GuidesTransportationCar Rental Iceland vs. Public Transportation
A woman enjoying icelandic nature in her rental car vs a woman in a Public Transportation drinking a coffee
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Leah BIlquist
By Leah BIlquistDec 7, 2023 • 8 min read

Car Rental Iceland vs. Public Transportation

Iceland, a land of mystical landscapes and unique culture, has become a hot destination for tourists. The question often arises, "How should I get around?" Is it better to rent a car or use public transportation? In this article, we will dive into the specifics, comparing the benefits and drawbacks of both options, and we'll help you make an informed decision.

Car Rentals in Iceland

Renting a car in Iceland is one of the easiest ways to get around the country. There are so many pros it is hard to list them all. Here are some of our Iceland travel tips on why renting a car is better than using public transportation in Iceland.

1. You Will Have Complete Freedom

You truly cannot put a price on freedom. There is something so carefree when taking a road trip through another country. Roll down your windows and blast your favorite tunes while admiring Iceland’s landscape.

A woman standing next to a huge waterfall in iceland

Having complete freedom means you can go off-route if you want and stop wherever you want to. You may meet some other travelers or locals along the way, that will tell you about a certain hidden gem that you have to see for yourself!

When you rent a car in Iceland you can do just that, explore more of the land of fire and ice.

2. Plan a Self-Drive Tour

One of the most popular activities for tourists is driving one of Iceland’s infamous routes. This includes Ring Road, The Diamond Circle, and the Golden Circle.

You can also take a day trip or an overnight one by exploring The Golden Circle.

All of these routes are considered Self Drive Tours as they are easy to navigate and have signs for tourist attractions.

3. Exploring Tourist Attractions at Your Leisure

One of the biggest complaints about taking tours is the amount of time you have at tourist destinations. Tours can be very rushed only leaving you a few minutes to actually see the area you are interested in.

Exploring tourist attractions at your leisure is a major perk of renting a car in Iceland. This means you will have all the time in the world to take a hike, plan a picnic or simply sit and relax at your destination of choice.

A woman walking on a black sand beach in iceland

Take that extra picture, grab some food from the local food truck, or simply sit and admire the attraction for a little while longer.

4. Cleanliness

There is nothing better than getting in your Iceland car rental and enjoying that new car smell. Rental cars are known for being clean and you can make them your own little oasis. While

While Iceland is a clean country, you still have to worry about the cleanliness of public transportation due to how many people use it a day.

5. Comfort

Comfort is another reason so many rent a car in Iceland. Renting a car can provide a more comfortable means of transportation, particularly when traveling with a group or carrying luggage.

Enjoy the luxury of sitting back and relaxing, with all of your road trip snacks and personal items right beside you.

A woman relaxing in her rental car while watching a rainbow

6. Save Money

You will save money with your Iceland car rental too! If you do not rent a car, you will most likely be spending a ton of money on tours or transportation to take you to the places you want to go.

Taxis and bus fares can add up relatively quickly, especially when renting an Iceland car hire. The best way to save is to rent a car instead of relying solely on Iceland's public transportation.

Go Car Rental also has a variety of fuel-efficient rental cars that can help you save even more money on gas. Truly a win-win when it comes to your bank account!

7. Cost-effective for Groups

If you are traveling with a group of people, renting a car can save you even more cash. As we stated above, if your whole group is taking public transportation or paying for tours, you will be spending a lot. Instead, use that money towards a rental car.

This a cost-effective tip for groups and families since you can split the cost of the rental, gas, and insurance among yourselves.

Group of happy people near a 9 seater rental car van in iceland

8. Avoid Weather Cancellations

It can be safer to rent a car rather than take public transportation. While Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, there are still things out of the country's control, the weather being an example.

If you are planning to visit Iceland during winter, the weather could mess up your public transportation plans.

We advice you to rent a 4X4 winter safety vehicle and drive at a slow pace on the snowy or icy roads in Iceland.

This could allow you to still get to your destination rather than canceling the whole tour. Only drive once a storm passes and it is safe to do so! Always check road conditions before you go.

Public Transportation

Public transportation definitely has its perks; here are some of the reasons tourists may skip the rental car counter.

1. Recommend For Tour Takers

Public Transportation in Iceland is a suitable idea for visitors who are set on taking tours. Some tourists do not want to drive a rental car to specific locations and would rather be picked up and dropped off at their hotel.

If you are leaning more towards that, then set up your tours in advance. That way, you can ensure there is room on tour and confirm that your pickup location is a part of their list.

around 50 tourists in Iceland watching a waterfall

Iceland has a lot of day tours, including The Golden Circle, The Blue Lagoon, and even a Northern Lights Bus Tour.

2. Be Your Own Public Transportation

If you are into fitness, you can be your own transportation by renting a bike or walking in Reykjavik. You can rent a bike at Reykjavik Bike Tours; they have two locations, one by the Harbor and the other Hringbraut location.

You can use the cycling map of Iceland to plan the routes you would like to take. If you are an experienced biker, you could even bike parts of Ring Road or even the Golden Circle.

Just remember, the weather can be a little crazy in Iceland, so prepare for wind storms or even sand storms.

Reykjavik is also a very walkable city and is rated one of the safest cities in the world. This is a great way to stay fit while trying some of Reykjavik's delicious restaurants during your stay.

3. Ideal For A Short Stay

While some visitors fly to Iceland for a ten-day trip, others are here for a night or two. You will also meet tourists who are flying to Ireland or London and have an overnight layover in Iceland.

If you only have a day or two in Reykjavik you may not need a rental car. If you are set on just seeing the city then you can walk around town and enjoy those tourist attractions.

If you do want to see the Golden Circle, you could rent a car for one day to explore it at your leisure or take a tour.

4. Suitable For Exploring The City

If you are planning on flying to Reykjavik and staying in the city, then Public Transportation could be a more reasonable choice for you.

You can explore the entire city by taking the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour in Reykjavik. It was even rated one of the best things to do when visiting. The bus pass is valid for 24 hours, so you can take your time at your stops.

There are plenty of other public transportation options for you to use to get around the city, and we will go over them now!

Reykjavik with view on Leif Eriksson Statue, Iceland

Public Transportation Options

Iceland Buses

One of the most common ways to get around Reykjavik is by taking the bus. You will find official Iceland bus stops throughout the city.

Reykjavik’s bus company is called Strætó BS, and you can plan your route in advance using their Route Planner. You can even pre-order service if you want to set up your route in advance.

The only downside to the bus is you have to pay in cash, and it is currently 470 ISK. There is no option to receive a change back, and you cannot pay by card.


Taxis are another popular mode of transportation when visiting the city. You can find them at the cab ranks around the city. You can also call a taxi if you can’t find the cab rank or do not see one driving around.

Taxis can add up relatively quickly, though, so be mindful of that if you are planning on using them every day.

Domestic Flights

The Reykjavík domestic airport offers flights to the North, East, and West of the country. The flights typically take less than an hour, which is convenient for hopping back and forth. However, the cost of the flights can add up to more than the cost of a rental car.

This is a great option for winter traveling when some of Iceland’s roads close. So keep that in mind if you are looking to find the northern lights in remote areas.

Domestic Flight locations include Reykjavík, Keflavík, Grímsey, Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, Vopnafjörður, Þórshöfn, and Ísafjörður.

Which One Is Better?

Now that we have gone over both options, which one is better? Renting a car in Iceland is better than relying solely on Public Transportation.

The country has so many majestic places for you to see. You could take a day trip to one of the many hot springs near Reykjavik or venture off into the landscape to visit black-sand beaches.

Woman wearing a yellow jacket with a smile on her face while standing next to a rental car in iceland

However, we do recommend Iceland public transportation for your overnight trips in Reykjavik or Akureyri. These cities are populated, so catching the bus to dinner or a show is a great idea!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is car rental a good idea in Iceland?

Yes! It is the top-rated way to see Iceland. Not only can you explore the whole country in a week, but you are in control of what you see.

Is it easy to get around Iceland without a car?

It is possible in big cities such as Reykjavik and Akureyri. To visit any other attractions you would need to take tours, which is doable for those without a driver's license.

Is it easy to rent a car and drive around Iceland?

Yes, as long as you have it is easy to rent a car and drive around Iceland. The roads are taken care of and well-managed. Renting a car is easy with Go Car Rental, we are happy to help with any questions!

Is driving in Iceland difficult for tourists?

It can be, especially in winter. Consider weather and road conditions.

Can I use both car rental and public transportation?

Absolutely, many travelers find a combination of both to be convenient.