The days are getting shorter and colder. Soon enough the rain will turn into snow and while many may be tempted to stay in and out of the cold, winter in Iceland is not to be missed. After all, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes and bad preparation. Here, we take you through a few dos and don'ts of safe traveling during winter in Iceland.
About the dress code:
Don't: Be overly concerned with fashion.
Do: Dress sensibly.
Heels, dress shoes and sneakers aren't going to cut it in the Icelandic wilderness. Invest in waterproof hiking boots that will carry you from geysir to glacier. Wear multiple layers of clothes that you can take off if you get too warm. Leave the jeans at home, choose items that are good for moving around in and always bring a change of socks – just in case.
When choosing a car:
Don't: Just go for the cheapest option.
Do: Make sure you have the right ride for your trip.
First of all, does it have winter tires? Cause those are necessary. There may not be ice on the street now but you never know what happens in an hour or two. Additionally, if you plan on going off the ring road (Route 1) you probably want to get a 4WD, as many roads are unsafe for smaller vehicles. If possible, discuss the best options with the car-rental once you arrive, based on your plans and the weather forecast.
Don't: Go off-roading
Do: Stay on marked roads
The Icelandic eco-system is incredibly fragile and can suffer extreme damage from off-roading. Therefore, off-roading is illegal. Additionally, driving off marked roads can be dangerous.
When taking unguided trips into the wilderness:
Do: Make a travel plan, and leave it with someone who can react.
If you are traveling in the Icelandic highlands or otherwise planning to stray off the beaten path you need to make sure people know where to look for you if something happens on your trip. We recommend leaving your personal information with the Icelandic Search and Rescue through safetravel.is, which also offers Trip Monitoring and radio transmitters that can be activated in emergencies.
Consult safetravel.is for more detailed information or book a guided tour with experts in navigating Icelandic conditions, through our front desk.
Stay up to date on the weather forecast:
Don't: Check it a few days before and think it will stick.
Do: Check it the day before, the day of, and maybe even during the day itself.
The weather in Iceland is constantly changing and you should check websites such as safetravel.is/conditions for weather updates and alerts.
Lets say you see Northern lights and you want to get out of your car to watch:
Don't: Pull over on the middle of the road and do not stand where oncoming traffic could hit you, even if you don't see any cars around you.
Do: Find a rest stop or some other safe and appropriate place to park.
Even if you are in a parking lot, stay alert. Don't wander around without looking where you are going and make sure you are safe from all traffic.
When finding your way:
Don't: Rely on technology.
Do: Bring maps.
A GPS can break. Your phone may will almost certainly run out of battery when faced with the cold and even if it stays on, service can be spotty outside urban areas. Go old school, just in case.
And speaking of technology:
Don´t: Get distracted by it.
Do: Stay aware of your surroundings and remember to enjoy the moment.
There are a lot of cracks and cliffs in Iceland and you may not notice them if you are busy live tweeting your trip.
If some of this seems a bit scary:
Don't: Give up.
Do: Consult safetravel.is for more detailed information or book a guided tour with experts in navigating Icelandic conditions, through our front desk.