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I'll be in Iceland in mid-October, and I would like to visit the Golden Circle by driving around it myself. I've never been there before. I investigated tours, but the times aren't generally working out for me. I'm landing in Iceland in the morning 9am, and I'm thinking I would like to drive out, see the sights, and stay in the Gullfoss area in a hotel for the night. The next morning, I'll see some more sights and return to Keflavík for an afternoon 5:30pm flight out.

I'm gathering the temperature will be somewhere between -10 to 0 degrees at that time in Gullfoss. This is definitely not the Summer time, but I'm no stranger to driving in this kind of weather in North America.

  • Are rental cars geared up for this kind of driving? Winter tires? Will I need a 4x4 or SUV, or might a regular car work?
  • Will there be help available if required? e.g. I plan to drive the well-travelled golden circle round. Guessing there will be lots of traffic on this route.
  • Are there "gotchas" with getting a rental car and driving this route this time of year?
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    People tend to vote to close "Is it safe?" questions because safety is largely a matter of personal opinion and depends very much on the skills and attitude of the person taking the trip. The rest of your questions look fine, to me. – David Richerby Sep 15 '18 at 12:28
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Are rental cars geared up for this kind of driving? Winter tires?

Rental cars are heavily geared towards tourists and are designed to be taken to well known tourist sites on the main road network. Rental companies will have seasonally appropriate tires.

Will I need a 4x4 or SUV, or might a regular car work?

Most of the Icelandic population drives compact cars and 4x4s (especially the heavy duty ones) are disproportionately used by tourists. Most of the highways are traversable by compact car. (Assuming the road is open and not immediately after a snowfall. F roads are an exception which are more like rural tracks as opposed to highways). However, in many cases the small segment of road connecting the main highway to a tourist site such as a waterfall or viewpoint would be difficult in a non-4x4. (Example the road to reach Dyrhólaey Lighthouse.) That being said, I don't recall any such segments on the Golden Circle.

Will there be help available if required? e.g. I plan to drive the well-travelled golden circle round. Guessing there will be lots of traffic on this route.

Yes. Plenty of Icelandic people live in/near the Golden Circle and the route is well traveled by tourists and locals alike. My recollection is that cell service is reasonably good there as well. This isn't the case with all common tourist attractions. Dettifoss or the ring road between Höfn and Djúpivogur is quite far from any local population.

Are there "gotchas" with getting a rental car and driving this route this time of year?

Not really.

  • Iceland uses European/International sign standards. A North American driver should get some familiarity with those. (e.g. understand the concept of a priority road, the rules which apply inside city limits vs outside.)
  • Iceland has traffic circles which aren't particularly common in North America.
  • Iceland has one-way bridges. Learning the etiquette (cars travelling in the direction of cars on the bridge have right of way) is required.
  • Iceland car rentals come with all sorts of add-on insurance (e.g. Gravel Insurance) that aren't common elsewhere in the world.

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