In Iceland: Self Driving in January

Let me preface this post by saying, I have never been in a Nordic/Scandinavian country during winter and I don’t have much experience with snow at all really.

Now I thought driving in Iceland would be a lot different to how it was. This first picture is what I thought the One road would be like, wet but clear roads but oh how I was wrong! I went on the 1 road and the 49 and the 36 roads. If you are not used to driving in snow, please be careful. You concentration levels go up and journeys take longer so factor that into your plans.

PhoebeGill150112068 The three days I was there, the weather was changeable and had strong winds. The roads for the first two days were like this photos below. All the roads where snowy and icy, all rental cars have studded winter tires which help dramatically.

I also went on a Grey Line tour, the busses are great on the snow and ice and it can take a lot of pressure and stress off your trip. A lot of people opt for Super Jeep tours (they look like a lot of fun) or bus tours. I think my Grey Line Golden Circle tour was around €65 per person. It was a full day from 10:30am – 7pm

PhoebeGill150111086 Tips for Self Driving:

  1. Weather changes very quickly. Pull over if you are nervous (In a safe place) and wait for it to pass.
  2. Go slow, Icelandic people can drive fast but you don’t have to, go slow, they will over take you.
  3. Watch the roundabouts, you can drift very easily.
  4. Remember, a journey that takes 2 hours might take you 4 or 5. It takes two and a half hours from Reykjavik to Vik but it took us over 5 hours, with breaks and the crazy weather changes and the fact you have to concentrate more.
  5. If you are driving around the country I recommend you have enough petrol, stop off and fill up the tank even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Just in case.
  6. If there are high winds, loose snow can cause really bad visibility, keep calm and find the yellow post at the side of the road. It is usually because you are in between a mountain, it will pass.

Some websites I recommend:

  1. How to drive in Iceland
  2. Road conditions for the whole of Iceland
  3. Safe Travel Iceland 
  4. 112 Iceland App

PhoebeGill150111590This photo above is what happens when loose snow is pushed by the wind. It is terrifying in the dark! Generally if you want to travel great distances you go first thing in the morning when its dark, make smart choices, you can always turn back.

Driving in Iceland was an experience! It is scary and difficult but it is kind of fun and you do get used to it. Just remember, never go into dangerous situations, keep calm and drive carefully.

Happy (Safe) Travels!

8 thoughts on “In Iceland: Self Driving in January

  1. I understand that it was to You great experience. It seems that You managed Your driving well. Your photos are marvelous. Congratulations. To us who live in Finland to drive in winter is just daily routine.

    Happy and safe travel.

  2. Hi Phoebe! Good to see you made it! 🙂 The key thing is as you emphasized, don’t drive fast, just drive as your personal experience, together with the weather and road conditions allow. We wrote a small article about the subject, maybe someone will find it helpful before embarking on a fantastic journey around Iceland during wintertime. Safe travels!

  3. Hi! What type of car did you rent? Torn between a 4×4 and a regular car! I enjoyed reading your blog 🙂

    1. This car was the Hyundai i35, it’s not a 4×4 though. I think it depends on the time of year and what you’ll be doing, if you are just doing the main tourist spots there might not be a need but if you are going to more off the beaten path you could go with a 4×4. Thank you 🙂

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