A Quick Guide to Driving in Iceland

driving in iceland

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Iceland’s vast and beautiful landscape makes it one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world. In 2019, approximately two million people made their way to Iceland. Over 98% of those arrivals were on flights to Keflavik International Airport. 

At almost 40,000 square miles, your best bet of exploring the island is through driving in Iceland. However, it is helpful to have some basic tips on driving in Iceland before you go.

If you have an interest in visiting the lowest populated country in Europe, then keep reading on for more information.

Driving in Iceland

Iceland is the perfect country for renting a car. The Ring Road circles the entire island and is approximately 1,332 kilometers or 828 miles in length. Most of Iceland’s top tourist spots and areas for sightseeing are widespread. 

Some people suggest it can take up to one week for exploring the entire island using the Ring Road. There are no highways in Iceland and most of the travel is done through this route. 

Guide To Driving in Iceland

While the age for driving a car in Iceland is 17 years old – don’t be deceived. The minimum age for renting a car is 20 years old. Additionally, if you are looking into 4×4 vehicles, then you need to be at least 23 years old. 

Iceland is a lot different than other European countries and you shouldn’t be so quick in dismissing renting a 4×4 vehicle. As some basic Iceland driving tips go – most of Iceland’s roads are unpaved. 

About one-third of their roadways are paved and safe for 2WD cars. If you have an interest in visiting the highlands of Iceland, then you will want a 4×4 vehicle.

If you are sticking to Iceland’s infamous Ring Road, then you might be okay with a 2WD car. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you think you might venture off the beaten path, make sure you have the right car. 

Iceland has long winters – as you can imagine. Most of the central roads are not passable in the winter. In fact, winter can stretch until July in some years. 

During this time, some of the roadways may be blocked due to mud or rivers. Typical winter months in Iceland are from October through April. During this time, it is highly recommended that you rent a car with approved tires and 4×4 capacity.

The weather constantly changes here but is even riskier in the wintertime. 

How To Drive In Iceland

Speed limits vary in Iceland. The highest you will see is 90 km/hr with hard-surfaced roads. On gravel roads, the speed limit is 80 km/hr. 

Speeding is something you do not want to try out in Iceland. Along with the police, there are speeding cameras set up around the Ring Road and in the capital. If you are speeding, you might find yourself being sent a hefty fine from one of these sneaky cameras. 

Iceland also has many blind hills and single-lane bridge crossings. While these are usually marked with signs, you should exercise extreme caution when navigating these roads. 

Even in the summertime, gusts of wind can kick up. Be careful when opening your car door as the wind can cause damage. The damage from wind gusts is not covered by insurance. 

Additionally, make sure you have your headlights on at all times. They are required in Iceland, even during daylight hours. Unlike America, you also cannot perform a right-hand turn on a red light. 

Also, have your friends or family hold onto your phone while you are driving the car. Talking or texting on your cellphone is illegal and can result in a fine. 

Lastly, even if you have a 4×4 vehicle, you cannot go off-roading in any part of Iceland. Most of their vegetation and landscape are protected and off-roading can severely damage the environment. 

If you drive on F-roads then you must have a 4×4 vehicle. Unfortunately, 2WD cars are not equipped for this terrain and are not insured if you do take them onto an F-road. If you are unsure of which roads you can take your car on, ask for a map at the car rental agency. 

Filling Up Your Car

When you drive in Iceland, you might find that gas stations are fewer and farther between than the bustling cities of other countries. If you use a credit card and don’t have a pin number set up, make sure you set one up before you start your trip.

You will be left with either paying through a debit card or visiting the cash register – if they are open. If you live in America, you might be used to area code numbers for your credit card. These do not work as an alternative in Iceland.

Call your bank and set up your pin number. It will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. 

Many countries around the world do not have self-serve gas stations. Iceland is a bit different. You will pay for and pump your own fuel.

For that reason – it is important to know which type of fuel your car needs. The two different types of fuel you will see are petrol and diesel. Ask the rental car agency before you start your trip about which type you will need. 

Visiting Iceland

For now, Iceland remains open to most visitors who supply a negative COVID-19 test, proof of vaccination, or recovery from COVID-19. Make sure you check with your state agency’s website for any changes.

Driving in Iceland is an essential way to see the full beauty that it has to offer. 

A trusted and reliable rental car agency will give you peace of mind for your trip. Contact us today and make a reservation for your next stop in Iceland. With many different car options and transmission types, you can find a car that best suits your needs. 

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