Now, i don't mean to scare you but you have to take Iceland's road conditions & weather changes seriously, especially during winter. One of our airbnb hosts warned us about the classic mistakes tourists usually make during their self-drive around Iceland and she ended the conversation with these exact words - "Iceland can kill you!" (Looks like i have to take back the first 7 words of this paragraph, haha.)
In Iceland, there are no trains. In order to get to your destination, you can walk (please don't do this in winter!), take a bus (bus routes are not that well connected and some are only operational during summer), take a taxi (very, very expensive) or drive. If you don't want to drive up to the North during winter, there are flights from Keflavik International airport to Akureyri (North of Iceland).
Based on our driving experience around Iceland in winter, i wanted to share key things to take note of, if you are planning a self-drive around Iceland's ring road. We rented our car from Lotus Car Rental. (Good service and reasonably priced!)
1. Install the "112 Iceland" app.
Register your contact details and share your location through this app. In case of emergency, you can press the red emergency button in the app and help will arrive!
2. Gas stations and gas prices in Iceland
Click here to view an interactive map of all the gas stations in Iceland. This will come in handy since they are often 100+km apart. It also includes live information on gas prices for each station.
3. Payment mode at Gas Stations in Iceland.
If you're not travelling with a credit/debit card with pin, buy a prepaid petrol card in advance.
The N1 gas stations around Iceland will either be manned (those that come with a small supermarket and a mini cafe/restaurant) or self-service stations (standalone petrol top-up booths that do not accept cash).
Once you pick up your rental car, ask the rental company where the nearest N1 manned gas station is located at. Calculate the estimated total distance you are planning to cover and the amount you will be spending on fuel.
Remember, you can only purchase the N1 prepaid card from the manned petrol stations. We bought 3 prepaid cards with a value of 10,000 IKR each at the very first manned petrol station we saw!
The N1 prepaid cards are sold with 3 stored value options:
- 3.000 IKR
- 5.000 IKR
- 10.000 IKR.
Besides paying for fuel, you can use the N1 prepaid card to buy food or other things at the N1 supermarket.
4. Always check the weather/road conditions before you hit the road.
That's the first thing we did before we planned our day, especially in winter. Road conditions can vary from easily passable to slippery to impassable. Safety first!
5. Renting a reliable car for winter travel.
If you're renting a car for your travel during winter, don't settle for anything less then a 4x4. All cars rented out during winter season come with the studded wheels already. We saw some travelers driving around in a 2 wheel drive and struggling to keep steady on the icy roads.
6. NEVER drive off-road.
No matter how innocently safe the side paths might seem, never drive off-road please! We saw 7 cars that went off-road and sunk in the snow. Also, off-road driving in Iceland is prohibited by law.
7. Get acquainted with Iceland's ring road.
Watch these 2 videos on driving safe around the ring road. (It takes only a few minutes!)