Driving in Iceland


When visiting Iceland and planning a self-drive to visit all the wonderful places or to chase the Northern lights, there are several things you need to know before you go behind the wheel of a car. Please take note of the following safety precautions before you start driving around Iceland. Although Icelanders are known to be hospitable, Icelandic climate and nature may not be that nice, especially if you tend to visit Iceland during winter. So in order for you to get along with Icelandic weather and nature you have to stick to some strict guidelines and policies. This is to ensure the safety of everybody. Icelanders follow them too, so as a tourist you should likewise respect the rules to properly enjoy your visit but not end up in a nearby hospital.

Never ignore rules and restrictions


There are driving restrictions in Iceland, don’t get them wrong because, again, they are just implying on your safety. Never ignore the restrictions as they will be your safety gears. 2WD vehicles are not allowed in road number 35 in KJÖLUR, road number 550 in KALDIDALUR and other roads that are marked F on Iceland’s official maps (you can get maps at gas stations, local tourist offices and in bookstores in Iceland). Please respect these rules and guidelines as they are to avoid any accidents. Drivers that do not comply with these rules, will get their insurance revoked, and in any cases of accidents whether it’s the driver driving 2WD fault or not, it will still be the one to be held reliable. Drive slowly on mountain roads, roads with loose gravel and on national highways with a long stretch of asphalt to prevent tire slip. Breaks would not define or even justify on these roads if you are driving fast. So slow down at any point. When the road changes from paved to gravel, you should also decrease your speed. Mountain roads are usually very narrow and winding so keep your speed down to avoid falling off the cliff. Never try to over speed even if there are no cops around or to overtake for that matter because this might only harm you and your passengers. Sometimes you will come across old and narrow bridges that only one car can cross at the time. When a car is coming from the other direction, stop your car and let the other car cross the bridge before cross it. There are lots of blind summits in Iceland so just keep driving in your lane on the right-hand edge of the road. Never drive too long during summer where the sun shines for 24 hours. Some tourists forget about this because they are used to light and dark as symbol of day and night. This is one reason why accidents in Iceland occur because tourist drivers doze off while driving.
Icelanders care for their animals’ safety as well. So keep in mind that if you see sheep or horses crossing the road, always let them cross first. If you hit them, you will have to pay a fine or you could end up in jail. Better safe than sorry.

Other useful information


Here are the general speed limits, although you can always see signs along the way. However, it´s useful to memorize these guidelines:
Urban areas – 50 km/h
Rural areas (gravel roads) – 80 km/h
Rural areas (asphalt roads) – 90 km/h
Motorists need to turn on their headlights all the time. Remember, there will be times that the sun does not shine in Iceland even during daytime so to be sure just keep them turned on. Driving off-roads and driving on marked tracks is strictly forbidden. Again stay in your lane and don’t go cheating or you might cheat your life as well. Always, and yes it applies for everyone, the driver and the passengers, put on your safety-belts. This can save you, seriously! Driving while drunk or while under the influenced of illegal drugs will instantly put you behind bars. Talking on your mobile while driving is prohibited unless you have a headset.
Gasoline stations are open until 11:00 pm to 11:30 pm in most areas in Iceland. In the city of Reykjavík, gasoline stations are open from 7:30am up to 8:00pm during weekdays and Saturdays, on Sundays they are open from 9:00am to 8:00pm. There are self-operated pump gasoline stations in Reykjavík that are functioning after closing. They accept all major credit cards.
If you are driving your own car, you must bring with you your “Green Card” or any third-party insurance proof. Though there are exceptions on most of the countries in Europe. Always bring a valid drivers licence.
You can only drive on mountain tracks when you are driving a 4WD vehicle and it is advisable or sometimes required that two or more vehicles need to travel together. Mountain tracks are slippery during winter period. Always ask the travel bureau or a local tourist information offices about road conditions and the weather forecast before you start your journey.
You will find many car rentals in Iceland where you can find a car that suits your needs. They offer different car types and different prize ranges.