Knowing how roadside assistance works in Iceland will give you assurance and peace of mind. We prepared this article for you to know how to act and what to expect from this type of service.
Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. With a population of only around 330,000, and with 200,000 of those being in Reykjavik, there is a lot of space. Once you leave Reykjavik, you will only encounter small towns and villages. In fact, Reykjavik’s second-largest urban area is Akureyri, with a population of just over 18,000. What that means is most business is either based in or conducted through Reykjavik.Iceland’s highway system isn’t as developed as its European neighbors. Once you leave the capital, you can expect long stretches of windy two-lane highways. This certainly adds to the beauty of the country, not having huge swathes of tarmac cutting across the landscape. But it also makes things more difficult if your car breaks down. So, it’s good to know how the roadside assistance in Iceland works before you embark on your Icelandic road trip.
There is no official road assistance in Iceland. However, Reykjavik Cars offers 24/7 emergency roadside assistance. If your car breaks down or you have a flat tire and don’t know how to change it, contact your rental company first. Don’t get out of your car and wander around. It will be easier to find your car than to find a lost person. Use your GPS to inform the rental company of your location. Each rental company works with roadside assistance teams across Iceland, so they will contact the closest one to you to cut down on response times. Of course, depending on the weather conditions, your location and the time of day, the waiting time will vary.
If you are involved in an accident, you must first contact the emergency services. The number for this is 112. Once you have communicated with them and they know your location, then contact the rental company to inform them of your situation.
If the roadside assistance cannot make your car roadworthy on the spot, they will tow you to a nearby garage. However, towing will not be covered by your insurance and prices usually start at around 55,000ISK. You will be provided with a replacement vehicle if yours is unable to be fixed.
Iceland has many roadside service stops. However, most of these are not like the service stops you may be familiar with. They won’t have shops or restaurants to relax in. For the most part, Iceland’s service stops are just an area to park, perhaps a table and possibly a toilet. These stops are useful for taking short naps to recover some energy for driving, but for food and other supplies, head for the nearest town or village. Be aware that outside of Reykjavik, the Icelanders’ level of English proficiency may not be as good. In that situation, you can never go wrong with the timeless miming and hand signals technique. Or Google translate.
Regarding picking up your rental car, you can choose to either do this at the airport on arrival or in the city later on. If you want to pick your car up in the city, you can agree on a location to meet with your rental company in Iceland. They will then drive you to their office where you can complete the paperwork and collect your car. At this stage it is important to be aware of the procedure should an emergency occur while you’re driving. Be sure to take down the company’s 24-hour emergency number. You can then drop the car back at the office or at the airport at the end of your stay.
These tips are common sense, but it’s worth reminding yourself of them before taking a long road trip. Ensure that your phone is fully charged, in case you do need to call for help. A portable charger will come in handy if you’re planning to go off the grid for a while. Have equipment such as de-icer and a windscreen scraper in the car. Iceland has a very strict policy on drink driving. The blood alcohol content limit is so low that it’s better to avoid drinking at all. If caught, you face a hefty fine and possibly bigger repercussions.
Be aware of what your insurance does and doesn’t cover you for. Driving off-road is illegal in Iceland; the locals value their delicate nature and damaging it results in high fines. This does not include the highland tracks, but they are not easy to navigate. Take note of what type of car you are driving and the weather forecast before embarking on a highland roadquest. It will take longer to reach you if you drive up to the highlands during a snow storm and your car breaks down.
Samuel Hogarth, Reykjavik Cars.