Driving in Iceland | Winter

Winter driving in Iceland may be very different from what you are used to and may come as a surprise. We are concerned about your safety and have therefore gathered the following information about driving in Iceland during the winter. We urge you to take the time to read it through carefully.

Remember, you are responsible for checking road and weather conditions and assessing if it is safe for you to travel. 

Driving on ice

During winter, roads are often icy - particularly outside the capital city. Icelanders use winter tyres during winter. All our rental vehicles come with winter tyres from mid-September to mid-April. Even with the right equipment icy roads, in combination with bad weather, require you to reduce your speed significantly. If your vehicle starts to slide, DO NOT PANIC. Keep calm, let go of the accelerator and try to stear in the direction the rear side is pointing. TAP THE BRAKE GENTLY several times. Do not push the brake to the floor as the tyres might lock - losing their ability to slow you down. In strong winds cars can be blown off icy roads.

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. When combined with icy or wet roads the reflection can be blinding.

Make sure that your windshields are as clean as possible as that has a large affect on your visibility. If you are having any problems with your windshield wipers please give us a call. Finally, remember your sunglasses!

Black ice

Black ice describes invisible ice. You cannot see it - yet the roads are extremely slippery. It can happen quite quickly when temperatures are dropping from just above zero to just below zero. In cold and icy weather please be mindful of black ice. 

Patches of ice

Patches of ice are common on Icelandic roads during winter. Even though the roads have been cleared for miles, only a small patch of ice can do a lot of damage, especially to a driver who is not alert. Strong winds can blow snow and ice onto a road that has already been cleared. Please drive slowly through patchy roads. 

Driving in snow

Even though there might be snow everywhere - off road driving is strictly forbidden and is illegal in Iceland. Yellow sticks mark where the road lies if the lines are unclear. Snow removal services are limited in rural areas - main roads are kept open but others might be closed due to heavy snow.

During winter road 939 and road 1 (next to road 938 and 937) in the eastern part of Iceland cannot be used. Drivers using road 1 during winter should drive the fjords from Djúpivogur through Breiðdalsvík (road 1) and to Reyðarfjörður (road 96) before heading from Egilsstaðir (road 92).

Getting stuck in snow

Try avoiding roads with heavy snow as the vehicle has a high chance of getting stuck. The cost of rescue will be high, even more so if the vehicle is damaged in the process. This will also delay your trip even more than if you had waited for the road to clear. 

If stuck in snow - wiggle the car's front and back without pressing the accelerator too hard (don't make the tyres spin). Have someone push the car back and forth as you wiggle. Move snow away from the tyres and underneath the car. 

If there is no hope of getting the car out on your own, please call for help. DO NOT LEAVE THE VEHICLE. The weather can change extremely quickly, preventing you from finding the vehicle again.

Extreme weather conditions 

Please check weather conditions when visiting Iceland in winter. Storms are common which might cause roadblocks. Always follow police travel warnings.

Icy gravel roads are dangerous

Many rural roads in Iceland are unpaved 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 a dry surface.

Road blocks

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 condition before hitting the road. 

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