Iceland self-drive travails

By Joyce Bruck
This item appears on page 13 of the December 2016 issue.
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My travel agent worked out the arrangements for me for a wonderful drive to the famous sites of Iceland, June 8-15, 2016. The morning after my arrival in Reykjavik, I was taken to Thrifty Car Rental (www.thrifty.is) to pick up the car I’d be driving ALONE for the entire trip. The rental agent gave me a new, full-size car with automatic transmission and all the bells and whistles.

The 7-day car rental was included in my total trip cost, but I paid an additional $319 for full insurance coverage so if there were any scratches or dents, I could just walk away.

I also was provided with a brand-new GPS unit; the agent made a big show of unwrapping the new device. However, it turned out to have no data or maps stored on it, so it was more of a detriment. It haunted me the whole trip by sending me in circles, wasting my precious time and causing me to miss some important sites.

For example, I manually programmed the car to go to the city of Vik, but the GPS tried to send me to Reykjavik, where I had started from. (It seemed to only be programmed so the car could be returned.)

In deserted areas, I stopped several times when I found people, and they were very helpful, sometimes plugging in local directions for me.

I had lots of paper maps, but it was too difficult to read while driving. The roads I took were narrow, offering few opportunities to pull off to check a map, and there were very few places such as gas stations to stop for instructions. Also, the city names in Iceland are long, with several syllables, so finding locations on a map wasn’t easy.

In addition, the roads were not well marked. 

Another time, I found myself in a gorgeous valley with one road leading me in and out. At the top were glaciers melting into small waterfalls. No one was around to ask, so I still don’t know where I was.

Here’s the lesson I learned: When getting a rental car, make sure the GPS is programmed for the area in which you’ll be driving.

JOYCE BRUCK

Boynton Beach, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My travel agent worked out the arrangements for me for a wonderful drive to the famous sites of Iceland, June 8-15, 2016. The morning after my arrival in Reykjavik, I was taken to Thrifty Car Rental (www.thrifty.is) to pick up the car I’d be driving ALONE for the entire trip. The rental agent gave me a new, full-size car with automatic transmission and all the bells and whistles.

The 7-day car rental was included in my total trip cost, but I paid an additional $319 for full insurance coverage so if there were any scratches or dents, I could just walk away.

I also was provided with a brand-new GPS unit; the agent made a big show of unwrapping the new device. However, it turned out to have no data or maps stored on it, so it was more of a detriment. It haunted me the whole trip by sending me in circles, wasting my precious time and causing me to miss some important sites.

For example, I manually programmed the car to go to the city of Vik, but the GPS tried to send me to Reykjavik, where I had started from. (It seemed to only be programmed so the car could be returned.)

In deserted areas, I stopped several times when I found people, and they were very helpful, sometimes plugging in local directions for me.

I had lots of paper maps, but it was too difficult to read while driving. The roads I took were narrow, offering few opportunities to pull off to check a map, and there were very few places such as gas stations to stop for instructions. Also, the city names in Iceland are long, with several syllables, so finding locations on a map wasn’t easy.

In addition, the roads were not well marked. 

Another time, I found myself in a gorgeous valley with one road leading me in and out. At the top were glaciers melting into small waterfalls. No one was around to ask, so I still don’t know where I was.

Here’s the lesson I learned: When getting a rental car, make sure the GPS is programmed for the area in which you’ll be driving.

JOYCE BRUCK

Boynton Beach, FL