For a long time I have wanted to go on holiday to Iceland and also wanted to take the drone to some different places. So hence an impromptu booking of a trip to Iceland after chatting to a friend who travels a lot, he inspired me. To be fair I booked the flight, airbnb and car and then thought hang on could this be quite an isolating place? Considering it’s barren landscape with a population of just over 330,000 and I would be staying in an apartment on my own! So with that I asked a couple of friends and one said hell yes she would come with me.
The next few blog posts won’t just be about flying the drone in Iceland although that was one of the main considerations of going. I thought I would share the tips given to me to make your holiday in Iceland the best it can be! Part drone blog, part travel log.
My first one would be to check the drone laws for the country you are going to. I did this by contacting the Icelandic UAV association. The drone laws are fairly relaxed in Iceland as there is so much open space. They request not flying over crowds of people or congested areas, not near airports and to be respectful of landowners requests not to fly but also to point out at major sights you are not supposed to fly. You will see a number of these signs
I was advised by The Icelandic UAV association, although currently the law is relaxed things are changing and they want anyone with a drone to be respectful not to spoil it for others. The above sign apparently is not law abiding but why would you want to get in to confrontation to fly at a beauty land mark. Going to other countries my intention is always to be respectful of all customs and laws.
First step getting the drone to Iceland. You can’t put lipo batteries in the hold of the plane, CAA guidelines suggest two batteries to be carried on per person as hand luggage. I took three my friend had one and I had 2 in my drone ruck sack. They were taped as per picture and each in its own lipo battery. I also took them with just 30% charge.
I was a bit anxious as I went through security at Manchester airport with a drone in a back pack and other various cameras as a film maker, I had a lot of equipment and cards etc. I just didn’t want to have to put the ruck sack in the hold! My fears were unfounded. The security guards were very good and told me to unpack everything which did slow me down. It’s very rare I fly with any company and I can say it was amazing having my friend as she picked up my money, passport and boarding pass from the tray. Then I was able to concentrate on making sure I had all the camera bits, drone, i-pad and charger in place.
First tip – make a list of all equipment you are taking if you are going as a holiday maker you don’t need a full carnet but its good to have a record somewhere of what you are taking. Items serial numbers useful for insurance make sure your travel insurance/ home insurance covers your equipment if you are a hobbiest. If pro check your insurance covers your drone in the country you are going. If you are going as part of a production team you will need to create a carnet as customs in each company want to check what you are taking in and out of the country. Your production manager will help you with this.
I bought a cheap rucksack from eBay, I would send a link but as mine arrived I was informed the listing had to be removed by eBay. It was an XY drone back pack for phantom 3. I was a bit disappointed when it arrived as the drone has to be carried upside down as you place it inside an opening on the back pack. I thought if it doesn’t work for me, I will use this to carry camera kit anyway. It cost me £38.
As you can see bit of a squeeze for the drone but I ensured that the filters were off the drone and the gimbal clamp on. I can report back that all was well drone arrived safely and flew fine. This week I will be telling you more about where I flew the drone and more details but for now just wanted to share about the arrival in Iceland and to share some of top tips about your holiday in Iceland.
The flight was an early flight with Easy Jet and I added a bag to go in the hold, as far too many layers to take and walking boots and also took some food supplies. Iceland is very expensive, the flights might be cheap, but the food and fuel is expensive. Hence the reason to stay in an airbnb! If you have never heard of airbnb, where have you been? I always hire a full apartment from a host. This meant we had a base and also somewhere to cook. I don’t normally self-cater on holiday I am not a brit abroad, I like to sample local restaurants etc. It was a necessity to do Iceland on some kind of budget. If you are only going for a couple of nights this may not actually work out cheaper for you. Packed lunches were a god send as on the road trips, no guarantee of cafe’s and again expenses were cut by doing it this way. I am not keen on seeing a cheese sandwich for a while! Or a tube of pringles or biscuits for that matter, and need to get on the healthy track for a bit.
Before leaving the UK we were advised to purchase alcohol at the airport – we got some gin on the way out and when you land there is a shop at the airport for arrivals to purchase wine and some spirits. This is because the Icelandic government controls the sale of alcohol you won’t pick up in supermarkets
The airport at Keflavik is about 40 – 50 mins outside Reykjavik and its one of the nicest airports I have been too. It is the international airport the domestic airport is in Reyjavik. This hotel is very swish, very well designed and a lovely wooden floor.
Next stop to pick up the hire car. This took just over 4 hours from landing and is a tale of caution to anyone hiring a car in Iceland. We landed at the airport and could not see our listed hire company Green Motion – but could see Hertz, Europacar, Avis and Budget. These had desks in the main part of the airport, so we decided to get a shuttle bus out to the car hire places that are opposite the airport. We found out our company was not there. So got the bus back, this took us about 15 mins but gave me and insight to what happens. People turn up, sign for their car and drive off. Simple isn’t it, NOT if you book with Green motion. We sat in the airport from 8.45am waiting for Green Motion, to collect us. By this time we had managed to speak to airport information who said hire companies not listed come and collect you from the airport. So we sat waiting in this time we saw that people were landing, and collecting their cars from their main desk and within 15 mins they were off. We got collected at just after 10 am – this was 2 hours after we had landed. Then we were taken to an industrial estate just off the motorway. Take a ticket and wait inline, at the desk there were two members of staff – with two travellers just like us. Both had very interesting body language. 50 minutes – yes 50 minutes after getting to that office we finally got to sit with a hire assistant. Before this I had said to Megan watch this is a serious sales mission taking place and I was right.
He was very pleasant in a I don’t want to be here kind of way! In Iceland there are different rules to driving, the speed limits are very strict, weather can affect your driving, ice, wind, earthquakes and ash clouds. You are shown a lot of informative pictures, of cars with doors ripped off their hinges, back windows blown out, cars covered in ash. Rocks fallen from the mountains and chips all over cars from driving on the gravel roads that are the roads come off the main highway. Informative and ammunition for what was to come next which as predicted was sales to upgrade your insurance. Now when I booked my car online through a website called rentalcars.com I purchased extra insurance for £65. This said I would not be liable for any damage accidental or natural hazards. As a tired traveller who has been waiting for hours they have you. They play on the what could happen. That what insurance is about after all. Thing is the insurance worked out one and half times what I had already paid. But oh they would be claiming off your credit card and then you would need to claim from the website that you purchased the car rental from and that would be a nightmare. I don’t know what happened but something inside me said NO this has gone on long enough. I said no we don’t need any extra insurance and we just need to add my friend to the insurance and get the satellite navigation. On which the hire assistant had changed, he was definitely not bothered now. He gave us the car keys and some paper work to sign with damaged marked. He said if you are not happy with this come back in. My experience of car hire firms is usually they come out and go round the car with you. We got our cases in the car and it was just 4 hours after landing. The flight to Iceland is only 2 hours from England.
So off we set, with a car that had many marks and damage on it. Thinking this was one of the doggiest hire firms I have ever experienced. What I did do is take photos of the car from all angles and close ups of the existing damage on my phone should I need them at a later date.
Concentration on driving on the opposite side of the road took most of my brain power then we hit the highway and between us we kept saying WOW – look at the landscape, we are in Iceland and then about 20 mins into the journey realised that I had not switched the lights on. We had been informed that its a legal requirement to have the headlights on during the day as well as night. This obviously an older car they had to be switched on. Because I was tired, I did not notice that there was a warning light and didn’t connect that to the fact I had just switched the lights on. Megan then spent a 10 mins looking through the car manual. Then I realised it was to do with the headlights. We were now only 7 or 8 mins from the apartment and we really needed to get there as it was now nearly 5 hours since we had landed, we left home at 4am and needed food.
The apartment was lovely, then the plan was to phone the hire company as they have an office in the city as well as the airport. The next day was Easter Sunday and everything would be shut. My phone did not work, so we decided to go to Reykjavik and call from a call box once we had eaten. We found out that Iceland doesn’t have pay phones but a lovely tourist shop said please use our phone. The Icelandic people are actually really helpful and very kind. We called to report the fault and I spoke to someone and the plan was to send him my address via email and he would come and fix a new bulb into the car. He also took my email address and we both took time to check the spelling. We went straight back to the apartment and I sent him photos of where we were staying the road names and number. We had now to wait at the apartment when really I should have asked where the office in the city was and driven there but it seems they have satellite companies that fix the problems with the cars. Again tiredness not making my thoughts clear. By 6 pm we had waited all day to get the car sorted. I emailed both Reykavik offices, head offices and the guy I had spoken to on the phone whilst waiting sent two messages to be on the safe side.
Then I looked at my phone I had service, must have just taken a while to connect – so I called and spoke to someone and explained I had waited in all day. He then said I will come back to you, then another man called who was brilliant and said I am coming to save the day. Which he did, after a couple of calls he found our apartment we met him outside and he swapped the cars over! This car was like new very clean and no chips or scratches but no paper work.
So our holiday could finally start in Iceland and this was around 7pm after landing at 8am! So the moral of this long tale, book a known company and pay extra if necessary. The weather on Easter Saturday was glorious we missed out on a whole day of the first day due to this hire car experience. I am all for letting this stuff go in life, but feel that in sharing it you can learn from my experience. Please avoid Iceland 4X4 and Green Motion they are one and the same company.
Tomorrow I promise will be more about drone flying in Iceland
The Drone Lass