Driving in Iceland is one of the main activities carried out by travellers coming to this country. But how to do it is not as easy as in others here I bring you the best tips and tricks for your trip.
Iceland is very famous for its beautiful and fantastic landscapes. It has large waterfalls, unique glaciers, hot springs, rock formations, lava fields and marine landscapes.
4×4 or campervan?
Before traveling, keep in mind that you can rent any vehicle, a 4×4 vehicle or a campervan.
The first thing you should discard is a city vehicle, one that has no four-wheel drive. The roads are demanding in some cases so you may need to rent a 4×4 vehicle.
But the best option is a campervan. In Iceland there are all sizes, many prices and the good thing is that you have transportation and accommodation for one price.
Having transportation and a place to sleep at the same time is something you will be grateful for because of the contact with nature and the costs. Iceland is one of the most expensive places in the world.
The climate is the least friendly
The truth is that this country offers a unique experience in the world. But this has a downside, and that is that its climate is too unpredictable, so roads can be hit by ice, wind and sand.
The climate in Iceland can change very quickly. You have to keep this in mind.
But here are some rules for driving in Iceland that if you put them into practice, you won’t have any problem.
It should be noted that Iceland has many blind curves, single-lane bridges. But the most dangerous are the obstructions that appear unexpectedly. In other words, when driving through Iceland, a sheep may suddenly appear on the road, so you have to pay close attention.
Things to keep in mind when driving in Iceland
Iceland takes road safety very seriously. So before you drive, there are several rules to keep in mind. These include the following:
Iceland’s roads are not designed to drive at full speed. Generally, urban areas have a speed limit of 50 km/h. While outside urban areas the limit is 90 km/h on paved roads and 80 km/h on unpaved roads, do not attempt to exceed these speed limits, as roads in Iceland are monitored by radar and fines are very high. But this is understandable, since as we said, road safety is a very important issue for this country. The use of mobile phones is allowed when used in hands-free mode. Driving off the road is completely prohibited. Programs like Google Maps may not be very accurate at times. always keep your eyes on the road, follow all the signs and use common sense. if you want to stop to take pictures, you must use the stops designated for this purpose.
Common traffic signs
You should pay close attention to traffic signs, the most common are:
Blind curve, so you must slow down. Closed road. Be aware of sheep and other animals that may cross the road. Signs that tell you to be aware, as the paved road may become gravel. Single lane bridge ahead, so you must slow down and let approaching vehicles pass.
The climate in Iceland
The climate in this country changes very quickly and unpredictably. So when driving in Iceland you should keep in mind that winds can be very strong, storms are almost instantaneous.
You can visit our article “What is the best time to travel to Iceland” for more information.
Take a good look at the weather forecast before you hit the road.
But in the most extreme cases, ice can form on roads.
There are three websites that allow you to have real-time weather information: Road, SafeTravel and Vedur. But you can also call 1777 or +354 522 1100.
When renting a motorhome in Iceland (the most normal way to travel around the country), you should check which things are covered by insurance.
For this, you need to talk to the rental agent.
It’s also a good idea to ask the agent for advice on which vehicle is the most suitable for the route you want to take, as well as the insurance you should choose.
When you rent a car you take out insurance, it’s the quietest way to travel.
If driving beyond urban areas is among your plans, insurance is important.
F means fjall, which in Icelandic means mountain and these roads are not paved. They can range from gravel to earth or a mixture of them.
To drive through Iceland on these roads, it is necessary, yes or yes, 4×4 vehicles. You should also keep in mind that weather changes, road blockages, rivers and flat tires can be a big challenge on these roads.
On the other hand, some trips are better in “Super Jeep” or other 4×4 high clearance vehicles.
Considerations if you plan to travel to the interior highlands
If you are not entirely sure about driving in Iceland a good option may be to take a guided tour.
In this way, you will also be able to observe and obtain some driving and safety tips.
Roads F are open between June and August weather permitting. For this reason, it is always important to check the current state of the climate.
Preparing to drive through Iceland
Now that you have taken all of the above into account, this last point is missing to be ready if you want to drive safely through Iceland. Please note the following:
You must plan your route very well, warn about your departures and arrivals and communicate any variation of the plan. The websites mentioned above are very useful, especially to know the state of the weather and the road. always pack a shovel and a rope with you. In any emergency, you can use the SafeTravel system or the 112 applications you can download for Android, iPhone or Windows Phone. In the interior highlands, phone coverage can be unpredictable, but make sure you have your device charged. In case of emergency, by keeping the phone on, the signal can be transmitted to a pager that is independent of the service.
Roads in Iceland and precautions
Iceland has several roads, but the main and surrounding island has a length of 1399 km, which is Route 1, or better known as Ring Road or Circular Route.
This road connects the main cities such as Reykjavik, Blonduós, Borgarnes, Egilsstadir, Akureyri, Selfoss and Höfn.
Route 1 is also the ideal and easiest route to take if you want to visit Iceland’s most beautiful places.
It’s not completely paved, but most of its sections are. On the other hand, most of the other semiaffected roads are dirt roads.
The Circular Route of Iceland is the main one and the one that will take you to the most beautiful places of the country.
The roads of WestFjord (Friodos del Oeste) have improved significantly, including the detour to Ísafjördur.
Returning to the main road, there are several secondary roads that connect with smaller towns and places with few inhabitants. But not all the stretches are asphalted, as a lot of them are made of earth although in good condition.
On the other hand, the worst roads are easy to identify as they have three digits and are completely made of gravel. So if you’re renting a motorhome or motorhome to drive in Iceland make sure it’s 4×4, with good suspension and power. Also a good insurance and that is able to withstand the conditions of those roads.
Roads starting with the letter F in Fjall run through the interior of Iceland. If you want to go to places like Posmork, Askja Volcano, Landmannalaugar, and some fjords, you need a 4×4 vehicle.
A conventional vehicle might have trouble travelling these roads. Also keep in mind that in winter many of them close and you should check the status from the web.
The state of the roads
As we have said before, and it is worth repeating, it is necessary to drive with great caution. Iceland’s roads are different from those of other countries and can change drastically depending on the climate.
You must check the weather and the state of the roads constantly (they are updated in real time) and the websites are in English. And of course, never forget to respect the speed limits, rather than avoiding a fine you can avoid putting yourself in danger.
Dangers of the Icelandic road
Icelandic roads can be very dangerous, so always drive with caution and alertness. Although they all have traffic signs, there are some sections that go from a normal road to an unpaved road (such as the Ring road). In this case, it is best to slow down gradually so as not to lose control of the car.
There are also roads that are very narrow and there is no room for two vehicles to travel on them, so speed must be reduced. But one of the most constant dangers when driving in Iceland is blind or reduced visibility curves, especially on single-lane roads.
While single-lane bridges are also common, it is all the more common and dangerous to find animals on the road, such as sheep and horses. If you are driving on the roads of the Western Fjords, be very careful, as they are the most dangerous of all.
Driving in Iceland can be a real challenge, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Just follow these tips and you can enjoy the best holidays in this wonderful country.