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Driving in Winter Conditions in Iceland

Driving in Iceland is certainly one of the most rewarding ways to see the country. Many people visit each year and look to rent a car in Iceland to ensure they can navigate across the stunning landscape and see all the best sights at their own pace.

Driving in Iceland in winter

If you visit Iceland in the winter, you will find a very different country than in the summer. Winter sees a far more challenging landscape for drivers. Our guide will highlight some of the key things to keep in mind if you're considering renting a car in Iceland during the winter season.

Four wheel drive rental in Iceland

A 4x4 rental car in Iceland is a good option in the winter if you are going to be driving long distances. A four wheel drive vehicle is much more equipped to deal with the severe conditions. Ensure you ask your rental agent about studded tires for further safety in the slippery icy weather.

Check the forecast

Winters in Iceland are harsh, and they make driving conditions very difficult. The weather can change in the blink of an eye, and what was a clear road can easily transform into an impassable route. Always be aware of the forecast and what it might mean for your journey.

Winter road conditions in Iceland

Also keep yourself informed about road conditions. The easiest way to do this is to ring 1777 for information in English. This number will provide real-time information about road conditions and weather across the entire road system in Iceland.

Always carry a map

Even if you have a satnav, take a detailed map with you for back up and to help navigate around roads if they become impassable.

This will also come in handy for identifying the mountain roads, many of which you are not allowed to drive on in a rental car.

Travel during daylight

The winter season sees just six hours of daylight in Iceland. Try to drive during the day, when it is light, because road conditions are much more difficult to tackle when it is dark.

Fill up with petrol

Filling stations are few and far between in many areas of Iceland. 

Be sure to fill up when you pass one, and take a few cards with you in case one doesn't work. Many stations are self-serve, so you won't be able to get fuel if your card is declined.

Stick to Route 1

Route 1 is known as Iceland's ring road. It's the most popular road around the country, and the safest to drive around.

Try to stick to this road in the winter, but be prepared for sudden road closures.

In case of emergency

Keep the emergency number handy. It's 112 in Iceland, and you are able to call it even without a mobile connection, which often occurs in the highlands. Download the 112 app for your phone for extra safety.

Be aware of road rules

In Iceland, the driving rules are very strict. You must wear your seatbelt when driving, you must stick to the speed limit, and you mustn't use your mobile whilst driving. Drinking and driving is prohibited and strictly enforced, and you must keep your lights on at all times. Off-roading is also prohibited, to protect the local landscape.

Driving in Iceland in the winter is certainly not for the faint- hearted, but come prepared, and you will witness some of the greatest sights this country has to offer.