Driving Safely Around Iceland - Tips And Advice
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
We’ve already mentioned that driving in Iceland is the best way to explore the country. It gives you tons of freedom and convenience. You drive whenever you want, you only visit the places you really want to see and you make stops when you feel tired. Driving in Iceland can be challenging, even for an experienced driver. It is worth acquiring some knowledge about driving and roads conditions prior to your trip.
We are going to give you some tips and advice and focus on the most important points so you are prepared for everything!
Roads in Iceland - Do I need a 4x4 in Iceland?
We will talk about this more in a future post but let’s just summarize it here. There are two different types of roads: paved and gravel. Paved roads like Ring Road (Route 1) are open all year long. If you plan to circle the whole Iceland, this is the one you will be using for most of the time. Most of the biggest attractions are located close to Ring Road or just few minutes drive from it. You can easily rent a 2wd car for this type of road.
If you are coming to Iceland in summer and you are planning to visit Highlands (the central part of the island), you will use gravel roads. To be more precise you will use so called F-roads (mountain roads) which are marked with an F before the road number. For example: F208.
For those roads you definitely need a 4x4 campervan. No motorhomes are allowed on those roads as they only have a two-wheel-drive. We already explained the differences between those two in the previous post. Gravel roads are narrow, curved, and have lots of loose stones. You need to be even more careful and adjust the speed to roads conditions. Remember that F-roads are only open for few months in summer and you can check the opening schedule here.
It is good to check the roads infrastructure on the official Icelandic roads website when planning your route so you know in advance which roads you will use. This will help you rent a campervan that is perfect for your needs and itinerary.
The speed limit in Iceland - Safety first!
The speed limit in poplated or urban areas is 50 km/h. Outside of populated areas you can drive to 80 km/h on gravel roads and 90 km/h on paved roads.
We always recommend you drive with caution and remember that our roads are not make for speeding! Driving conditions in Iceland are unique. Another thing is that the speeding tickets here are really expensive and I’ll assume you prefer to save that money on a nice supper in Reykjavik rather than paying a fine for speeding.
All the travellers coming to Iceland should familiarise themselves with the local traffic signs. Bear in mind that you will not find road signs with the speed limits in many places. You should know what kind of road and are you are on, and adjust your speed accordingly.
I would also say that some things you would consider unexpected in your country are pretty standard in Iceland. Sheep on the road? Completely normal! This is another thing I should warn you about. The sheep in Iceland graze freely in the countryside and you never know when one will feel like crossing the road. Sometime because the grass there looks greener and sometimes because they are started by the sound of an approaching vehicle. If you see one, it is best to stop or slow down significantly and let the animal pass.
Off road driving
Off road driving in Iceland is strictly forbidden and can be fined. You are not allowed to drive outside the designated roads and routes in any case!
Stopping in the middle of the road is also forbidden and might cause an accident! Many tourists going down the Ring Road, stop to take a picture and leave their car on the road. It is really dangerous so please avoid it. Stop only in parking lots or designated areas.
Weather and road conditions
This point is very important. When you already have your route planed, you know everything about types of roads and speed limit, you should now check the weather forecast.
The weather in Iceland is unpredictable and can change drastically any minute. Always check the forecast before hitting the road. Always try to be aware and check if there are any alerts about the weather, like strong winds, developing storms, which roads are closed, or any other pertinent information. If a local tells you it is better to stay at your hotel, believe them. They know what they are talking about.
The wind can get very strong here. In 2015 during the big storm winds reached 226 km/h (140 mph). Many irresponsible tourists ignored the warning and continued along their journey. As a result, their cars were blown off the roads. Avoid that and regularly check the weather forecast website.
Driving safely around Iceland - Tips and advice
Remember, safety always comes first. When planning your journey, you need to have a plan B and make sure you allow spare time between destinations.
We really hope that you will enjoy your road trip with a campervan or a motorohme around Iceland and we wish you a safe drive!