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.
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.
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
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.