Should you self drive in Iceland?

Our group with our rented car

The contemplation whether we should drive ourselves or take tours from Reykjavik has been in my mind ever since we decided to go to Iceland. If you read Trip Advisor they will strictly advise not to drive in winter unless you have winter driving experience. I have also read multiple blogs and facebook group posting on people experiences until I finally decided to take the plunge to rent a car and just drive ourselves.

So here is my thought which I hope can help people who are thinking about it.

I don’t recommend driving in January and February because as I have been watching the weather closely since December I observed that these two months have the largest share of snow storm and very strong wind. In fact if you can choose when to go and you don’t have many days to spend I suggest to go for other months because if you are unlucky and come when bad weather hits, not only roads are closed but all tours are cancelled and you will be stuck in your hotel room. Of course you can get lucky but this is a worst scenario you should be aware of. Weather in iceland often changes also and it can suddenly turn bad, posing a risk when we are driving.

We traveled mid March where winter is less harsh but we still get a lot of snow and also have our share of bad weather. During our time in Iceland we experience all kind of weather: nice sunny day with 2 degree Celcius, snowing, snowing with rain, rain and snow blizzard with low visibility. I felt we made a good decision to self drive as we got to see more of Iceland and enjoy it with our own pace. But we were prepared for the worst and willing to be flexible when it gets bad.

Us navigating sudden change in road condition on our way from Vik to Hali

These are the website you must check everyday before you start driving:

1. for weather forecast

2. to see if there is bad storm coming or bad weather alert

3. to see wether the road is accessible or not

BE FLEXIBLE and ADJUST travel plan when needed. If you have to forgo hotel cancellation because of safety then be it. Always put safety first

ALWAYS rent 4X4 in winter and GET that platinum car insurance which covers door damage because of the strong wind. I read too many horror stories about car door got wrecked and their insurance didn’t cover for it. Always read the clause on what the insurance covers.

We rented our car (4X4 VW Caddy (A/T) from which I highly recommend. The car is brand new and they provide platinum insurance from Fara crew picked us up at the airport and drive us to their shop which is close from the airport.

Another reason why your choice is only self drive or take a tour is because Iceland doesn’t have a public transportation which covers tourist attraction outside Reykjavik. If you are not confident in driving and prefer taking a tour do take the multi-days tour and don’t base yourself in Reykjavik.

A day tour from Reykjavik can only take you up to Jokulsarlon and it is a 14 hours day trip which will leave you tired. Too many hours spend on the road and too little time at each attraction. The disadvantage of taking multi-days tour is that it is expensive. Because you don’t get to choose the accommodation and you can’t do self catering as you won’t know whether the accommodation has kitchen or nor and whether you get to do grocery shop along the way. But if you can’t drive or going solo then it is still the second best choice Vs taking day tour 😄

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