Driving in Iceland
How to get around
Travelling by a car is a very convenient and popular way to explore Iceland. There are no trains in Iceland so the best way to get around is by a car. It is also possible to take a taxi or a bus but that can be expensive. In the summertime Bus Passports are available, they give the opportunity to hop on and off the bus at some of the most popular tourist attractions. For those who like a bit more adventure like to walk or cycle around the country but you need to be well prepared for that, it’s not that easy.
Route 1 is the main road in Iceland, often called The Ring Road because it goes around the entire island except for the Westfjords. The Ring Road is close to the coastline and most of the popular tourist attractions in Iceland are near the road. The majority of the Ring Road is a one lane road with traffic coming from each directions. The road is about 1.332 km (828 miles) long, paved and accessible by any type of car. Even so the conditions in Iceland are unusual in many ways and it is very important to be informed on how to drive in Iceland before you begin your journey.
Most of the roads in Iceland are paved but sometimes the roads suddenly changes to a gravel road, it is therefore important to follow the speed limitations and slow down when entering the gravel roads. Other things to be aware of while driving on Icelandic roads are single-lane bridges, blind hills and animals on the road. Special warning signs indicate danger ahead so be aware of them at all times. It is important to keep full attention to driving at all times and don’t let the beautiful surroundings draw your attention away from the road.
For more information about road condition please visit www.road.is or call 1777 (if problems use +354 522 1100). For emergency call 112. Always check the road conditions before heading out on a long drive especially in the winter time.
If rules and regulations are not followed when driving in Iceland it can be punishable with very high fine! Follow these rules to prevent accident and keep you safe on the road:
- The speed limit is 30-50km/hour in residential areas and 90km/hour on the paved main roads. If driving on a gravel road then the speed limit is 80km/hour. Speed cameras are all around the country and the fines for speeding are high so take your time and don’t drive to fast.
- Everyone in the car are required by law to wear seatbelts.
- Children must be in a car safety seats or wear seat belts, depending on their age.
- It is forbidden under any circumstances to drive under the influence of alcohol. The punishment for doing so is very high fine and loss of driving license.
- The use of phones while driving in Iceland is not allowed unless using a hand-free equipment.
- Headlights should be turned on both day and night when driving.
- Driving off-road is strictly forbidden in Iceland
Driving in the highland of Iceland
It is prohibited by law to drive off-road in Iceland and the punishment for doing so is very high fine. Driving off-road can result in serious damage to the vegetation as is extremely sensitive. F-roads are special mountain roads in the highlands that is allowed to drive on, but it is very important to stay on those roads at all time. Most mountain roads are closed during the winter and it is not recommended to drive those road except with a expert driver guide and an appropriate vehicle. In the summertime it is possible to drive on those roads with a 4X4 vehicles and it is recommended that two or more cars always travel together. Always be well prepared before a journey to the highland of Iceland.
In Iceland people drive on the right side of the road and most of the roads are single lane in each directions with no barriers in the middle.
Like in every other country it is very dangerous to drive when you are tired. In the summer time in Iceland it is bright outside for 24 hours so people sometimes forget the time. It is very important to stop the car and rest when feeling tired.
Even though it doesn’t seem like there is much traffic on Icelandic roads it is very dangerous to stop the car in the middle of the road when you see something amazing on the way. If stopping for a photo try to find safe place to park the car and be careful when turning off the main road by slowing down in time and give indicators.
When travelling around Iceland remember to fill the gas tank when near to a gas station. There are gas stations in every town in Iceland and throughout the country. Most gas stations are open until 20:00-23:30 but that can vary from town to town. Usually they can still be operated after closing hours and accept credit card or cash.
Weather in Iceland
The weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and can change unexpectedly and very fast from being sunshine and blue sky to heavy rain and wind. It is therefore very important to check the weather forecast at all times and be prepared for all types of weather. Read more about the Icelandic weather here. When travelling in Iceland check these website:
Vedur.is - the official website for weather in Iceland
Road.is - the website for the Icelandic Road Administration OR call 1777
Safetravel.is - For travel alerts and your travel plan
Icelandic winter and driving
Driving in the winter is a lot different than in the summer time in Iceland. You have to be prepared for all kinds of weather; rain, sunshine, heavy wind or snowstorm. The weather can also vary in different region of Iceland. Make sure to pay attention to weather road signs. They will give you information about the weather and if the road is closed or if there is a storm. If the average wind goes over 20 m/s you should be very careful and even consider not driving, especially if driving larger vehicle. Keep in mind that the days are very short in Iceland during the winter and the route usually take longer than google maps indicates because of road conditions, 5 hour drive on Google Maps can become 8-10 hours.
Things you should bring with you when driving during the winter in Iceland:
- GPS and a regular map
- Clothes for all kinds of weather
- Snacks and water
- Make sure that the car you are driving is fitted with good winter tires.
For more information
The Road Traffic Directorate of Iceland prepared this video on How to Drive in Iceland and we recommend to watch it, it is only 9 minutes.
Also this brochure can be useful to take with you.