Campervan travel – an independent way to see the country
We knew the moment we made the decision to travel to Iceland that we would hire a campervan. As regular travellers in motor homes throughout Europe, and now the owners of our own camper, there was never going to be another choice.
Iceland is a vast and contrasting country, full of incredible and sometimes unbelievable landscapes. It was just made for driving around on your own. The true beauty of travelling this way is always the independence you have. There are plenty of twists and turns on the road to make it exciting and plenty of amazing views. But it’s the ability to pull up for the night in a location of your choice that tips this choice of travel in our favour. Here’s a great example of an Iceland self-drive itinerary.
This article is to provide you with some insight on the hiring process and what you actually get for your money. Hiring a campervan in Iceland is not as cheap as you might expect. In fact it’s the most expensive I’ve ever hired. However, it can still be cheaper than hiring a car and staying in hotels and as I mentioned earlier, the key benefit for us is keeping our independence.
How to book
After thoroughly researching campervan companies in Iceland (of which there are many), we decided to hire our campervan through Car Rentals in Iceland, a division of Nordic Holidays. They have partnership arrangements with many of the car and campervan hire companies in Iceland. This means you will have a variety of options at your fingertips and the ability to choose the right vehicle for you.
The team at Car Rentals in Iceland are great communicators. Confidence in who I am dealing with when handing over large sums of money is very important to me, so having timely communication was appreciated.
The actual selection of the vehicle is easy. Simply choose the vehicle you wish to rent and complete the booking process. You will be asked to pay a deposit upon booking and also provide your drivers licence details. CampEasy offers many add on accessories which you can elect to book online or purchase at the depot. The list of accessories is extremely comprehensive and can really complement your trip.
Examples of accessories include:
The practical: Chairs, tables, lanterns, head torches, maps and GPS
The useful (and often necessary): Wifi (all vehicles have in-built wifi), electricity inverters, fuel discounts (very useful in such an expensive city), and extra gas for stove.
The fun: Guitars, songbooks, speakers and coffee press (ok I’m not a coffee lover so I don’t see this as necessary 🙂 )
General inclusions with CampEasy
Before securing your booking it’s a very good idea to ensure you understand what is (and isn’t) included in your hire cost. Check that your mileage is unlimited. Whilst Iceland isn’t the biggest country around, you’ll still clock up high mileage. In eight days, we drove 1,943km as we circumnavigated the Ring Road and various other offshoot locations.
Insurance is also usually an item that catches out a lot of people. Is it included? If so, what exactly are you insured for? Iceland has an often-times confusing array of insurance options and it’s important you have insured yourself adequately. This can be done through the hiring company or your own personal travel insurance.
All vehicles come standard with:
- Unlimited mileage
- Hire cost is inclusive of taxes
- Beds and bedding (linen, doona, pillows and pillow cases)
- Gas stove (ours was a small one pot burner)
- Basic cookware and kitchenware
- Sink with running water and a 20 litre water container
- Cooler – note this is not a fridge
- Additional house batteries for running devices off 12 volt
- Heating system
- Radio/CD/Bluetooth entertainment system
- Basic insurance
*Note this could change depending on hiring company
Which vehicle to book?
CampEasy has a range of vehicles to choose from including those small enough for two people right through to groups of five. They come in manual, automatic and also 4×4. Choosing the type of car is the most critical aspect of the hiring process. Depending on the season, you will need to consider road and general weather conditions and road access. Iceland has what are known as F roads which are only accessible at certain times of the year, and only by 4×4 vehicles.
If you are planning on driving these roads, hiring a 4×4 is a must. Significant penalties apply for driving non-approved vehicles on F roads. It’s also a very silly thing to do from a safety perspective. By the same token, hiring a 4×4 vehicle when the roads are not accessible or if your itinerary doesn’t include them is just a waste of money as they are more expensive to hire than a regular vehicle.
Most of the vehicles have the same inclusions. The size and functionality of them are the main differences.
This vehicle below is the smallest of the fleet, the EasySmall.
We had the automatic 4×4, slightly larger version called the EasyFun. With side windows to let more light in, and a slightly longer rear, it just provided us with a little more room to move.
Shuttle bus to the CampEasy depot
CampEasy, where our campervan came from (via the Car Rentals in Iceland portal), is located just outside of Reykjavik city centre. Upon booking, they will send you a Flybus ticket to get from Keflavik Airport to the bus station. They will then send a shuttle bus, like the one below, to pick you up and take you to their depot. Or, like us, they will pick you up from a central hotel or apartment. All of this makes the initial hiring process very streamlined and hassle free. Always a good start to any road trip!
Once at the depot a member of the CampEasy team completed our hire. This involved taking copies of our identification documents, credit card imprints and finalising any arrangements for extras, insurance, drop off times etc. The staff member took us through a very thorough briefing on how the car operates, what to look out for on the roads, insurances and general driving and road tips.
They also provided us with several important websites and apps so that we could check on the weather. It might sound like overkill, but the weather can change quite quickly here and it pays to be prepared. They will also advise what to do in the case of an accident.
Before accepting responsibility for the vehicle ensure you conduct a thorough inspection, asking for any damage to be noted on the rental agreement condition report. This rental company was very clear on the type of damage that could occur and what the cost would be if it happened whilst we were in the hiring period.
Costs for damage are high in Iceland and there are many factors outside your control that can cause even minor damage. Protect yourself by making sure all damage pre-hire is noted.
A wonderful recycling process operates at CampEasy. Part money-saver, part recycling, some shelves have been built inside their office to allow campers to share and trade goods that they have left after their trip. Here you can pick up a can of soup, pasta, sauces, toilet paper, paper towel, jams and other spreads and a whole range of non-perishable items.
At the end of your trip you simply return the favour and leave your leftovers here for the next person to use. I’ve been at camp grounds before where this kind of action has been informal, but to see it as a dedicated part of their hire program is just terrific.
The CampEasy EasyFun
We loved the EasyFun! An easy to drive vehicle, with comfortable interiors make driving these roads a simple task. The front cabin has good air conditioning, not that I recall using it other than to test! On the flip side, the heating is good to warm you up quickly after being on the outside.
There is reasonable space in the cabin for books, gadgets, cameras and other bits and pieces you might be carrying. Unfortunately, you can’t move from the front of the cabin to the back, which I found annoying. This is due to the kitchen cabinet being built across the back of the front seats.
There is one 12 volt socket in the front cabin to charge devices. Another 12 volt access point is located on the front side of the kitchen cabinet. This is ok for when you are sitting in the back and wanting to charge but annoying when you want to use it whilst driving.
Most of the cables for the devices aren’t very long so I found it difficult to have them charging there and still be able to use them in the front. There are more out the back which again I found annoying as they aren’t easy to access when you are driving.
What’s it like inside the campervan?
The living area
This isn’t the penthouse but it was more than suitable for a short eight day trip. Velvet covered foam seating is available in a U shape configuration, with a central dining table. The two of us could easily stretch out along each side or sit comfortably at the table to eat, work or read. We elected to keep the table in place but if space is at a premium, it can be easily dismantled and stored during the day.
Good storage is provided underneath both of the side seats. The base of the seat simply lifts up, providing access to a large open area. It’s great for storing shoes, backpacks, photographic and electrical equipment and clothes. It’s a great spot for keeping valuables out of sight too.
At night, the seat backs that hang on the wall during the day come down and are placed on metal supports that run across the cavity from left to right. The table is removed at this stage also. This, in turn, creates a full size bed that spans right across the entire width of the vehicle. It was more than enough room for the two of us.
Grey curtains cover all glass windows but in the middle of summer, when the sun never sets, they only dull the daylight a little inside the van. If you are unable to sleep unless it’s pitch black, I’d recommend packing an eye mask. Even so, this doesn’t really prepare you for going outside at 3am and being blinded by daylight. It’s still something I find totally weird!
The kitchen is really a cabinet, purpose built at the rear of the front cabin. In limited space, it serves its purpose well and provides the necessities for life on the road. The sink system is relatively primitive, hooked up to a 20 litre water container at the side, but at least there is a tap for running water.
Several drawers contain the cookware and kitchenware and there’s available room for storage here also. We used one for easy access to our toiletries, devices and chargers and another for our dry pantry items.
A one pot gas cooker is also provided. Depending on the weather you can either set it up outside or on the benchtop. Extra gas can be purchased from the hire company. I highly recommend this as there are limited opportunities to purchase this elsewhere. If you don’t use the gas you get it refunded upon your return to the depot.
A Waeco thermo cooler is provided as the fridge but it’s important to understand this isn’t really a fridge. It’s the one thing that I absolutely hated in this vehicle and it’s turned me off Waeco for life. As you know, we love our food when we travel and we buy a lot of it. In Iceland in particular, food is expensive and supermarkets are few and far between.
It is therefore necessary to be able to rely on a good fridge to keep your food not only cold but food-safe as well. Being in a cold climate doesn’t change this.
When things go wrong
Our Waeco fridge was doomed from the start. With a bad smell and failing to function, it took having to throw out the entire contents of our cooler to finally say I’d had enough. We made contact with CampEasy to report the problem.
To their absolute credit, their customer service, support, and ultimate solution were outstanding. On a public holiday in Iceland, a representative of CampEasy made contact with us and organised a brand new cooler to be flown (yes flown!) to an airport nearby where we were staying.
Problems happen when you’re on the road, and things like equipment breaking down cannot be foreseen nor controlled. It is always the way in which your service provider responds that will either see you recommending them or otherwise.
I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending CampEasy as a result of their customer service. Luckily, we had some cold nights, so the food got put outside and the beers got cooled down with ice from beached icebergs! Only in Iceland right?
As well as the storage under the seats, there is also storage in the rear. We had one large hard suitcase that we kept in the cabin underneath the table and we were able to fit one hard case cabin bag and one soft in the back.
Returning the vehicle
The best way to return your vehicle is in the same condition it was when you first drive it away. Returning a vehicle without damage makes for an efficient exit. It also makes for an inexpensive one. We always look after our hired vehicles as if they were our own, returning them in a clean condition. In Iceland, there is self serve cleaning equipment at some of the major service stations. Driving around Iceland can get very dusty, so being able to clean it up a little before you return it also helps. All vehicles should be returned with a full tank of petrol.
Remember, it’s like playing russian roulette to drive a rental vehicle in Iceland without sufficient insurance coverage. When we returned our vehicle (in perfect condition), we witnessed another group being handed an expensive damage bill. They were all trying to work out who actually had insurance, how they would pay, whether they had enough room on their credit card for the charge etc.
If you are sharing the hire with friends make sure everyone has paid for insurance to avoid difficulties in the event of damage
It’s such a great way to travel
We got to stay in some incredible locations all because we chose to do our trip in a campervan. The freedom, flexibility, and independence this method of travel affords us is why we do it over and over again. As our accommodation, our transport and often our restaurant, it also allows us to save money. Nowhere has this been more important or more obvious than in Iceland. I’ll be sharing some of the great locations we camped at very soon.
If there was one recommendation I could make for hiring a campervan in Iceland, it would be this. Get insurance and get as much as you can afford. Be sure to check your own travel insurance and know what you are covered for. Iceland is also one of those countries where changeable weather conditions can impact your vehicle and failing to have the appropriate insurance could mean a very nasty surprise for you at the end of the hire period.
Campervan Iceland review
Would I recommend driving around Iceland in a campervan? Of course, I would. I would also recommend Car Rentals in Iceland as your one stop shop for all types of car rental, not just campervans.
The cost of hiring is obviously more expensive in their high season (June – August). Whilst it is cheaper during the shoulder or low seasons, consideration should be given to the general weather conditions and amount of daylight.
Whilst many will attest to driving in winter without issue, some might find this is a stress they don’t need to endure. We rented in June and as such the driving conditions were excellent. With daylight conditions all day round, we could extend our driving time later into the night than we usually would.
Nordic Holidays were also fantastic to work with and were very kind in providing us with a great rate for our campervan hire in Iceland. We paid AUD$1636 for eight days hire and AUD$419 for petrol. At AUD$256 per day for two people, this represents excellent value when compared with hotel costs.