10 Aug How to Drive Safely in Iceland
Many visitors to Iceland, undertake a road trip. This is a great way to see the country as your transportation is in your control. You can decide how long to stay in a particular place and whether to stop at all.
Iceland is unlike any country on earth. The land has been formed by millions of years of volcanic activity and thanks to its Arctic Circle location which makes the winter incredibly cold, the result is the formation of wild waterfalls, geological landscapes, volcanos, and glaciers. Throw in wild rivers and black lava sand beaches, and you have a very unique location to explore.
Driving in Iceland
As such, driving in Iceland is the ideal way to explore it. There are several good car rental options in the country. You can find car rental Reykjavik or from Keflavik Airport when you arrive.
You should read car rental reviews to make an informed choice.
Iceland Car Rental 4 x 4 or 2 x 2
When choosing a rental car, it is important to decide if you need a 4 x 4 vehicle. If you’re sticking to the Ring Road, then a 2 x 2 will be fine. If you’re planning to go off the beaten track and into the Icelandic Highlands, then you will need a 4 x 4.
One thing to consider is taking the extra insurance. Given the terrain and shifting weather conditions, extra insurance is advised.
Understanding the Road Category System
The more difficult Iceland roads are categorised by the letter ‘F’. These F-Roads are only open in the summer months. In the winter due to landslides and shifting ice, 4 x 4s can’t handle the terrain, and only a purpose-built vehicles can do so.
The F-Roads are passable in the summer, and only a 4 x 4 will do. That said should a severe weather front hit they can be closed at short notice so listen to the radio for announcements.
The main tourist spots are off the N1, the Ring Road, and the Golden Circle. Here, you will be able to visit in a standard 2 x 2. Check your destination and determine what kind of a car you need.
Iceland’s speed limits are as follows:
- Populated areas – 30-50 km per hour.
- Gravel tracks – 80 km per hour.
- Rural roads – 90 km per hour.
It is important to note that speeding fines tend to be high in Iceland, reaching in excess of $800USD. As such, it is a very, very good idea to stick to the speed limits at all times.
Distances and speed in Iceland are always shown in kilometres and not miles, so be aware of this.
Right Hand Drive
Iceland, like most of the world, drives on the right. This can take some getting used to if you are from a country where people drive on the left. So take extra care, especially when starting or slowing down.
The weather can be unpredictable in Iceland with cold-weather fronts descending fast. You are in the Arctic Circle and should expect this. Listen to the weather announcements and make a note of what roads may be blocked for safety reasons. If the weather front is descending where you are, stop if you need to and wait for it to pass. Bring provisions and emergency supplies with you so you can wait it out in relative comfort.
It is worth noting that in high wind speed conditions if you open a car door and the wind catches it, this can damage the car. Be aware of this if you need to get out of your vehicle during these times.
Always top up the tank whenever you pass a petrol/gas station. This is a golden rule in Iceland and one that should always be obeyed, even if you topped up a few miles previously. You can never be certain when you will be able to fill up again, so keeping your tank as full as possible is strongly advised. If you can, carry spare fuel.
Some stations are self-service operated, and so you’ll need a debit or credit card with you to top up.
Use Designated Parking Zones
Iceland is a country where you’ll see landscapes that make you say ‘wow’ a lot. No doubt you want to keep your Instagram feed updated with hundreds of pictures. If you see a ‘wow’ location, you can’t just stop right in front of it, but happily, you’ll see a place to park close by. Park here, take your picture, admire it, and when you’re ready, continue on.
If you stop anywhere, you might block the road, no fun for other drivers, and if the police see you’re parked where you shouldn’t be, fines are not kind.
Iceland is a brilliant country and one you should visit at your earliest opportunity.