A 14 day winter road trip through Iceland
IntroductionMost of us know that Iceland is a country in Northern Europe. Geographically it is located between the UK and Greenland.
However, have you ever thought of a holiday in Iceland? If you have explored this possibility, you would most likely have heard of the Iceland ring road. Also known as route-1, the ring road runs around Iceland and connects many of the country’s uninhabited parts.
Road trips are one of the best ways to explore this picturesque country. This here is an account of my 14 day solo self-driving road trip on the Iceland Ring-road.
Iceland is a party to the Schengen Agreement and all Indians (me being one) need a pre-approved Schengen visa to enter Iceland.
I applied for my Visa through VFS Global (authorized representative) in Mumbai. You can find the details of the documents required on the VFS Website
Given below is a copy of my cover letter and the itinerary that I submitted as part of the visa application.
I held a bank balance of Rs. 2 Lakhs at the time of applying for the visa.
After applying for the visa I got a call from Denmark embassy. I was interviewed for about 30-40 minutes on phone. They asked me about the itinerary, why Iceland, details of my job, family, any travel history and lot more. So be ready for this if you are applying for visa for the first time. All the more chances if you are applying for a Schengen Visa the first time.
Duration: 17th to 31st October 2019, 14 days
I spent 14 nights across Iceland. I drove the Ring Road along with the Snaefellsnes Peninsula which was a total of 2500 kms. Stayed mostly in Hostels. Here are the places that I stayed during my trip. I would drive from one place to the other and do all the sightseeing along the way.
REYKJAVIK – SELFOSS – VIK – HOFN – SEYDISFJORDUR – AKUREYRI – STADUR – OLAFSVIK – REYKJAVIK – KEFLAVIK.
I had to change my plans at Seydisfjordur because I was stuck there for 2 days due to a heavy snow storm.
Would highly recommend that you visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula if possible.
Renting a Vehicle
- Indian driving license is accepted and you can drive a rental car. However, the language of the license has to be English or else you need to get an international driving license.
- Prices of car rental will vary depending on manual or automatic, 2WD or 4X4. Manual is cheaper. I rented a Hyundai i10 automatic with winter tyres. I had just learned how to drive 😊
- Always take the Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP) insurance for your car even if you are not taking the full insurance. The wind is so strong that while driving along the coast it carries the sand with it and this scratches the car paint. I experienced the sand hitting my face when I was walking on a beach during a really windy day. It hurt a lot.
- Depending upon which company you have rented your car from you get a discount on certain petrol pumps along with a free coffee every time you fill your tank.
While on the Road
- Iceland follows a left-hand drive system. It took me about a day to get used to it. By the end of the day I was driving with one hand. 😊
- When in Iceland follow the below websites every day before you start driving. It gives you an overview of the weather and road conditions. It might end up saving your life.
- While driving on gravel roads, keep a safe distance from the car ahead. Sometimes stones come flying from the cars ahead of you and it can damage the windshield. Oh yeah, windshield is not covered under any insurance.
- As the roads are excellent and practically empty, it is very tempting to drive at high speeds. The speed limit in the highway is 90 kmph. If you are caught speeding, the fines can be huge. And you will be caught on video. There are cameras all around the country.
- Only 4×4 cars are allowed on rough terrain roads. These roads are called F roads. I had a 2WD car so I did not drive on F roads. If you drive your car where you should not and damage it then the insurance will not cover it.
- Follow the traffic rules strictly. The person ahead or behind you is driving under the assumption that you are aware of all the traffic rules. If you make a mistake it could be fatal.
- It will be tempting to stop every 5 minutes to click pictures. DO NOT stop your car on the road. There are designated parking places along the road where you can pull over.
- There is one tunnel in the north that charges you Rs. 855 each time you pass through it. You have to pay the amount online within 3 hours of passing. You can avoid it by taking the longer route. It adds only 15 minutes to the journey. There are some tunnels that are 5-7 km long and are single lane. So keep that in mind.
- In Iceland, petrol costs about Rs. 135 per litre and diesel about Rs. 130 per litre
- Never let your fuel tank go below half level. There is a chance that you might be on the road for hours with no sight of a petrol pump. Also, if you are stuck in cold weather, you need all the warmth of the heater.
- If you are low on fuel, try turning-off the car heater off and wearing your winter clothes while driving. This will save you a lot of fuel. Of course if it turns too cold, you can turn the heater back-on.
- BTW, I hope you are aware that you need to do the refuelling yourself in Europe. There are no service attendants In gas stations. We Indians are not used to this. Here is a video on how I did it in Iceland.
- High winds can rip apart the car doors, so always open them with caution when its windy outside. The insurance doesn’t cover this damage.
- While following google maps, set it to satellite view. It might cost you more data but it will help you make unplanned stops at places of interest. This is one of the best things about Iceland.
- Be flexible with your plans. A bad weather day can force you to stay at one place for longer than you want to. Happened to me. In some cases the hostels/hotels are kind enough to give you free cancellations if you cannot make it there due to bad weather. So call them up and ask them. People are nice 🙂
- Google maps worked perfectly everywhere. Do download the offline maps just in case.
- Always talk to the person at the hotel/ hostel reception and ask for recommendations. They will tell you things that you won’t find on Google. They are always happy to help.
- Apart from your normal winter wear, carry water proof wear. If you can find something that is both waterproof and windproof, that would be best. The wind really amplifies the cold. If you want you can carry an umbrella, but it is so windy most of the time that it will just keep inverting or getting blown away.
- You will see many horses while driving across the country are not wild horses. These are not strays. They belong to residents. Do not feed them or cross the fence to pat them.
- Do not step on the moss just to click pictures. It takes a long time to grow back. Respect nature. This goes for all places in the world 😛
- Drone enthusiasts beware. Most tourist places have ” no drones “signs. But you can fly your drone in other places. Every place in Iceland is beautiful. Do read about drone laws of Iceland before flying there. But yes, you can carry your drone with you. I kept mine in the check-in luggage and batteries in cabin luggage. No issue in Delhi or Keflavik airport
- There are parking/entry charges at certain tourist places. It can be anywhere between Rs.400 to Rs.500
- Public toilets at certain places charge you Rs. 115. Public toilets are very less so be careful of that. Some petrol pumps have cafes with toilets but they have signs that say only for customers. And so you walk in like a customer LOL.
Spotting the Northern Lights
- For northern lights you need to know two things; The KP scale and the cloud cover. The KP scale ranges from 0 to 9, so higher the KP scale the more changes you have of seeing the lights. On the night of Diwali the KP scale was a 5 and the aurora was visible with the naked eyes.
- Also the sky has to be clear. You need to keep track of the cloud cover. There are apps that allow you to do that. Vedur.is is good to check for cloud cover.
- Just to let you know, the pictures you see of the auroras on the internet are not what that look like in real life. The pictures are clicked with long exposure and also edited. But yes, on a good night you can see the colours in the aurora, green, pink. You can see them dancing. It is an experience of a life time.
Food and Drinks
- You can drink water from anywhere in Iceland: taps, waterfalls, river. So just carry a water bottle and you are good.
- Carry hot water and a mug in your car to make your coffee. Trust me, there is no better feeling than having coffee looking into the vast landscapes with no one around. You can buy/rent gas stoves in Reykjavik but that can be expensive.
- Pack your lunch before leaving the hostel in the morning.
- Cook your own food at the kitchen at your accommodation if possible. It will save you a lot of money. Every tourist I came across had a bag full of groceries with them. Eating out everyday is going to be very costly. There are supermarkets like Bonus and Kronan. However they open at 11 am and close at 6 pm. The supermarkets that stays open 24×7 are more costlier compared to Bonus and Krona.
- People usually buy alcohol from duty free because its very expensive within the city and you have only one chain of shops that sell alcohol.
- Cards are accepted everywhere. Public toilets, petrol pumps, parking everywhere. I had to pay cash at one homestay because the card machine was not working but the owner let me stay the night without paying and told me he will me meet me in the city to collect the cash after a few days. That was some trust 😛
- Cell reception for local sim cards are really good. I often video called home through whatsapp and it performed without lag.
Plugs and Pins
Want to know the electrical requirements (plug, pin, voltage and frequency) requirements in Iceland. No worries. We'll tell you if your Indian plug will work in Iceland, and what kind of Adapter to carry (If you need one). Just Click here
Here are the complete details of the expenses I incurred for the trip.
TOTAL COST: Rs.1,86,040/-
- Flight tickets Delhi – Keflavik return: Rs.52,479/- (medical, travel insurance included in the price by Make my trip)
- Visa: Rs. 5,740
- Bus from Airport to hostel: Rs.2,278
- Shuttle from Hostel to car rental office: Rs.1,715
- Groceries: Rs.3,697
- Eating at cafes: Rs.3,634 (mostly hotdogs and unlimited coffee)
- Hostel Accommodation: Rs.41,715
- Sim card: Rs.2,805 (This is the price of 2 sim cards. I ended up buying 2 sim cards because the first one I bought had only 10GB data and no calling. Later I realised that I might need to call some hostels or emergency services so I got another sim which had free local calls and 1GB data)
- Car rental for 12 days with full insurance: Rs.51,690.
- Petrol: Rs.17,107 (This could have gone up to Rs.20,000/- but I was stuck in a snow storm for 2 days so no driving on those days)
- Parking, entry, tunnel pass etc.: Rs.3,180
- Car Rental, Petrol and Parking Tunnel etc are shared expenses when travelling as a group. 114063
- Assuming these 3 expenses are shared between 4 people, the cost would come to 1.32 lacs per person.
Of course there are other costs such as buying stuff duty free or souvenir shopping. If you are from a warm place like me you will have to buy all your winter wear which can cost you a lot.
If you have any questions please do post your queries as comments in the BorderTribe FB community. I am no expert but after my first international trip, I think I know a thing or two.
Raj Kamal Marandi
You can checkout my story highlights on instagram : raj_travelling_artist
and my youtube channel: travelling artist