How to drive in Iceland
If you are planning on coming to Iceland and drive on your own, there may be some things you need to keep in mind which are different from what you are used to. This is far from being a finite list, but it should help you prepare for how to drive in Iceland.
- We drive on the right side of the road – not the left.
- No drinking and driving – not even one beer / glass of wine with lunch or dinner! Other intoxicants are also forbidden.
- It is required by law to wear a seat belt – everybody, even the driver.
- Do not use your phone while driving – not snapchat, not talking, not texting – just leave this to the passengers.
- If you absolutely must speak on the phone while driving, the use of hands free equipment is mandatory.
- It is required by law to have the headlights turned on at all times – even during the 24/7 daylight in the summer.
- If somebody blinks their headlights at you while you are minding your own business, odds are you have forgotten to turn on your headlights and the car meeting you is trying to tell you.
- Make sure to be mindful of the 24/7 daylight and that you still need to rest and sleep, even though it seems like day outside.
- When driving in roundabouts, pick a lane and stick to it. Changing between lanes within the roundabout is forbidden and remember; the person on the inner circle has right-of-way.
- Parking in Reykjavík can be tricky, but there are many options if you know where to look. Multi-storey car parks, parking lots, pay-and-display zones (take cards + Icelandic coins) and street parking with parking meters (Icelandic coins only).
The nature – it is beautiful and at time breathtaking. However, please focus on your driving and don’t stop by the side of the road unless there is a resting stop to park the car. Many accidents occur because of cars stopped by the side of the road, while the passengers pop out to take pictures of the nature, the northern lights, pet horses etc.
- Absolutely, 100%, no off road driving!! Stick to gravel roads and paved roads – stay clear of what seems to be paths from tires, because these may in fact be the marks of somebody who drove off road.
- Off road driving may result in strict penalties and fines, even jail time. Not to mention that the nature can take decades to heal!
- If you absolutely feel that you must do some rally driving, there are multiple tour options for you which allow you to do it safely and legally, such as; dune buggy driving, formula offroad driving and even enduro biking, if you have a motorcycle license.
- The weather is very tricky in Iceland and can change multiple times a day. Make sure to monitor weather and road conditions at all times, multiple times a day. Even during summer months, because it can even snow in July (if we are very unlucky)!
- In Iceland, all speed and distances go by the metric system, which means kilometers and not miles.
- Speed limits in populated areas is generally 50 km/h, but signs may indicate a different maximum allowed driving speed. Commonly it is around 30 km/h in residential areas and up to 60 or 80 km/h on larger roads.
- The maximum allowed driving speed in Iceland is 90 km/h on paved roads and 80 km/h on gravel roads – so no autobahn driving!
- Be aware of traffic signs with white numbers on a blue background – These signs indicate the recommended maximum speed because of special conditions on that specific part of road, such as tricky turns or the road commonly being wet or sandy. It would be wise to follow these instructions, even though the allowed speed limit may be higher.
- The roads in Iceland are a mix of paved roads and gravel roads.
- When the road changes from paved to gravel, or gravel to paved, make sure to reduce your speed before it happens. Loose gravel on paved roads can momentarily decrease the tire grip, and the grip on gravel roads is a lot less smooth than on the paved roads.
- Gravel roads are often very narrow. Show caution when approaching other vehicles and move to the right as far as you safely can, to allow them to pass. Be mindful of the edge!
- Blind hills and blind curves are very common in Iceland. Approach them with caution and make sure that you are well on your side of the road (the right side, not the left).
- Single lane bridges can be found in many places on the ring road. The rule of thumb is that the car which is closer to the bridge has right-of-way. But it is always a good idea to slow down, or even stop, to assess the situation. If the car on the opposite side blinks their lights at you, odds are they are trying to be polite and giving you the right-of-way.
- There are not many lethal animals in Iceland, but there is a lot of livestock on the roads, which can cause serious accidents! Be aware of your surroundings and mindful of the breaking distance, which is considerably longer on gravel roads. Animals include sheep, cows, reindeer and even horses.
- Secure yourself with a GPS, but make sure to not follow it blindly. If the road looks like it is not fit to drive, turn back around and find a local to ask.
- We recommend the www.safetravel.is website and the 112 app, for anybody who plans to travel in Iceland on their own. The website has up to date information on driving conditions and conditions on popular sites. The app is an important safety tool for anybody travelling safely in Iceland.
To conclude, this goofy little How to drive in Iceland video Elfis has made might help you out: