How to Drive Safely in Iceland

Iceland’s rugged, awe-inspiring landscapes make for one of the best and unusual road trips you can make. The roads are long and winding, and if you elect to go into the highlands on the country’s F-roads, you may be driving across glacial rivers and up winding mountain gravel tracks. It is a driving experience unmatched anywhere in the world.

How to Drive Safely in Iceland

Iceland’s Rental Car Drive Packages

Iceland has a thriving rental car industry with rental car firms offering a range of vehicles. You can pick up your rental car from the airport or the capital city, Reykjavik and start exploring Iceland’s famous Golden Circle and take in the fantastic Snæfellsnes Peninsula. 

Driving Tours in Iceland

It is important to familiarise yourself with the rules of the road in Iceland. Generally, it is the same as most countries in the west, although you need to pay attention to other factors unique to the country. Consider:

  • Speed and Distance: Speed limits and distances are given in kilometres and not miles. Don’t’ let this catch you out as speeding fines in Iceland are high, often in excess of £500.
  • Right Hand Drive: Iceland drives on the right-hand side of the road. Again, this may catch you out if you’re from the UK as you drive on the left.
  • F-roads: Due to landslides, weather conditions, and other factors, Iceland has classified its road system by letter. F-roads require a 4 x 4 vehicle and often are only open in the summer. If you are planning to visit the highlands or see the more rugged aspects of the country like those in North Iceland, then you will need a 4 x 4. Many F-roads are closed during the winter months.

Due to the remote nature of F-roads, it is advised to travel in a convoy of at least two vehicles. This way, should your car breakdown or there is an accident, you have a ‘buddy’ to help.

  • Stop in Designated Areas: You can’t just stop anywhere in Iceland to take a picture of something amazing and unusual, such as an ice cave. You will notice designated areas where you can stop close by to an attraction, and you should use this area to park. You can take your picture, and away you go.

If you’re hiring a campervan, you can only park or camp in designated areas. Again, fines are high if you are caught camping where you shouldn’t be. Also, it can be dangerous to do so.

  • Weather Conditions: Pay attention to the weather conditions. Cold fronts can form rapidly in Iceland, and when this is about to happen, it is broadcast across television and radio. As such, you should listen to the broadcast and should a storm hit, park up, let it pass and then continue. With this in mind, pay attention to any road closure announcements and reroute if necessary.
  • Bring Essentials: It is a good idea to equip yourself with essential supplies such as first aid kits, torches/flashlights, provisions, extra blankets. If you need to open the door to get something from the boot during a storm, be aware of the wind speed as this can damage a car door when it whips past you.
  • Maps: When planning your route, it is a good idea to use a map of Iceland rather than rely on GPS. Sometimes, GPS provides literal translations of Icelandic names, and this can be misleading. Also, you may miss out on some great things if you trek along with your GPS guiding you from point A to point B. Take your time with the planning, so you do not miss out on all that Iceland offers.
  • Fuel: The golden rule in Iceland is always fill up with fuel. Do this even if you have filled up a few hours earlier. You never know when the next petrol/gas station will appear, and if you’re going off-road having a full tank is essential. If you have room carry spare fuel as you can never be too careful.

Great Places to Visit in Iceland

Now you know everything needed to drive in Iceland, let’s look at places to go to on your Iceland driving tour.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is on the West Iceland coast and an easy two-hour drive from the capital. Unlike many Iceland beaches that are comprised of black lava sand, the beaches here feature golden and pink sand. The main attraction, however, is Snæfellsjökull glacier, a 1446m high dormant strato-volcano. A perfect place for glacier hiking taking in the delights of the national park.

North Iceland

For a detour of the ring road or golden circle head for North Iceland. Here, providing you have a 4 x 4 you can trek across the Highlands and visit places that many who stick to the main paved roads will never see.

Iceland is an amazing country and one you should visit at your first opportunity.