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Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

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Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Hello all. I need some urgent advice please from people currently in iceland or who recently travelled there! We are travelling to iceland this Thursday (13th march) and have hired a volkswagon polo or equivalent from Keflavik airport. We are staying in Reykjavik.

All the questions / research I did prior to travel gave me the impression this car would be fine for main road use. We planned to go to jokulsarlon and gulfoss......looking at the roads on webcams now I'm worried!!!! Will this be sufficient for main roads use to these locations or do I upgrade???

Please help!!!!

Thanks Ian

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

It should be fitted with winter tyres, so just drive carefully...

UK
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2. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Ok thanks.......do you know is reykjavic to jakulsarlon achievable in a day in those conditions?! Is that ring road route generally well maintained during winter? It looks quite bad in places on the web cams.....

Vogar
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3. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

http://www.vegagerdin.is/english is the page of the road authority and should be monitored regularly.

The whole road from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon is clear (as you can see on the website), but slippery in places.

Same goes for the Golden circle roads.

United Kingdom
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4. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Ian,

We were in Iceland last week and travelled the same roads in very variable and sometimes very poor weather. The car we had booked was not available and we were given a Suzuki Swift, probably about the same size as the Polo if not a bit smaller.

The only time we had problems because of the type of car was between Kirkjubaerjarklauster and Vik, where it was snowing heavily, having already snowed heavily the previous night, and the road had not been ploughed for about half the distance. At points the car was doing its own ploughing due to the depth of snow. A 4x4 would not have had this problem because of the increased ground clearance. Having said that, a 4x4 has its own issues and should not be looked at something that's going to save you from any and all road problems unless you know how to use it. The only cars we saw stuck or slid off the road during the week were rental 4x4 SUVs.

The biggest difficulty we had during the week was with heavy falling snow, which caused whiteout conditions several times. In that situation the car type won't make a difference as the problem is visibility, not road conditions; all you can do is go at your own pace and stop at a café if you don't feel confident driving. All the roads have marker posts along the side so you can see where the road edge is.

As ValdiSig says, you should check the roads authority http://www.vegagerdin.is/english when you can and also look at the Icelandic weather service http://en.vedur.is/ where you'll find a lot of information. Take advice from locals and hoteliers if you're chatting. When you collect it check that the car is fitted with winter tyres, preferably with studs. Winter tyres will have a fairly chunky tread pattern and will have an ice or snow crystal symbol moulded in the sidewall, or will say 'Winter', 'Mud and Snow' or 'M+S' on the sidewall. There is also a phone number you can call for roads information (1777) and you need to know the Icelandic emergency number (112).

At regular intervals along the road there are matrix signs which give the weather conditions at the next critical point on the journey such as a mountain pass or exposed area. Typically these have the name of the location they refer to, for example 'Reynisfjara' for the pass just before Vik, and will display the conditions and wind speed, so for example N 17 -2 means 17 m/s average wind speed and -2 deg C temperature. LOGN means calm. There may also be a number in red displayed in a separate box, which is the speed the wind is gusting up to. Travelling is not advised if there's a red number showing. We saw one sign showing 58 m/s (!!!, though there was a suspicion that the sensor was broken) and pulled into a café with the trucks to wait it out, which wasn't long.

The biggest question is probably one only you can answer - how is your driving, how much experience do you have in poor conditions and how confident are you? That will probably make a lot of difference to how you cope if conditions do get bad much more than the car type will. If you don't feel confident, get a 4x4 but don't get a Jimny or Vitara; something like a normal saloon with 4x4 like the Skoda Octavia, or a small SUV such as a Discovery or Dacia Duster is probably best; but don't think you can ignore the conditions just because you're in a 4x4. Pretend it's still 2wd with extra ground clearance, don't try anything you wouldn't in a normal car, and remember it'll be heavier, won't handle as well and the weight is higher up; take it slower in corners, junctions etc., leave plenty of space and slow down early.

In general don't set yourself a stupidly ambitious schedule. Allow yourself plenty of time to get from place to place, remembering that if the weather does come in you may only average 50 km/h or less or may have to stop. Take it slowly and don't drive outside your limits, and if you're not happy with conditions be prepared to pull over somewhere convenient and sit it out; the weather will change, and probably sooner rather than later! If you don't like the look of the conditions or forecast be prepared to change your plans, don't feel you have to press on at all costs - the same places will still be there next year and the year after. Remember you're on holiday, you don't have to rush and there's plenty to see.

Hope this helps. Caveats: This information is based in my experience in poor conditions generally and in Iceland last week and last week only. If I've got anything wrong I hope the locals will pick up on it and correct. YMMV.

York, United Kingdom
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5. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Addlepate's post is spot on, and really reflects our experience of driving around Iceland, erm, last week, too.

Vegargedin / vedur, allowing (lots of) time (before dusk), and being very aware of your own limitations, are the three things that scream out to me in big, hairy capital letters.

We found ourselves becoming confident on sheet ice towards the end of the hols, but also found that - luckily - conditions got progressively worse as the week progressed. The white outs and snow drifts that Addlepate mentions would've terrified us beyond continuation on day one, when we thought ice alone was terrifying enough.

Also, we found snow to be the danger. In a Duster. Ice was fine and predictable. Snow = a very substantial / unpredictable loss of control. And aquaplaning aplenty. (Snowplaning?!)

Norway
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6. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Just a comment on a minor detail in the post from Addlepate. Regarding the winter tyres: When checking the winter tyres note that if they are marked "M+S" (Mud and Snow) then they are not proper winter tyres. Here in Norway they are considered to be useless under winter conditions. The M+S tyres are american make-belive "winter" tyres only good for summer conditions and dirt roads, not for real snow and ice.

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7. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

Addlepate - thank you so much for such a detailed and helpful report. Earlier in the week I was a little worried however road conditions looked to have improved a fair bit and the forecast seems favourable so!! Hopefully all good.

We live in wales in a fairly mountainous part so are fairly used to untreated roads etc but it is just the unknown! You and the other guys on here have been very helpful and that's exactly what I needed so it is very much appreciated! Thank you,

Ian

United Kingdom
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8. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

@jxxxxixxx, you're right, the M+S designation does get abused and there are some really poor tyres around with M+S on them. That's because there's no standard for the 'M+S' designation - it just has to offer better grip in snow than a normal summer tyre. That normally means for a 4x4 / SUV tyre something designated 'M+S' is in fact an all-season tyre with a more off-road style tread, while the true winter tyre has different construction, much more flexible rubber compound with different grip characteristics etc. A true winter tyre would normally show 'M+S' WITH the Snowflake symbol, and I should have put 'and' not 'or' above.

Having said that, as I understand it true winter tyres are required by law from November 1st to 14th April in Iceland; so while it's worth checking, the M+S designation on a rental in Iceland should be displayed alongside the Snowflake symbol and denote a true winter tyre; I don't think you have the option to run all weather tyres there - perhaps one of the locals could confirm.

For images of these tyre symbols see:

michelin.co.uk/content/learnShareArticles/29…

…wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Winter_tires_with_N…

oponeo.co.uk/gfx/…205.jpg

It's interesting that Quodtoo had grip problems on snow in a Duster, while we didn't really in the Suzuki. I wonder if that was a reflection of local conditions, driving style or maybe the Duster tyres are quite wide for the vehicle weight, so low ground pressure? Shows though that just hiring a 4x4 isn't the answer to all problems...

Edited: 12 March 2014, 08:20
York, United Kingdom
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9. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

I feel like a bit of a shameless self-publicist, so apologies for this. But fwiw, we summarised the things we found useful / the things we felt we'd learnt about Icelandic / early march driving here: …wordpress.com/driving-in-iceland-our-learni…

Tbf, i didn't post it earlier because Addlepate's (and other) replies were far more comprehensive. All that ^^^ link adds is, perhaps, a few finicky details, like the incredible availability of petrol. Which surprised us, coming from the uk.

I'll credit that Welsh mountains can get close (and have made a catastrophic attempt on Buttermere via mountain passes in November, in our non-winter Nissan micra). But... I don't know. Some roads really were a special kind of semi-arctic awful.

Heartfelt best of luck with your journey - it's a country I found it unbelievably easy to fall in love with, from behind the wheel.

Edited: 12 March 2014, 08:58
Vogar
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10. Re: Urgent advice required!! Car hire in iceland...

quodtoo, you mentioned March being shoulder season in Iceland in your blog but it is not, especially in the north and east, it is full winter.