Is it safe to drive in Iceland? Driving in a different country can be daunting, especially in a country like Iceland where you have hundreds of miles of road to cover to make sure that you see the best bits!!
Bearing this in mind I have put together a short guide which details everything you need to know about driving in Iceland and what to expect when setting out on an adventure in this beautiful country.
The guide will cover everything from hiring a car to staying safe whilst exploring this amazing country.
If you’re planning a road trip in Iceland then check out my Iceland itinerary post for tips on where to stay, what to see and how to get the most out of your trip.
car hire in iceland
You can hire a car from Keflavik AirPort or from Reykjavik.
Hiring a car in Iceland is easy if you’re over 21 and the hiring company will ask for a credit card (you cannot use a debit card or cash) to take a deposit when you arrive.
The deposit is simply to cover any damage that may occur during your hire of the vehicle and is refunded once you hand the car back. Most car rentals in Iceland are what is know as ‘full to full’. This means when you pick the car up it will have a full tank of fuel. You are expected to return the vehicle with a full tank too so bear this in mind.
Make sure that you’re fully aware of all details around your hire agreement and insurance. If you’re unsure then a representative from your hire provider will explain the details.
You should also check over the car before heading off on your adventure. It’s important to make sure that the car has no major damage and is in road-worthy condition.
driving license requirements
Driving in Iceland is permitted for anyone who has a full driving license from their home country which displays a license number and a photo of themselves.
It’s also important to note that you must have held the driving license for at least one year. you must also be at least 20 years of age. If you’re looking to hire a 4X4 you must be at least 23 years of age.
The license must display Latin characters but if you do not qualify then you can apply for an international driving license before your trip.
Speed Limits and Driving laws
Iceland’s speed limits vary dependant on the different roads that you drive on:
- 90km/h on sealed roads away from cities and built-up areas.
- 80km/h on gravel and dirt roads.
- 50km/h in cities and built-up areas.
Fines for speeding in Iceland are very high compared to the UK. You could be fined anywhere between 30,000ISK to 150,000ISK. (OUCH)!
Iceland is scattered with speed traps and there are often police cars around too in more built-up areas. (We saw a police car pull someone over for speeding). Remember that the speed limits are in place to keep you safe and the weather can change in a matter of minutes.
getting fuel in iceland
You will need a card with a pin number to use fuel stations in Iceland. Most of the fuel stations in Iceland are self-service. Stations with full service are usually slightly more expensive so bear this in mind.
To purchase fuel you enter your card into the pumps and then select the amount of fuel you would like ( A Price will be displayed). Your card will be charged and you are then able to take fuel. Once you have finished filling your car you can leave the pump and any overcharged fuel will be refunded to your account/card over the next couple of days.
It is important to know where the nearest fuel station is. Often you can drive for hundreds of kilometers without seeing anything but the Icelandic Landscape.
Make sure you have enough fuel to get around and that you are able to reach the next gas station if you need it.
road safety and weather conditions
In Iceland, you must drive on the right-hand side of the road, have your headlights on at all times and make sure you are always wearing a seatbelt.
Most of the main roads are paved in Iceland, with some gravel and dirt roads in the eastern part of the country. Smaller roads are gravel tracks and often less well kept so you should take care when driving on these.
Watch out for sheep… No Seriously. Sheep outnumber people in Iceland so it’s important to keep your eyes on the road. Hitting one could cause a lot of damage to your car and cost you a lot of money. If you see a sheep near the side of the road make sure to drive slowly. If you see a sheep on the road, use your horn!
The places you want to visit will affect the type of vehicle you may need due to legislation around road types. If you’re planning on sticking to main routes and roads in Iceland then a regular vehicle will be fine, if you’re wanting to be a bit more adventurous then it may be worth upgrading to a 4X4.
A lot of the mountain roads are closed until the summer (usually June). These roads are marked as ‘F’ roads and are some of the most dangerous in Iceland. It’s important to note that these roads are not suitable for regular cars and should only be driven on in 4X4s.
The road conditions in Iceland can be very dangerous and can change in seconds, it’s important to make sure you are paying attention at all times.
Take care especially in harsh weather conditions, the roads can very very deceiving and visibility can be low especially in high winds.
points to note
Here’s a quick run down of the main things you need to remember when driving in Iceland;
- Always check weather conditions before travel.
- Stick to speed limits and safety rules to have a safe and fine free trip!
- Try not to get too distracted by the beautiful Iceland scenery.
- Always be aware of where the nearest gas station is.
- Share driving out when travelling longer distances (make sure you are insured to do so).
I have tried to cover everything in regards to driving in Iceland. If you have any questions please let me know.
Also, check out my 4 day Iceland Itinerary for ideas on places to visit when planning your road trip.