Driving in Iceland
Hiring a car is the best way to experience all that Iceland has to offer. Here’s what you need to know before taking to the open road
From glaciers to volcanoes, Iceland is full of natural wonders. But to see Iceland’s spectacular scenery in all its glory, you’re going to need a car.
Hiring a car lets you take things at your own pace. You can stop where you want, when you want. But while most of the driving in Iceland is straightforward, there are some challenges you need to be prepared for.
Weather and road conditions
The weather can change quickly in Iceland – a sunny morning can soon turn into an afternoon snowstorm. Winter driving, in particular, can be especially challenging. Always check real-time road conditions before setting out and pack extra food and water, just in case.
Many roads in Iceland are easy to drive, but some are not. The Ring Road is mostly paved, but other roads are graveled and more treacherous. On F-Roads, you can travel for miles without seeing other cars. When roads require a 4x4, they will have signs at the start of the road. Driving the wrong vehicle on these roads will invalidate your car insurance.
There are a variety of parking options in urban areas, including metered parking, car parks and parking garages. Parking restrictions apply and fees range from 50 ISK to 250 ISK per hour. When parking on the street, always park in the direction of the traffic and at least five meters away from pedestrian crossings and intersections.
Fines for parking violations range from 2.500 ISK to 10,000 ISK. They can be paid at any bank and if settled within three days will be reduced slightly.
Off-roading is forbidden in Iceland. If you are caught driving off-road, fines can be hefty. The general rule of thumb is if there is no marked track or route, driving is forbidden.
This is because Iceland’s landscape is more fragile than it looks and vehicles can cause a lot of damage. Even if you rent an off-road vehicle, never go off-roading. It’s both illegal and irresponsible!
Most roads in Iceland have two lanes. However, some are just single tracks so it’s good to know the rules of giving way.
The majority of bridges in the country tend to be single track. They operate on a first come, first serve basis, so never drive onto a bridge if another car is already on it.
There are also some one-lane tunnels in Iceland. When driving through, you may need to pull into the passing places to allow oncoming traffic to pass. If the passing places are on your right, you need to use them. It is not your right of way! The length of the tunnel will be shown on a sign at the start of the tunnel.
- Drive on the right
- Use dipped headlights at all times
- Always wear a seatbelt in the front and back
- Speed limits: 50km (cities); 80km (gravel roads); 90km (paved roads)
- Drink or drug driving is illegal (minimum 100.000 ISK fine and four month ban)
- Dial 112 in an emergency