Summer is over, and although there is no snow yet, winter is coming. Yes, we just skipped over autumn, because that isn’t a long season in Iceland. Basically, summertime starts fading out until suddenly, it’s wintertime. One thing to think about in the short autumn season is that it can get very windy, so make sure you’re prepared for this when you head out. Winter, on the other hand, is much longer and can have worse driving conditions. In this article, we will give you the dos and don’ts of winter driving in Iceland.
Be prepared for icy roads
In winter, be prepared for ice on the roads. Most of the time, ice and snow will be clearly visible, but roads might not always look icy. In Iceland, there is something called launhált – secret slipperiness. Test out your brakes from time to time. If you’re not comfortable driving on ice, you probably shouldn’t rent a car in winter. There are many bus tours and superjeep tours you can take instead.
An important rule in wintertime is, slow down when necessary. The maximum speed of 50km/h (30mi/h) in urban areas, 90km/h (55mi/h) on paved roads and 80km/h (50mi/h) on gravel roads assumes perfect conditions. If it’s snowy, windy, rainy, foggy, icy etc., you should slow down, sometimes a lot.
Check the weather forecast
If you’re in Iceland between October and April, don’t set off in the morning without checking the weather forecast first. The weather in Iceland is famously fickle, so even if the weather looks good in the morning, there can be a snowstorm in the afternoon. Never underestimate weather conditions.
Check the road conditions
On www.road.is you can see what roads are closed all around Iceland. Always check this website before you head out. If roads are closed, change your route. If there is a storm warning, change your plans. If you’re not sure what the conditions on your intended route are like, you can call the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration at (+354) 1777.
If you feel insecure about driving yourself but don’t want to spend your holiday in the city, go on a day tour instead. Tour operators are professionals with a lot of experience driving in winter.
Do not make sudden changes
When driving, make no sudden changes: braking, turning and accelerating should be smooth. Slamming the brakes is probably your reflex when you feel the car starting to slide, but that only makes things worse unless you have an anti-lock braking system in your car. Brake gently and steer into the slide.
Increase your braking distance
You will need to increase your braking distance on icy roads. It will take you much longer to brake, up to ten times longer than in non-icy conditions.