Renting a car and exploring Iceland has never been more accessible. The rental car market is filled with friendly and professional rental companies. Seeing all that Iceland has to offer is made simple by the Ring Road, a route that circumnavigates the entire country. Even though getting on the road and exploring the country is easy, driving is decidedly not an easy or straightforward task. This is due to the constantly changing weather. Thankfully we are not in the dead of winter yet, so we don’t have to worry about snowdrifts and hazardous roadways. But, even driving through Iceland during autumn can be dangerous. Let’s review some tips for enjoying the open road as you drive through Iceland.
Tip #1: Switch It Up – Driving in Iceland
If you find yourself on a solo Icelandic road trip, then it may be impossible to find a driving companion. I know our Icelandic sheep are cute and fuzzy, but please don’t shanghai one of our furry friends and make them your co-pilot. Leave the sheep be! They want to bleat in peace. If you are alone, I would recommend finding a good podcast or playlist. That is all you really can do. If you do have the good fortune of traveling with a friend, then you are in luck. This one is a biggie: switch up who is driving.
Bearing the brunt of driving responsibilities is not only a pain in the butt, but it can also be dangerous. Given how unstable our weather is you should always have a pair of fresh eyes behind the wheel. Driving long for periods of time has been proven to be as dangerous as drinking and driving. Make sure you are sharing driver responsibilities. It is only fair and safe.
Tip #2: The Sheep in the Room
Speaking of sheep, you need to always be aware that there is always the possibility of a wayward sheep wandering near the edge of the road. Here in Iceland, we let our little bleating buddies roam freely. They travel where they please and receive a healthy natural diet, and we in return receive pristine natural sheep. While this is a biological benefit received by our livestock, it can make for dangerous driving conditions. The roads here in Iceland effortlessly carve long winding paths from one unbelievable natural wonder to the next. As such, drivers tend to have their eyes on the road, not paying attention to what’s directly around them. The easiest way to fix this is to have a designated sheep lookout in your car. Their sole mission is to spot wooly wanderers walking along the road. That will free up the driver to watch the road, which is crucial.
Tip #3: Gas Station Food: Excellent…In Iceland
Small townships and villages coat Iceland’s countryside. These small communities often rely on their gas station for all types of supplies you would typically expect elsewhere This is due to a lack of infrastructure in the remote areas of Iceland. You can basically find anything at a gas station in Iceland, including delicious food. It isn’t uncommon to walk into a gas station and in one quick pan of the head, see an aisle for car supplies right next to a fully functioning restaurant. If you are traveling through Iceland for the first time, this can be a great way to try local dishes. The quality of the food is ridiculously high for being served at a gas station. In 99% of countries this would be the opposite, but not in Iceland. And, if you are in a genuinely minuscule town, their tourist center will more than likely be at the gas station.
Tip #4: Check roads and other sites religiously
No matter where you are in Iceland or how long your journey is, your phone’s homepage while traveling in Iceland should be the Road Administration site. Road.is is the best avenue for keeping tabs on incoming storm fronts, road closures, and general safety warnings. There is nothing worse than driving clear across Iceland to hike through a valley or up to a peak, only to find the road is closed when you get to your final destination. Given the volatility of Iceland’s weather, it is paramount to stay updated with the latest information. We want safe and responsible motorists here in Iceland.
Also, side note, if a road says that it is closed, I promise you it is indeed closed and there is always a very good reason. Trust me, we don’t just haphazardly decide that a road closure would be fun. There are professionals who dedicate their entire lives to keeping road travelers safe and they are the experts, not you. Unfortunately, many tourists come to Iceland every year, ignore our warning signs, and then they get stuck or worse.
Tip #5: Get The Full Insurance
This is more of a tip for visiting tourists, but it applies to all drivers. Our roads here, especially in late autumn and winter, can be worn down by heavy rain or snowfall. It isn’t uncommon for gravel or rocks to crack windshields, damage lights, or even shatter mirrors. Having accidental damage put a damper on your trip is no way to spend your time in Iceland. Drive with a clear conscious by opting for a full insurance package. That way, if anything bad happens, you know you are covered.
Tip #6: Relax
Driving should be relaxing. There was a period in time where driving a car was considered a leisure activity. And many people truly enjoy a relaxing drive. I usually encounter these people when I am in a genuine rush. I know they exist, and I often suspect that they plan their joyrides around my schedule. Anyways, driving through Iceland (especially outside the city) can be a truly visceral experience. As your vehicle glides through one after another picturesque landscape, it is common to become overwhelmed by ridges, fields, and ice caps that surround you. Try to relax. Drive slowly. Take your time. Iceland has a very modest speed limit in comparison with other countries, and for a good reason. There are so many things to see just outside your window, that it is easy to get distracted. So go slowly. You won’t regret it.
6 Driving Tips to Help You Enjoy the Open Road in Iceland
Whether you are a life-long citizen of Iceland or if you are someone coming for a short time and you if you plan on driving, then these tips apply to you. I think we often get so caught up in getting from point A to point B that we forget to enjoy the journey. Follow the rules of the road, go slowly, get some good Icelandic gas station food, check Icelandic websites about road closures, and finally, opt-in for the full insurance. If you are in need of a pair of wheels for your trip to Iceland, I recommend Cars Iceland and Reykjavik Cars are two of the top companies in Iceland according to Google Reviews. They both have fair prices, and their customer service is top-notch. Besides that remember to have fun. Iceland is special and should be treasured at every moment, even when you are just driving to the gas station.
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