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GPS?

We will be traveling to Iceland in early September. We will be renting a car. Staying 4 days on the South Coast, then 3 days in Reykjavik. We will not be on any roads that require 4x4, only on the main roads. Would we need GPS? Wi-Fi in the car? Both are available from the car rental company. Do we need either one? or both?
Thanks

Posted by
1113 posts

We used the one from the car rental company even though we have our own GPS (Garmin) the reason being that our GPS does not have the Icelandic alphabet and the one from the car rental agency does. Also be aware that sometimes towns have the same names and can be miles and miles apart. A good map is helpful as a backup.

Posted by
3861 posts

I like maps.me. It is a free app on my phone that gives turn by turn instructions. It works offline. All you have to do is download the applicable maps when you have wifi. I've been very happy with it. i've used it both for driving and for walking. I use GPS at home. What I tell people is if you want to use maps.me abroad, try to get used to it for at least a few trips at home. I used GPS in France once, and we were fairly happy with it, there were some mistakes. Then we switched to maps.me and even in small towns in Spain, there were no errors.

Posted by
608 posts

I second what Mary said. Being able to enter Icelandic places names in Icelandic, is very important. Otherwise, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Our car had the navigation built in, but we had to be careful typing in the destination to make sure we got the letters and accents correct.

Posted by
3861 posts

A benefit of maps.me is that you can work with it ahead of time and save them (I think they refer to it as pin) certain places like hotels, museums and natural attractions like waterfalls. When we used a GPS in France, we rented and arranged it in advance thru AutoEurope. I've been to Iceland tho didn't rent a car, I found places to be well marked.

Posted by
107 posts

I have used google maps on my Pixel phone extensively all around the world (but not in Iceland). So I don't know about the Icelandic names You can (and should) download the desired maps while on a good wifi connection. I usually do it at home before I leave. Once you have the map on your phone you can search different routes and drop pins, etc. GPS does not require a wifi or data signal to work. If it can see the satellites it will work. However if you have not downloaded the maps your screen will be blank. Generally doesn't work in parking garages and tunnels. Map detail has been surprisingly good even in places as out of the way as the Canary Islands or Fiji. Driving directions usually make sense but one should always have and use a paper map for general orientation and for emergencies. I usually carry a phone holder that mounts in the car A/C vents and always have a charging cord that plugs into the cigarette lighter.

Posted by
1113 posts

I would also recommend expertvagabond.com/driving in Iceland for important info for driving in that country and rules of the road.

Posted by
113 posts

I am going to Iceland in 2 weeks and I had Sprint (now T-Mobile) and they allowed me to have free texts and 2G data while roaming. You should see if your phone plan has a similar set up. The data is super slow but enough to search the GPS for places and get a route going (I used google extensively this way throughout Europe). In my research on my trip, I have saved a ton of points of interests all around Iceland on my google maps. I plan on downloading the maps for offline use so that it will be easy to pick the next place to go and start directions by just clicking a pin. Since there are many options for downloading offline maps and using your phone as the GPS, I don’t see much reason to pay the rental company for one.

Side note: don’t forget to bring the adapter so you can plug your phone charger into the car

Posted by
3861 posts

Sometimes I use google maps and it is quite similar to the Maps.me app that i like to use, in that the Iceland map and data is going to be quite small in terms or downloading and storing the map. Whichever one is used, I recommend getting the app and downloading the Iceland map before you even leave home. It doesn't hurt to go ahead and pin your inns, restaurants and possible sites that you want to see. And again, if you are really used to something like Garmin, its a good idea to become familiar with the navigation app before you even leave home. There is no need for data at all when you are out and about. It's all stored and available to be used offline.

Posted by
2 posts

Many, many thanks to all who responded to my query about needing a GPS in the Iceland rental car. So many good ideas. I will contact my phone company about international coverage and try using the apps mentioned. This is the first time I have used the Rick Steves Travel Forum and I am impressed with the responses. Thanks again.

Posted by
3318 posts

See if the rental company offers GPS in the car. I am renting from Blue and you can pay a little extra for it to be included. I also got wifi in the car. I'm hoping it will simplify things since I'm going by myself.

Posted by
83 posts

We've had no trouble with offline maps just using Google maps on our phones. The names show up in Icelandic, you just have to know how to spell them! We've only lost signal when we were literally in a tunnel under a fjord.
To be clear, my phone isn't international or anything. Just using WiFi!

Posted by
3861 posts

Claire, just to be clear for the OP, if you've downloaded the maps, whether its google maps or maps.me, you do not need data or wifi for navigation. You just need to download the maps when you have wifi. I like to download maps before I leave home where I'm confident with the wifi, but maps can be downloaded at hotels or anywhere wifi is available. When you are using the apps for navigation, the phone becomes essentially a gps.

Posted by
860 posts

I am renting a wifi modem from trawire.com for my upcoming trip. You can use it for wifi in the car, in your hotel and even while hiking. It is $8/day. I will pick it up a an Orkan gas station near the airport. I can use the wifi for navigation as well as for wifi calling. The coverage map is pretty extensive. (No coverage on the top of the glaciers). I am going to the Westfjords and it seems to work there. The reviews are good.

I will give a report when I get back.