One of the first things you will need to consider when planning your Iceland itinerary is whether to rent a car or whether to take tours. Some will find this an easy decision to make, whilst for others it might be more of a dilemma. This list of ‘pros and cons’ is designed to help the latter camp.
In examining this conundrum, I have ignored the issue of cost as this is dependent on a variety of factors – whether you take a group tour or a private tour, how many trips you plan on making, the kind of car that you hire, how many there are in your party, and so on. You will be able to assess which is the most cost-effective option for you, but of course cost isn’t everything. There are also the following factors to consider.
Day tours or multi-day tours are a popular option when travelling in Iceland. You can choose to go on tours of certain geographical areas such as the Golden Circle or Snaefellsnes Peninsula, or themed tours such as glacier tours or volcano tours. And there’s a multitude of companies offering tours, with everything from private customised tours to larger scale coach trips.
- You don’t have to worry about driving routes, or indeed about driving and Icelandic driving regulations. You simply show up, relax and enjoy the view and excursions.
- With a group tour, as opposed to a private one, it’s also an opportunity to meet like-minded travellers.
- You could have a sneaky lunchtime drink if your fancy takes it, and not have to worry about alcohol limits.
- More often than not, you’ll be tied to a rigid timetable that dictates when you must leave and where you will stop.
- The days can be quite long, depending on the nature of the tour and the distances being travelled.
- If you are part of a larger tour, you may find yourself waiting for people who are not as punctual as you… or make yourself unpopular if you are the one making others wait!
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Hiring a car
An alternative to taking an organised tour is to hire a car. You could still follow a specific itinerary – a so-called self-guided tour – or you could take your own pre-planned trip or just decide what you fancy on the day. Just as with an organised tour, though, there are a number of issues you might wish to consider.
- You are in charge! You can choose when to set off, where to stop, how long to spend at different places, and so on.
- You can arrive at locations early (or stay later) to beat the crowds.
- You can adapt your plans in accordance with the weather – take an early lunch if it happens to be raining, for instance.
- You (or someone in your party) will have to do all the driving.
- The roads and driving conditions might be very different to what you’re used to, particularly if you venture on to Iceland’s F-roads.
- Unless you have experience of driving in snow and ice, you might not wish to rent a car in Iceland during the Winter months. Also, note that some roads in Iceland may be closed in the winter due to weather conditions.
For me and my family travelling in the Summer, it felt that car hire was the best option and we went with car hire with Icerental 4×4 to give us more flexibility and independence. For us, this proved to be a great experience and we would do the same again. If we happened to be visiting in Winter, our conclusion might well have been different, given the reduced daylight hours and more challenging driving conditions. You need to decide what is best for you and your circumstances, but I hope the considerations presented above will give you plenty of food for thought, and enable you to make the right decision for you.
Have you been to Iceland? Did you take tours or hire a car? Or perhaps a bit of both? What was your experience and would you do the same again? Please tell us in the comments!
Planning a trip to Iceland yourself? You can watch a video from our trip to Iceland here: