Do I need to book in advance in Iceland?
June 28, 2014 12:55 PM   Subscribe

My friend and I are driving the Iceland Ring Road the first two weeks of August. Should I book accommodations in advance? Or would it be OK to book along the way (or just show up at places).

My friend and I are renting a car and driving the Iceland Ring Road during the first two weeks of August. We'll start in Reykjavik and probably work counterclockwise. We are roughly planning out our itinerary right now and want to know how far out in advance should be book lodging, or whether we would be able to just show up at places in the towns along the road. Does anyone have any experience either way?

We are mainly looking at hostels, but we will consider other types of lodging, especially if it gives flexibility to our schedule. We also don't currently plan on camping, but we can write that into our plans if it seems like a good idea too.

Bonus question: How did you book your accommodations in Iceland?
posted by Geppp to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (5 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I did this exact thing in September 2009. We did book some of our accomodations in advance just because we did not have any way of calling or emailing once we left Reykjavik. As we were told, 2/3 of the entire country's population lives in the capital city. That means the other 100, 000 is sparsely spread out over the whole middle and eastern part of the Island. So you will drive for many hours without seeing another human being, let alone a grocery store, outside the car. That means you have to fill the tank whenever you get the chance, and stock up on snacks whenever there's a store (we survived on pumpernickel bread and salmon-flavoured cream cheese).

One thing we did do (I was 21, okay?) was just to find a quiet spot when the sun goes down (and basically everywhere along the Ring Road is quiet) and sleep in the car. Not sure if that is your style, but if so I can give you some tips on how to save space / keep warm (for the record, there were three of us in a Citroen hatchback). I can't remember why exactly we decided to do that, but it did mean we could sleep in some really beautiful places like in the middle of a farmer's field or at the edge of a desolate beach. You do get used to sleeping sitting up!

When you get to the East coast you should definitely try to stay at Husey Hostel. It's a beautiful, cosy farmhouse with a full kitchen. The best part is you can go horseback riding along the water (we saw seals there too). This was one of the highlights of my trip in Iceland. I recommend booking in advance for that one because I remember it being a little more full than other places. The website has contact information for reservations.

In general, I recommend booking a few places and leaving a few nights open and sleep wherever you land (it makes things more exciting).

Anyways feel free to message me if you have any questions! Iceland is absolutely gorgeous and I think the best travel experience I've ever had.
posted by winterportage at 1:18 PM on June 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm actually in Iceland right now!

If you haven't already, start looking for a rental car yesterday on all the sites. Note that unless you specify automatic, you will likely end up with stick shift. If it doesn't cost a whole lot more, I'd get a 4WD. Some roads, like the one to the base of Hekla, require it.

So far, I haven't heard anyone say they couldn't find a room in a hostel when they wanted one. I probably wouldn't book too far ahead, because plans might change due to your experiences/weather/etc. Iceland is also very expensive, so if you need your money to stretch I would advise bringing camping gear. Also according to one guidebook (I didn't try, I had accommodations already) if you bring a sleeping bag to hostels they may charge you a lower rate because they won't have to use linens.

FYI if you're planning on visiting the Westman Islands, you do need to book your ferry tickets in advance. Also you should bring your car on the ferry.

I'm in an artist residency, so that's how I got my housing.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have any other questions.
posted by vegartanipla at 2:32 PM on June 28, 2014

If you haven't already booked your rental car, consider renting a camper van. Then, you have your vehicle and your camping spot in one place, you don't have to worry about booking rooms in advance, and you can stay on the road longer, taking advantage of the long days.
posted by TrarNoir at 3:44 PM on June 28, 2014

When my wife and I were visiting, we had to change plans a bunch (in the middle of summer, the peak tourist season) and we only had trouble getting a good room in Reykjavík. But we were looking for a super nice place. Most places seemed to have rooms to spare everywhere we went: Westman Islands, Akureyri and Akranes. Unless nice hotels are a feature of your visit, I would be comfortable giving you advice just to wing it regarding accommodations. I would however get on the rental car ASAP and make sure that you get a GPS to go with because there is no cell signal in a lot of places (also no radio stations, so bring CDs).

I think it would have been awesome to do the camper van like TrarNoir suggested. That would be a great adventure. It was tough for me to fall asleep when it was daylight all the time, being able to just pull over and sleep whenever we wanted would have been pretty cool. Have fun, it's a beautiful country.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2014

Bonus question: How did you book your accommodations in Iceland? Phone calls. Literally everybody speaks english.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:01 PM on June 28, 2014

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