Strolling It All

And taking my sweet time to do it.

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Driving in Iceland – Part Three

Heading out and filling up:


When I travel, I usually bring a portable, window-mounted GPS preloaded with that country’s map. This is a wise move, especially for a married man who wants to stay married. I’ve seen enough couples parked on the side of the road with a massive map out yelling at each other to know I’m right on this. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my marriage-saving GPS before I left for Iceland, so I rented one.

I loathe smartphone GPS’s. They’re too small to see and they tend to be untrustworthy since they rely on odd satellite networks. Back seat drivers love ‘em because they think they provide godlike knowledge, but to me they’re just annoying. I like the bigger ones you can see that talk to you, preferably in a female British accent similar to M’s in the James Bond movies. I especially enjoy the humorous mispronunciation of road names, which always provides a little levity when you’re anxiously looking for a road marker.

Who are those guys ?

Who are those guys ?

The GPS I rented with the car was very reliable and rarely lost connection. It was especially helpful around cities and when finding hotels. You could get by without it, since the roads in Iceland are limited and well marked, but it was worth a few dollars a day to know how long the journey would take and verify that we were headed in the right direction.

Gas was expensive. Of course, my sense of gas prices is tainted by the fact that I come from a country that subsidizes oil barons to falsely keep gas prices low for political reasons and to impede the development of alternative energy.

Iceland runs almost entirely on alternative energy – geothermal and hydro-powered. When electric cars are able to range long distances, Icelanders will benefit in a huge way.

So pretty

So pretty

Until then, you’ll have to refuel at a gas station, and it’s important to know that many of them have no attendants. You’ll need to use a credit card with a chip AND a pin number. If you come from a country that doesn’t typically require a pin to use your credit card, this can be a major pain. Contact your credit card company before you go to Iceland and obtain a pin. Otherwise you’ll need to use an ATM card with VISA capabilities. It’s best to bring several cards with you that have pins.

The whole country pretty much runs on ATM or credit cards. If you do find a

If you get too lost, you can always stop and say a prayer.

If you get too lost, you can always stop and say a prayer.

manned gas station, the protocol is to pay for your “estimated” amount of gas. If you come under you’ll only be charged for the amount you pumped, but if you come up short you’ll have to make a second purchase. Don’t wait to fill up until you’re empty; Iceland is not a place where you want to run out of gas.


Driving in Iceland, Part Two

Renting a car:

Cars in Iceland range from mini Euro-style zippers to massive all-terrain campers

This guy is not messing around.

This guy is not messing around.

that look like tanks meant for the arctic tundra, but most people drive something in between.

We chose a four door jeep with low mileage. I tend to lean toward smaller cars that are easy on the wallet when fueling and easy to park. But in Iceland, the objectives in choosing a car are similar to to those in choosing a space ship. You want something highly reliable that can handle changing conditions and protect you from the elements. It has to drive on dirt and gravel, and when needed, forge small rivers that can pop up out of nowhere. You also want good brakes, traction, visibility and comfort.

This was my steed.

This was my steed.

Believe me when I say this is not the place to rent a wreck or short change yourself on a quality experience. An extra $20 a day won’t seem like much when you’re winding down a slick, muddy road surrounded by waterfalls and so much beauty that it will be hard to focus on driving. Iceland is magical – its awe-inspiring views and breathtaking scenery don’t cost one red cent – so pony up and make it great. You won’t regret it.

I wouldn’t say this in most places, but when you rent a car in Iceland, buy

The main ring road is mostly paved but the shortcuts are hard pack gravel.

The ring road is mostly paved but the shortcuts are hard pack gravel.

insurance. It covers some unusual but very real possibilities. I got several provisions here I wouldn’t buy elsewhere. One offered the usual comprehensive and collision protection, but I supplemented it with “pebble and wind’ insurance, which protects you from damage caused by pebbles flying through space at ungodly speeds as well as having your door fly clean off. This actually happens. There are few trees to gauge the wind and when the grass lays down it looks peaceful. If that ‘peaceful’ wind hits the rear of your car, you probably won’t think about it until you open the door and it almost jerks your arm off.

p1060564I waived the theft insurance for reasons already explained, but the only thing you can’t insure is damage caused by being swept down a river. You’re on your own there, which is another reason why I chose a jeep.  It would be bad enough to be swept down a river with my wife cursing my name, only to end up at the bottom of a fjord somewhere, but drowning in a tiny compact would be too much to bear.

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