Camping in Iceland For Free
Have you ever wanted to visit Iceland? Accommodations can be expensive. Beyond that, Iceland is a nature paradise. If you love the outdoors, consider camping in Iceland. In this post you can learn all about camping in Iceland for free!
Iceland is famous for waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, geysers and national parks. This makes a great trip for couples, solo travellers or even travelling with kids. To tour Iceland, and see it's true beauty, you would be best to drive around it.
Driving the Ring Road can take 7-8 days to complete. It will take some planning in advance with what you bring, but there are plenty of places to stay in Iceland when you are camping.
Places to Stay in Iceland
First you have to get to Iceland. You will book your flight to the capital, Reykjavik. This is a city of only 122,486 people. All of Iceland has a population of only 332, 529 people. A third of all Icelanders live in the capital. The southwest corner of Iceland is where 200,000 Icelanders call home. That should give you a sense how sparsely populated the rest of the island is.
Once you arrive in Reykjavik, you may have to find a place to stay the first night before your adventure begins.
A private room in an AirBnB will set you back about $100 CAD ($80 USD). If you want to rent a whole place the average is about $200 CAD a night ($160 USD) but you can find some places starting at $115 CAD ($93 USD).
Staying in a hostel dorm room will start at about $40 CAD ($32 USD) where as a private room starts at around $100 CAD ($80 USD).
A hotel room with a shared bath can start around $100 CAD ($80 USD), and prices with a private bath are $140 CAD ($115 USD) and up. Just be careful when booking, sometimes the hostels and hotels are listed together on some sites. Make sure you know what you are getting.
If you are looking at a booking site, be sure to check the location. When you search Reykjavik, it will often include surrounding cities like Grindavik and Keflavik, which puts you 30km+ outside of Reykjavik. Grindavik is 5km from Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon. If that it one of your things to do in Iceland, then great! (The starting price per person is $82 CAD ($70 USD)).
Check out HotelsCombined for a hotel or hostel for your in and out night in Reykjavik.
Camping in Iceland
Camping in Iceland can save you a lot of money. You will need to find accommodations at the start of your trip and at the end in and around Reykjavik. Spending a day or two exploring Reykjavik is well worth your time.
The choice where to stay, comes down to how many of you there are, how much privacy you need, and what you plan on doing upon arrival. If you need space and privacy maybe a hotel or AirBnB makes more sense. Likewise, if you are looking to just sleep one night an hit the road, maybe a hostel is best.
Rules of Camping in Iceland for Free
There are a few ways to camp when you visit Iceland. Let's talk about the rules first.
If you are tenting you can set up a tent for one night on any uncultivated public land. You would need permission from the owner to camp on any private or farmland.
In the southern part of Iceland it is illegal to camp outside a designated campsites. (Regardless if you are in a tent). This also goes for any of Iceland's three National Parks. Camping must be within designated campsites.
If you do choose to camp outside of campsites, always leave nature the way you found it. Clean up after yourself and take all your garbage with you. It is also strictly prohibited to defecate or urinate on public or private land. If you are caught, you will be forced to clean up (that doesn't sound fun). Also, please don't have any open fires.
When you are camping with a camper van or anything of the sort, you must camp in designated campsites.
It is really important that you have the right clothing when you are camping and hiking in Iceland. Getting a good wind and waterproof jacket and pants are a must. It might be beautiful and sunny during the day, then at night the wind can really pick up. June to October you will find the most rain, so make sure you are prepared.
The terrain is ever changing. You might be on loose rocks on the beach one day, hiking a volcano the next, and exploring the slippery rocks around a beautiful waterfall. Make sure you have some sturdy footwear and invest in some quality hiking boots. Save the flip flops for the pools. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Are you in the market for some hiking boots? Here is a fantastic in-depth look at the Best Wide Toe Box Shoes For Hiking by my friends at VeraVise WOW Travel.
Camping Iceland for the Self Planner/Budget Traveller
You could visit Iceland as a stop on route to part of a bigger Europe trip. You may have camping gear at home but maybe you don't want to bring it. There are many places you can rent camping equipment from. Here's one place to check out that rents all kinds of gear.
Renting a 4x4 vehicle can start at about $100 CAD ($80 USD) a day and go up from there, depending on the type of vehicle you want. If you travelling on a budget, you may want to bring your own gear. You can't bring everything. You can rent extras from the camping stores. What about a cooler? No worries, you can rent a cooler from local grocery stores for around $40 CAD ($32 USD) for 8 nights/9 days.
Camping Iceland Package Style
If you are looking for the camping experience but want it all planned out for you, consider a booking through a company. They will provide you with:
An eight day plan, for example, with the above included, starts at about $1100 CAD ($900 USD) per person (based on 4 people). You can add extra sightseeing tours along the way if you want at an extra cost.
If this is you, here's a fantastic site. Guide to Iceland.
Places to Shower
The nice thing about planning your own trip is you can save a lot of money. Again you can pitch a tent anywhere on public land. Of course you won't have a washroom or shower.
Icelanders take their swimming pools very serious. This is a great way to enjoy something that is a big part of Icelandic culture, and get a nice hot shower at the same time. So bring your trunks and your travel towel.
All towns have swimming pools where you can have a shower and swim for cheap. There is some etiquette in regards to using the swimming pool facilities. This great video gives you a humorous look at the pool etiquette.
Where to Get Water
Water is available for free at all gas stations. So bring your water bottles, and you can fill them up there. A battery back up for your phone and/or GPS is always good to have. You want to have your cell phone always ready in case of an emergency.
Where to Camp
Here is a fantastic map of campsites all throughout Iceland. Click on the icons and get a picture and little description. Some are campsites, some cabins, and even hostels listed. When it comes to camping in Iceland for free, you will have to go off the beaten path. Again, beware of private property.
It is always a good idea to check the local weather and road conditions regularly. Here's a great link to keep you up to date: Road Conditions and Weather
Taking Your Cell Phone
Getting your cell phone unlocked or buying an unlocked cell phone for travelling purposes will save you money for any trip. A lot of companies now offer "Roam Like Home" plans. These can cost $12 a day. Times that by 7 days, that's $84. You can read my post on the different options when travelling with your cell phone here.
Getting a SIM Card in Iceland
Look into getting a local SIM card. Síminn is the largest and oldest cell phone company in Iceland. You can get a SIM card with 10 GB of data for $35 CAD ($29 USD). That can keep you up to date on weather and road conditions, and keep your Instagram followers up to date on your trip too. The Síminn SIM card should keep you connected all along the Ring Road and Golden Circle.
Here is a must-have app when you are camping Iceland to help keep you safe and provide you information. The 112 Iceland allows you to call for help at the push of a button. At the push of a button it sends an SMS text, along with your GPS location. You can also just leave a check point as you travel, which helps give them more information in case of an emergency.
They also have travel alerts and other great safety information on their Safe Travel site here.
Renting a Car in Iceland
When you visit Iceland and are camping, renting a car will be one of your biggest expenses (next to consuming many Pylsur Hotdogs...mmm..). There will be times as you drive around Iceland, that you will think you are on the moon. Rent a vehicle that will be able to handle a moonscape. So a 4x4 is a must is a must if you plan on driving on the F-Roads.
If you are planning to stick to the paved roads, anything will do. A good rule of thumb is to rent smallest size vehicle that you possibly could use. That's not saying get the smallest vehicle possible, but the smallest vehicle that will suit your needs. Often the smallest vehicles get rented out first, so you may end up getting offered an upgrade to a bigger vehicle for a lower rate than you would have paid, had you picked a larger vehicle at the time of booking.
That being said don't rent a two door hatchback, and hope to get a Toyota 4-Runner. You will be sadly disappointed. You could potentially even get the upgrade for a small fee or even free, but only if you are nice. Rental agents are people too. Treat them nicely and they will treat you nicely.
Friends of mine rented a Toyota Rav4 for their visit to Iceland. They got upgraded to a Toyota Land Cruiser, and said that the bigger vehicle was far more capable in the terrain. But aren't you travelling on real roads? Well yes.....and no. How adventurous are you? More on that ahead.
Driving Tips for Iceland
On your visit to Iceland, the driving can be a challenge. Make sure you have a good map downloaded. Here's two great map apps you can use.
Google Maps is a great way to have a map if you download an Offline map first. You have to have a Google account.
It's best to update your map in Wifi just before you head out. It also only remains for 30 days before you have to redownload it or update it.
Map of Iceland Offline
Only available on Android, this app offline works without connecting to the Internet. No need to pay for internet in roaming.
Driving Challenges in Iceland
There are many challenges when driving in Iceland. The Ring Road that runs around the whole country is paved. So any vehicle can handle that. But you want an adventure! It is illegal to go off-roading in Iceland.
There are many F-roads, which will provide you with enough of a driving challenge. Always stay on the roads. In the summertime this is especially important to avoid damaging the delicate plants. In the wintertime, you have to be cautious of what's underneath that snow.
Evaluate What You are Driving On
Driving in Iceland demands your full attention. River crossings can be exhilarating and fun, but tricky. Make sure you pick a place to cross where it's not too deep. Walk across with a stick and see if it's too deep. If you aren't willing to cross it walking, don't cross it with the vehicle. The terrain in Iceland changes constantly.
You can be following a F-road one minute, and the next minute it can seemingly disappear or be hard to follow. So drive slowly and evaluate what you are driving on.
In the tougher environments, you may have to deflate and inflate the tires depending what you are on. Deflated tires, give more contact to the terrain and a soft ride on a rough road. Watch out for long narrow bridges. They can be wide enough for only one vehicle, so take a look before you cross to ensure there isn't another vehicle coming.
Learn From Other's Experiences
Friends of mine were driving on a F-Road in Iceland, (or according to their map was a road). It was made up of medium sized rocks (see pictures below). At one point they got stuck as they sunk into the rocks. It was in the late afternoon and would get dark soon. Creative thinking got them out, but a little panic may have set in. So always evaluate what you will be driving on. It will help keep you out of trouble.
Guide to Iceland - They have great information, and offer tour packages. You can supplement your trip with smaller tours or book a whole trip through them.
Inspired by Iceland - Great resource for everything Iceland
Road Conditions and Weather - Always keep up to date on the conditions.
Kuku Campers - Camper rentals
Iceland Camping Equipment Rental - Don't want to bring stuff? Here's a place to rent everything from tents to coolers.
Visiting Iceland is an experience you will never forget. Being an island contributes to it's uniqueness. The landscape is always changing, from green fields and rolling hills, to volcanos and geysers. There is no better way to experience Iceland than by hitting the Ring Road.
Do some research and you will start to get the bug. Planning your own camping trip can make it a more affordable trip so you can afford to do some tours, like whale watching, take a dip in the Blue Lagoon, or sail to Vigur Island to see the Puffins. There are so many things to see and do when you visit Iceland.