Driving in Iceland during winter
Driving in Iceland during winter may be very different from what you are used to and may come as a surprise. Remember that you are responsible for checking road conditions and weather conditions during your trip and assessing if it is safe for you to travel.
When driving in winter the roads are often icy. Slow down and drive safe.
Driving on ice
During winter roads are often icy. It requires you to slow down. If your vehicle starts to slide TAP THE BREAK GENTLY several times and keep calm. DO NOT push the break to the floor as the tyres might lock – losing their ability to slow you down.
Black ice is invisible ice you might experience when driving in Iceland during winter.
INVISIBLE ICE that makes the roads extremely slippery. It can happen quite quickly when temperatures are dropping from below zero.
Patches of ice are common on Icelandic roads during winter. Drive safely in Iceland.
Patches of ice
Even though the road has been clear for miles, only a small patch of ice on the road can do a lot of damage, especially to a driver who is not alert.
How to identify ice
1. Landscape – The chances of ice in flat areas are greater than in incline. Temperatures also decrease when you go higher up so chances of ice on mountain roads are greater than in the lowlands.
2. Weather – There are greater chances of ice when there are clear skies in twilight and during night. Usually the nights are colder when the air is dry and in those circumstances dew and damp can cause ice on the surface of the roads.
3. Proximity to water or sea – Where roads lie close to rivers, waters or sea there is more dampness in the air which increase the chances of ice on the roads.
4. Shelter – Increased chances of ice are on roads who are sheltered by for example forests, cliffs or other parts of the landscape. There are more chances of night-frost in still weather than in wind.
5. The thermometer in the car – Drivers should not depend too much on the thermometer in the car as the temperature close to earth can be different than what the meter shows. If the meter shows less than 4-5°C in still weather, drivers need to be alert and keep in mind that ice can form concurrent to precipitation (rain, snow etc.) or when the roads are wet.
Gravel roads also get icy during winter. Gravel roads are not suited for fast driving.
Icy gravel roads (unpaved roads) are dangerous
Many rural roads in Iceland are gravel roads, not suited for fast driving. During winter they can be icy as well. Please drive carefully as driving on ice is very different compared to dry surfaces. We recommend that you drive at the speed you feel comfortable with and let other drivers pass you rather than try to keep up with other drivers.
When a car comes from the opposite direction, slow down and pull out to the right side of the road. This can reduce risk of costly damage to paint and windshield from flying stones.
The sun in Iceland sits very low during winter. Drive safely in Iceland.
Blinded by the sun
Sunny weather can be risky as the sun sits low in the sky during winter, often completely in the driver’s line of sight.
Make sure your windshield is as clean as possible and remember to bring your sunglasses.
Driving in snow is something you will experience when renting a car during winter in Iceland.
Driving in snow
If the road lines are unclear, yellow sticks mark where the road lies. Snow removal services can be limited, and some roads might be closed temporarily. Always check road conditions.
Avoid driving your rental car into roads with heavy snow as you will likely get stuck.
Avoid roads with heavy snow as the vehicle will probably get stuck. Cost of rescue is high and can cause costly damage to the vehicle. It will also delay your trip.
If you get stuck in snow. Wiggle the rental car front and back and have someone push the car.
If stuck in snow
If stuck in snow – wiggle the car front and back without pressing the accelerator too hard. Have someone push the car back and forth, as you wiggle. Move snow away from the tyres and from underneath the car.
If there is no hope of getting the car out, please call for help. DO NOT LEAVE THE VEHICLE. The weather can change quickly preventing you from finding the vehicle again putting your life in danger.
Never drive your rental car into closed roads. The roads can be blocked due to extreme road or weather conditions.
Roads can be blocked temporarily due to extreme road conditions, weather and snow. Please do not enter a road that is blocked as it may be dangerous and cause serious damage to your rental car. Please note that closed roads are not always blocked with signs. Always check information about road conditions before hitting the road.