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Self Drive Iceland vs. Guided Tour

|September 13, 2017
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

When planning a trip to Iceland many might ask themselves the question: "Should I rent a car?" In this blog, I am trying to help you make up your mind. Here are some pros and cons, enjoy!

Most visitors want to see as much as they can and the most beautiful locations in Iceland are quite widespread. This can result in quite a lot of driving. Being Icelandic I am not used to a lot of traffic. If getting to work takes me 20 min. I dread it and feel, well, VERY sorry for myself. Even when traveling I personally think that driving should be limited to 3-5 hours a day. This gives time to make stops at all the beautiful locations along the way, stop for lunch, possibly dinner and doesn’t leave the driver exhausted.

When planning a trip to Iceland many might ask themselves the question:

“Should I rent a car in Iceland?”

Photo by Norris Niman

And the answer isn’t always obvious. The right answer is very dependant on your travel style and group. In this blog, I will try my absolute best to make the decision easier for you.

IF you answer yes to any of these questions you shouldn’t rent a car in Iceland or at least think twice about it. You will get the most out of Iceland by taking buses, walking or joining guided driven tours.

  • Are you planning on staying only inside Reykjavík?
  • Are you new to driving? Just got your license?
  • Never driven in snow, fog or difficult weather circumstances?
  • Are you quickly distracted, for example by beautiful nature?
  • Are you traveling by yourself and want to meet like-minded travelers?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you are better off not getting a rental. You are more the catch a bus, taxi, walk or join a tour with like minded travelers who are all here to explore the amazing beauty of Iceland

Now let’s turn it around. If you answer yes to any of these questions then you should definitely consider renting a car in Iceland.

  • Will you be traveling in a group and can switch driver easily?
  • Do you have experience in driving in difficult weather conditions, fog, snow, vertical rain etc.?
  • Have you been driving for a long time and done a lot of driving in new countries and unknown roads?
  • You are planning to drive around Iceland and have already booked accommodation?
  • Do you have a group that wants to do different things?

Photo by Norris Niman

For those of you that got even more lost answering the questions above let’s try writing up the pros and cons to Self-drive Iceland vs. Joining a Guided tour


Self-drive Iceland

Pros of Renting a Car:

  1. You can go where you want to go (well, if weather allows).
  2. You can choose the time schedule and change as much as you want.
  3. You can make extra stops here and there.
  4. You can change your plans more.
  5. It is usually cheaper.
  6. More chances to meet locals.
  7. You can buy cheap self-drive packages that include a rental car, accommodation with breakfast and activities.

Cons of Renting a Car:

  1. You might miss out on spots you didn’t know were worth stopping at.
  2. A guide will not be there to tell you knowledge about the locations you visit.
  3. You might spend longer finding location.
  4. You might get lost.
  5. You might not realize the distances.
  6. Might not be able to reach difficult locations, like Highlands.
  7. It’s less safe.
  8. It’s less green, less than 5 people sharing a car is not environmentally friendly.
  9. Gas is extremly expensive in Iceland.


Guided Tours in Iceland

Pros of joining a tour:

  1. You will not have to drive and won’t miss out on nature and views while trying to keep the focus on the road.
  2. You will have a guide with you to tell you all about the places you visit.
  3. You will not need to worry about not knowing how to drive in bad weather.
  4. You will not get lost.
  5. You get to meet like-minded travelers from all over the world in a small group setting.
  6. You get to visit places you couldn’t otherwise, like high up in the highlands.
  7. You don’t have to spend long days planning.
  8. It’s safer.
  9. Get to see a lot in short time.
  10. It’s environmentally friendly, sharing transport with more people.

Cons of joining a tour:

  1. You might want to stay longer at each spot.
  2. You will need to stay on a schedule.
  3. You aren’t as involved in the planning.
  4. The pace might be too quick for you.
  5. Less chance of meeting up with locals.

Header photo by Norris Niman

Rest assured, we offer a range of both self-drive and guided Ring Road tours to suit all interests. Consider a multi-day tour for the ultimate jam-packed adventure or even day excursions in Iceland to make the most of your time.

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