Iceland is also known as the Land of Fire and Ice. Europe’s biggest glacier covers one part of the island – Vatnajökull. And the other part is an area full of active volcanoes. Picturesque waterfalls and geysers play an essential role in attracting tourists. Apart from that, Iceland has much more to offer. Our capital, Reykjavik, is the northernmost capital of the world; it is charming and colorful. During the winter, you can enjoy the free show of Mother Nature: the Northern Lights.
So many things and so little time right? That is the common problem of many tourists who come to Iceland for their holidays. The best way to get the richness and the diversity of the Icelandic landscape and be fully satisfied is to organize a road trip around Iceland. Traveling around Iceland requires overcoming vast distances, mostly in uninhabited areas. If we take into consideration the poorly developed public transport, it is worth it to rent a car or an RV in Iceland. Most of the tourists coming to explore Iceland, decide to make the Ring Road trip and drive around the whole island.
We already spoke about safety while driving in Iceland before; you can read the article here. In this post, we would like to talk about the speed limits in Iceland, so you are aware and perfectly prepared for your road trip in Iceland.
Types of roads in Iceland
Let’s start with a brief refresher of knowledge about the types of roads in Iceland. The main paved road is the well-known Ring Road which encircles the island. If you decide to use this road only, it will lead you to all the famous attractions with no need of renting a 4x4 vehicle. Beware though that even some parts of the Ring Road are gravel. Gravel?
Yes, this is another type of Iceland road. Most of the roads in Iceland are gravel with loose stones. Driving on these roads requires caution and reducing speed. Gravel damage to the windshield and the body of the car are widespread if you do not adjust the speed to the roads conditions. Beware that most rental companies do not cover the cost of these damages, and it is recommendable to get additional insurance to lower the self-risk fee in case of an issue.
In Iceland, you will also find so-called F-roads which are the roads located in the central part of Iceland – The Highlands. Those are only open during a few months in summer. Make sure you read our guide to Icelandic F-roads. For those roads, you need a 4x4 car. Driving in Iceland in this region is challenging and can even be dangerous. There are rules to respect, but we will talk about them in the following section of this article.
To drive safely around Iceland, you need to know the speed limits that you should abide by. Those are adapted to our roads conditions and possible risks.
If the roads signs do not indicate otherwise, the speed limits in Iceland are as follows:
50 km/h ( 31 mph) in populated areas
80 km/h ( 50 mph) on gravel roads in unpopulated areas
90 km/h( 56 mph) on paved roads in unpopulated areas
You need to be aware that sometimes in Iceland you will not find the road sign indicating the allowed speed. You must know and remember which speed is valid for a particular area.
Even though the road sign says the speed limit is 90 km/h, that doesn’t mean you need to drive so quickly. You need to adjust your speed to the weather conditions especially if you are not a very experienced driver.
General safety tips
If you already decided to explore our country by car, we recommend extreme care and careful driving. When visiting Iceland by car or RV, you need to remember about the severity of the climate, vast distances between gas stations and unpredictable weather which can change drastically any minute.
If you decide to travel around the Highlands, we recommend to do it in a group of two cars at least. That way, you can get help in case of an issue. You should also check if a certain F-road is open at the time of the year you plan your trip. The most important thing is to check the weather forecast and the roads conditions before the journey, even a few times per day. Remember that the weather can change drastically at any minute. That statement is not a myth; in one month you can experience all four seasons.
F-Roads and gravel roads are narrow and curved and bumpy. You will also find some one-lane bridges. Be careful when passing by another vehicle; keep close to your side of the road and reduce the speed. You wouldn’t want to damage the side mirror, right?
Driving off-road is strictly forbidden in Iceland, and there are high fines for doing that. The Icelandic flora is very fragile and can be easily damaged by the tire tracks. Some of the plants never grow back again so please respect those rules and our nature. We absolutely understand that you would like to stop the car for some time and admire our unique landscapes, but please do it in the parking zones or designated places.
When we are talking about the flora, we cannot forget about the fauna. You might already be aware that Icelandic sheep graze freely and wander around the countryside. From time to time they need to cross the road, and this is when you need to be careful. If you see one or a whole herd standing or walking on the side of the road, slow down and let them pass. You do not want to have this poor animal on your conscience and another fine in your pocket, right?
Speeding tickets are also costly in Iceland, so we really recommend to stick to the speed limits. Icelandic roads are not made for racing, especially if you are driving in winter. Do not forget about the speed cameras. I am sure you would like to avoid getting that kind of photos from your Icelandic holidays. Some of the car rental companies require an imprint on the credit cards, and in case you get the speeding ticket, you get charged a so-called handling fee for being charged the fine.
Speed Limits in Iceland - Tips and Advice for Your Road Trip
While visiting Iceland with a car, you need to be prepared for the roads conditions here and know the rules to drive safely. Driving in Iceland is challenging and require extra caution. I am sure though that with our tips and advice you will enjoy your adventure safe and sound!