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Iceland: Campervans

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 20, 2018

Monday, September 4th – 17th, 2017

I was so excited about the trip to Iceland. I had been dreaming about it since we left Japan about 6 months earlier. Iceland just seem so far away and exotic, like it stood at the end of the world.

We met up with the South African friends we made in Japan and together we drove the ring road. Roland did most of the planning. Mark and I were so relieved at this. After traveling for 6 months, we got to a point where we dreaded planning. There is just so much that goes into it. In fact, sometimes we just don’t. We cheat.

We like getting a tourist pass of some sort, like we did in Jaipur. Once you have a pass, you have a list of things to see. Or, we would get a membership to some sort of heritage society, like would we did in Scotland. So when we return to Scotland we don’t have to plan that much. There is an entire book of things to see in the many cities throughout Scotland.

It’s even better when you don’t have to do any work at all. We just followed Roland where ever he went. Both Mark and I were very grateful to be able to enjoy a trip to Iceland without having to plan a thing.

Camper Van

I’m not sure if it was done on purpose, in other words, I don’t remember if we copied Freda and Roland, but we ended up renting camper vans from the same company, Trip Campers. The company is run by some very friendly and talkative guys. Overall, I was very satisfied with the car and the company.

One thing I would do differently, if I were to do this trip again would be to get a bigger van. Mark had the hardest time getting in and out of the van at night when the bed was down. He would knock over everything near him. Then when I’m in bed and want to listen to some music on my phone I think, “Gosh, where did I put that thing?”

Then in the morning when I wanted to make coffee, it took ages. First I had to hunt down the coffee, then find the milk. Then I had to put up the bed so I could reach the kettle. Then I stood out in the cold for 10 minutes trying to remember which bag the sugar was in.

By the second day, Mark and I settled on the best way to pack the van so that we could find the things we needed throughout the day. But, if we had a bigger van, not only would everything be more organized, we wouldn’t have to keep putting the bed away to get to things. We could have some coffee and still rest in bed for a bit before starting the day.

BTW: Be careful when shifting your bed from sofa-mode to bed-mode. Many people break their beds.

Shopping

Before hitting the road, we stopped at Costco. Iceland is expensive so we planned to cook almost all our meals. The prices for things at Costco are low compared to the rest of Iceland. We bought things like pasta, canned tuna, snacks, nuts, and other things that don’t need refrigeration and that we would use large quantities of.

For things we didn’t want in bulk, we went to the Bonus next door. We did most of our extra shopping at Bonuses around the island. Their prices are lower than other stores. Other stores are a little nicer, but their prices are also higher.

If we needed something along the way, we could usually find it at an N1, one of the chains of gas stations on the island. They sell stuff like camping supplies, food, clothes, electronics… Most will have a nice looking restaurant. The prices of these items are pretty high, but you will find what you need. This is where we went to use the bathroom for free during the day. The gas prices weren’t too bad. And it helped that our vans came with discount cards for a couple of the gas station chains. So we were able to save a good 3USD at every fill up.

If I were to do this again, I would also stop at IKEA and pick up an extra blanket. The blanket that came with the van was okay, I just wanted one with a little more snuggliness. I’ve also heard of people saving money by buying a table and chairs there rather than renting them from the van company.

Freda and Roland rented a table and chairs, but they didn’t use them that much. Our trip was in September. In the evening, when we ate dinner, it was too cold to be outside. We usually ate in whatever shelter the campsites provided.

Other things I would get at IKEA for the van or bring with me to Iceland would be…

  • a lantern
    • some campsites were not very well lit
  • a power strip
    • many campsites only had a few outlets
  • a clothes line, clothes horse (That’s what Freda calls it), or “clothes octopus” (You know what I’m talking about?)
    • You will also have wet clothes either from the rain or a trip to a hot spring.
  • an audio auxiliary cable (They probably don’t sell these at IKEA)
    • I had to buy one at the N1. It was quite expensive.
    • The drive was long, we needed to listen to something, but the Bluetooth connection in our van wasn’t working.
  • a car USB charger.

After day 3, the vans were always dirty.

The Drive

The drive was long and there were fewer and fewer cars the further we got from Reykjavik. Sometimes the roads were unpaved. It was not too bad, but it could be bumpy for 30 minutes at a time. There were worse roads, but the vans we rented were not to be driven on F roads. Those mostly go inland.

But with so few cars around, when we saw lots of cars parked somewhere we would stop and check it out. Sometimes, it was just a photo opportunity. Other times, there was something like a waterfall we didn’t know about behind some rocks. Those types of finds were magical and made us glad we chose Iceland to visit.

You Cannot Just Camp Any Where

People keep saying this and it’s really not true. You cannot just put your camper anywhere and spend the night. Maybe it was true 10 years ago, before all the tourists started coming to Iceland. But, it is not true now.

Most rest stops will allow you to park for free during the day. You can have lunch there. It’s okay to take a nap or rest for a few hours, but you cannot stay the night. There are signs stating this. If you look really hard, you will find some places throughout the island that do not discourage the overnight parking of camper vans, but there aren’t many.

Camper vans, and people in tents, have to find campsites and pay fees to spend the night. Some of these have better amenities than others. Personally, I liked the camps at the national parks best. Some of the private campsites make you pay a lot then offer nothing more than just a place to park.

If you’re lucky you will get a cooking room. There you can cook your food out of the rain, wind, and cold. You can charge your phone and talk with other travelers. Many campsites had one of these areas, though only some provided a light bulb. Usually, there is a table somewhere in the room where you take or leave items for your trip. People usually leave food or fuel. The closer to Reykjavik you are, the more stuff you will find on this table. Wait until after your first campsite to pick up things like salt, sugar, and coffee.

The public pool

At some campsites showers are free. The ones with the free showers, tend to be near natural hot springs. Other places charge about 200ISK for an unlimited hot shower, others give you a set time. We only used the camp showers when it was free. Camp showers are usually not very nice. So we paid extra money and did most of our showering at public pools around Iceland, which cost about 700ISK. There, we had all the hot water we wanted and use of the heated pools and sometimes even water slides. Plus, the shampoo and soap were free and they had hair dryers. We did bring our own towel, rather than renting one of theirs.

Keep your tanks full and your car clean

The water in Iceland is very clean. It’s also free. You can drink any non-hot water anywhere you find in Iceland. So when we were at a campsite, we made sure to fill the van’s water tank. There was no need to run low on water.

If you go to Iceland, just remember before drinking hot water, smell it first. A lot of places in Iceland use hot water heated by a geothermal spring. It smells like sulfur. I don’t think it would kill you if you drank it, but it can’t be healthy.

Washing the car at most gas stations is free. When we returned our cars, we washed them first. It cost nothing and the van guys really appreciated it.

General Advice When Traveling in a Camper around Iceland:

  • Pay attention when the van company guy shows you around the car on the first day.
    • They give you a lot of information in a short amount of time, but try to remember.
  • Use a zip-lock bag to put your trash in during the day.
    • The trash won’t make the car stink.
    • It won’t matter if your garbage rolls around on a bumpy road.
  • Be careful when transitioning the bed.
    • Some of them break easily.
  • Use the facilities at N1 gas stations.
    • You can go hours without seeing a public bathroom otherwise.
    • These bathrooms are free, unlike the bathrooms at some tourist sites.
  • Use your GPS and/ or google maps.
    • Sometimes it’s hard to type in those Icelandic names in the GPS that comes with the car.
      • Another reason why you need to pay attention to the van guy.
  • Stay off F roads.
  • Don’t camp at places that say “No over night camping”.
  • Watch out for sheep.
    • Those fluffy monsters like to dart out into the road.

Iceland

How to get there:

You have to fly or get a boat from Scotland or Denmark.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • 1777 for weather information

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

  • Siminn
  • You can easily get one at most convenience stores in Reykjavik.

Videos:

Notes:

  • The weather can change quickly. Make sure to dress in layers.
  • Assume that it will rain.
  • It will also be very, very windy.
  • Everything is very expensive in Iceland.
  • Don’t touch the moss.

Blue Lagoon

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 6100ISK is the most basic ticket
    • The next ticket is about 20USD more and it come with a towel, a drink, and an algae mask
    • I don’t think it’s worth the 20USD extra.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 22:00

Video

Notes:

  • Always buy your ticket ahead of time.
  • In the showers, there is complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for everyone to use.
  • There are lots of water fountains are the pool with fresh water for you to drink.
  • What you should bring:
    • a towel – so you don’t have to rent one
    • extra money – in case you buy something at the bar
    • a bag for your wet swim suit
    • a hair tie – You want as little contact between your hair and the pool as possible.
  • What you can bring, but don’t really need:
    • flip-flops – You will do very little walking around the pool.
    • a water bottle – There are plenty of water fountains; you don’t need to bring water
    • a robe – You will spend most of your time in the water where a robe does you no good.
      • Most people who have robes spend 3 minutes in them, then hang them up to get in the water.
  • What you really don’t need: (All these things are provided)
    • Shampoo
    • Body wash
    • Conditioner
    • Lotion
    • A hair dryer

Hallgrímskirkja
and the Leif Erickson Statue

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • October – April: 9 am – 5 pm
  • May – September: 9 am – 9 pm

Video


Saga Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 2,100 ISK

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Notes:

  • Start you visit with some Viking dress-up.

Sægreifinn
(Sea Barron)

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 11:30 – 22:00

Video

Notes:

  • The lobster soups is fantastic.
  • It’s a small restaurant and it gets very crowded.
    • There are more rooms up stairs and in the back.
    • But, when we were there, they had only one very crowded area open.

Costco

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • About 60USD / year for membership
    • The price is different in different countries.
    • Membership will get you into any Costco around the world

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 21:00 Su – F
  • 9:30 – 20:30 Su

Notes:

  • We took our Costco card we got in Japan and did some major shopping in Iceland before starting our Ring Road Trip.
    • Generally one Costco Member can bring in only one friend, but they didn’t seem to care that much here.
  • There is also an IKEA across the street.
  • Buy all the non-perishable items you need here.
    • If there is something you don’t want by the gallon, get it from the Bonus next door.

The Settlement Center

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Museum
    • ISK 2500
    • Include an aduio guide
    • 2 exhibits
  • Buffette ISK 2200
    • 11:30 am -15:00 pm

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 21:00

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • There’s a cafe in the parking lot.
  • It’s about a one hour hike from where you park your car.
  • Many people ride horses on this trail, so watch out for horse poo.
    • You might want to wear rain boots and hose them off afterwards.
    • There’s A LOT of poo!
  • There are places to change near the hot river, but it does not provide a whole lot of privacy.
    • Be careful when taking photos near the river…
    • Don’t be a jerk and change at the front door of the cafe in the parking lot, even when it’s raining.
      • I saw many people doing this and they blocked the way for paying customers to enter.
      • It doesn’t give you much privacy or shelter from the rain anyway.

Barnafoss and Hraunfossar

Basic Information

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • No camping here
  • There is a cafe nearby

Rauðfeldsgjá

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • daylight hours

Video

Notes:

  • no camping
  • Bring rain boots

Don’t Miss:

Some Pools:

Campsites:

Map:

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Posted in Borgarfjörður, Borgarnes, Gardabaer, Iceland, Reykjavík | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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