01 Oct Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 6: Logistics, Expenses and FAQ’s
We had a fantastic time on our 10 day camper van road trip around Iceland. Our days were filled with good friends, gorgeous scenery, steaming hot springs and plenty of adventure. Although Evan, Hilary, Micah and I had all been to Iceland previously, we weren’t quite sure what to expect for the logistics of traveling with a camper van. Thankfully, we didn’t run into any major issues on the road, but we did learn plenty along the way. So, here are some little tips and tricks to help you plan your own camper van adventure in Iceland!
- To pick up your camper van, you can hop on the free Happy Campers shuttle from the Keflavik International Airport and surrounding area.
- New laws in Iceland require all camper vans to park in an organized campsite overnight, and many pull offs have “no overnight camping” signs. So, to be safe, it’s a good idea to stay in campgrounds or at least make sure you have permission to park overnight if you decide to stay somewhere else.
- The campgrounds we found in Iceland are unlike what we are used to in the States. We are used to having a designated area and campsite, but the Iceland campgrounds are usually large open plots of land with no designated sites. You are free to park anywhere you would like, and for this reason, it’s rare that the campgrounds completely fill up for the night.
- During our 10 nights of camping through high season, we never made reservations in advance and did not run into any issues with campgrounds running out of space. This is great if you want to keep a flexible itinerary!
- We found that most campgrounds charged a per person rate. If you don’t see a place to pay at the campground, an attendant will usually come around to collect a fee at some point during your stay. We stopped at several campsites where we couldn’t find anyone to pay upon arrival, but eventually an employee would make their rounds to collect fees from campers.
- A few of the campgrounds we stayed at had kitchens and pay-per-use laundry facilities. Most campgrounds had showers facilities—some were pay per use with a few minute time limit and others were free. All of the campgrounds we stayed at had toilets; there’s a chance you could find one without toilets, but we didn’t experience that.
Obviously, expenses will vary depending on the trip, but here’s a breakdown of the expenses from our 10 day road trip. We had a fairly ambitious driving schedule, which led to higher gas expenses—we drove all the way up into the Westfjords then continued down and around the Ring Road. I decided against adding in our activity expenses because that will change based on what you decide to see and which tours you go on. There are plenty of opportunities for free sightseeing, but also plenty of expensive tour options. Because we went glacier hiking, snorkeling and white water canoeing on our first trip to Iceland, we stuck to more of the free exploring this time around. A couple of the activities we did splurge on were the whale watching tour and Myvatn Nature Baths. Also, we found credit cards to be widely accepted—other than a few instances such as needing change for the showers, we were able to use our cards everywhere.
All of the below expenses were split between four people unless otherwise specified.
Gas: 56,632 ISK total (about $495) — we drove 2,324 km/1,444 miles
Campgrounds: 10,725 ISK (about $94) per person for 8 nights of campsites + 2 free camping nights
Groceries: 31,539 ISK (about $275) total — this gave us each 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, and 3 dinners (we dined out for 5 meals and had Good To-Go’s that we brought from home for 4 meals for an additional cost)
Camper Van Rental Fee: €3,100 (about $3,470) total for 10 days; however, we received a complimentary rental because of our partnership with Happy Campers
Tips and tricks
- My favorite tip is to shower by visiting a hot spring, hot pot or local pool! While you can’t bring soap into the hot pot with you, Iceland has a rule to shower before entering to keep cleanliness at bay. Sure, you can shower at a campground, but visiting a hot spring is way more fun, especially if you have to pay for a shower anyways. Plus, some hot pots are even free! Make sure to bring a towel to dry off with, as well.
- Cooking your own meals will save a bunch of money. When possible, buy groceries in the larger towns such as Reykjavik or Akureyri, and try to find a Bónus, Krónan, or Netto as they have more affordable prices than the smaller stores. If you are looking to buy alcohol, purchase it at the airport from duty free; otherwise, you will have to pay significantly higher prices later because of the heavy taxes.
- N1’s are the perfect spot to stop when you need a break from driving or if you need to use the toilet. Not only can you refuel both your car and your belly, they are often a local hangout in the smaller towns.
- Fill up with gas when you are at the halfway mark. While there are plenty of gas stations throughout the country, you never know how far the next one will be as there are many remote areas around the island.
- On that note, it’s also a good idea to fill up your water tank whenever possible (tap water is completely safe to drink!). You can almost always find water to refill your tank for free at gas stations and campsites, but we still ran out several time. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was definitely frustrating.
- The opening and closing time of stores and gas stations in smaller towns can vary greatly, and sometimes they have very limited operating hours. Don’t count on businesses to be open early in the morning or late at night unless you are in one of the few larger cities.
- I mentioned this in our packing guide, but I think it bears mentioning again–bring an extra power strip (with an inverter plug for the cigarette lighter) so you can charge all your electronics easily. We were constantly draining our camera batteries because we couldn’t stop taking photos, so it was nice to charge multiple devices at once.
- Be conscious of muddy shoes—if you shoes are dirty, be sure to take them off before crawling into the back of the van. It can get dirty quick, so it helps if you don’t wear your shoes inside at all!
- Watch out for the wind—it can be brutal and plenty of people have had doors get pulled and damaged from the wind. Also, be aware of the weather. Iceland’s weather can change on a dime, so make sure to pay attention to your surroundings and stay safe.
Don’t drive off road! You’ll ruin the beautiful landscapes and might even get stuck. We ended up stopping to help a couple that got stuck after deciding to drive off road for a picnic. They were covered in mud and defeated when we arrived. Thankfully, we were able to help and get them out with the power of the three guys, but the land was all torn up and destroyed.
- There are several roads in Iceland that are called “F-roads”. F-roads are only open for a portion of the year, and they are all gravel, filled with potholes and there are no bridges over the streams/rivers. Make sure that you don’t drive on any of these if you don’t have a 4×4 rental as you are very likely to damage your vehicle. None of the Happy Campers are allowed on the F-roads.
- And most importantly, have a sense of humor because things will go wrong at some point. Remembering to laugh throughout our misadventures has definitely kept us sane over the years!
General Rental and Camper Van FAQ
- The rental office is located about 10 minutes from the Keflavik International Airport and is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Rentals need to be picked up and dropped off within these hours.
- Happy Campers offers free transport to and from the Keflavik International Airport and surrounding area, but only during their business hours. This means you need to make sure to schedule your arrival time between these hours or for the next day after you arrive.
- Just as with most rental vehicles around the world, don’t forget to have the driver bring a driver’s license and credit card to secure the rental.
- The minimum age to rent a camper van with Happy Campers is 21+, and all of the vans are manual transmission.
- Rentals come with most everything you need to live inside the van including blankets, pillows, camp stove, cookware, basic kitchen supplies, and a generator powered cooler. The vans have a sink but no showers or toilets.
- The vans are equipped with a heating system, but you cannot let it run all night long. It works great to get the van a comfortable temperature before going to bed, but if you are traveling during a colder period, it’s a good idea to have extra layers and a sleeping bag.
- The minimum rental period is 3 days, and pricing varies depending on the season and is split into low, mid, and high season rates.
Stay tuned to learn even more about our adventures in our Happy Campers camper van:
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 1: Camper Van Tour
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 2: Our Itinerary Day 1-5
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 3: Our Itinerary Day 6-10
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 4: Cooking on the Road
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 5: What to Pack for a Camper Van Road Trip
Happy Campers Iceland Road Trip – Part 6: Logistics, Expenses and FAQ’s
Special thanks to Happy Campers for providing us with a complimentary rental. As always, all opinions are our own.