Iceland: itinerary, budgeting, and accommodation etc.

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Our personalised 9 day Ring Road tour map

Just a bit of an intro! We went as a group of 6, and we’re all students studying in the UK so you can tell that we’re going to be quite stingy with almost everything. We went in March 2016 during Spring.

And see the more detailed post of every stop we made and the landmarks we visited here:
https://someculturedmilk.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/iceland-9-day-ring-road-tour/

 

Itinerary / Stops (Ring Road Tour)

itinerary

Above was our initial plan that we tried our best to stick to, but didn’t manage to follow fully. Of course, we had the snow storm in our way, but we also decided to forego a few stops to save on driving time. On the way we also switched our stops to wherever had petrol stops / grocery shops for convenience.

Day 1: Keflavik > Blue Lagoon > Eyrarbakki
Day 2: Seljalandsfoss > Skogafoss > Vik > (backtrack) Hellisholar
Day 3: Dyrholaey > Vik > Skaftafell (just for pitstop/ info counter) > Jokulsarlon > Hofn
Day 4: Skaftafell (meeting pt for Vatnajokull hike) > Seydisfjorour
Day 5: Seydisfjorour
Day 6: Myvatn > Godafoss > Akureyri > Kirkjufell > Olafsvik
Day 7: Snaefellsness National Park > Vatnshellir cave > Kirkjufellsfoss > Reykjavik
Day 8: Reykjavik city > Geysir > Gulfoss > Pingvellir National Park

We planned our stops around where we could find accommodation. 
Initially, we wanted to make stops that were as close to the main road as possible, but it proved to be difficult. Either that spot is a quiet and dead town with no rentals, or it’s so quiet and dead that when there is a rental, it’s really pricey.

As a result we backtracked around day 2 since the nearest accommodation to Vik was at Hellisholar. We tried to make as many night stops as possible to spread out our driving time. The longest driving stretch we had to do was on day 6 for about 6-7 hours straight from Seydisfjorour to Olafsvik. Even the drive on day 2 from Vik to Hellisholar was quite long.

Gas stations

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Prepaid cards instead of credit card / cash payments for pumping gas

It was quite interesting because the main gas stations: Orkan and N1, use prepaid cards. And nope, you don’t have another choice. So you’ll have to head into the station shop and buy a card from the counter with whatever means you wish. There’s a choice of 3,000kr (kronas), 5,000kr, or 10,000kr.

At first, we went with the 3,000kr cards. But we finished it up each time we refilled the van. For a single pump for a full tank we’d need about 5,000-6,000kr. So a 3,000kr card would probably just be useful for a last pump before handing the car back. We went ahead with the 10,000kr cards for most of the journey afterwards.

Main tip for finding gas stations, is to search it up on the Sat Nav / GPS/ Google maps before starting a journey. We did this every time before starting off so we know not to pass by a station. We’ll stop whenever we know the nearest one is coming up anyway just to be safe, and mainly for toilet breaks.

 

Grocery Shopping

Same goes for grocery shopping! Upon landing the first thing we did was planning to stop by the nearest grocery store to pick up stuff to cook dinner before starting our journey. Helped loads. Sometimes we started off our day by doing the grocery shopping if we know that there won’t be any along the way or at our next quiet and dead destination.

We mostly went to Bonus, Kronan & Netto. Bonus and Kronan sometimes have little marts along the way if there aren’t huge ones in sight. We relied on the GPS function which allowed us to search for any nearby store by just clicking the “Shopping” category on it.

Also, refer to this map of all the grocery stores in Iceland!

Budgeting

For our flight tickets, car rental, activities & accommodations we spent £690.20. Food and gas was £140 per person. So in total, that added up to £830.20 per person, for 9D8N.

Initially, we budgeted for food and gas to add up to much more than we expected. We gave ourselves the approximate of £200+ for the 9 days per person. So that was good!

Also just to add in, that we just opted for whatever flight was cheapest on Skyscanner.com. And planned our schedule around the cheapest flight dates

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Car Rental

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For our car rental, we went with Reykjavik Cars. And it came up to 176,500kr in total.

There was a little hiccup when we picked up the car at the airport upon landing. We initially put in a request for a Ford 6 seater car, but they mixed up the rentals and only had a 9 seater manual van for us. Which was a real nightmare at the beginning since all our drivers were not too seasoned with manual driving, and a van?! Really?! And it’s left hand drive. Phew. 

But luckily it turned out to be alright! We had loads of space so we didn’t feel crammed at all. The van worked alright in the snow and ice too. Just be careful of slamming rolling van doors…. speaking from experience (sigh).

We rented using an international permit license and also one of us had a Singaporean license. Not sure if you’re allowed to rent and drive using a regular Malaysian license, but may be possible if you check with the rental!  

SIM Card 

While there we bought a single Nova SIM card for the whole trip for 1,000kr and 1GB data. Bought it, popped it in and ready to go. 

Activities

Glacier Guides. is

When we were making our bookings for the trip around in December/ January, we were the most excited for our ice cave tour! But just a few weeks before the trip, we got an email saying that the ice caves were melting earlier than usual (bummer global warming), so we had to switch our ice cave tour to a glacier hike instead.

A little misleading for those of us who have not been glacier hiking before or have no real knowledge of the definition of a glacier. I thought it was going to be pickaxing up ice cliffs or slippery ice hills… but we just ended up hiking a stretch up a snow covered hill. Which I guess the glacier is beneath us. But the beginners hike was really easy. The view was nice though. We paid 65,940kr total for 6 pax for the hike.

Blue Lagoon Spa

We paid 40 Euros per person for an online booking of the standard entrance ticket, to which you can stay the whole day within the lagoon. While there my friend and I decided to rent bath robes for around 15 Euros per person since we had to walk in and out from the bathroom to the thermal pool. We got to use the standard mud masks which everyone is entitled to, so we didn’t pay extra for the premium masks or anything.

Others

While planning, we wanted to go for whale watching, or puffin watching; but figured it wasn’t quite the right season and we might not have enough time to spare for something that only has a 50/50 chance of actually seeing the animals.

As for aurora tours, we did consider but we decided we’d just drive along wherever to chance upon it.

We also viewed these sites while researching things to do:
Extreme Iceland , Arctic Adventures , Ice Guide , Guide to Iceland , Glacier Adventure

If I’m not wrong, some of the sites have the same main agency handling the tours. So when we booked for Arctic Adventures, it was Glacier Guides who sent us email confirmations (if I remember correctly!)

Aurora Hunting

We did download a couple of apps to check out the level of activity in the area, and the app even has push notification if your current location has a high chance of sighting. 

Sure you can just check the app store and use as many as you want to check levels and etc. We basically Googled how to know when there’s a high chance of a sighting in a websites like these: 

http://www.northernlightsiceland.com/northern-lights-forecast/ 

http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

And also tips on how to take aurora photos we followed this site and others off Google:  http://auroranotify.com/learn/

But for my camera (Sony Alpha A5000) with a 30mm lens, it totally failed. I only had that one macro lens on me so it couldn’t focus at all on the dark sky. 

But when setting up my friends Sony A6000 which had a regular 16-50mm kit lens, I used Shutter speed: 15″, ISO 2500+, Aperture f4.0. 

It worked out well enough! This was on my friend’s camera! 

But I’d say that the best part about the whole aurora sighting experience isn’t about the photos you get, but just getting to sit (or lie down on the ground, which we did) to enjoy watching the way the lights danced around. It was so, so, wo beautiful! Enjoy it! 

Road Conditions

We did not see this coming. We thought that we might be safe from bad weather in March but then as the locals say : Iceland weather is crazy. It changes every minute and it’s different from East to West. Could be sunshine at one place, then after an hours drive it’s snowing. Crazy! Road closures are a frequent thing, so our lifesaver half of journey was

http://www.road.is/


You can check which roads are closed from the symbols and when it’s reopened it will go live straight away.

Accommodations

The accommodations we stayed at (from Airbnb & Booking.com), in the sequence of our anti-clockwise tour, for 6 people. An average per night per person came to approx. 20£.


1. Eyrarbakki 

For our first night, this was really nice and cosy. Managed to cook a full on meal for dinner there. It made a good start to the trip and everything was working. For £88 a night, it was worth the price!

 

2. Hellisholar Cottages

Hellisholar was quite a difficult place to find. It was really far into a field and there were no street lights. Between 6 of us, we booked 2 cottages. We had groceries to cook, but as we used the stove, the electricity for one of the cottages got cut off and we had to move all our cooking stuff to our other cottage. That was a bummer. But the maintenance team came after we drove up to the office to ask for help. Another thing is that these cottages don’t have in-built bathrooms, but a communal bath a 10minute walk away, or a short drive. Quite a hassle, but it was comfortable despite that. We paid £68 per cottage.

 

3. Hofn Sea View

For £168 a night, this place was really, really nice. Two of the guys had to sleep on the sofa bed in the living room, but the kitchen was really well equipped, and we also managed to use the washing machine/dryer here. Had a really good night’s sleep with an amazing sunset and sunrise view. Our hosts (a husband and wife pair) were really helpful as well. They were the ones who introduced us to road.is to check road conditions before we headed out. Only then did we know that a road we were going to take was closed so they suggested a detour to us. Really lovely couple!

4. Seydisfjorour Old Post Office

This was such a sweet little place. We arrived really late at night after the snow storm, so we crashed straight into bed that night. There isn’t a kitchen available in this place but the host has a pub around the bend nearby. We mostly survived on sandwiches and instant noodles that day. This was the place where we got stuck for an extra night due to the snow, and decided to make snowmen and play board games at the pub. £129 a night for this.

5. Akureyri Central Apartments

Sadly, we didn’t get to stay at this place! It looked really nice but we stayed at Olafsvik, foregoing Akureyri. We couldn’t get our £129 refund either.

6. Olafsvik Bunk Bed House

This wasn’t the most amazing place (I for one didn’t like all 6 of us stuck in one room because of the snoring). But the kitchen and bathroom were alright. This was really difficult to find on the GPS as well, and the host didn’t speak fluent English. Took us half an hour to find the house. £119 a night.

7. Reykjavik Apartment

Our final two nights were in this super nice Reykjavik apartment with parking available. We paid a total of £249 and the facilities were all really good. The host was really friendly as well, and the beds were sooooo comfy. There’s a washer/dryer as well. Ace way to end the trip.

 

And that’s more or less it!

I do hope the whole post has been of some help or use to you and your planning! Wishing you all the best if you’re planning to go to Iceland. Otherwise, it’s something to consider. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment and I’ll try to reply if I do come by it.
I’ve got a vlog up here too if you’d like to check it out

And see the more detailed post of every stop we made and the landmarks we visited here:
https://someculturedmilk.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/iceland-9-day-ring-road-tour/

 

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