Guide to Renting a Car in Keflavik, Iceland

Iceland is one of those countries where it’s 100% worth it to rent a car.  If you’re in the country for more than a few days: renting a car is essential.  It lets you see some of the country’s top highlights: like the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, countless waterfalls, & otherworldly places like Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Skaftafell National Park….which are five hours from Reykjavik.  But there are a few things you need to know before you go!  Here are my best tips, in this “Guide to Renting a Car in Keflavik, Iceland.”

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I never would have found this incredible sunset spot without a car!  And it’s less than an hour from Keflavik’s International Airport…

Things I Found Essential in Iceland: A cute bathing suit (for all the hot springs & secret lagoons), a good map ~ which can be found in many guide books, & I used my warm Sorel boots almost EVERY DAY of a month-long trip!!  They kept me warm, & had good grip on many of the icy trails we encountered. 


I also can’t imagine not renting a car in Iceland.  Almost every amazing thing we found was while driving: crazy waterfalls, shooting geysers, packs of wild horses, incredible sunsets….basically, everything!!  It’s 1,000% worth it to rent a car here.

Tips for Renting a Car in Iceland

If you’re renting a car from Keflavik International Airport (KEF), you’ve got many rental agencies to choose from: Budget, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Thrifty, & Alamo ~ where I rented from!  Rentals are so chill in Iceland: I picked my car up at Keflavik International Airport, & then returned it at Reykjavik Airport….which is so small, the guy told me just to leave the car in the lot with the keys in it! 

As Iceland is the #1 safest country in the world, it appears they’re not terribly worried about theft.

Camper vans are also really popular to rent in Iceland, especially for people who are circling the entire country on the Ring Road.  Many companies offer them, including Alamo & ACE: just rent way in advance, as this option sells out quickly.

Top Tips for Renting a Car at Keflavik International Airport

  • First off, decide if you need to rent a car or not.  If you’re only in Iceland for a few days, & just want to stay around Reykjavik: you may not need a car.  You can take tours to the Blue Lagoon, & also Northern Lights tours ~ but these can be costly for the value you get.  Because car rental is fairly inexpensive in Iceland, & because there’s SO much to see off-the-beaten-path: I think it’s worth it, even if you’re only there for a few days. 

If you’re in Iceland for a week or longer: it’s a MUST.

  • You DON’T need to choose an extra insurance package on top of the rental price in Iceland (the way you do in Mexico, for instance).  A collision damage waiver (CDW) & third-party liability insurance are both typically covered under a standard rental agreement in Iceland.  But double-check this at the rental agency, just to be sure!
  • Ask if your rental agreement covers WIND DAMAGE??!  I know, this sounds strange.  But once you experience the INSANE winds in Iceland: you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  Some rental places cover this ~ but some DO NOT (I think, because it’s so common).  If they do not, then be very careful when getting in & out of your car, to make sure the wind doesn’t fling it open….giving you a big dent in the door!  (Look up videos about wind in Iceland: this really happens.)
  • When at gas stations, make sure you’re not parked too close to the pump ~ you don’t want to open the door & have it hit something!!  Likewise, in parking lots: make sure you’re not parked too close to the car next to you.  Always take care when opening the car door, to make sure it doesn’t hit something or someone.
  • Something I always do, in any country: take photos and/or video while walking around the car with the agent.  Assess the car for prior damage, & make sure they note it on the form.  I always take photos of any large damage(s) to ensure I won’t be blamed for it upon returning the car! 

It also lets the agent know that you’re paying attention & have documentation, should anything go wrong at check-out.

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My friends & I rented a Land Rover Discovery for our 10 days together, & it was well worth the higher price tag to have a reliable car.

  • Some of the top rental agencies at Keflavik International Airport: Zero Car (who lets you check out the car via kiosk), Dollar, Thrifty, & Alamo (who I used).  Most of the rental agencies are just a short walk from the terminal, & the check-in & out process is easier than other countries ~ mainly because there aren’t *hidden* fees to worry about, & there’s no additional insurance to buy (unless you want to ask about wind damage).
  • You may want to request a car that has Wi-Fi in the car.  I had an international phone plan, so my phone worked all over the country (even in many rural areas).  But my two friends did not, & their phones only worked in major cities, on Wi-Fi.  Especially if you’re traveling by yourself: I’d request a car that has Wi-Fi included.  And in camper vans, this is a must too ~ as many people will be camping off-the-grid.
  • Finally, my last & most important tip: ALWAYS rent your car in advance!!! This ensures that you’ll get the best rate (companies are far more competitive online than in-person, especially the day you need the rental).  And it also ensures there IS a car for you to rent!  Especially an SUV, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Because of the harsh weather that changes on a dime: it’s also good to rent a good car with AWD (All-Wheel Drive), especially if you plan to off-road. 

By renting in advance, you’ll be sure to get exactly the kind of car you want: with Wi-Fi, plenty of room, etc.

FAQ on Renting a Car in Iceland

Q: Is it safe to rent a car in Iceland, especially by yourself?

A:  I rented a car in Iceland a total of three times: twice by myself (in Keflavik & in Northern Iceland/Akureyri), & then another time with friends (the Land Rover) out of Reykjavik.  As Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, with a small population: YES, I felt very safe pretty much everywhere I/we went.  I felt comfortable driving by myself all around Keflavik & Reykjavik, & there were usually plenty of people around ~ particularly at popular stops like the Blue Lagoon.  I don’t think I’d feel as comfortable driving, for instance, to Jokulsarlon Lagoon by myself ~ as it’s more than five-hours from Keflavik.  If anything happened while out on the road, especially in a more isolated spot: that could feel a little scary. 

Q: What were your favorite places to drive on your own?

A: I LOVED driving all over the Keflavik Peninsula ~ & this was the part I did totally on my own.  Some of my favorite photos were captured here, including by Reykjanes Lighthouse (the very southwestern-tip of Iceland….a STUNNING place), & another random lighthouse up by Hafnir, where I ran into a beautiful band of wild horses at sunset.  On the Keflavik Peninsula, there’s also Gunnuhver Hot Springs, the Bridge Between Continents, & cute towns like Grindavik & Keflavik ~ both which offer many hotels & great budget accommodations.

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One of my favorite Iceland shots, taken by Reykjanes Lighthouse ~ about 30 minutes from Keflavik International Airport.

Q: Did you ever get pulled over while driving in Iceland?

A: NO!!  All three of us drove, & we’re all three pretty fast drivers: none of us ever got pulled over.  Luckily.

Q: How is the driving in Iceland?  Is there much traffic?

A: The driving in Iceland (minus dealing with the wind), is VERY EASY!!  Roads are usually wide open, with very few cars on them ~ & almost no traffic to speak of.  The only place where you’ll find any “traffic” is in Reykjavik, & the roads leading in & out of Reykjavik. 

But other than that, you should have very smooth sailing.

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This is how clear the roads are in Iceland! We often pulled over & took shots right in the middle of them…as there was no one else around.

Q: How often did you see wild horses in Iceland ~ & where did you find them?

A: I’ve actually written an entire article on this, which can be found here.  But the short answer is: we saw wild horses almost every day (or at least every other day), while driving!  And the place we most often *found* them was literally on the side of the road.  Then, we’d just pull over & say hi!  We even started getting extra apples from the supermarket so that we could offer it to them, in case they felt inclined to take them : ) 

This is one more great reason to rent a car in Iceland ~ to see wild horses!

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I came across these beautiful horses while driving solo around the Keflavik Peninsula.

Q: What were your absolute favorite places to visit in Iceland ~ that required a car to reach??

A: Jokulsarlon Glacier was the farthest place we traveled to (about five hours from Reykjavik), & that was definitely worth it.  You could spend hours here….it’s unlike anything.  I LOVED Godafoss Waterfall in Northern Iceland (about an hour outside of Akureyri) so much, that I returned twice.  Because it’s such a gorgeous place, I knew I had to take sunset shots there….& it was SO worth going back (on my way back from Detifoss Waterfall & Lake Myvatn).  That’s another reason I prefer renting a car to taking a tour: almost NO tours take you to these waterfalls at sunset….& frankly, that’s the most gorgeous time to see them. 

With the fewest amount of people, too.

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Returning to Godafoss Waterfall at sunset was one of the BEST things I did in Northern Iceland.

Other than that, I like the Golden Circle: but it wasn’t my favorite (or most photogenic) place to visit.  It was dreary & drizzly when we visited, & most of our photos came out badly; it’s also very touristy.  Pretty much EVERY waterfall we visited was magical ~ especially Seljalandsfoss & Skogafoss, both in Southern Iceland, by Vik.  But in terms of being surprised: I thought the Keflavik Peninsula & Snaefellsnes Peninsula (north of Reykjavik) offered up gorgeous & unexpected beauty.  So many times, in both places, we simply pulled over & were blown away by waterfalls, vistas, & jaw-dropping ocean views.

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Wild beauty on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

Iceland is a country with so much natural beauty, found in all kinds of unexpected places: & renting a car is really the best way to see & capture it all.

Q: How far are Iceland’s top sights from Keflavik International Airport?

  • The Blue Lagoon = 30-minute drive 
  • Reykjavik = 45 minutes 
  • The Golden Circle = Approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours 
  • Gulfoss Waterfall (Most popular waterfall in Iceland, inside the Golden Circle) = Just over 2 hours 
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (Waterfall where you can walk under it!) = 2 hours & 10 minutes
  • Skogafoss Waterfall = 2 hours & 30 minutes
  • Vik (Popular town in Southern Iceland to stay in) = 3 hours 
  • Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon = 5 hours & 15 minutes

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We stayed at Jokularlon for HOURS….it was windy, but mesmerizing.

Q: Is it worth renting a camper van in Iceland?

A: I think this depends if you’re someone who doesn’t mind sleeping in the car.  I personally don’t ~ so it’s really not my thing.  However, if you’re driving around the Ring Road (which circles the entire country): then you really NEED to rent a camper van (check Alamo & ACE for the best rates on vans).  Especially on the east side of the country, there will be places with no hotels…so it’s really necessary to have your own place to stay ~ & a kitchen! 

I know several people who’ve rented camper vans in Iceland, & they loved it.  They said that driving the entire Ring Road was a lot of driving, & a lot of sitting ~ so you really need to figure out if you want to spend that much time in the car.  Or, if you’d prefer to see fewer things: & spend more time at those places…which is usually my preference.

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The benefits of renting a camper van in Iceland!


xoxo Noelia

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