First visit in Iceland with a Dacia Sandero, avoiding the F-roads
At the end of October in 2018 we spent 5 days in Iceland for the first time and rent a Dacia Sandero from Goldcar for our day trips. We were very satisfied with the car and the rental service. The rental contains some insurance (for example Collision damage waiver (CDW), Theft waiver (TW), Third party liability protection (TP),…) but your liability is the deposit. So in any issue you will lose the part or the full deposit, which is terrible. But if you want to sleep well you can purchase a car hire excess insurace which can protect your deposit and covers the first part of any claim (known as the "excess").
We planned trips to Snaefellsness peninsula, Reykjanes-peninsula, Geysir-Gullfoss-Thingvellír, South-Iceland (Vík, Solheimasandur, Skogafoss) and Akranes (where we rent a flat), so we drove on main roads, avoiding the F-roads, this is why we chose a smaller 2WD car which was perfect and the cheapest option for us. By this small car we didn’t drive on highland roads or on unpaved roads and we have no experiences on how to drive in Iceland in wintertime.
Road conditions and weather after 18th of October
We had lot of rainy and windy days in the third week of October and experienced slippery road conditions while driving to Thingvellír with blizzard and closed roads. But the weather changed rapidly (as Icelandic people says: "if you don't like the weather, wait for 5 minutes") and driving conditions became much better in a short time. You always have to drive according to the road conditions and everytime before you start your trips, see the en.vedur.is website for more details on weather.
The main roads we drove on were well maintained, well painted, in perfect condition. Side roads are narrower with fewer road markings, but in good condition. On the open roads, far from the populated areas, there are no lights along the roads. After dark on a side road we had difficulties on visibility, especially when raining with strong wind, so we tried to avoid these situations: we drove on main roads and our trips ended before the sunset (about 6 pm).
We could see more road works when driving: newly constructed roads and road repairs. If you don’t want to be surprised about the road works, check the road.is website
Some travel tips on driving, parking and travel planning in Iceland
Check the fuel level before you start your trips in order to make sure you don’t run out of the fuel. Fill up your tank at the gas station you found, because the next one can be very far. It's better if you use sat nav.
Careful tourists with few experiences are driving too slow for the conditions, blocking the traffic. Overtaking is not possible sometimes, because they drive in the middle of the road or the road is very winding. Some tourists with big SUV are driving too fast. Be careful of them.
In Reykjavík we put down our car at Tjörnin lake while sightseeing and we had to use the “pay and display” machine (parking fee is 190 ISK per hour). Payment was needed at Seljalandfoss waterfall carpark as well, but most of the destinations have free parking spaces, which are full of rental cars, not easy to find any spaces.