Campervan Life: 12 Days on Iceland's Ring Road
12 days in a van?!? Where will we go to the washroom? How will we shower? Will we not die of hypothermia?? How will we eat?? These were a few of the questions running through our heads when we decided that we should do a road trip around Iceland. These questions seem quite daunting, but with a little planning its not as bad as it may seem.
We spent 12 days living in a camper van on our 14 day trip to Iceland. We drove around Iceland on the Ring Road. This allowed us to experience Iceland in a more intimate way. We woke up to waterfalls at our feet and beautiful mountain ranges as we step out of the camper. We enjoyed a hot lunch right in front of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in the middle of the rain. We had the most incredible time on the road and you can too!
The Camper Van
We rented a Camp Easy Clever 4x4. This is one of many different companies to choose from. We chose to go with a 4x4 since some roads with rugged terrain in Iceland are only accessible by 4x4. We had a large van (Mercedes Benz Vito) that had a 3 seater in the front and was able to sleep 3 individuals. We found this van very roomy for 2 people. The van had a sink with running water, fridge/cooler and a heater. Don't worry, these items are on a dedicated battery and would not affect the vans battery in any way.We kept the heater running all night to keep us warm as we slept. The bed can be turned into a table with seating in the day time. The camper also comes with a gas stove. Linens, cutlery, pots and pans were also included. I am 6'3" and I was able to sleep comfortably on the bed - I had to sleep on a little diagonally to lay flat. If you rent (or bring your own) inverter you can have electricity to charge your items.
Living on the Road
Living on the road does come with its challenges. We had to plan out where we would spend the night, as well as where we can shower and use the washroom. Winter time is a little more difficult to find places to shower or sleep. Technically you need to sleep at a camp ground with your camper van. There are some exceptions. Some visitor centres allowed you to spend the night in the parking lots and N1 gas stations also allow Camp Easy vehicles to park overnight as well. One night we had no choice but to sleep on the side of the road due to road and camp ground closures.
It definitely helps to have data on the road to be aware of the weather and road conditions. You could always download the Google Map of Iceland in your Google Maps App, to ensure you're not using up all your data. We purchased a Siminn prepaid plan at the airport convenience store. It came with a sim card, 100 minutes, 100 text and 1GB of data and you can purchase more data as needed. These can be purchased all over Iceland at gas stations and convenience stores.
The gas stations in Iceland are amazing! The name does not do it justice. It's definitely not the dingy, dark gas station bathroom out of a horror movie, that you might picture. Their washrooms are super clean, and some gas stations have a supermarket selection and a restaurant too!
Eating on the Road
In major cities we stocked up on food from Bonus supermarket to make sandwiches, cup noodles and lots of snacks! We didn't buy too much because our fridge isn't too big. If we needed food we could also stock up at a gas station which usually has a decent selection of food. When cooking wasn't an option or we just wanted to take it easy, there are always restaurants or we could always have Iceland's delicious hot dogs at any gas station. It's also easily one of the cheapest meal options around!
Driving in Iceland
Driving in Iceland in winter time can be difficult but doable. Having no winter driving experience can make it harder. As always practise caution and drive slowly when conditions are not favourable. Get to know the driving rules in Iceland, click here to learn more about their road signage.
A few things points we would like to point out when driving.
Take breaks, especially if you are tired. The first day we arrived we had no sleep and driving at night was almost impossible, at times we found ourselves swerving on the road.
Do not speed. There are cameras set up all around the Ring Road that monitors your speed. When you rent a car there is a clause in the contract that states that any speeding tickets will be deducted form the credit card used to rent the vehicle.
Try to fill up your tank every time you stop. There are plenty of gas stations in Iceland, but at times there are long stretches where there are no stops for a good while. In case the gas station won't accept your credit card and you can't pay inside at night, purchase prepaid gas cards for good measure.
Bring an FM transmitter or some sort of music. Most of the time on the road there is no reception for any music.
Plan ahead. Make sure to plan out your road trip with all your stops
Emergency number is 112.
Safetravel.is has a great app for emergencies. Your GPS coordinates can also be consistently sent out to keep track of travellers and it also helps for finding your GPS location too!
Beating the Crowd
Living in a camper van allowed us to arrive at our destination the night before. This gave us the opportunity to wake up right at our desired location. This is important if you want a moment to soak in the beautiful surroundings of Iceland before the mass of tour buses arrive.
Planning your Trip
There are so many picturesque landscapes in Iceland. Research your must do's and place them on a google map then plan your route! With only 5 hours of sunlight in November, we weren't able to see all the spots we originally planned. Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when we post the highlights of our 12 days drive on Iceland's ring road!