In Iceland: Renting a Car with Kuku Campers

*Kuku have updated their fleet and mileage policies, so this is my opinion on a car that is no longer on their lot*

At first I said I want to go to Iceland. Check. Then I said I want to drive in Iceland. Check. And now that I am back home, I want to drive a 4×4 in Iceland. Thankfully there are lots of rental companies with lots of different types of cars and cars for different budgets.

If you want to read my 4×4 camper review click here!

Kuku Campers.

What I liked: 

They rent to people ages 20 and up. On their website in their FAQ page they state that they will rent to anyone 20 and older who has a full drivers licence. Excellent! This is probably the number one reason I booked with them. I have always wanted to drive in another country and Kuku could make that happen!

Independence. Having the freedom to make your own timetable. Not having to be back on a bus at a certain time was the best. Iceland shouldn’t have a timer. It should be enjoyed at your own pace. Being able to drive anywhere (with the exception of the highlands) was just amazing!

You can camp almost anywhere. Now I have heard it’s illegal to camp somewhere other than an campsite in a town that has one but one night I had to sleep in a petrol station car park. You probably should do way more research than I did on campsites and where to sleep but I just went with the flow. Also I must confess, I think I stole a night’s sleep at Skogafoss. I generally think if you are out of the way and not causing any damage or disruption to man or animal, you will be ok. But do more research!

Was pretty comfortable to sleep in. I decided that the first thing I needed to do was go to Ikea (5 mins away from Kuku’s reception) and get a pillow and duvet. Luckily the two items were less than €10 and they made all the difference! Once you get your pillow, sleeping bag, duvet situation sorted and you are in a pair of fluffy socks it can be very comfy! Do note though it does get horrendously cold. Like really really cold. Bring all layers. But once you find the right cocoon you will be fine.

What I didn’t like:

Difficult to get to. So taxi’s in Iceland are renowned for being very expensive. I think it would have cost €80 to get from the airport to the industrial estate Kuku is located. The flybus+ drops passengers to local hotels. I asked what is the closest hotel they could drop me to the street Kuku Campers is on and it was no where near where I needed to be. So that meant I had to ask them to pick me up for a fee of €50. Not so bad but I wanted to find a cheaper alternative.

Old car.  So I chose to get an A Category Renault Kangoo but then Kuku choose what camper you get. It was a 2005 model with 216000 kilometers on the dial. This is a 10 year old car and although I have no doubt that their mechanic is top notch, the car had issues purely for being an old car.PhoebeGill150916886 It had belt issues, which meant that when I started up the car a loud squealing noise would sound from it. Meaning everyone camping around me could hear it too. I felt really bad driving though a load of people most likely waking them up. The full headlights only worked sometimes. It would be pitch black and I couldn’t get the lights to click into place. At one point I had to jam it four or five times because I needed to be seen at 10pm on the isolated south coast road, it finally stayed on after that. Not only that but the main headlight bulbs had gone on one side.

Luckily I got all of the insurances because it was given to me with three cracks in the window. This just means you have to be extra careful that you don’t go into a pothole and make the cracks bigger. Stupidly I didn’t check the window when I was marking the sheet of all of the dents and scratches so I am probably liable for them. So if you are a first time renter check the windows! Thankfully they take on full costs of fixing it if you have the insurance.

It had a horrendous sticky gear box. I actually have a bruise on my palm because getting the camper into reverse was stupidly hard. I would lift up the button to get the car in reverse, put it in gear and it would bounce out again. Going into third when your supposed to be in first was all too easy and it made for a frustrating experience.

I didn’t notice this until I got home and drove my own car but the camper had incredibly ridged steering. I developed strained forearm muscles because I had to pull the steering wheel harder than my own car. Not to mention, in the wind it is actually painful to keep the car in a straight line. Icelandic wind is no joke, slow down and you should be ok.

Basically I think Britney is on her way out.

The look. I really don’t mean to offend anyone here but this camper was embarrassing to drive around in.  If you know me in my day to day life than you know that I am a very private, quiet person. I keep to myself and I try not get in anyones way. Kuku campers are the complete opposite of that entirely! On one side it had a haunting paint job of Britney’s iconic shaved head picture of her about to beat the paparazzi with an umbrella. This wasn’t a very good likeness and the paint is so light that it doesn’t really look like her. The other side said “I’m not that innocent” The two sides don’t really match up. Also as a solo female traveller it’s not the nicest thing to have on the side of your vehicle. Luckily Iceland is safe.

PhoebeGill1509181288I could laugh it off in the beginning but as more and more people were looking at me and reading the side of it, the more I just wanted to sink into the ground. I got very odd looks and not a lot of laughs.

Another thing that really irked me entirely was that everyone else got a new camper. Kuku got a new fleet of campers with smaller paint jobs and lots of logos so a passer by knows it’s a rental and don’t assume the person diving is a crazy woman with a weird Britney obsession! Actually when I first arrived at the reception I saw a new one and was quite excited because I thought I was going to get it but alas.PhoebeGill150917040

I don’t know if I drew a short straw or if they gave me an old one because of my age but I payed almost €700 for a camper for 5 days and by the end of it I hated the camper. Which is such a shame.

300km a day limit. *They now have unlimited kms* Now I know this to many people would seem a stupid thing to put down as something to not like. I am sure people can keep to the limit very easily but I was by myself and I love driving which means that I drove all day. I don’t regret how much I drove at all. I had so much fun but the limit was constantly on my mind. It is €0.50 per km you go over.

Cooking. Although the camper comes with everything you need, I hate cooking. I hate timing things and putting things together. It is irritating and because there is no way to keep stuff fresh the main things I eat, couldn’t be brought with me in the camper. I just decided to eat hot dogs from the petrol stations, they are cheap and pretty tasty.

Filling up the tank:

I thought petrol was going to be really expensive so I put more of my savings into my account to make sure petrol would be covered but I was very pleasantly surprised. I drove over 1500km and I really did not spend that much at all. I thought when I got home and checked my balance I would have to sit down but no.  I did’t have to top up that often and by that much each time.

Top tips!

  1. Cover your head when you are sleeping! Either with a blanket or duvet. I know it can feel very claustrophobic but if you have even a small barrier between your face and the cold it makes the world of difference. Creating a cocoon is very important when sleeping in a freezing cold van.
  2. I got an power converter from Lidl and it was perfect at charging my phone and iPod for the five days I was there. They have them but it is an added extra of €20.
  3.  Bring plastic carrier bags. For wet clothes, boots, rubbish they are the handiest things. You can pick up a roll for a euro.
  4. Have a road map. You never know if your phone is going to play up or you forget to charge it. I think Eason online have maps for under €10.
  5. I added a camping chair to my booking and I didn’t use it once. Don’t bother.
  6. If you unfortunately get a 2005 camper you will need a FM transmitter if you want to listen to your own music. If you don’t have one that’s ok. Icelandic radio is very current and even among the lava fields you will probably get one station that doesn’t crack. I sang my lungs out to the tunes they were playing.
  7. GoPro motor mounts don’t stick well to dirty spray paint. Mine fell off twice. Thankfully there isn’t much traffic in the west part of Iceland.

The big question is would I recommend them? The answer is I don’t know. I think if you want to drive in Iceland and you are on a budget

, look into it and see what you think. Definitely check or ask about the new campers. Also if they try to give you Britney maybe run away. Actually at that point you have already paid for your camper entirely so that might be a waste of money. I think the ethos of the company is great but my experience had some issues.

Would I use them again? Probably not.

It wasn’t all bad. I just want you, my dear reader, to be informed about everything. I am so so happy I got to see Iceland my way and I got to sing along to the radio and pull over anywhere I wanted and discover new things I would never have got the chance to. I definitely recommend you rent any car in Iceland. I just think maybe it should be a little newer.

If you have any questions please leave them below! Do you know any other companies that rent to under 25 year olds in any part of the world? Let me know I am always interested!!

Happy Travels!

In Austalia: Uluru

Going to Uluru was a really cool experience! If you are travelling all the way to Australia on holiday going to the red centre is a must! When I was there is 2008 there were 5 resorts that you could stay in and we stayed in the Desert Gardens Hotel. PhoebeGill081229674-1

So before I get in to the wonders of Ayers Rock I must tell you that although my pictures look all sunny and wonderful…do you remember that Hurricane Billy I mentioned before, well he was in full swing, it rained every day we were there, torrential rain!

Also please note that Ayers Rock has a lot of bugs, there are different plagues of various creatures that come with the seasons, we just missed the locusts and when we where there, December time, there were giant moths and Christmas stink bugs.

When I say a plague, I mean a disgustingly large amount of bugs everywhere, even in the hotel. The stink bugs would be crawling up the back of chairs, on peoples backs and scurrying around the floor. As the name suggests, if you step on them, the smell is rotten so just ignore them, they are harmless. Moths were on every sign, painting, flat surface you can think of. It is even worse at night. Believe me when I say, it can get really bad, the lights are crawling with every bug you can think of and the lights are in the centre of the paths as you go to your room. Quite off putting. It’s not somewhere I could stay for very long. I would be a shaking mess in the corner. Right, now that that’s out of the way let me get on with the wonder that is Uluru!

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This beautiful sandstone rock in the middle of the Outback is beautiful! It is quite fascinating, think of an Iceberg, most of this rock is underground, we can just see the top. It is 348 meters tall and just under 10km walk around. PhoebeGill081229609-1

The natural erosion is beautiful! Above is the barrel, it is absolutely gorgeous! A big thing I noticed is that in the pictures of Ayres rock it is round, relatively flat and big but in person it is all different heights and bumpy. It also looked like quite a doable hike. I liked that it wasn’t like the postcards I had seen so many times over, I found that it was more interesting and engaging! TIP: buy a net hat. The flies are everywhere and they get in your ears. Buy one, it doesn’t matter how unattractive it is, it is more unattractive twitching and swatting as you try to shoo away the flies. PhoebeGill081229618-2

There are a couple of things I didn’t like about this tour I took, apologies I don’t have any information on what tour I took so you can know before you go but the first thing was that I didn’t like the way the guide used the Indigenous Australians as part of the tour.

About halfway through, two women joined the tour in order for us to get a better understanding of Aboriginal history and culture. Our guide would tell us what happened and their history but looking back as a 23 year old woman who has learnt a little bit more about the world, if I was there now I would want the white man to stop talking and for the people that were shoved into ‘our society’ (ie. into inadequate housing, with little help) to educate us. I still have a very primitive understanding of their history, (one of my favourite films is Rabbit Proof Fence, I recommend you watch it) which I must rectify. Getting back to my point, it felt that these two women were asked to come out in the blistering heat to stand around, answer a couple of questions and then be used for photos. I purposefully didn’t take a photo and I am very glad my 16 year old self refused to use these women. I understand that this interaction benefits both parties in some way but I don’t think of these two women as tourist attractions, they are human beings.

The more I travel and the older I get, the more I don’t always want to hear what someone who has learnt the information from a book, has to say on the matter. If possible I want real accounts, real people, real stories.
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The other, less major thing I didn’t like is that we didn’t go to a lookout point in order to see the rock from a distance. I got my photos, which are terrible, from the bus window.

Anyway, I want to finish this post by saying that my trip was definitely worth it. It is a beautiful, other worldly part of Australia. Couldn’t recommend it enough and am so glad I got the opportunity to see this wonder! Have you been to Ayers Rock? Do you want to go?

Happy Travels!

In Life: My Experience with the DSPCA

As I have mentioned before we got our dogs from responsible breeders, now I know people have very strong feelings about this but that was what we did and we got fantastic Labradors out of  it. When Honey, my lab, got epilepsy and at the age of 11 had chronic cancer in her liver and spleen I knew it was from her over breeding. It greatly changed my opinion on getting a dog from the popular breeds list.

I have had very little contact with the DSPCA before but after Honey died I went up to donate food and toys and I had a look around. For the next six months I would think about all the dogs in the pound and I would scour the website to see what dogs were on offer. The DSPCA is located in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin. Not far away from me at all. When I brought up the rest of my family I knew rescuing was the best way forward and I was thrilled when we found Tiffin.

So, how was my experience?

Short answer: Very good.

Sunday: I saw Tiffin on the Sunday, I put my name down for her that day and arranged for my family to see her on that day to speed up the process. All members of a home must see the dog before you take a dog home.

Wednesday: Next was a home check, these are carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday, that Tuesday was Paddy’s day so no home check available so Wednesday rolled around and a nice man called to our home to check there was a walled garden and to talk about our dog and what would be best for her. The inspection was quick and we were good to go.

Thursday: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the days of adoption, you are only allowed to adopt at 3:30 sharp on those days! Don’t be late to this, it slows the whole process down.

There were 8 of us adopting puppies so they brought us into their lecture room and two lovely women talked us through our dogs, each adopters had their own pack with individual information about their dog. There was all the relevant paperwork that you will need for your dog. The price of the adoption includes neutering, which is fantastic! It also includes a free health check and 6 weeks insurance.

I was really surprised at the amount of detail and care involved. The information pack was filled with information about what they do and also information for you and your dog.

Here are some links for further information:

  1. Here are the ways you can support the DSPCA other than adopting an animal. 
  2. Here are all the animals you can adopt.
  3. Their facebook page.
  4. Here is how you can donate to the DSPCA.

Some things to remember:

  1. The team are very busy, keep that in mind, I know you are excited but they have a lot to do.
  2. The phone may not be the best way to contact them, talking in person is the best way to get an animal.
  3. Research the breed you are interested in, know what you are getting into.
  4. Don’t get a dog because it’s cute or cuddly or ‘cool’. Just no.
  5. Always neuter! They will do this before any dog or cat goes to a new home BUT if you get a puppy or kitten, go back on your designated day and neuter your animal!
  6. Taking home an animal from a shelter can be an adjustment, they have learnt habits that may not be acceptable in your home but be patient and reward the good, do not go straight to punishment, they wont understand.
  7. Give your animal lots and lots of love, their lives didn’t get the best start, think of that when you look at them, that their life now should be the most amazing, fun filled experience from now on.

My experience with the DSPCA was great, they went into great detail, there was so much information, they provide so many services like day care and training classes. They were kind and helpful. If you ever wanted to rescue I would definitely look into getting an animal from the DSPCA!

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: My Experience in January

I spent three days in this beautiful country and I am no where near done. This is what I have done so far. Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.21.23

Reykjavik: 

I love the city, no skyscrapers, colourful houses, beautiful street art makes this city a perfect place to wander around and relax. I loved shopping downtownwalking from Harpa to the lake. Going to Hallgrímskirkja and looking at the amazing view from the top. It’s also so close to the sea which is my favourite place to be! The entire sea front area is beautiful. I loved seeing the Sun Voyager sculpture

Exploring this city is a must and I can’t wait to find more places next time. Here is my post on the food I experienced in Iceland! PhoebeGill150109076 PhoebeGill150109144

The Golden Circle:

The Golden Circle is a great tour to do in winter, it runs all year round and is generally easy to do if you want to self drive. First stop is Þingvellir National Park it is a beautiful location which is steeped in geographical and historical information. I definitely want to go back in summer/autumn! Next up is Geysir and Strokkur beautiful location to see the amazing power of nature, Lastly but in no means least is the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall this place is so beautiful! A must see.

PhoebeGill150110208 PhoebeGill150110416South Iceland:

I had one day to get a glimpse of South Iceland and the short amount of time I spent there was amazing! I drove to Vik but the weather was so bad that I couldn’t see anything. I got to stop and take lots of photos of the amazing landscapes and I got to say hello to the cutest most lovely Icelandic Horses.

I did get to see two beautiful waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss

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Tips:

  1. Save up your money! I know people say it’s expensive all the time but it really is!
  2. If you want to do a lot, go on tours. Iceland is amazing but in Winter bus tours and super jeep tours are the easier option. Icelandic people know how to get around their country in Winter.
  3. Here is my post on my self drive experience
  4. Get a good jacket! I got a insulated Regatta Jacket and it was perfect!
  5. Also get a good pair of boots, if you want to do any walking get ones with good traction and waterproof shoes.

Things to note!

  1. The hot water smells like sulphur, it’s geothermal water, it’s normal don’t worry.
  2. In January daylight is from 11am-4:30pm. It does mean you get beautiful light for photos but not a lot of time adventuring.
  3. Everything is accessible. All attractions mentioned above are all just off the road. Really easy to get to and they all have toilets.
  4. Parking is really good in Iceland, there are car parks and on street parking, you can pay by card on the meters which is also really handy.

So that’s it, I can’t think of anything else. I think 14 posts for three days travel is pretty good. Have I missed anything? What should I see next?

Happy Travels!

In Reykjavik: View From The Top

Something that you have to do in Reykjavik is go to the top of Hallgrímskirkja. It is absolutely beautiful!

There is an admission fee of 700isk (€7) that you buy in the shop just past the entrance.

There are four sides of the tower to get a panoramic view of the city. But three of them are the best.

1. The stunning view of Mt. Esja.PhoebeGill150112019

2. The straight view of downtown Reykjavik. With the colourful buildings and gorgeous view of the water.
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3. The view of where the sun rises and the expanse of the city.PhoebeGill150112058The views are so beautiful and well worth the 7 euro. Have you been up the tower?

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Food and Where to Eat

Iceland has no McDonalds or Starbucks, I knew I was going to like this country when I learned this information. Here are some of the things I tried in the three days I was there.

What I Ate In Reykjavik:

First up is Hamborgarafabrikkan (Hamburger Factory) I went to the one in the Kringlan Shopping Center, a really nice mall with loads of shops. It’s a nice setting, with interesting decorations and even more interesting choices of burgers. There is a lot to choose from I decided to get a Morthens (without mushrooms) beef, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Béarnaise sauce. Yes that is correct, the tastiest sauce is on a burger! It cost 2075 isk which is €14. I liked it very much, it also comes with fries which are very tasty. The burger is very filling and cooked very nicely. It’s is quite like Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Ireland. Very tasty and a nice treat.

One thing I noticed that I was the only one eating the burger with my hands. Everyone and I mean everyone, used a knife and fork to eat their food. I found this very odd so if you want to fit in then maybe choose your cutlery.

PhoebeGill150129001The second night I went to Forréttabarinn (Starters) this is like an Icelandic tapas type restaurant down by the marina, sea front area. They have starters and larger starters. Starters cost 1550 Isk which is €10 and bigger starters are 2450 isk which is €16. Now this restaurant is very nice, it’s a nice design inside and the art on the building is gorgeous, it’s got a bar and a restaurant so it’s a great place to chill out. The food is cooked well and very tasty but the portions are small. I had the Teriyaki chicken skewer to start and it is tiny! It was two pieces of chicken on a bed of salad and lentils and a puree of some sort. Very pleasant but small for ten euro.

The main I chose was the cod and pork belly, im not a huge fan of cod or fish in general so I asked if I could just have the pork on it’s own and the chief said no it wouldn’t work, when it arrived at the table I understood what he meant. It was one thin slice of pork and about four pieces of cod, with again a nice puree and tomato sauce. Again very tasty and the fish wasn’t oily and too strong for my taste but again very small for 16 euro.

This place is really nice and I know Iceland is expensive but you should have a meal knowing your going to be nicely full and be comfortable having three courses without worrying how much every plate costs.
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I then went to Sjávargrillið (Seafood Grill) This restaurant is on the main street of Reykjavik, it’s a pleasant place with a nice design, terrible music but you can get over that. I once again chose pork, if you don’t already know I love pork! It was pork belly, some poached pears, celeriac, potato, some puree, red cabbage, fig puree and caramel popcorn. Now firstly, there was way too much stuff on the plate, way too much! I didn’t eat most of it. Second, the vegetables were undercooked, the meal was not hot, it was lukewarm and I didn’t really feel like most of the stuff went together at all. The main courses range from 3990 isk (€26) to 6720 isk (€45) and I can whole heartedly say, it is not worth the money. It’s really unfortunate, this is the second best restaurant in Reykjavik and I don’t really know why. We got 4 things, a starter, two mains, one glass of wine and tap water and it was €110. That is way too much money! PhoebeGill150112163

Now I have no idea if these are what is normal in Reykjavik or Iceland in general but it was quite difficult to sit through a meal thinking about how much stuff costs. It puts a strain on the atmosphere. These were all dinner places so maybe lunch restaurants are more comfortable but I was busy during the day.

I am not done with the eating in Reykjavik, I will be back to try more food!

Snacks and Food: 

I tried a Klenät, which is a twisted doughnut, it was deliciously spiced and half coated in chocolate. It is a scandinavian pastry. It was really tasty and I think it would go perfectly with coffee or a hot chocolate. I got mine in Kornið bakarí (Grain bakery) and it cost 999 isk (€6.50)

PhoebeGill150109086I love going to the supermarkets when I travel and scanning the aisles for different and interesting foods. I went to Hagkaup to explore what Iceland has to offer.

One of my favourite things I got was this juice from the supermarket. I was sick in Iceland (typical!) and I wanted to get something that gave me some vitamins. I saw this ginger juice on the shelf and I got very excited, it is really delicious! It’s got a good amount of ginger, a really nice heat. If you like ginger you will love this! I miss it! It cost 204 isk (€1.40) PhoebeGill150110423

I was shown poppsalt about two years ago and I wanted to get my own jar, I love cinema popcorn, I love the stale, way too salty, buttery popcorn that is way overpriced but I simply can’t justify how expensive it is! So when I was told about this I needed to pick it up. It is exactly like cinema popcorn and you don’t have to use a lot to achieve the results! It’s 362 isk (€2.40) I definitely recommend you check out the spice aisle and I don’t know what I will do when I run out, I’m just going to have to take another trip!
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Another thing you should check out is the lamb soup at Gullfoss, it is a tasty, warming broth thats packed full of veggies and meat. You should check it out, you also get a free refill!

Chocolate:PhoebeGill150114002PhoebeGill150115004Icelandic chocolate is yummy! They have a lot of variations and they are all tasty! It’s also probably going to be the cheapest thing in the shop so it’s really easy to pick up! I recommend the 45% chocolate, it is delicious!!

Some things I noticed:

  1. Icelandic tap water is wonderful! You definitely don’t need fizzy drinks!
  2. There is a lot of Americanised food. I saw Jolly Ranchers, Reece’s, half liter cans of coke, free refills, KFC, Taco Bell. It’s weird being in Europe and seeing so much american food.
  3. They love fish and pork together. Odd for me but the cod and pork I had was nice.
  4. Eating in restaurants is really expensive!
  5. The supermarket has everything! Lots of european and american stuff.
  6. Gas Stations or garages usually have hot food, like hot dogs, burgers and toasted sandwiches. So they are handy if you are travelling outside restaurant opening hours and on the road.

The Icelandic food I had was generally really nice but the price is quite steep. I would love to try some traditional family food, I wonder what it is like. I also want to try lots of cafes because I’m sure there are some lovely places! I can’t wait to go back. I hope this inspires some of you. Do you have any recommendations? 

Happy Travels!