Unique Road Signs in Iceland
Iceland's diverse landscapes and specific driving conditions have led to the creation of some road signs that might be unfamiliar to international drivers. Here are some unique or less common road signs that are essential to know.
1. Single Lane Bridge Sign
This sign indicates that you are approaching a single-lane bridge. Only one vehicle can cross the bridge at a time. Suppose another vehicle has already started crossing from the other side. In that case, you must wait for it to pass before you proceed.
The sign serves as a warning for drivers to approach the bridge with caution and to check for oncoming traffic. Given the single lane, it's essential to determine which vehicle should proceed first. In many cases, the vehicle that arrives first has the right of way, but courtesy and situational awareness are crucial. For longer bridges, there might be designated passing spots where one vehicle can pull over to let the other pass.
These signs are found throughout Iceland, especially in rural areas or on roads that traverse challenging terrains like rivers or canyons. They are more common on secondary roads, but they can also appear on main routes.
2. End of Paved Road Sign
This sign indicates that the paved or tarmac road you're on is about to transition to a different type of surface, which is often gravel but could be dirt or another unpaved material.
This sign serves as a warning to reduce speed and adjust driving techniques for the upcoming change in road conditions. The transition from paved to unpaved can be jarring, and there's a risk of skidding or damaging the vehicle if taken at high speeds.
3. Blind Hill Sign
This sign indicates that there's a hill ahead where drivers won't be able to see oncoming traffic. It's essential to approach these areas with caution and be prepared for vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
4. Sheep Crossing
This sign indicates that drivers are entering an area where sheep might be present on or near the road. Sheep can often be seen grazing by the roadside, and they can be unpredictable, suddenly deciding to cross the road or move along it.
The sign serves as a warning for drivers to be extra cautious and vigilant. Hitting a sheep can cause significant damage to a vehicle, not to mention harm to the animal. It's essential to reduce speed when seeing this sign and be prepared to stop if necessary.
5. Falling Rocks
This sign is often found in mountainous areas and warns drivers of the potential for falling rocks. It's a reminder to be vigilant, especially after periods of heavy rain or thawing.
The sign serves as a warning for drivers to be extra vigilant and cautious. Falling rocks can pose a significant danger, potentially causing damage to vehicles or leading to accidents. It's advisable to reduce speed when seeing this sign and avoid stopping or parking directly under unstable areas.
6. Tunnel Ahead
This sign indicates that drivers are approaching a tunnel. Tunnels in Iceland can vary in length, from short ones that take just a few seconds to pass through to longer ones that might take several minutes.
When encountering a "Tunnel Ahead" sign in Iceland, drivers should always ensure their headlights are on, reduce speed if necessary, and remain vigilant, especially in single-lane tunnels where oncoming traffic might be present.
7. River Crossing Sign
In some remote areas of Iceland, especially in the Highlands, there are no bridges over rivers. This sign indicates that you're approaching a river that you'll need to ford. It's essential to assess the depth and flow of the river before attempting to cross, and in some cases, it might be safer to turn back. Even to try this, you must have a 4x4 jeep.
The sign serves as a warning for drivers to approach the river crossing with caution. It's crucial to assess the river's depth, flow, and the nature of its bed (rocky, sandy, muddy) before attempting to cross. In many cases, especially if the water is running fast or if the riverbed is not visible, it might be safer to wait or seek an alternative route. Ignoring the sign or misjudging the river's conditions can lead to vehicles getting stuck or even being swept away.
8. 4x4 vehicles only
This sign indicates that the road or path ahead is suitable only for four-wheel-drive vehicles. The conditions on such roads can vary from deep gravel, mud, and river crossings to uneven surfaces with large rocks. Standard cars or 2WD vehicles might struggle on these roads and get damaged or stuck.
These signs are commonly found at the entrance of F-roads (mountain roads) in Iceland, especially those leading into the Highlands.
9. Swimming Pool Sign
One of the most important signs in Iceland is the swimming pool signs! Given the country's abundant geothermal energy, there are many public pools and hot tubs where locals and tourists can relax.
Given the popularity of swimming and bathing in geothermal waters among Icelanders and tourists alike, these signs are crucial for pointing out these facilities, especially in areas where the pool might not be immediately visible from the main road. Following this sign can lead to a local swimming pool.
10. Speed Camera Signs
This sign indicates that drivers are approaching a zone where speed cameras operate. The cameras automatically detect vehicles exceeding the speed limit and can result in fines for the driver.
These signs are placed ahead of the actual location of the speed camera. They can be found on various roads throughout Iceland, especially on main roads, near populated areas, or in zones with lower speed limits.
When encountering a blue speed camera sign in Iceland, it's a clear signal to check your speed and ensure you comply with the posted speed limit. It's always a good practice to drive within the limits, not just to avoid fines but for the safety of all road users.