Afraid of driving in Iceland


I’m an okay driver, but I’m not used to driving in snow. How skilled does one have to be to drive in Iceland? I’d like to travel in the Golden Circle and the Snæfellsnes peninsula and see the Glacier Lagoon, but I don’t now if I should take a guided tour or do a self-drive tour. Do the rental cars have winter tires? What can I do if something happens (like, does the car have an insurance and what do I do if I get stuck)?

I also don’t have an international drivers licence, is that ok?


I had absolutely no experience driving in snow and was totally fine! I came early January and rented my own car. Car rentals have certain types of insurance included and you can opt to buy additional insurance if you wish. A larger rental car might give you more peace of mind/feelings of stability, but I rented a little one and was fine. You don’t need an international drivers license. Day trips to places are possible through your companies but are easily triple the cost of renting your own car.


Regular license is fine. While it’s best if you have some experience driving on snow, the main roads tend to be plowed regularly. Driving in Iceland is a joy by itself. Just be careful of potential black ice (happens when temps are right around freezing and if there was recent rain).

Don’t speed, don’t go off-road (unless it’s a designated parking/pit stop P area).

Rental companies have all the insurance you need, but they do tend to upsell you. It’s very expensive. You can get insurance online (collision damage waiver, etc), much cheaper than onsite at the car companies. But additional gravel insurance (that you do get onsite) is recommended since there’s always a chance another car ahead of you kicks up debris that hits you.


If you are not used to driving in snow, or ice, or in windy weather, and are unsure of your own capabilities I wouldn’t recommend driving in Iceland during winter - at least not if this is your first visit to Iceland and you haven’t got an idea of what the winter weather can be like.

If you think you are up for it, then just make sure you drive slowly and carefully, and I’d recommend renting a 4x4 car in wintertime which will make you feel more at ease.

If you are coming in September, October or April, then there will most likely not be any snow or ice on the roads, so you should be fine. November until March is colder and more snow heavy generally.

Driving the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes peninsula and the south coast to the glacier lagoon are the easiest routes to drive in the wintertime as they are in the south of the country and the roads are the least likely to be closed due to bad weather. Perhaps you should go on a tour of the south coast and Snæfellsnes, and then maybe rent a car to drive the Golden Circle yourself.

All rental cars have winter tyres during wintertime. All cars also come with Collision Damage Waiver insurance, which lowers your self risk in the case of an accident. Additional insurances are available to add to your booking, including one that lowers even more what your self risk is. If you get stuck you should call your car rental and inform them about what has happened and see what they have to say, each incident varies. If you crash your car or there is an emergency then you should call Iceland’s emergency number 112 immediately.

As long as your driver’s license is European, in English or translated into English then you should be fine. You have to have at least 1 year experience of driving and be at least 20 years old to rent a car in Iceland, or 23 years old to rent a 4x4.

Hope that answers everything! :slight_smile:

p.s. You can read this ultimate guide to driving in Iceland for more information!


Hi everybody,

I’m going to Iceland by mid March with 3 friends. We have booked a 4x4 car with the intention of sightseeing the stunning South until Jokursalon and hopefully we are lucky enough to come across with the northern lights (we are 6 days) I have organized the trip single handedly booking cottages beforehand on our way South . No previous experience on going with such a car. Is it Ok for driving for the Ring road only?. Are we going to meet snow at that time? We keep in mind we have to be very cautious and check the weather and road conditions before driving. But as I have just previously read that the weather is so unpredictable and changeable, I begin to feel worry about it. Should I leave my travel plans on «safetravel page» despite that we neither intend to go hiking nor highlands just in case? Do you know how many day light hours are going to be by mid March? And temperature?

Thanx a lot!


Hey Carmen. It seems like you have all the right ideas about how to travel in Icelandic winter - keeping an eye on the weather conditions, sticking to the ring-road, and booking a 4X4. By mid-March, the weather should be improving (although there are no guarantees), and the days will be pretty light; you can expect about 10 hours of daylight around this time. You may encounter snowy or icy roads, but has some great tips. I would also check out for a useful video on how to drive in these conditions. Making sure someone knows where you are is a great idea; if you are very concerned, then of course, make a travel plan on the safe travel for peace of mind.
Hope that helps


Hey Richard. Thanks a lot for your reply!, yeah, I had just viewed this video and it really helps to have previously an idea of how the Icelandic road is like.
Well, we will stick to these useful tips and warnings that and provide travellers.
Thanx, c u!


Hi Carmen

You should be fine on the ring road for those dates but of course there is always a chance of snow and ice on the roads during winter time in Iceland. It is always a good idea to leave your travel plan on the Safe travel website just in case :slight_smile:


Thanks a lot! Really helpful :slight_smile: I think I’d still want to get all the insurance, just to be super safe.


Thanks a bunch guys!