Iceland: 3 friends and a tiny car

I decided to go to Iceland last minute when a friend of mine from London decided to go on a little holiday. After a month of solo travel it was nice to have some company with some old familiar faces. We spent 5 days driving around Iceland and it was absolutely amazing.

Accomodation: We stayed in varying accomodation throughout our time in Iceland and booked most of the accomodation the morning of (as we didn’t really have a plan). Lots of the hotels in Reykjavik have wheelchair access and we ended up staying at the Hilton (which was a big step up form my previous hostel accomodation). When driving around we mainly stayed in small cabins and also in farm stays which were small but mostly accessible.

Transport: I mostly just pushed/walked around Reykjavik as it’s pretty small but it does have a few  steep hills. There are accessible buses available that are fitted with  ramps.

The best way to get around Iceland itself is to drive. Even though I was travelling with two able bodied people they were unable to drive as they didn’t have their licences so ironically the disabled person (i.e. myself) was the only one out of the 3 of us who could drive.  Hertz has cars with wheelchair access but they do not have hand control so this was not useful for us but a good option if you have an able bodied driver. So we called Avis, Avis technically didn’t have a car with hand controls but they very kindly and amazingly fitted out a car with portable hand controls just for us. This was probably the most amazing and kind thing that happened to me on my travels. We were blown away. So if you require anything I would give Avis a call.

Overall Accessibility: A lot of restaurants in Reykjavik and more so in the smaller towns had one or two steps to get in. Because I had people travelling with me it was ok to get into most places. All of the public buildings and tourist sites are wheelchair accessible. The Blue Lagoon is completely wheelchair accessible with accessible bathrooms and lifts/hoists to get in.  The other smaller thermal baths are flat to get into the building and have accessible bathroom but do not have hoists/ramps to get into the actual baths.

Overall if something isn’t 100% accessible the people are so amazingly friendly that they will go out of their way to make it so.

Top Tips:

  • Hire a car, it really is the only way to get around. When you hire a car, hire a 4wd or bigger 2wd. We hired a tiny VW Polo which was not great for the roads and also not great for all of our luggage and a wheelchair.
  • Pay extra  for car insurance. A lot of the roads are not tarred so paying for extra gravel insurance is a must
  • Food is very expensive in Iceland  if you want to eat out for every meal.  So doing a grocery shop once you get there is recommended and so is staying in self catered accomodation
  • Have a good map and keep an eye on the weather. We went in November so sometimes the roads can close leaving you stranded. This is a good website on the road conditions in Iceland and gets updated daily http://www.road.is/
  • As a wheelchair user I find it hard to move if I am wearing lots of bulky clothes so  I found it easier to wear lots of warmer layers.
  • Buy warm moisture wicking gloves if travelling in winter. As a manual wheelchair user it became pretty impossible to use my chair as it was super cold and lots of the paths were gravel so  the gravel would stick to my hands and make them very icy.
  • If going in winter just be aware that lots of businesses, restaurants and activities close over the winter season. We went at the beginning of November and things were already starting to shutdown.
  • If travelling in the cooler months just remember there is not a lot of daylight hours so factor this into your itinerary. In summer it’s the opposite with the sun hardly ever setting.

In my next post I will go through in detail our daily itinerary.

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