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Driving in Iceland

Are you prepared for your road trip? Learn the rules of the road and more here

Safe driving in Iceland

It is critical that you are aware of driving laws and potential road hazards in Iceland. We strongly recommend taking the following actions before you visit:


Good to know: on arrival, Nordic Visitor self-drive customers also receive a brochure about driving in Iceland.


Road conditions

Always check the weather and road conditions prior to embarking on a long drive. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, and enjoy the journey!

Before leaving your hotel, you can dial 1777 between 08:00 and 16:00 on weekdays to speak with an operator at the Public Roads Administration, or visit www.road.is.

You can also check the weather and road conditions at a tourist information centre, or ask the staff at hotels, restaurants or petrol stations.

Driving license requirements in Iceland

Before travelling to Iceland, ensure you have a valid driver's license. You need to have had the license for a minimum of one year to drive on Iceland’s roads.

Also, to rent a car you need to be at least 20 years of age for a passenger vehicle, or 23 years of age to rent a 4WD or all-wheel-drive vehicle. 

Can you drive in Iceland with an international license?

If you have a valid driving license with a license number, a photograph, a valid date and in Latin letters, then you won’t need an international license. Should this not be the case though, you will have to apply for an international license to drive in Iceland.

LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
US / American license All US driving licences are valid
UK / British license All UK driving licences are valid. Please note: in Iceland, motorists drive on the right-hand side
Canadian license All Canadian driving licences are valid
European / EU / EEA license   All EU/EEA driving licences are valid
Australian license  All Australian driving licences are valid. Please note: in Iceland, motorists drive on the right-hand side
Malaysian license All Malaysian driving licences are valid
Chinese license All Chinese driving licences are valid
Indian license  All Indian driving licences are valid. Please note: in Iceland, motorists drive on the right-hand side

Your rental car

It is important that you are well-informed about your car rental agreement and vehicle insurance—please read the waiver carefully and ask the rental agent about anything unclear before embarking on your journey.

Your rental car should be in good condition when you receive it. Make sure to check all lights, tires and the spare tire. Also be sure to test the radio before driving off the lot. If you have any doubts about the car’s functionality, please contact your rental agent directly.

Repairs or breakdowns

You are responsible for changing flat tires and getting flat tires repaired. Make sure to have a spare tire at all times. If your windshield wipers stop working—possibly from insects or dirt—you can stop at a gas station and ask the service staff to clean them.

In case of a major breakdown, be sure to contact your rental agent right away to arrange for roadside assistance.


Good to know: Nordic Visitor self-drive customers are given a cell phone on arrival pre-loaded with 500 ISK of talk time to use in case of such situations during their stay in Iceland.


The "Ring Road"

The Ring Road is the nickname for Route 1, the country’s only interstate highway that circles the entire island (except for the Westfjords). As the interior highlands are mostly impassable, the Ring Road stays close to the coastline for its entire 1,328 km (825 miles) span. Most of Iceland’s most popular attractions are near or just a short detour from this highway.

For more information, read our guide to driving around Iceland.

Driving laws: quick facts

  • In Iceland, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road 
  • Motorists are obliged to use headlights at all times
  • All passengers must wear seat belts
  • Talking on mobile phones while driving (except with headsets) is prohibited
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is punished with hefty fines, starting at 70.000 ISK

Speed limits and fines

Fines for speeding are high, ranging from 30.000 ISK to 150.000 ISK. The general speed limits are as follows:

  • 50 km/h or less in urban/residential areas
  • 80 km/h on gravel roads (we recommend slower speeds)
  • 90 km/h on paved roads like the major highway, Route 1.

Please note that speed cameras are posted around the country—particularly in urban areas and in the Hvalfjörður tunnel.

Rural road hazards

Many bridges in rural areas—even on the Ring Road—are only wide enough for one car at a time—the car closest to the bridge gets the right of way for crossing these single-lane bridges (einbreið brú).

Also, proceed with extra caution when approaching a blind hill (blindhæð) or when the paved section of a road ends and transitions to gravel (malbik endar).

Be sure to familiarise yourself with road signs.

Sheep 

Sheep actually outnumber people in Iceland! As such, please drive carefully through farmland as free-roaming sheep are frequently spotted near roadsides and often wander onto the roads. If you notice sheep near the road, slow down, and if they are on the road, honk the horn.

Road tunnels

You may encounter one-lane tunnels in remote, mountainous areas of Iceland. When driving through these tunnels, you might need to pull into the turnouts (or 'passing places') at certain intervals to allow oncoming traffic to pass.

But how do you know who has the right of way? If the turnouts are on your side (on the right) in the tunnel, you are obligated to pull over for oncoming cars. The length of the tunnels, in kilometres, are indicated by signs at tunnel entrances.

Highland roads (F-roads)

Most highland roads (or mountain roads), marked with an “F” on maps, have loose gravel surfaces, so please drive with extra caution and pay special attention along the shoulders of the road. You must reduce your speed—especially with oncoming traffic—since these roads tend to be very narrow and often have very sharp winding turns.

Most highland roads are closed until the end of June or longer due to wet, muddy conditions that make the roads impassable. When opened, most of these roads are only suitable for 4WD vehicles.

Important note: driving a regular-type rental car on prohibited highland roads can invalidate your rental insurance—make sure to review the rules in your car rental contract. Some car rental agencies require extra insurance for travelling in the highlands.

Off-road driving

Driving off marked roads can damage fragile vegetation and be very dangerous for motorists. Therefore, off-road driving is strictly prohibited and heavily fined by authorities.

Gas/petrol stations

Gas is slightly cheaper at self-service stations such as ÓB, Orkan and Atlantsolía. They only accept credit cards with a 4-digit PIN number. You can also purchase a pre-paid gas card from the service centre, if there is one.

N1 is a chain of gas stations with 98 locations throughout the country. Their locations typically also have kiosks selling food, beverages and other goods.

Self-service pumps are marked ‘sjálfsafgreiðsla’ and full-service pumps are marked ‘full þjónusta’. Make sure to check which type of fuel your car requires (it is usually marked on the gas cap) before filling the tank.

Opening hours vary throughout the country, but most gas stations in Reykjavík area are open between 7:00 and 23:00. Typically, the larger stations, like N1, will remain open for self-service after closing hours and accept credit cards with 4-digit PIN numbers.

Important note: gas stations are sparse between Vík and Mývatn, so please keep a close eye on your fuel levels. It is better to fill the tank when you have the chance rather than risk running out of gas.

Parking in Reykjavík

Few hotels in central Reykjavík offer overnight parking for their guests. However, you can find metered parking in many downtown areas—meter fees typically range from 90 ISK to 250 ISK per hour, but are free after 18:00 on weekdays, after 13:00 on Saturdays, and all day on Sundays.

Some meters require coins, but in many streets or public lots you can pay by credit card at an automat and place the ticket in the windshield.

Parking garages are another option; they are marked with a “P” and fees range from 50 ISK to 80 ISK per hour, but keep in mind that they have varied closing hours. Free parking can also be found just outside of city centre.

Parking in Akureyri

You can find parking disks at petrol stations in Akureyri, free of charge—simply pick one up and post it in your car. You will find instructionson the back, but it is essentially a simple system of setting the clock on the hour parked.

Note: Outside of urban areas, parking is free. 

Parking fines

Fines for parking violations generally range between 2.500 ISK to 10.000 ISK and can be paid at any bank. If paid within three business days, the fine is reduced by a small amount.

Thinking of exploring Iceland by car? Browse our self-drive tour packages.

 

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