the real stuff too!)
  • Rice: It’s a staple, and finding a way to make it your own will take you for miles. We made risotto multiple nights as it’s an easy one-pan meal and super tasty.
  • Soup: We love to make soup because it’s delicious, requires one pot, and it fills you up. For an easy and healthy soup, Cameron recommends the following: Saute onions in a pot until translucent, add mushrooms, tomatoes, vegetable stock (bouillon cubes to save space), rice, potatoes, carrots, and season with paprika. If you’re a meat-eater, cook it first with the onions. The key to a soup is layering flavors and letting it simmer for a long time.
  • Pancakes: Who doesn’t love pancakes? They’re dead simple, and when you top them with peanut butter, they’ll keep you going for hours. For camping, we suggest the premade mix from the store.
  • Pasta: Roasted red pepper, pesto, avocado, or mushroom stroganoff are just a few of the countless variations of pasta you can make. We love to mix them with frozen veggies when camping in Iceland. Fresh produce is expensive in Iceland!

BYOB

Iceland is expensive, and alcohol costs are obscene. A bottle of the budget vodka Smirnoff can cost $70. You can bring a bottle of your own booze into the country, so we came prepared with a great bottle of gin or wine before arriving.

If you’re worried about the weight of a bottle breaking, your next option is to purchase alcohol at the Airport duty-free before you enter the country, which offers a better deal than stores in Iceland. Outside of duty-free stores at the airport, you can only purchase alcohol at the state-run stores called Vinbudin.


Pros and Cons of Renting a Camper van in Iceland

Campervans From Happy Campers Parked In Lot

Pros

  • Saves Money – since you don’t have to pay for hotels.
  • Convenient – no need to plan out everything in advance
  • Flexible – able to change your route whenever you want.
  • Views – Never a bad view!
  • Fun – It’s a pretty fun way to travel around.

Cons

  • Cramped – No doubt about it, a campervan with more than one person is cramped living.
  • Showers/Toilets—Toilets are hard to find in Iceland unless you’re at a designated campsite, and showers can also be hit or miss.
  • Weather – If you have bad weather, there’s no escaping it.
  • Cost – They are by no means cheap.

Plan For Your Trip

About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

2 thoughts on “Top Tips For Renting a Campervan In Iceland”

  1. Awesome advice! Just booked a camper for 10 days from now. Love your cooking ideas. Thanks!

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