Driving in Iceland
There are many things about driving in Iceland which are unique and may come as a surprise. We at Thrifty Iceland Car rental are concerned about your safety. The roads, the weather, the nature, the road signs and law is in many cases very different from your home country. Please read carefully the information below when planning your car rental in Iceland or Iceland 4x4 rental.
The following information is are important general information regarding driving in Iceland. We urge you to take time to read it through for your safety.
If you are travelling around Iceland in the winter time please ALSO read Winter Driving in Iceland.
We advice you to take the time to watch the short film here below of our friend Elfis who drives around Iceland giving many advices about driving in Iceland.
Please remember that you are responsible for your driving and for checking road and weather conditions and assessing whether it is safe for you to travel.
Instructed by law seat belts should always be worn by the driver and all passengers (fron and rear) when driving in Iceland. Fatal accidents are on the rise due to tourists not wearing them.
Headlights on at all times !
It is also of great importance that you keep the headlamps lit 24 hours a day while driving and make sure you also have lights on the rear side of the vehicle.
Most modern vehicles have an automatic daylight setting that has minimum lighting and often no lights on the rear side of the car. We have your safety in mind when we advice you to turn on the lights so the vehicle is visible from all angles.
The headlight settings are often in a button similar to this. Can be either on the left side of the steering wheel or on the indicator stick on the left side of the steering wheel. Often the settings are set to the AUTO settings but we advice our customers to always put on the setting with the blue circle. This gives you the best lighting possible. Please remember to TURN THEM OFF when you turn off the car, in most cases this light uses up the battery on the vehicle so it might not turn on the next morning if you leave it on!
Stopping on the roadside
In Iceland there are increasing problems and accidents due to tourists who stop on the roadside to take photos. This is unsafe, illegal and dangerous to you and passengers in other cars heading your way. You should ALWAYS find a safe place to park the car on a designated parking lot to take photos.
It is also not allowed to feed animals in fences such as horses and other animals.
Don't drive tired !
In the summer time when the sun is up almost 24 hours a day drivers need to be careful to rest over the day during long trips. It is a great idea that you take turns driving. We offer an additional driver for low cost so you can add on an extra driver so you can enjoy your travel to the fullest.
If you are travelling alone, find a designated parking lot and rest if you are feeling tired.
It is very dangerous for you and others if you fall asleep under the steering wheel. Can cause fatal accidents.
Iceland gravel roads
Iceland roads are total of 13 thousand km but only about 5000 km. are paved with asfalt. The majority is gravel roads which need special attention while driving and are not suitable for fast driving. The roads are narrow and sometimes with one-lane bridges. Please drive carefully and show consideration at all times. When a car comes from the opposite direction, slow down and pull out to the right side of the road. This can reduce risk of costly damage from flying stones.
Many bridges are narrow, allowing only one car to cross at a time. Before entering narrow bridges, please slow down and make sure that no one is entering from the opposite direction.
Please note that there was a recent fatal accident due to drivers entering a narrow bridge at the same time.
Animals on the roads
Please be prepaired for animals grazing by the roadside and straying into or crossing the road. Drivers who cause injury or death to such animals may be liable to claims for compensation for the animal. Most common are sheep but horses and cows are common close to farms. Reindeers are also common in the east Iceland. If an animal is injured or killed in a collision, please contact the nearest farm and pass on the information so the animal can be taken care of.
Average driving speed Iceland
In urban areas the speed limit is 50 km/h unless indicated otherwise and the limit in rural areas is 90 km/h on paved roads but only 80 km/h on gravel roads.
When driving in poor weather or on a rough road we advice you to driver slower than the above. Please note that speed cameras are located on many roads and always in road tunnels. Speeding fines are costly.
Iceland Ring Road and F-roads
The Ring Road (route 1), called by the locals Hringvegur, is narrow but mostly paved and easy to drive on.
In Iceland there are socalled F-roads which are montain (highland roads), often impassable far into summer and known for strong winds. F-roads aren't regularly maintained, resulting in large holes or rocks possibly found on the road. These can severely damage the underbody of the vehicle, a very costly damage for the renterl. F-roads are only suitable for AWD or 4x4 vehicles and NOT allowed for passenger cars (2x4)
When leaving the Ring for the F-roads to reach the Iceland highland you must have the correct vehicle, extra caution is needed and important to check if the road is open for driving. Some F-roads may be drivable only by larger 4x4 rental.
Average opening times on popular F-roads in Icleand:
- Lakagígar (F206) - Jun 12th.
- Fjallabaksleið nyrðri (Landmannalaugar, Eldgjá) (F208) - Jun 12th
- Landmannaleið, Landmannalaugar (F225) - Jun 15th
- Kjölur (Hveravellir) (F35) - Jun 11th
- Sprengisandur (F26) - Jun 27th
- Askja (F88) - Jun 20th
- Kverkfjöll (F902) – Jun 19th
- Uxahryggir (F52) – Jun 5th
- Kaldidalur (F550) – Jun 13th
Please note that these dates are only average opening dates for these roads. You should always check the road and weather conditions before traveling to these destinations such as else.
Iceland off-road driving
Even though you are driving 4x4 all off road driving, like driving off designated roads, is illegal in Iceland. The reason is that Iceland nature is very unique and fragile and minor damage to it can take years to recover or may never be recoverable. Off road driving is subject to high fines and even imprisonment.
Sand and ash storms can damage the car
Please be aware of sand and ash storms when travelling in Iceland. Sand and ash storms can damage the paint, glass, lights and numerous other parts of the car. The renter is liable for the full repair cost unless purchasing specific Sand and Ash Protection. The damage can be very costly. In windy weather we recommend staying away from areas known for risk of sandstorms. If you see a storm ahead, stop, find a place for the car where it's sheltered from the wind and wait for the storm to pass.
Please note that even small rivers can turn out to be very dancerous. The renter is liable for the repair unless buying a specific Insurance; River Ford Crossing protection.
Crossing rivers requires a special driving technique and knowledge about where to cross and the condition of the riverbed (whether it is gravel, clay or large rocks). You need to find the correct ford, water depth should not be higher than 50 % of the wheel and you should drive SLOWLY. Slowly means about 4 km/h.
Iceland road and weather conditions
The Icelandic Road Administration, Vegagerdin, offers information about open and closed roads and road conditions and can be called at 1777 or reached on the web. The Icelandic Met Office, Vedurstofan, offers Weather condition and forecast on the web. The mobile network covers large parts of Iceland but there can be blind spots in rural areas which should be taken into account if relied on as a safety device.
Roads can be blocked temporarily due to extreme road conditions, weather, snow, sandstorms, etc. This can happen any time of the year. Please do not enter a road that is blocked as it may be dangerous and cause serious damages to your car. You can see all information regarding blocked roads at road.is or by phone at 1777.
Does anyone know where you are going?
We urge you to leave your travel plan with someone in case of an emergency. It is possible to leave your plan with www.safetravel.is
We also recommend downloading the 112 Iceland app. The app sends a text to the Icelandic emergency service 112, with the phone's GPS location, before calling 112. If used properly, it will enhance the security of the user by providing vital information.
Additional useful safety information @ safetravel.is page
Unique Iceland road signs: