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A Guide to Driving in the Snow in Iceland

There is no better way to explore Iceland than to embark on a road trip around the Nordic island, getting a glimpse of nature's wonders up close and personal. However, when the winter months roll in, snow often coats the roads, making driving a little more challenging. If you are planning on driving around Iceland during the winter months, read our ultimate guide to driving in the snow to ensure you will have a safe journey.

General driving tips

There are a few things to keep in mind when driving in Iceland. Please see below for some tips:

  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Do not drive off-road (this is illegal)
  • If you are in an emergency, call 112
  • Always drive with the headlights on, whether it's day or night

Getting started

When driving in the snow, start in second gear, gently releasing the clutch so that the wheels don't spin on the ice. It is really important to drive slowly on snowy roads, as the stopping distances can increase over 10 times in these conditions. 

Therefore, when you need to slow down, ensure that you brake earlier than you usually would to avoid colliding with another car or other objects. When accelerating, ensure that you are being as smooth as possible. Make sure to use lower revs and higher gears to maintain traction. It is important to try not to oversteer. This is when the back tires lose grip and start to turn the car. The key here is to not brake too hard but instead to steer genty and accelerate to gain control. 

On the other hand, understeering is when the front wheels skid in the direction that you were turning. Do not steer harder or slam on your brakes. Simply stop accelerating and slowly turn your wheel straight.

Rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle

Especially during the winter, the roads are covered in rough terrain and snow. A 4WD with a good pair of studded snow tires will seriously be your best friend during exceptional driving circumstances. Since the weather can change so quickly in Iceland, especially in the winter, you’ll want to make sure that the car you’ve hired can handle these changes. Of course, if the weather is too harsh or there is too much snow, you’ll need to change your plans to avoid the roads altogether. 

Maximise the daylight hours

Throughout Iceland’s winter, the days can be as short as just 6 hours. Navigating your way through the snow can be tricky during sunlight, but can be much more difficult in the dark. To ensure that you don't get stuck out in the dark, plan a rough itinerary, sticking to daylight hours, and try not to pack too much into your day. 

If you have any questions about driving your rental car in the winter, we are always happy to help. Please check with us when you collect your car or get in contact today.