Travelling to Iceland was the dream of a lifetime. It seemed impossible, considering this is one of the world’s most expensive countries to visit. However, with some strategies and planning, it was possible to fit it in the budget and make this dream come true. One of them is renting a motorhome to travel around Iceland.
Iceland is an isolated island (actually is a group of islands, but the main one is the best known), almost in the Arctic Circle, that looks like something out of a fairy tale. Or out of an epic movie. Maybe science fiction. Or all of these mixed up.
The number of things you don’t find in any trip is extraordinary: there are volcanos, lava fields, Northern lights, huge glaciers, ice caves, thermal rivers, breathtaking landscapes, thousands (yeah, thousands) of crystal clear waterfalls, volcanic black sand beaches with icebergs, the lovely puffins, cute seals… the list is endless.
A trip to Iceland should be on the bucket list of any traveler. But it can get really frustrating as do the math. But keep it cool! There are some alternatives to reduce costs without jeopardizing the experience at all. By the way, to make your trip even better!
The main one is to rent a motorhome to travel through the wonderful Iceland. It brings the best of all possible worlds, providing much more freedom to explore the island on our own and also saving some money in the end of the trip.
But Barbara, renting a motorhome is expensive!
At first sight, renting a motorhome may seem expensive. However, at the moment you start to search for everything you’ll need to travel to Iceland, you realize that a motorhome is cheaper than renting a regular car and staying at a hotel or hiring a travel agency.
There’s another option that is even less expensive: renting a campervan, which is a van with a bed and a kitchen. But after our experience with one in the US, the motorhome’s remarkable comfort and functionality make us consider this small saving not worthy.
Soon I’ll write another post to show all of our expenses, including a table comparing those to the other options.
Advantages of renting a motorhome to travel around Iceland
The main difference of renting a motorhome instead of staying at hotel or hiring an agency is the freedom. There is no need to book accommodations in advance nor worry to include places with facilities such as restaurants, grocery stores and bathrooms. Also, it enables you to change your travel itinerary anytime.
By the way, adjusting your travel plans should be a key consideration while traveling to Iceland because weather conditions can change in a sudden (literally), making it possible that you get stuck due to strong winds that can stop you from continuing your journey.
We didn’t get blocked, but in two of the days the wind was so strong that we had to park and wait until we could get back to the road. But it was no big deal, as we had a kitchen, a bathroom, groceries and our beds!
On the other hand, a group of Americans we met at the motorhome rental agency got stuck for two whole days, as it was impossible to resume their journey due to the over 200km/h (125 mi/h) winds. And we were thinking that the 100km/h (62 mi/h) we’ve got were too much!
Imagine yourself facing a situation like that in the middle of nowhere in a regular car…
By the way, one of the motorhome’s main advantages is getting all you need without having to step out of the car.
The cabin is integrated to the accommodation. All you need is to take your shoes off, turn the seat backwards, change from driver/co-pilot into kitchen chef, or have a hot shower and get dressed in a warm room.
Quick tip: Never, ever, ever wear outside shoes inside an RV. You’ll make a huge mess on the small floorplan.
Which company I should hire?
I’ve searched a lot before deciding which company to rent with. There are many motorhome rental companies in the country, as this is one of the smartest ways to travel around Iceland, so you may get lost with so many options.
We’ve chosen McRent for many reasons:
– Best price;
– Extras are offered at fair prices (examples: bed linen, towels, transfer from/to airport-rental agency, SIMcard, and others);
– Offered layouts – as we were three people, we wanted the motorhome plant to be practical and comfortable for everyone;
– It was one of the few companies which still rented larger motorhomes at the time of the year we were travelling (beginning of October). Most of the companies just rent until the end of September because the weather conditions are more hostile from October to March.
McRent offers three motorhome sizes for rental in Iceland, and just the larger one was not available at this time of the year. The smaller option, also available at this time of the year, wouldn’t be comfortable for the three of us, but could be appropriate for a couple!
How was our experience with McRent
We’ve booked our motorhome 6 months in advance to our trip to Iceland, what has granted us a good motorhome configuration for a good price. We rented it through a third party website, but if you rent it directly from McRent it’ll be definitively cheaper.
There are several options, some larger, some smaller. At McRent’s website, there is all the information about the available vehicles, with the respective plants and pictures, to help you choose the layout which fits better to your needs.
We have chosen the Ecoline 4 model. The plant we’ve got, that has matched to our preference, had two double beds, one of which was mobile, and a toilet separated from the shower, what was perfect to our group.
Also, the motorhome we have received was pretty new, same as all the others at the garage, which were impeccable. The layout is optimized and comfortable, worked really well for us, so that we felt like buying the exact same model. For now it’s just wishful thinking, but maybe someday!
Both online and face to face McRent’s services are very good, with clear and fast responses, kind and well-prepared attendants to make us feel safe to travel through Iceland in a motorhome.
Before you start driving
Before we received the vehicle, McRent has sent us a several videos, guides and tips with all the information about the motorhome’s operation and usage, for example how to fill and empty the water tank, grey water (from the sinks and shower) and black water (from the toilet), among others.
As McRent is a company present in many European countries, and also New Zealand and Japan, it provides videos in English, German, Spanish and even in Portuguese (Portugal’s) to travelers, that are very clear and acurate. The provided videos show exactly the same layouts and equipment you will get.
This is a huge differential, because we were pretty familiarized with the vehicle and its functionalities on the day we’ve got it, optimizing the check in. Even so, on the day you receive the motorhome, all this information is reinforced.
Furthermore, the attendant teaches us how to travel around Iceland, giving us tips about roads, paths to drive through and to avoid, where to look for road and weather conditions. In sum, absolutely everything you need to remain calm and safe, in a friendly and understandable manner.
All this information is available in some previously emailed files and also in a physical folder that stays with us, containing all of these data and also a few forms to be used in case we get involved in some casualty, a check list for the vehicle’s return, a gas station discount card among others.
Driving a motorhome in Iceland
In order to drive the motorhomes available at McRent you only must have a category B driving license!
I don’t know if all motorhomes are like this, but the model we got with McRent, based on a front-wheel drive Fiat Ducato with automatic transmission, was so light to drive and easy to handle.
We just needed to get used to its size. Besides that, it looked like we were driving our own car, as it was so comfortable to drive! It also had a rearview camera and two pairs of large-sized rearview mirrors, which made it too much easier for us to be conscious about the vehicle’s limits.
Despite it being larger than a car, we have been able to fit it in most of the attractions’ regular parking spots without disturbing other people.
The main roads in Iceland are very good and well signposted. The secondary roads, as those that take us to the visiting points, are made of raffia, some are in good conditions, others not that much. Even in the bumpier ones, it was quite easy to drive.
The only issue with the motorhome is that it’s not allowed to drive it on the roads flagged with the letter F. Those roads, that are located at the island’s central area, are generally allowed only for 4×4 vehicles. I believe this is the only Advantage of regular cars and campervans, as there is the option of renting these in a 4×4 version and enable you to explore more isolated areas at the country.
Anyway, during the whole trip we’ve only encountered one letter F road and it was not in our way to any point of interest.
Facing issues with the motorhome. What to do?
Something about McRent that has given us peace of mind was the 24h customer service by WhatsApp in case you have any problem with the motorhome.
The attendant on WhatsApp knows the vehicle’s mechanics really well and is able to evaluate any issue easily, so that your trip is not jeopardized unnecessarily.
Besides that, they have mechanics spread all around the country. So, in case you need face to face support, it won’t take too long to arrive, as they will contact the one closer to you.
All you need to do is to follow the checklist provided by McRent and you won’t face any issues. The return process was very fast. In a nutshell: clean inside, leave it dirty outside, Diesel, adblue and one bottle of gas full, waste water empty.
Extra expenses to consider with a motorhome
The model we’ve got utilizes cooking gas in the stove as well as to heat the water, the air and also to keep the fridge working. We’ve used almost two 10kg bottles in 10 days, using at will but without wasting.
These bottles can be purchased at the larger gas stations from the N1 chain. You switch an empty bottle for a full one.
Something we thought was really nice is that the bottles are made of translucent fiberglass, so you can see the gas level by putting a lantern behind the bottle and shaking it.
– AdBlue (DEF, ARLA32)
Modern diesel vehicles use this urea-based fluid, in a separated tank, to reduce the emission of pollutants. It lasts for a long time, probably you won’t need to refill during your trip, but it’s required to return the vehicle with this tank full, additionally to the fuel one.
There are AdBlue pumps at the larger gas stations and gallons at the smaller ones. Choose the pumps, as they are cheaper and you only fill the necessary amount.
Can I sleep anywhere with a motorhome in Iceland?
Unfortunately, not anymore. Thanks to environmentally irresponsible and not conscious tourists, it has been forbidden to stop any vehicle, as motorhomes, campervans and even regular ones, at any place to spend the night, except in adverse situations.
Especially at the south of the country, where the main touristic places are located, the risk of being heavily fined is too high in case you stop your car where it’s not allowed or without the landowner’s authorization in case it’s a private land.
Even at the parking lots that charge for a 24-hour period, it’s not allowed to spend the night (weird, isn’t it?).
This has ended up adding an extra cost to our trip, because we had to pay for a campsite every night. Only one night we have been able to get, from the agency which we would do the glacier tour with, an authorization to spend the night at their parking spot, as there was no camping located in less than 70 km from the agency.
What about the campsites?
We found all the campsites expensive, especially as absolutelly none of them had all the amenities a motorhome needs, something was always missing: black water disposal, grey water disposal, a hose to fill the water tank.
Besides that, electricity was always charged apart and not all the campsites had the shower included and it was also needed to pay an extra fee to use it.
This is not a big problem for the motorhome if the water tank is full and the grey water one is empty! The tank capacity is 100 L, what is enough for three quick showers and to wash the dinner dishes. Always saving water, as we are already used to do in recreational vehicles.
Despite that, the motorhome’s cassette-type toilet is very handy as, in case you need to, it can be disposed in a regular toilet. The grey water (which is basically water with soap) can be disposed in the carwash drain at larger gas stations, as long as it’s authorized. At many of these it was also possible to fill the water tank, and some also had a black water disposal.
Electricity also wasn’t needed in any of the 10 days in which we’ve traveled with it. The accomodation part has several USB ports and also a 12v outlet which can be used with a small inverter (rented apart) to charge your devices that require a socket.
At least we didn’t pay for electricity
The motorhome has two batteries: one for the car, other for the house. When the car is off, both get isolated to avoid the risk of not being able to start the car in case you use the driver’s cabin’s USB ports, 12v outlet and sound system with the engine off. While you’re driving, the house battery recharges to be used for one more night.
At the control panel you can check the battery, clean and grey water’s levels by touching a button.
That’s why paying for campsites just to sleep was a little annoying. Anyway, those are cheaper than any other accommodation, more flexible and with much more options available around the country.
On another post I’ll give all the tips about super useful apps to help and provide you peace of mind while traveling around Iceland, including those to find campsites.
In conclusion, the best way to travel through Iceland
We’ve already had all kind of travel experiences: floor tent, roof tent, campervan, regular car with hotel accommodations and even backpacking using public transportation and staying at hostels.
So, we can say with authority that traveling in a motorhome is the best option, and not only in Iceland! You get to know so many places, with freedom, without having to pack everyday and you have a bathroom nearby all the time (our hydration says thanks!).
Besides that, due to the extremely inconstant weather conditions in Iceland, a motorhome, in addition to the comfort, has not only provided us more peace of mind to deal with the adverse weather conditions we could face, but also helped us optimize our time.
That’s because we could stop anywhere to use the bathroom, cook, have lunch with a view while we waited for the rain/wind to stop and, mainly, have lots of awesome experiences!
This trip was made in partnership with McRent Iceland