Final Lessons In Iceland

Nicola thought we should do an Iceland post to wrap up the campervan things we learned. I decided to expand that a little to include all of our lessons learned. This may seem like a jumble of things but nonetheless good things to know.

Campervan Lessons
Of course, you need to remember all of the costs when you plan a campervan holiday. In all, we travelled about 2500 km over 11 days. That was the full ring road plus a lot of in and out of fjords. We filled up three and a bit times. The cost of diesel was pretty consistently 231 ISK per litre all the way around. We spent just over $500 CAD I figure in fuel. When we got the van, there were multiple fobs on the key ring. These will get you a discount on fuel. If it is paid at the pump, then tap the fob first to start. If it is paid inside then pump your fuel first, then go inside where they will have you tap the fob for the discount. The discounts are about 3% in general.

I thought we were paying for insurance at the time of booking. However, I learned that that was only third-party liability which is the law in Iceland. It will only cover the damage you cause to other vehicles. Our credit card does not provide insurance on campervans. I checked before we left. I chose to buy their insurance in case of stone chips or other things. It is important to know that no insurance will mean you won’t pay for the damage you cause if you have an accident. Be prepared and make your own decisions.

Nicola’s hints are a bit more organizational. The shelf under the fridge had no doors on it. Anything on these shelves would slide out while we were driving. Perhaps consider bringing some light bungee cords or something else that can wrap around the whole shelf. Otherwise, your stuff will need to be stored somewhere else.

Campgrounds are not cheap. For two we paid an average of about $35 CAD per night. There is a camping card you can get for 150 euros. However, there are only 40 campsites to pick from. It might be hard to limit yourself to these. We perhaps paid more but we stopped where we wanted and when we wanted. You decide what will work for you. The card might work better for a family depending on how long you will be travelling. Search online for campsites and the services they offer. Using a camp stove is a pain in the butt so finding a campsite with a real stove is a big win. Hot showers included in the price is always nice.

You can only get the campervan near the airport so it may be better to pick it up when you arrive. Or stay one night in Keflavík and pick it up the next day. The airport shuttle can be expensive.

Is Iceland expensive?
There is no doubt it is expensive. However, we cooked our own food most days. We brought a bunch of food with us from Canada. However, when we went to the grocery store, some things are not too expensive. Given that we pay a bit more where we live we did not find it too bad really. Meat is more expensive but lamb and fish are more economical. Some veggies are not too expensive and some are terribly pricey. Tomatoes, cucumbers, etc we found reasonable.

Eating out is fairly expensive. We got a coupon book when we arrived that had several two-for-ones. We ate a meal at IKEA one day which is always pretty cheap. If you have a Costco card, there is one in Reykjavík. The gas stations often have a Grill 66 or a Quiznos. Nic got a two-for-one coupon for each of these. When booking an excursion online, see if you can find a promo code. I often fine one that saves between 10% and 20%.

Do I need Icelandic Kronas?
We took out some at the atm when we arrived. Iceland is all about credit cards and it is super easy to tap everywhere. We could have used no cash. Some of the campgrounds had an honour box if you arrived late or left early. Otherwise, the attendant came around with a machine to charge your card.

The only thing we used cash for was the free walking tour. Interestingly we could have tipped him by card. He would send you a link to pay him on your phone. Needless to say, Iceland would be easy to do without cash. It would be very challenging to do without a credit card. In the end, I converted most of our cash to Norwegian Kronas.

What is the tipping convention?
Don’t tip. They won’t refuse it but it just isn’t done. Their wages cover it. I know this would be hard for Americans who always over tip (my opinion only). But Icelanders don’t tip… so you shouldn’t either. The machine won’t give you the option.

We learned this too late. But there is a flea market in Reykjavik that is open from about 11 am to 5 pm on weekends only (I think). You can get much better deals in there. The Icewear factory store had some good prices and Nic had a 15% off coupon. We couldn’t get much because we were just at the beginning of our year-long trip. Wool products are a popular item.

Duty-Free Alcohol
We bought a bottle of duty-free Baileys in Toronto. Alcohol is pretty expensive in Iceland. When we arrived we were able to go into the duty-free at the Reykjavík airport. We bought some beer. There is beer in the grocery stores which is 2.25% alcohol. It is about a dollar for a tall can. To get full-strength beer you have to go to a liquor store. Beer was illegal until 1989. Now there are lots of local brews that are nice. Explore them.

Airport Shuttles
For two of us, it was about 75 CAD for two of us one way. It might be cheaper to rent a car. We got a car for three days for $72 CAD plus $55 for gas. That included us driving the Golden Circle. The airport is almost an hour from Reykjavík so it is understandable why it is expensive. You decide.

Driving in Iceland
Driving in Iceland is pretty easy. They drive on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left or wrong side). The main highways are paved and well-maintained. Getting to many of the places you want to go may require driving on gravel. For us, it wasn’t too bad because we have a lot of experience with gravel roads. For some, it may be stressful. It may also lead to damage like stone chips on the windshield. Use a map to figure out what kind of roads you will be driving on.

There are lots of one-lane bridges. Who goes depends on who arrived first. It should not be too hard to figure out. Iceland also has lots of roundabouts. If you have experience with them it should be okay.
We relied on our cell phone for our routes. If you don’t have one make sure you have a good map. There may be more than one way to where you are going.

Cell Phones and Wifi
Our campervan included wifi which was very cool. Many campgrounds had wifi too. Wifi is abundant and accessible in Iceland. We also got a SIM card for our phone. Data is very cheap compared to Canada. I ordered a UK SIM card but when we arrived we learned that the unlimited data would start to cost us because we had not activated it in the UK. I might do something different next time. We are using giff gaff. If you are going for a short trip (ie. up to two weeks) you could use giff gaff and it is very cheap. Look into it.