Driving in Iceland

There are many unique things about driving in Iceland which 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 the information below carefully when planning your car rental in Iceland.

The following information is important general information regarding driving in Iceland. We urge you to take the 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 have also gathered the most important imformation for you so nothing will come as a surprise during your trip in Iceland.

We advice you to take the time to watch the short film below of Elfis who drives around the country giving thorough advice about driving in Iceland.

Please remember that you are responsible for your driving and for checking road and weather conditions and assessing if it is safe for you to travel.

www.en.vedur.is - Icelandic Meteorological Office - Weather

www.road.is - Vegagerðin - Road conditions

Always wear seatbelts 

As instructed by Icelandic law seat belts should be worn at all times by the driver and all passengers (front and rear) when driving in Iceland. Fatal accidents are on the rise due to tourists not wearing seatbelts. 

Keep headlights on at all times

It is 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 the lights on so the vehicle is visible from all angles.

The headlight settings are often in a button similar to the picture below. It 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 it is set to the AUTO setting 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 in the vehicle so it might not turn on the next morning if you leave it on!


Don't stop 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 summertime 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 good idea to take turns driving. We offer an additional driver for low cost so you can add on an extra driver and enjoy your trip 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 behind the wheel. It can cause fatal accidents.

Slow down on gravel roads

The Icelandic roads are total of 13000 km but only about 5000 km are paved with asphalt. 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.

Be careful on narrow bridges

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.

Look out for animals on the road

Please be prepared 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. Sheep are most common but horses and cows are common close to farms. Reindeer are also common in the east of 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

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 drive slower than the speed indicated above. Please note that speeding cameras are located on many roads and always in road tunnels. Speeding fines are costly.

The Ring Road and F-roads

The Ring Road (route 1), called Hringvegur by the locals, is narrow but mostly paved and easy to drive on.

In Iceland there are so called F-roads which are mountain (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 renter. F-roads are only suitable for AWD or 4x4 vehicles and NOT allowed for passenger cars (2x4)

When leaving the Ring Road for the F-roads to reach the 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 rentals.

Average opening times on popular F-roads in Iceland and current road conditions of mountain roads.

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.

Off-road driving

Even if you are driving a 4x4 vehicle all off road driving, like driving off designated roads, is illegal in Iceland. The reason is that Icelandic 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 is sheltered from the wind and wait for the storm to pass.

Crossing rivers

Please note that even small rivers can turn out to be very dangerous. 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.

Road and weather conditions

The Icelandic Road Administration, Vegagerðin, offers information about open and closed roads and road conditions and can be reached at 1777 or reached on the web. The Icelandic Meteorological Office, Veðurstofan, 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 damage 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:


Car rental Iceland Thrifty pick up locations


Customer services

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