By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Reykjavík?

Do you need a car in Reykjavik > Should you rent a car in Reykjavik Iceland > Reykjavik ( KEF )
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Reykjavik Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all factors, including driving roads, hire and fuel costs, road safety etc. [Full notes - drive rating]


Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Reykjavik but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
How much should I expect to pay in the peak season? Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 170 - of which 91 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Reykjavik public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.



  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.



  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Reykjavik good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Reykjavik



Take to the waters!

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Reykjavik


Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Reykjavik", "is it worth hiring a car in Reykjavik", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme:

Do you need a car in Reykjavik?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city.

Is it worth hiring a car in Reykjavik?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares?

Should you rent a car in Reykjavik?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

Any sort of commentary on driving in Iceland needs to start with a note about the sheer size of the island. Looking at how Iceland sit so far out on its own on a world map, with no other land nearby as a reference point, this might lead visitors into the false impression that this is actually quite a small place, when the opposite is actually true.

Do you need a car in Reykjavík? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Reykjavík?", this often breaks down to two key questions:

  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Reykjavík? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?

Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Reykjavík as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Reykjavík?

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in Reykjavík?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip?

In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Reykjavík?

  • A hire car is your best option to see the island properly, and at your own pace!

Although there are relatively few roads in Iceland outside the capital, there are still just about enough options to suggest various different popular tours, varying from the express one-way Golden Circle which picks out some of the most impressive places to visit within a day’s travel from Reykjavík, up to a full circuit of the whole island. If you were to drive around Iceland non-stop without taking any additional inland detours, it might take you about 24 hours, hence a typical self-drive itinerary might take anything from 4 days to a fortnight.

Why not? Visiting Reykjavík without a car

What is public transport like in Reykjavík? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in Reykjavík?

  • If you were to take an organised tour around the island, then this might be compacted into 4 nights, with some long driving days. Bear in mind that daylight hours in Iceland range from one extreme to the other, although with the main tourist season spanning just the months of July and August, the chances are that your touring days will be long.
  • Even though there are no train services on Iceland, there’s an excellent bus service in the city.
  • Reykjavík has the world’s most northerly network of quality bike lanes!
  • You can still travel around the island by using local scheduled bus services and organising your own accommodation at stops in between. Just bear in mind that some of these schedules are based around a single daily service. Also remember that with the recent boom in low cost flights to Iceland, combined with the shortness of the main tourist season, pressure to find beds can be particularly tight.

Iceland might be the sort of destination where the non-driver or the visitor who otherwise doesn’t want to rent a car can still get around, but options are always going to be heavily limited when compared to getting your own hire car.

We should also add a note of caution about long driving days in Iceland. Although the country has some of the safest roads in Europe, long summer daylight hours, combined with arriving from what may be a relatively long flight and shifting across to a different time zone can make drivers prone to tiredness. We suggest adding an additional named driver where possible, and allowing time for plenty of rest between driving periods.

Should you rent a car in Reykjavík? Yes!


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Would you hire a car in Reykjavík?

Have you driven in Reykjavík? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Reykjavík?

Do you need a car in Reykjavík? For some or all of the time? 

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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