How Not to Chill in Your Rental Car in Iceland

Road Through Iceland’s Skeiðarársandur

All off-road driving in Iceland is illegal. Reasons include the permafrost and volcanic outwash are sensitive, and for that reason there are not that many roads passing through, except between towns. Now while we can understand the ecstatic joy of camping in our cars in the wild under the company of stars, this is against the rules of damage waivers and auto insurance too.

Pteet’s Allianz no nonsense rental car insurance protector explicitly excludes “any vehicle used off maintained roadways”. When you think about this, we have to do it, because how else would we draw the line?

In case you wondered, road maintenance is supposed to (1) preserve the road in its originally constructed condition, (2) protect adjacent resources and user safety, and (3) provide efficient, convenient travel along the route. Although of course, this is not always the case.


Don't Drive or Park on the Skeiðarársandur Outwash Plain


To get back to our story, a bunch of tourists pitched camp on the black sands of Skeiðarársandur in South East Iceland with a tent on top their rental car. Skeiðarársandur is a vast outwash plain covered with volcanic sediments. The Icelanders like it that way, and they are quite firm about drivers staying off it when visiting.

A local guide saw the travelers’ rental car parked far out on the glacial outwash plain and took a photo. They had “left long tracks in the ground driving off-road from the Ring Road into the pristine wilderness” according to Iceland Mag which was a horrible thing to do. The photo ended up on a Facebook Group frequented by local guides, and people in the Icelandic tourism industry.


The Rental Car Company Hard Boiled the Client


Said tourists ran out of luck when Bogi Jónsson, the owner of the rental car company, Camping Cars, saw the photo and recognized his vehicle. He went public on the National Broadcasting Service. He told them he spends significant time and effort to educate his customers on what is allowed, and what is not allowed when traveling in Iceland.

Then he contacted his customers and told them to cut their trip short, report to the nearest police station, pay a fine and return his car. When asked, he said, “The people had not reacted well to hearing the news”. Now while Pteet would probably not go to such extremes, we do ask our customers to keep their rental cars on maintained roads, so we can afford them the protection they deserve.

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Road Through Iceland’s Skeiðarársandur: Hansueli Krapf BY CC 3.0