While traveling Iceland in June 2017 I learned a lot about camping since I rented a Go Campers van. There are a couple of different options when it comes to camping in Iceland. They range from completely legal to not exactly legal. I am not endorsing doing anything that isn't legal while traveling, I am simply laying out all your options.
Option 1: Pay as you go
You can pay for campgrounds as you go. They are EVERYWHERE. Costs are typically between 800-1500 ISK per person. Each facility is different but some offer WiFi, showers, cooking area, BBQ areas, indoor areas and much more. This option is going to be your least amount of planning option.
Pros: Flexible and easy.
Cons: Most expensive option.
Option 2: Pull over and Sleep anywhere
This is the not exactly legal option but you could sleep wherever you want. Now, there are signs all over Iceland that you can not sleep in certain public places, or on any private property. But.....I will say this.....I met a lot of people who camped just wherever the day ended for them. And by a lot, I mean the majority of the camper van folks I met did this. I heard no reports of getting in trouble.
IMPORTANT: I am not saying do this (and Go Campers definitely will be against doing this) - it is definitely against the law in Iceland - I am simply just laying out all the information for you. But do take into account that you could be disrupting nature or someone private property if you do decide to go this route. For full disclosure, we did this one time during our whole trip, at the Glacier Lagoon. More about why we did it here.
Cons: Could get in trouble
Option 3: Buy the Iceland Camping Card
This is the option we went with and while expensive, it was worth it for peace of mind. The card gives you access to 42 campsites across the ring road and all you have to pay is the tax.
Cons: Expensive, but not as expensive as pay as you go
Quick facts: Iceland Camping Card
Includes 42 campsites
Valid for 28 nights total during the camping season (June - Sept 15th)
1 Card can be used for 2 adults and 4 children
Does not give you free access to showers and other pay services
Lodging tax is never included and must be paid upon arrival
Where do you buy the Iceland Camping Card?
We bought the card when we picked up our rental van with Go Campers. You can also buy them at some gas stations or a tourist center.
Read on: What to pack for a trip to Iceland
Campsites that are included in the card
When you first buy the card you will be given a book to help you find the campsites. There are 42 total campsites included with the card. The campsites are located along the ring road and very convenient for travel. You don't need to book ahead.
Using the card
When you check into a campsite they will ask to swipe your card. Each swipe reduces the card by one night. You will then have to pay the camping tax. Because we were typically arriving at campsites extremely late we almost never swiped the card or paid taxes. Most campsites offices closed around 9 or 10 pm. If there was a box to leave the tax we used that but often times there wasn't.
More Planning Tips for Iceland
Although the card was expensive, it was worth it when split between two people. At only $7.50 a night to sleep that is a real bargain in Iceland! I never had to worry about getting in trouble or breaking the law which for me was a big plus.
P.S. I created a super in-depth FREE travel guide for Iceland. Inside the guide are budgeting tips, where to take the best Instagram photos, maps to hidden hot pots, and so much more. I wouldn't go to Iceland without it!
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Iceland along with you. Here are some of the best travel guide books I recommend...
One of the most common questions I get: What is the best camera for travel photography? I personally love my Nikon D5600. I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens (for Nikon) which I am genuinely obsessed with.
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).