If you are planning to hit the roads of Iceland this week, the first step is to apprise yourself of the basics. This article will make driving in Iceland trouble-free for you.

driving in Iceland

Things You Must Know

Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating territories on planet earth. The beautiful country with a population of fewer than 400,000 people hosts millions of foreign visitors every year.

Tourists either use public transport or take the services of car rental agencies in the country. Most people prefer renting a car and driving in Iceland since the public transportation systems in the country are still underdeveloped. You must know that hiring and driving a car in Iceland is legal and highly popular. If you’re setting up to drive on those scenic roads, read this article until the end.

The Law

Familiarization with the law will not only save you from the fines but also from the possible mistreats on the road. In this country, you have to drive on the right side of the road, and you can overtake from the left. The highest speed limit is 100 km/h while the general limit is 50 km/h. So never think about a car race in Iceland.

It is illegal to drink and drive in Iceland. You cannot grip the steering wheel after consuming alcohol or drugs. In fact, it is more of silly than illegal. Following the law is worth it because the minimum punishment for breaking the driving law is 70,000 ISK. It means approximately 660 USD and you certainly don’t want to ruin your vacation by paying that fine.

Driving around Iceland

The best way to experience the wonders of this region is definitely driving around, ideally in a car. Most visitors choose Iceland’s ring road for driving and exploring the wonders and attractions around the road especially the beautiful coast. The length is about 1,332 km so you can make a kind of nice plan here for driving along this path.

Anyone who is careful and wise can drive in this country without paying any fines or experiencing any harm. Just follow the laws, and you're good.

Distractions

Odds say that the gorgeous surroundings in the Icelandic countryside can always distract the drivers. But you’re even more careful than they know, aren’t you?

You can also find a safe stop in Iceland and watch the surroundings, take pictures or even rest if you feel tired since by doing this you can simply defeat the distractions on the way. Many of us are not used to driving on the rougher, narrower roads or to the one-lane bridges. In Iceland, you will find many roads and bridges like this. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with the conditions of these roads and be confident enough about driving on them.

Parking in the Capital

The capital and the largest city of Iceland is Reykjavik. That is actually the place where you want to go in the first place. Street parking is popular in Iceland, but there are also some specialized parking zones and multi-story car parks. Parking gets expensive as you park closer to the capital. Some places accept the credit cards, but it is better to keep the Icelandic coins with you. Overall, parking in Iceland is easy and secure.

The Perfect Guide

Iceland covers an area of 103,000 km² and the largest road in the country is 1,332 km. If you do not want to rent a car and drive in Iceland, also keep in mind that the taxis can be overly expensive. Fares start from as low as 230 ISK for each km. Even so, it sums up into 306,360 ISK or 2,900 USD for traveling around the ring road. Keep in mind that we are talking about the lowest possible fares. Yes, it is expensive. Therefore, the most affordable way to explore the beautiful territory is renting a car and driving in it.

On the other hand, the cost of renting a car and driving in the country also seems lesser than ever as compared to the expenses of hiring the taxis. By hiring a car, you can plan your own road trips that will suit your budget and timetable. Furthermore, we advise to check out the value-added packages and accommodations by us for you.

ICELAND SELF DRIVE TOURS - BEST SELLERS

In some areas of the country such as the capital, you can even walk or cycle to move around and visit different places like the restaurants, bars or museums. However, to go from a city to another city, you may need to hire an expensive taxi or another transport service. Bus passports are also available in Iceland but only in the summertime. They help you to go in different areas and hike to the attractions. However, in that case, you don’t really have the freedom to do the things more of your way.

Tours are always better with friends and family. If the two, three or four of you are planning to share the expenses, the driving around Iceland will be much more fun. It will simply kill the transportation costs. Furthermore, if you have a car, you can also switch the driving seat at different time intervals to defeat tiredness and get the most out of the incredible journey.

In addition, by following the laws, you will enjoy an uninterrupted trip in Iceland since traffic jams is never a problem in this country. If you’re thinking about the time management for this journey, a week’s vacation is long enough but the more time, the better.

You should never rely on the local transport service of Iceland. Buses run all year long but only in selected towns in selected times. Therefore, do not expect anything especially a bus at midnight in a countryside. In fact, there is only a handful of bus routes within the country.

The Suitable Vehicle

Before choosing a vehicle to drive in Iceland, you must consider the roads to the places where you want to go. If you plan to stick to the main roads such as the ring road, a 2WD car will be the best and the cheapest option available. Make sure to book your car in advance.

A 4WD is suitable for Highlands only. But beware the cost per day of hiring an SUV in Iceland is approximately 5,000 to 37,000 ISK or 50-350 USD.

Always be careful about driving off-road because they can penalize you with high fines for this offense. Driving on Highland tracks is legal and punishable is only leaving the road. You should use sense and park off-road at a suitable place as long as it doesn’t affect other travelers or the main route.

How to Drive in Snow

To be honest, you must acquaint yourself with the weather conditions before even thinking about driving in snow in Iceland. Having experience of driving in snow at any other place is a huge plus. Iceland has windy winters and cool summers. Snowfall is more common during the winter season, but a volcanic activity is possible all year round. Recently in February, the capital city of Reykjavik experienced an enormous amount of snowfall that peaked at 51 cm. What else did you expect?

In spite of the fact that snow is beautiful and pleasing, driving in it can be exactly opposite. Many people hesitate to drive in the snow because of many reasons including being stuck in on the road covered with intense amounts of snow. Some of them even cancel long-awaited plans due to this hesitation. However, instead of hurting your friends or family by canceling the ‘driving in Iceland’ plan, you should learn how to drive in snow in this country and prepare yourself for the go-ahead.

The most important thing to keep in mind is again the type of vehicle. You should make sure that the car that you hire is equipped with useful things required to tackle heavy snow on the roads. If possible, use studded tires to enhance grip and traction. These tires may also improve acceleration and braking on a snowy road. You also need to clean all the windows before getting started. Do it carefully to avoid damaging the defoggers. If your car was parked under heavy snow, remove the snow from the roof first because it may slide down and cover the windows again.

Driving in Iceland is much more challenging when you are up into the mountains where weather conditions and the level of snow is usually severe. Nevertheless, Icelanders take good care of the roads so even the mountainous passages may look good but don’t be distracted by it. You still need to drive carefully and as slowly as possible on those roads.

Keep in mind that a snowy road is always extremely slippery. Speeding and applying sudden brakes can make the tires slip, so it is better to keep fair distances from the vehicles in front of you.

Road Administration

The Icelandic Road Administration is your best friend during the self-drive tour in Iceland. They provide with an online road map with detailed information about the types of snow on the roads. Since we do not need to worry about the traffic jams in this territory, having a knowledge of the snowy roads is worth it.

Useful Tips

So, is your decision to drive in Iceland final yet? Yes? Keep on reading more and grasp the useful tips before doing so.

road trip

Avoid Driving at Night

Driving at night in Iceland is neither enjoyable nor safe. In fact, it can be petrifying due to the normal weather conditions in the area. Iceland is a dark territory, which gets darker at night and distracts the drivers especially in some rural areas where you would not even find the street lamps. Furthermore, most of the roads in Iceland are narrow, single or double-lane roads and at several points, you have to face the sharp curves as well. Therefore, the smaller roads, massive amounts of snow, sharp curves and the ‘dark’ does not fit together at all.

Drive Slowly

Speed cameras are almost everywhere on the Icelandic roads. You can’t even afford to pay the lowest penalty as discussed above. More than that, speeding in Iceland isn’t safe for you. Besides, you should also watch out for the rock slides while driving through the mountainous passages. Iceland is famous for the scenic beauty of its roads. Therefore, by passing speedily, you’ll also miss the beautiful attractions that are worth watching. Drive slow drive safe anyway.

Learn Traffic Signs

You should learn all of the traffic signs before driving in Iceland. Almost all of the bridges and tunnels in Iceland are single-lane, and that is something to be taken seriously. Passing through these tracks requires much more than slowing down. Precisely, you should slow down before the other vehicle and let it pass first. Use your sense and don’t rush into this type of tunnel or a bridge.

Driving License

You do not need to apply for a new driving license to drive in Iceland. They accept several forms of licenses including all driving licenses issued from the USA and Canada. Iceland recognizes every other license as long as it contains:

  • A license number.
  • Photograph.
  • Expiry date.
  • Latin characters.

Livestock on the Way

Agriculture is one of the major industries of Iceland. Further, livestock is the main occupation of those farmers. That group of sheep, cattle and even pigs can come in your way at any time. You should always be prepared to stop when an animal comes in front of you on the road. Approaching as slowly as possible is the wisest thing to do in this situation. Furthermore, never sound the horn near the animals because it may surprise them and as a result, they can come even closer or pick the wrong way. So always, be cautious about the livestock when driving in Iceland.

Insurance

Insurance is surely worth considering when you rent a car in Iceland. Many of the Icelandic roads are gravel roads with tiny rocks on them. The presence of volcanic ash is also common in some areas, so it is wise to buy a gravel insurance to stay safe from paying any possible damages to the rented car. Most car rentals in the country make this process easier for you by offering various types of insurances at discounted prices.

Safety

At this point, you are aware of the driving laws and the potential risks on the Icelandic roads. Aren’t you? Well, here are some more safety tips for you.

Wear Your Seatbelts and Keep the Headlights On

In Iceland, you need to put on your seatbelts and turn the car’s headlights on even during daytime. The law requires you to do it at all times while driving in Iceland. Also, it is safe for you to do these two things. Iceland’s days are also dark especially in the winters so keeping the headlights on makes driving easier for you as well as the drivers of the passing vehicles.

Don’t be Scared of the Icelanders

Icelanders are an amiable group of people. In fact, those people will love to help you wherever possible. Just give them a signal for help if they don’t speak any common tongue.

Avoiding Accidents

Avoiding the accidents in Iceland should be the most important topic regarding safety for you, for me, and all of us. One of my friends says that the amateurs rarely hit and only the expert drivers make mistakes that cause the accidents. The logic is that you should be careful even if you have decades of driving experience. In fact, we are talking about driving in Iceland. Even though the Icelandic roads are not among the dangerous roads in the world, accidents are still prevailing.

Tourism is continuously increasing in the country to about 30% every year, which is quite a considerable amount of increase. Simultaneously, the accidents and the number of injured tourists is also rising in Iceland. In 2015, more than 200 foreign tourists were injured in car accidents in Iceland. Surprising is that this number increased from 100 injuries in 2014. So nearly a 100% increase in the accidents.

Most accidents took place during winters especially when the snow falls. Now I don’t think so any of those drivers in the accidents were bad drivers. Not at all. Some of them were just not careful. They didn’t take necessary precautions, and possibly they didn’t learn all the traffic signs.

Another cause of the accidents in the dark, Icelandic roadways can be the sleepiness of the driver. Touring means much more than enjoying or making fun. You do it for the unforgettable adventures that stay with you until the end of your life. While driving in Iceland, you want to see all the attractions that come across your way. But you should not forget that sleeping is necessary for you to drive carefully. Just by being careful driving in Iceland can become the best ever journey of your life.