Iceland – Winter Driving
This post is for those of you who are worried about going to Iceland during the winter due to driving conditions. Now winter in Iceland is not a joking matter, but visiting Iceland during winter is absolutely magical and driving should not scare you. At some point you must realize that you cannot predict the weather months out, so you’ve just got to jump in and go for it. If you’re date is getting closer and the weather is not looking so great, here are some helpful tips for winter driving. (This post might not be as helpful for people who live in snow conditions for part of the year…)
Our trip to Iceland was at the very end of February/early March 2017. We arrived at Blue Car Rental at 4:00 am and were told that there is no way to get to Akureyri that morning and that the roads were going to close at noon to Reykjavik. We decided to grab some coffee while we thought it over and spoke to some hardy fishermen in a nearby town at 7:00 am about the road conditions. While we sipped coffee and listened to our Icelandic host, we could see our car rocking in the wind outside. Ehhhhhhhh. We decided to book another hotel in Reykjavik (by the way, I found *the perfect* baby apartment that is normally listed for $350 for $125 that night. They even let us check in early – angels.)
The next morning, after our impromptu night in Reykjavik, we decided to try for Akureyri as heavy large snowflakes began to fall. When we returned to Reykjavik two days later, it was covered in 2-3 feet of snow. The entire south coast was a blanket of snow. Our accommodation change caused us to have less time in Akureyri, but we ended up having sunny skies for 80% of our trip!
By the way, our car was tiny! But it was mighty. (See above with my derpy smile) We stayed on main roads for most of our trip and never felt out of control. When I was researching, I saw most people recommending SUV’s, but I am here to say that if you are staying on main roads and drive smart, smaller vehicles are definitely an option.
TIPS FOR DRIVING
- Use Iceland’s road conditions map: http://www.road.is/
- Treat Iceland (the entire country) like a national park. People are looking around at the sites and ponies and often not paying attention to the road. Yes, there are beautiful things to look at, so slow down and look for safe turnouts.
- Get the rental insurance and ensure you have snow tires. Most car rental places will already have snow tires on the car before you arrive, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. As for the insurance, we decided to go with Blue Car Rental in part because all insurance was included, except SAAP (Sand and Ash Protection), which we added on. It’s a wild landscape out there, get the protection and ease of mind.
- They will definitely tell you, but I will say it here a well: Doors are not covered in the insurance. This is due to the strong winds constantly breaking doors that people are not holding onto. Suggestion: ALWAYS use two hands to open the doors.
- Avoid sharp turns (especially in an SUV). While driving the south coast, boyfriend and I witnessed an overturned SUV, horn blaring, glass sparkling everywhere. We must have passed the scene 10 – 15 minutes after it happened! We did not stick around to find out exactly what happened, (thankfully it looked like everyone was OK) but we were shook. Many people opt for an SUV for snow conditions. The higher clearance is a gift in most cases, but the SUV’s downfall is their tendency to be top-heavy and flip over. In winter conditions, you’re going to want to avoid sharp turns in any vehicle. Instead slow down early and take turns real easy.
- Hey, you know what, it’s okay to go slower than the speed limit. Visibility changes frequently, so give yourself some space from the car in front of you.
- Consider changing plans. Conditions change frequently in Iceland, so give yourself a moment to think about your best options – is that changing your plans for the day or for that evening? Or maybe just an hour or two?
Do you have experiences driving in difficult winter conditions in a foreign country?? Tell us about it below!