Many people tend to feel insecure when renting a vehicle for their first trip to Iceland. Maybe this is not your first adventure in this beautiful country and you already know or experience its changing weather, but you may still not feel well prepared at all to rent a vehicle and drive worriless through the country. In this brief guide we will mention the main points to consider for first-time drivers in Iceland.
What are the Highlands?
In Iceland, those territories located at more than 300 meters of altitude are known as Highlands. The Highlands are actually a plateau and ridge that stretches through the interior of the island. The climate in these areas is variable, although they are usually covered with snow most of the year.
Along these Highlands there are also numerous roads, known as mountain roads. These roads are given a special designation on the maps so drivers are able to differentiate them from the others, highland roads are called F-roads, and the conditions to drive along them are very specific.
It is really important to know their conditions at all times if you intend to ride through them during your trip.
On what factors does the opening of the F-Roads depend?
The level of snow or ice is a deciding factor for the opening of mountain roads every year. Although this is the main point to take into account, in many cases, the roads remain closed due to the humidity and water once the snow melts; when this moisture disappears, the roads are finally open to the traffic.
During the first few months of spring, the Public Road, Environment and Food Administration Agency publishes maps on a regular basis, which reflect the state of the mountain roads until all of them are officially open to traffic. To stay informed, please check their website or contact this number: 1777.
The opening dates of the mountain roads provided on these websites are always illustrative, and as mentioned above, depend entirely on the weather conditions each year.
On the other hand, opening dates in some areas of the country may differ by up to a month, so it is essential to always be aware of these schedules while planning your trip to Iceland. A good option is to check the state of the roads just before starting.
The wind in Iceland
So many people think only on the cold when they are planning their trip to Iceland but the truth is that the wind plays a mayor and leading role in driving and daily lifestyle.
Generally, strong winds are often accompanied by some other atmospheric phenomenon such as rain or snow, or can even lead to a sand or ash storm. Extreme precautions, such as reducing the speed of driving in these situations, is always highly recommended.
In case of being surprised by a sudden storm on the road (winds above 15m / s) it is advisable to stop as soon as possible and seek shelter, both for the occupants and the car, as these gusts can cause the vehicle to get off the road or raise small rocks that would end up hitting the vehicle causing damages. in case this situation is persisting, it is better not to drive again that day.
The windiest area of Iceland is the Heimaey archipelago, and within the main island, the south coast area. You must be extra cautious if you are driving in one of these areas. Always keep in mind that if you drive at high speed, your car will be more exposed to damage or erosion from windborne particles.
Flock of animals
Another point to consider are the herds of animals. In Iceland, flocks of sheep are plentiful, grazing freely by the fields that extend to the sides of the roads. Be careful because the insurance does not cover the damages caused to the vehicle by the accidents with animals, and in addition you would have to pay the sheep to the owner, not kidding.
Gas stations in Iceland
Something that many people are unaware of about Iceland is that many gas stations have no staff. Stations simply offer their service through dispensers and ATM machine where you have to enter your debit or gas card prepaid card and type the amount you want to refuel. However, whenever you want to fill the tank, if you do not know the capacity of the tank, you may end up requesting way more gas than the one the car can actually hold. To have that refunded on your card, you must insert it again in the machine once you have finished refueling. In case you have requested a smaller amount, you can repeat that operation so you can get the ticket if needed.
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