Tips for Driving in Iceland – What You Need to Know

Iceland Travel Info Tips for Driving in Iceland – What You Need to Know

So, you’re coming to Iceland and plan on renting a car. Excellent idea!  We highly recommend exploring the well-known Ring Road, there’s so much beauty to see and experience.  Here are some important tips about driving in Iceland that will help keep you safe and make your experience that much better.

Speed limits

First, Iceland uses the metric system so speed limits are in kilometers per hour. And, Icelanders drive on the right side.  The general speed limit for cars in Iceland is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on rural gravel roads and 90 km/h on paved rural roads.  Though you are unlikely to encounter police while driving in Iceland, it is not advisable to exceed these speed limits. Better to take your time, abide the speed laws and enjoy the trip – you’re on vacation anyways so, what’s the hurry?

Roads

Depending on your own country, you may find that Iceland roads are a bit narrower then you are used to.  Most of Iceland’s Ring Road, their main highway around the country, is a two-lane road.  Also, be advised that a section of the Ring Road in North Iceland is unpaved and has steep curvy sections.  This part of Iceland is fairly snow-bound, this is one of the reasons it is unpaved – the gravel is actually safer.  Other roads in Iceland may also be unpaved, these will also be gravel roads.

Stay on the roads

Much of Iceland’s nature is actually pretty vulnerable, so please stay on marked roads. You may get stuck and you will likely leave deep tire marks that may take decades to go away!

One lane bridges

Outside of the capital city of Reykjavik, most of Iceland’s bridges are one-lane and, there are lots of them. This may come as a surprise for some visitors who will not know the etiquette.  The rules are  obvious, the closer car goes first.  Then it's your turn.  If drivers are being polite, it's one car at a time.  Drive slow because the bridge’s road surface can be a little slippery and the bridges are almost always narrow! 

Weather

Iceland’s weather most likely represents the greatest driving danger. Not to scare you, but this is the truth. Iceland’s weather is notoriously capricious. You could set out under blue skies and end up in a white-out snow storm. So, know your driving limits and abilities and if the conditions get bad, pull over and wait it out if you can.  If you get in trouble, dial 112 the national emergency number. 

Sheep!

When driving in Iceland, please do keep an eye out for these guys. For most of the year, they roam free and sometimes congregate at the side of roads - you don't know which way they might run off.

Gas stations

Outside the capital region, Iceland is very sparsely populated. There are gas station(s) in just about every village but villages can be few and are somewhat far between, so keep an eye on your fuel gauge. Also, almost all the gas stations are self-serve and automated.  If you get confused about how to use the automated pumps, ask an employee inside the station.

Cell phone coverage

Cell phone coverage is excellent in Iceland so, if you have your cell phone, you will be able to use it just about anywhere.  Please note whether or not your mobile phone provider allows international calls. Most American plans do not and you must make plans with them before traveling.

So, there you have it!  We hope these driving tips are useful and you have a fun and safe Iceland vacation. Also know that Icelandair Hotels has 9 locations located around the country so, you’ll always have a comfortable and friendly place to stay.  If you plan on driving to the East coast, South Coast or to North Iceland, check out Icelandair Hotel Herad in the East coast town of Egillstadir, Icelandair Hotel Vik in the South or, Icelandair Hotel Akureyri, located in the Northern city of Akureyri. Cheers!

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