Kuku Campers - Campervan Rental Iceland - Review
If you are planning to travel around Iceland, you should highly consider doing it by campervan.
As we began planning our 10 day trip around the country, we came to discover that taking a campervan is a very common way to do it - and a great way because it allows you to not worry about check-in and check-out times at hotels, and costs significantly less than booking stays at hotels and hostels.
An important fact about taking a campervan around Iceland, in our experience, is that it allows you to not be tied down to a pre-planned schedule. This was really great for us during our trip, because while we prepared a nice 10 day itinerary, some things come up that you can't plan for - like bad weather and just not really comprehending what 10 hours of driving in a day can do to one's mental state. Around the mid-trip point, we ended up making some adjustments to our plans, which wouldn't have been possible had we booked lodging in hotels/hostels or Airbnb’s.
Having a campervan to explore the island really gave us maximum freedom to do things on our own terms, and this is really the ideal way to explore Iceland anyways.
The Basics of Campervan Rental in Iceland
We did much research on the many, many campervan rental companies in Iceland. It is really a huge sector of the tourism industry there, and with so many competing campervan agencies, it can be difficult to filter which ones are good to rent with.
Our starting point was simply looking at customer reviews. After all, the customer experience can really shape the reputability of a company. With car rentals, there are many great companies out there, but some also function like scams - in particular those who look to charge for every little thing (sometimes without justification, either) or that don't actually have reliable vehicles on offer (you know, a good rental experience in a foreign country would be to break down in a 20 year old van :|).
Now, keep in mind that I don't think Kuku Campers is the only reputable and reliable campervan company in Iceland. At the time while doing research, we were close to booking with Happy Campers (a really cute, similarly priced, and well reviewed camper van company) - but ended up not going with them because they do not offer automatic transmission models (or at least did not at the time of our trip).
Once you decide that you want your journey to Iceland to involve a campervan, it is important to book ASAP. This is especially true if you are planning to visit during the summer months, as you may find it difficult to find a car for your needs due to the influx of tourists. We opted to visit Iceland in September (the beginning of the off season), which led to some reduced cost - but still we did this only a little under a year in advance after booking our flights.
Next to your airfare, this is really the most critical thing that you book for your trip to Iceland because it will serve as your transportation and your home.
KUKU CAMPER RENTAL - THE CATEGORY AA
Kuku Campers offers a wide selection of vehicles suitable for 1 or 2 people (like the van we rented), and up to larger "party buses" so to speak with 4 wheel drive (which would enable you to go into Iceland's highland region on the so called F-roads - basically non-roads that only sometimes go through rivers). We ended up renting the Category AA camper - because of it's size and, again, the automatic transmission.
For many non-American drivers visiting Iceland, you will likely have a better selection (and lower costing) model, but in wanting to be a responsible guest to the country and not learn manual transmission while there (like we have seen in a number of videos online, to be honest!) - we opted for the automatic to keep our US sensibilities about us.
This particular campervan is quite nice if you enjoy a moderate level of comfort on your camping excursion.
It can feel cramped at times when sharing with someone, but this is really the nature of the beast when you are on a camping trip like this. If you are new to this world like we were, you may face some rough patches as you get used to being very close to someone; but the campervan does a good job at providing basic amenities as it functions as your on-the-go house, dining facility, and mode of transportation.
Kuku Campervan accessories + Add-Ons
The actual van is well equipped for your trip, with many add-ons being rentable both through their online service and once you arrive at their hub location to pick up your van. Some that we rented included towels, sleeping bags, blankets, propane grill, charcoal grill, and so on. Kuku Campers even offers some unique add-ons like skateboards and guitars (both of which Chris would have loved to have along, but opted against because of space requirements). On the whole, the pricing for all these additional things was reasonable, especially as you become acquainted to the cost of things in Iceland. Certainly, some things you could pack, like towels and sleeping bags, but since we like to travel light and 2 sleeping bags alone would take up the majority of a suitcase, it was much easier to just rent for us.
One thing worth noting about these add-ons is the quality as well, something that seems to be left out of many other reviews. Overall, everything we rented served its purpose well. The sleeping bags, in particular, were of very good quality and were a saving grace during some cold nights. The only item we would do without next time would be the towels, which are hardly "towels" like you and I would think of them, and more like large rags similar in feel to the ShamWow.
Of course, not everything is included just as an upsell. Included in your rental cost are some basic necessities such as silverware, bowls, plates, and some cleaning instruments. Kuku Campers also throws in a frisbee, because why not!
How is the drive?
When we originally started driving, it was a difficult vehicle to adjust to. A lot of this comes from our own personal driving experiences, as we both drive smaller cars back home.
Fortunately, in general, driving around Iceland is not difficult (there are some notable exceptions, though).
It did not take long to figure out how to handle the campervan effectively, so have no concern here if it is your first time as well. Someone with more experience driving campers and larger vehicles should have no trouble jumping into the driver's seat.
One aspect of the drive that came as a surprise as Iceland revealed itself to us more and more as the days went on is how reliable the car actually feels while driving through bad weather conditions and rough roads. There were quite a few instances, in particular while driving through the unpaved roads in the Westfjords, when a lesser vehicle would have given out. In the least, we were expecting a flat tire or something. The fact that we had no issues at all, the car drove smoothly the entire time, is pretty high praise in itself.
Are there any problems with this Kuku Campervan?
Most of the faults with our campervan were the result of our expectations surpassing the reality of what we had rented. Without being able to be in Iceland, at the Kuku Camper rental hub and checking out the van ourselves, all we could go on was pictures, size dimensions, and other reviews we had seen online. This easily results in taking in some wrong information, and making assumptions about the van being able to meet all of our needs in the way we'd like it to.
The main pain point we ran into was the very limited space. This was specifically a problem during bad weather. One day we spent in the Westfjords was bogged down entirely by rain for the better part of the day, and by the time we reached a campground in the evening the rain still would not let up. This comes with the territory when camping for sure, but compared to some other campervan rental companies that offer things like beds that fold up to open up a relaxing kitchen space, that would have been something nice to have included for situations like this.
Additionally, the storage space is tight, even for 2 travelers. The campervan is said to be able to hold 3 people - and in our opinion this would be pushing it even if you are someone who likes to rough it.
The last thing is regarding the built in heater. This is actually a really great feature, a heater that can be toggled on and off for the cold Icelandic nights - and importantly: runs off a second battery so the car can be turned on in the morning. The problem here is - the heat is not adjustable, and the inside of the campervan could become like a stuffy furnace real quick. Before bed, we would typically have it run for 15 minutes or so, and turn off before actually closing our eyes. As such, the temperature would change drastically throughout the night. This was offset by the quality sleeping bags retaining a lot of heat and allowing us not to freeze, but should be noted for sure.
Should you rent a Campervan in Iceland if you've never done it before?
Without a doubt, the answer to this question will come with your tolerance for adventure and closeness with your traveling partner(s). Prior to our trip to Iceland, we had never stayed in a campervan, and for the most part never really had any camping experiences either. We decided to go the route of renting a campervan for our trip through Iceland for two main reasons:
It provides a lot of freedom to adventure. Not being tied down to a strict itinerary or need to get to a particular location in a specified timeframe is a big selling point, especially when you are driving around the entire country on the Ring Road (and beyond).
It is more cost effective. It is hard to do Iceland on a budget as it is an expensive country for just about everything, but renting a campervan will help reduce cost because you are covering your car rental + lodging expenses in one.
If it's your first time, don't be too nervous. The entire experience was incredible, even the tough parts. Just get used to the idea of not showering much and being a little cramped from time to time now, and you will be fine! :)
OVERALL THOUGHTS ON RENTING FROM KUKU CAMPERS
Making the decision to rent a campervan from Kuku Campers in Iceland was one of the best we have made in recent memory, mostly because it really allowed us to explore our adventurous side and see this country we had wanted to see for so long on our own terms. Kuku as a company seems great, their employees were helpful and responsive to our questions, and their van held up nicely for the duration of our 10 days in Iceland.
The actual van itself and all the add-ons provide a great base to build your own adventure on. The nature of Iceland is learning how to adapt to a beautiful, but sometimes harsh, environment. As we adapted to this entirely new lifestyle, we found a lot of enjoyment in little things like being able to effectively organize the van, preparing meals outside under the stars, and taking warm showers at a few campsites along the way (which become like your second home while here).
And speaking of Campsites!
These are a MUST while planning your nightly stays even if you are driving a campervan throughout Iceland. Some years ago, before Iceland became the tourist destination that it is today, it was okay to park and camp along routes and if there was a farm nearby asking for their permission. BUT, this has since changed and doing so anymore is NOT allowed. You must book your spot at a campsite for overnight either ahead of time or get there early to ensure there is space for you. We stayed at campsites every single night we were there and 99% of them we booked ahead of time with the exception of changing plans for one of the nights and getting to a campsite just before it was at max capacity. If one is already booked up though, you can easily find another in most areas. We do highly recommend booking them ahead of time though and planning your route out before your trip! Read more about doing that here!
We would never recommend something we have not experienced ourselves, and without a doubt Kuku Campers is worth checking out if you are looking for a campervan rental in Iceland yourself.
Have any questions about Iceland travel by campervan? We'd be happy to chat with you in the comments below!