Driving In Iceland

Driving in Iceland

The roads in Iceland are a lot different to many other countries. They can pose all kinds of fun, mysteries and even dangers. The gravel roads can cause different types of damage to your rental car, whilst the sheep of Iceland are known for venturing into the roads.

The unpredictable weather in Iceland can also pose some challenging conditions, especially during the winter months. It is highly recommended to rent a 4x4, as economy cars may struggle with the snowy conditions. It's better to be safe and prepared.

The most popular route for travellers is the Highway 1, otherwise known as the 'ring road'. This road is a total length of 1,339 kilometres. This road is well-maintained all year round and is almost always open (except for partial closures due to bad weather/road conditions. This is particularly common during the winter months, as the roads can be damaged from the summers heavy road traffic). The road is mostly paved, except in the east where you can expect to come across some gravel roads.

Other common routes for people to take are F-roads. However, it must be noted that these are only accessible by 4x4's and the majority of them will be closed during the winter months. I recommend that only confident drivers attempt these routes, as they can be very dangerous. If the route is marked as closed, then DO NOT attempt to drive that route.

Driving off-road is strictly forbidden, and can lead to hefty fines as it causes damage to Iceland's precious nature. The moss that grows takes millions of years to grow and is treasured by the Icelandic people, and damaging this may even lead to jail sentences. Please respect the Icelandic nature, and treat it as if it were your own. 

The speed limits in Iceland are lower than most countries due to the driving hazards associated with driving in Iceland. Speeding fines are extremely high, and there are many speed cameras throughout the country. 

It's important to note that if you follow the rules and drive carefully, then your driving experience in Iceland will be nothing but pleasurable.

 

The weather

The weather in Iceland is extremely unpredictable, particularly during the winter months. It can make the simplest of routes tricky. High winds, snow storms and icy roads can come at any minute so it's best to be prepared and drive safely. During the winter months, we highly recommend renting a 4x4 as they are more built for said conditions. Though by no means does it make you invincible. Still drive carefully, and stick to following the rules of the road. Using common sense and good judgement is the best approach. Before setting out day-to-day it is best to check the road conditions and daily forecast, which can be found at www.road.is or www.vedur.is. 

 

What are F-roads and should I drive them?

F-roads are mountain roads in the highlands. They usually lead to breathtaking sights and adventures but are extremely dangerous to drive. F-roads are only accessible by 4x4's and are mostly closed during the winter months.

If you are not a confident driver, then we recommend avoiding F-roads. 

 

Headlights

Whilst driving in Iceland it's a legal requirement to have headlights on at all times (even during the day), all year round.

 

Speed Limits

The speed limits in Iceland can vary depending on the road, and its condition. Please stick to these speeds and take in the wonderful surroundings. Why rush?

  • Gravel roads: 80 km/h (50 mph)
  • Paved roads: 90 km/h (56 mph)
  • Urban: 50 km/h (31 mph)

 

Seatbelts

Under Icelandic law, it's a requirement to wear a seatbelt at all times (including all passengers).

 

Gravel Roads

Iceland has a lot of gravel roads, please slow down and drive carefully. It may cause a lot of damage to your rental car (might be worth looking at gravel protection).

 

The sheep of Iceland

The sheep! There are actually more sheep in Iceland than people! And they aren't like other sheep, they are very brave. They're not scared to just strut their stuff down the country roads. So please be careful when driving, especially on bends as you never know what is waiting on the other side. 

If sheep are blocking the road just simply press your horn and drive slowly, this should make them move out of your way (hopefully!). But by all means, do not stop in the middle of the road and get out of the car to chase them away or take photos. This may lead to serious accidents (history has shown). 

 

Photo Locations

Icelanders worst nightmare is tourists that stop in the middle of country roads to take photos of mountains, landscapes and even sheep. Now, I know it's great when you get an amazing photo opportunity but please be careful and DO NOT stop in the middle of the road. There are other people on the roads, and unfortunately, this has led to many incidents in recent months. It's best to keep on driving until you see a designated stop zone. Safety is more important than photographs. 

 

Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland

That's right! You may hear people's wonderful stories about how they drove off-road in Iceland, well in actual fact what they were doing is illegal or they might be referring to F-roads which are specifically marked. You must stay on roads and stick to marked trails. This is both due to your safety and also because it causes extensive damage to the wonderful Icelandic nature. Fines or imprisonment can be expected for offences.

This also applies to campers, that are under the impression that they can park up anywhere to sleep. This is also illegal and may lead to hefty fines. It is a requirement to sleep on designated campsites. 

 

Iceland Road Signs & Their Meanings


Single lane bridge

Difficult road - This vehicle is not allowed

Gravel road - please approach with caution!

 

Paved road changes to gravel road

Blind crest - please keep to the right side of the road

 Lokað - closed

 

Gas stations

Gas stations are available in most towns and major highways. However, the distances between each station may vary so ensure to plan your routes carefully and fill up when you get a chance. 

 

Top tips for driving in Iceland

  • A 4x4 isn't always necessary - A lot of you would have been told that you MUST rent a 4x4. However, this isn't always the case. It really depends on your route. If you intend on going on F-roads, then a 4x4 is a must as access to F-roads is not permitted on smaller cars. But, if you plan on driving only the ring road then you can do this using a small economy car (though we do recommend 4x4s during winter months, in case of bad weather).
  • Insurance is worth it - Whilst booking your vehicle, you may have the option to add extra insurances such as gravel protection and/or windshield protection. It's easy to think that these are just for the agencies to make money, but in actual fact they are highly recommended. The gravel roads can wreak havoc on the under carriage and body of the car, so it's better to protect yourself than be handed a huge bill at the end of your rental period. 
  • Hi and low seasons - The most popular and pricey seasons for rentals in Iceland is May through to September. So consider visiting Iceland outside of these months where prices will be a little lower. 
  • Rent a camper - If you want to get in touch with your adventurous side, then camping in Iceland would be a real treat for you. It saves you spending money on hotels and also allows for a wonderful experience. Please remember that sleeping is only permitted on designated campsites. Sleeping anywhere may lead to police interception. 

 

Comments
Driving In Iceland