Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Planning Iceland

Warning: most of this is made obsolete by my Iceland posts.

It looks like most of the things to do in Iceland are on the north-east or south west coast. This means that you could use Reykajavik and Akureyri as home bases and daytrip to most locations.

Accomodation in Iceland is expensive. A good alternative is farm guesthouses, which vary from high-end to very affordable. In particular, some offer sleeping-bag accomodation, which is usually the same as regular accomodation (room, bed, etc), but you bring your own pillow and sleeping-bag (or whatever linnens), and you're simply sparing the management the trouble of washing sheets, etc. Note that sleeping-bag rooms won't include private bathrooms.

Farm Holidays FAQ says that with sleeping-bag accomodation: breakfast is not included, bring your own sleeping-bag, bring your own pillow.

It seems that Farm Holidays has fixed prices by room type and quality, so a double room in cat2 is nicer and more expensive than a double room in cat1, but a double cat2 room is the same price regardless of the location. In fact I suppose that property owners just choose whatever fixed price their property will bear, thus category may not translate to room quality.

When you book with farmholidays, you get a paper voucher which you give to the farm house as payment. They also have an open voucher system where you buy the paper vouchers in advance, but can't make reservations with the farmers more than 24 hours in advance. They recommend not using open vouchers during June to August, as most places are booked up.

Farm Houses

Ytra Laugaland in Eyjafjarðarsveit is on the north-east coast and claims to offer sleeping-bag accomodation, but only lets you book cat1 online: $108eu/2adults/night in July.

Guesthouse Bjarnargerði in Sveinbjarnargerði is on the north-east coast and claims to offer sleeping-bag accomodation, but only lets you book cat3 online: $154eu/2adults/night in July.

Draflastaðir in Þingeyjarsveit is on the north-east coast and claims to offer sleeping-bag accomodation, but only lets you book cat2 online: $122eu/2adults/night in July.

Bitra by Selfoss is on the south-west coast and shows sleeping-bag available in July for up to 4 adults/room but doesn't show a price, or let you book it.

Geirakot by Selfoss is on the south-west coast and lets you book sleeping-bag online: 2 rooms, 2 adults/room, $74eu/2adults/night in July.

Transportation

It seems to me that the most impressive features of Iceland are outdoors. This means that you'll have to rent some sort of vehicle. I think the best option is Kuku Campers.

The category-B camper seats 4 and sleeps 2 for $119/day in July. Minimum insurance is included and extra drivers are included. But your other two passengers probably don't want to sleep in a tent all week, and cooking on the roadside is complicated, since airplanes don't like campfuel, etc.

A good comprimise is to rent the KuKu but try to sleep most nights at farm houses with sleeping-bag accomodation. I've got the idea that most places offer sleeping-bag but not booked in advance, so you can only get the bed for cheap if no one else is willing to pay more for it. With the open voucher system and a category-B KuKu (with tent), you'll always have somewhere to sleep. Hopefully even if the farm house was full, you could camp on their land and pay for a place to cook and use of their washroom, etc.

In any case, it looks like the KuKu it the cheapest vehicle that can be rented. Other options include avis, hertz and sadcars.

Looking at avis and herts, it seems that any (automatic) vehicle rental costs more than KuKu (i.e. more than $120eu/day on a 7day term in July). Looking at sadcars, min insurance is $5/day and an extra driver is $10/day, so the only automatics cheaper thant KuKu are GroupC $81=$96 and GroupF $89=$99, but these only have some automatic available, and there's no guarantee you'll get one.

I sent an email to kuku, but my guess is that they're manual, so you'll just have to learn how to drive stick.

Other Details

timezoneguide.com shows that on June 30th the sun rises at 3am and sets at midnight.

Other Suggestions

Pingevillar, Gullfoss, Geysir, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Library of water, Glambaer, Akureyri Botanical Garden, Godafoss, Myvatn Thermal Baths, Myvatn Area, Fjardrarglijufur.

Costs

Average dinner for two people = $86 CAD = 10547 Kr [Icelandic Krona (ISK)]

Two people in a Kuku Camper, two people in a tent, with shower/toilet access costs ~$72 CAD per night. Most medium sized towns offer these.

Four people in a sleepingbag accomodation costs ~$120 CAD per night. There are very many of these but they might book up in the summer.

Four people in a cat1 farmholidays.is accomodation costs ~$289 CAD per night.

I'm thinking now that the best thing to do is get a four person Kuku and not book any accomodation in advance, but just bring a good map of campsites and sleepingbag accomodations on your route and then each morning call ahead and book a place for the night, and if not available fall back on shower/toilet camping.

Camping

Camping on the sides of the highway and at rest-stops is permitted so long as you don't disturb grazing animals.

Many towns have high quality campsites in the downtown area with showers and washrooms, so you can camp in town and walk everywhere.

There are around 68 registered campsites in Iceland which can opt into an official star grading system. Most campsites seem to be owned by the town, and details can be found on the town's website, but much better details can be found on the Visit Iceland site including a satellite view map.

For example the Grindavík town website boasts a state-of-the-art campground for 1100isk/adult/night (= $18 CAD = $13.5 EU), but it's not clear where it's located. Looking at the town map, it appears to be in town, which is confirmed by their directions: south on Víkurbraut, left at Ránargata, left at Austurvegur. So the campsite is on the edge of town, but since the town is small, everything is walkable. However, the site doesn't mention showers or toilets. The details for Grindavík on the Visit Iceland website include a high quality satellite map and a list of amenities.

Most sites (Grindavík included) participate in the camping card (i.e. "camping passes are valid at the campgrounds") which for $99 EUR grants unlimited access to campsites for two adults for the year, which works out to about the cost of 8 nights without the card.

The Camping Card site has a map that links to camp site details, that gives info such as showers, toilets, etc. The Visit Iceland "Read More" buttons give similar information, but neither let you search by services.

I started building this map of campsites with showers but quit because there are so many. Most mid-sized towns have an in-town campsite with showers.

Furthermore many of entries under campsites were actually sleeping-bag accomodation road side stops that also let you camp. Searching Visit Iceland for sleeping bag accomodation shows many results, for example Guesthouse Árhús which is not listed on farmholidays.is but has its own website and charges $120 CAD per night for a four bed cottage (linnens not included).

Potential Accomodation

Akureyri Backpackers

Car

Tips for renting a car in Iceland:
- Book online.
- Keflavik International Airport is located about an hour from Reykjavik, so it's best to pickup/dropoff your car at the airport.
- Decline theft insurance.
- Fuel costs ~$1.32/L
- Rental costs ~$85/day

There are several varieties of insurance available. CDW is normal insurance for a car accident. You're liable up to a fee, usually ~$2k EUR, then the rest is covered. You can reduce your liability with SCDW which is just more money for a reduced liability figure. Obviously damage due your your negligence or drunkness isn't covered. Also not covered is theft, insurance sold separately, generally deemed unnecessary. Also not covered is paint damage caused by an ash or sand strom, insurance sold separately, generally deemed unnecessary. Also not covered is damage to windscreen, headlights, etc from gravel thrown up by another car, insurance sold separately. Also not covered is damage to tires, or flooding.

My strategy is to take the minimal insurance and drive carefully, well back from other vehicles, not into areas know for ash storms, not on very rough roads.

I tried to compare the first page of search results for car rentals in iceland, but couldn't determine which cars from sixt.com were automatic, also they claimed in fine print there would be and additional 25% tax, whereas others only showd a 7% tax and showed that included in the quote.

Also, since Avis had such bad rates and the lonely planet forum warns against Hertz, I pay close attention to Hertz prices. I did one online quote for two weeks, but it kept converting it to one week, making it look half price. That said, Hertz prices weren't all that bad, but I avoided them anyway.

Driving In Iceland

Avis

Avis has terrible rates. I have no idea how they get any business. Maybe they simply prey on the uninformed.

avis.is (fleet)
- cars are offered from groups A-P
- those with automatic transmission are groups C, D, G, H, K, L
- office at KEF is open 24hrs/day
- quotes for pickup/dropoff at Keflavik International Airport in summer for 14 days
- price includes: tax, damage insurance, theft insurance, registration fee, airport surcharge, unlimited milage

Group C:  $4,260 CAD = $304/day
Group D:  $4,510 CAD = $322/day
Group G: $10,817 CAD = $772/day
Group H:  $7,539 CAD = $538/day
Group K:  $9,820 CAD = $701/day
Group L:  $3,686 CAD = $263/day

Car Rental Iceland

This family run business seems like a good bet. They are located in the south of Reykjavik. It's not clear what their hours of operation are, but their FAQ says they have a drop off service if your flight leaves during their closing hours, and their booking calculator lets you pick-up at any hour of the day.

carrentaliceland.is
- of the 7 models offered, 3 are automatic
- declined: ash insurance, gravel insurance, theft insurance, damage insurance (500 EUR liability)
- included: 1 extra driver, damage insurance (2100 EUR liability)
- quotes for pickup/dropoff at Keflavik International Airport in summer for 14 days
- the basic insurance is included in their first quote but you have to add on the extra driver later for $37 CAD per rental
- later on you'll also see that a $15 EUR pickup and $15 EUR dropoff fee was included in your quote

Suzuki Grand Vitara automatic $2,285 CAD = $163/day
Suzuki Swift Automatic        $1,467 CAD = $105/day
Toyota RAV4 automatic         $2,285 CAD = $163/day

There are several car rental shops adjacent to the KEF airport as seen on this map.

Iceland Car Rental

lots of 4wd available here

Reykjavik Rent A Car

lots of 4wd available here

Holdur

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport
Volkswagen Polo, Automatic, 2WD, small hatchback, 4/5 people, 2 bags, € 110/day
Volkswagen Golf, Automatic, 2WD,  small hatchback, 5 people, 2 bags, € 130/day
Skoda Octavia, Automatic, 2WD, hatchback, 5 people, 3 bags, € 150/day

Sixt

these guys don't look trustworthy

Fair Car

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport, drivers 23 and older, prepay.
Opel Zafira, Automatic, 2WD, unlimited mileage
€ 75.87/day, not available for selected dates.

Hasso Keflavik

14 days in summer
Chevrolet Aveo Sedan, Automatic, € 78/day
Dogde Caravan, Automatic, € 151/day
Mitsubishi Pajero, Automatic, € 145/day
can't see availability online

SS Car Rental

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport
Decline: theft, gravel, scdw
Accept: extra driver, cdw, unlimited mileage
Toyota Yaris, Automatic, 2WD, € 69/day
Toyota Corolla Sedan, Automatic, 2WD, € 81/day
Toyota Rav-4, Automatic, 4WD, € 120/day
***

Gildo

13 days in summer
Car older than 2001, Automatic, 2WD, € 41/day
Car newer than 2001, Automatic, 2WD, € 70/day
Automatic, 4WD, € 104/day
no guarantee booking will be available

Iceland Car Rental

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport, unlimited mileage
Group D+, Subaru Legacy Wagon, Automatic, 4WD
Group G+, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Automatic, 4WD, € 115/day
Group O+, Nissan Terano, Automatic, 4WD
--- site was slow, availability/cost not known

Kefcar

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport, unlimited mileage
Decline: gp, scdw
Accept: extra driver
Suzuki Alto, 2WD?, € 90/day
Suzuki Swift, 2WD?, € 98/day
Suzuki Jimny, 4WD?, € 142/day
Suzuki Grand Vitara (older), 4WD?, € 150/day

Blue Car Rental

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport
Accept: extra driver, cdw, tp, gp, scdw
Suzuki Swift, Automatic, 2WD, € 87/day
Toyota Corolla, Automatic, 2WD, not available on selecte dates
Kia Sportage, Automatic, 4WD, not available on selecte dates
Toyota RAV4, Automatic, 4WD, € 151/day
Hyunda Tuscon, Older model, AUtomatic, 4WD, € 105/day
***

Sad Cars

sadcars.com
- offers group C, F, N, R in automatic but "can't guarantee" one will be available
- has rates for winter season and summer season
- includes unlimited km
- if you pay the entire fee in advance, you get 15% off the price
- the default price they show on the fleet page assumes the 15% pay-now discount
- the default price doesn't include CDW but I think it's required by law unless you've got some other insurance, so I added it in
- included: 1 extra driver ($10 EUR), CDW ($1000 EUR liabilty)
- declined: SCDW, gravel, theft
- pickup/dropff at KEF is free all year

Group C, Automatic, 2WD, € 81/day
Group F, Automatic, 2WD, € 89/day
Group N, Automatic, 4WD, € 139/day
Group R, Automatic, 4WD, € 179/day
--- asked what is the likelihood that a booked automatic won't be available and if you get a refund

Car 4 Rent

13 days in summer, pickup/dropoff at Keflavik Airport, paid in advance
Decline: scdw, tp, gp
Accept: cdw, extra driver
## transmission not specified
Suzuki Jimny 4WD, € 106/day
Subaru Legacy Wagon, 4WD, € 118/day
Older Subaru, 4WD, € 92/day
## others available
--- asked if they have automatics

Lotus Car Rental - Update June 2016

Haraldsson, the owner of Lotus Car Rental contacted me to let me know about this option. They have a beautiful website and look like a good option.

Located near KEF, pickup at KEF, no extra charge
Vehicles range from 4×4’s, to jeep, to small town cars
Vehicles come with unlimited mileage 
Insurance includes collision, sand, gravel, theft

I'm not including prices because the rest of this post was written in 2013, so the comparison would be inaccurate. Iceland is lots of fun. You should go visit.

Reykjavik Auto - Update April 2017

Albert, the owner of Reykjavík Auto contacted me to let me know about this option. They have a beautiful website and look like a good option.

I'm not including comparison or prices because the rest of this post was written in 2013. Iceland is lots of fun. You should go visit.

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