General Tips for Travelling in Iceland in Winter
Last year in June, I missed my flight to Iceland. I was supposed to spend three days there with some friends and my boyfriend when I made a colossal planning error that I will never repeat again. I went to the wrong airport. I want to excuse myself, I had been travelling for business frequently the previous week and so was a little bit on autopilot but, really, I should have checked my ticket. Either way, missed my flight and it took until March this year to reschedule everything.
This time round I decided a week would be better and we took on advice from our friends who had managed to get the flight on what to do.
1) Rent a car – it really is the best way to see Iceland. There are tour buses and tour operators that can take you to many of the places that you want to go, but the freedom and flexibility offered to you by having your own car is fantastic in a place like Iceland. Especially because of the unpredictable weather. We used Europcar and it was quick and reliable.
2) If going in winter – always get a 4X4. We went in March, which is the tail end of winter and I think we were quite unlucky with the weather but there is no way you want to navigate those roads without a 4X4. Iceland is fantastic at keeping their roads clear and keeping you up to date with the conditions, but the weather is really so unpredictable and they can’t get everywhere. We were driving through snow and ice and low visibility many times. There is a great app called Safe Travel 112 where it basically follows your GPS signal and can send a distress signal if you need it.
3) Winter travellers: be flexible. The weather will screw up your plans. We drove up to Gulfloss, only to make it to the top and have blizzard conditions, 10 metre visibility and biting cold wind. Another reason why having your own car is helpful. You couldn’t see anything, so we turned around and decided to come back another day. However we saw a poor bus-full of people get off and try to struggle through the wind to see the waterfall.
4) If you want to buy alcohol – buy it at the airport. If you, like us, forget this important tip because you think you’re not going to want to drink again (we travelled hungover) then there is a great app call Appy Hour that tells you where in Iceland there is a happy hour going on so you can hunt down reasonably priced drinks. (They become normal priced in happy hour time).
5) If you are in your own car – fill up on petrol when you can. We drove for three hours without seeing a single petrol station.
6) Do not be an idiot and pull over on the main road. Iceland is ridiculously scenic, but there are designated places to pull over and scenic spots. It is dangerous to stop on the main road, even if you think no-one is around.