I while back I was approached by Avis/Budget car rental and asked whether I would be willing to try out a new GPS Audio tour they were offering with their rentals called Myway. They would provide me with the car and the GPS and I could choose from going the Golden Circle, the South Coast or the Reykjanes Peninsula. When I was in Israel last year I discovered a new appreciation for audio tours (does this mean I’m old?) when I spent hours in Yad Vashem and the Israel museum drinking in the knowledge from the gadget around my neck. I then went to the Settlement Center in Borgarnes (loved it, you should definitely visit), where they also offer audio guides, and now I’ve signed up for Team Audio Guides For Life and will happily spend a little extra for the brilliance that they are. So I was quite intrigued by this concept.
Since I had some business to attend in the south coast I decided to kill two birds with one stone and opted for the South Coast tour. I convinced my sister Alma to join me and last week we packed our bags and headed out for a mini south shore adventure.
The Myway GPS Audio tour
Before I go any further I should probably mention that I don’t actually need GPS for driving around the south coast. I’ve been there many times before and I don’t feel very lost driving around my own country. We did try to imagine that we were travelers driving these roads for the first time and sometimes we let the GPS control our journey against our better judgement. We were trying to put ourselves in your shoes so we could give you a better idea whether this is a useful service or not.
For the most parts the Myway GPS audio tour is a great way to experience a new area. The system uses the GPS coordinates to play interesting information about the places you are driving past, gives out good advice (such as don’t go too close to the sea at Reynisfjara beach) and gives you some background on the history and geology of the areas. The guide is narrated by a man with a British accent (we called him Charles) and the stories are enhanced by environmental sounds that fit whatever subject Charles is chatting on about. We waited eagerly for every new soundbite and we agreed that this really added to our experience.
As for the parts we didn’t like; they were a combination of us having never used a GPS system before and hitting the wrong buttons, a conflict between Charles and the lady voice that tells you were to turn and such (we called her Margaret) and the lack of information given by the Avis staff at the beginning of our journey.
As I said before, I don’t need a GPS in Iceland and have never used such a device before. You get a little memory card to insert into your GPS device with a predefined route and the staff told us before we headed off which button to press to to start our journey. What they didn’t tell us is that if you hit the wrong button once you are on your way (which is easy, we did it) you will start your route over and the system can’t recalculate and start from your current location.
As a result of us hitting the wrong button at the wrong place Margaret, the “turn left at the next intersection” lady, was constantly trying to get us back to Reykjavík. We didn’t realize this in the beginning but ignored her suggestions (like when she tried making us turn into a closed road that is only accessible by jeeps) because we felt they were a bit strange. In the “lets pretend we’re tourists” spirit we did follow her advice once which led us to going in circles and in the end she took us to an intersection and told us to turn to the wrong direction. That’s when we realized that she was trying to get us back to Reykjavík so we could start the journey again. We are Icelanders so we knew the directions were wrong but I’d hate if someone who doesn’t know better would follow her advice and end up driving in circles.
All of this confusion could have easily been avoided if the staff would just have added Oh and make sure you don’t hit this button to their very brief introduction to the system.
The second problem we ran into, which could have only been a problem because Margaret wanted us to go back, was a conflict between the audio guide and the directions. An audio guide soundbite, Charles, would go off and at the same time Margaret would tell us to turn left and the system would crack and neither one would finish their bit. It was like Margaret and Charles were a married old couple that couldn’t agree on anything and we were their poor children that miss out on important stuff due to their parents fighting. In the end, after missing a few lectures from Charles, we decided to turn of the guiding (because we couldn’t find another way to mute Margaret and she was telling us to go the wrong way anyway) and hoped that Charles would still tell us if there was something interesting to see on the way. Which he did and as a result Alma and I decided that we want to live with him after the divorce.
If you want to combine a self-drive day tour with a bit of audio guidance Myway is an easy and affordable way to do it. I know this is a new product for Avis/Budget so maybe they haven’t figured out the best way to advice people yet but in any case I’ll send this report to the person I dealt with and hopefully they’ll give better instructions to their customers in the future. Upon our return we explained our troubles to the staff (who were in training, to their defense) and they told us they had never used a GPS either so who were they to advice us. Once we turned off the GPS guidance though (or muted Margaret) we really enjoyed Charles and his stories.