Exploring Iceland is amazing! We highly recommend that you travel around as much as possible. If you decide to rent a car to drive around Iceland we suggest that you know what you are getting yourself into. To ensure that you have a great and safe trip, we have compiled a list of 12 things to keep in mind when driving around Iceland.
1. Speed Limits
In populated areas in Iceland, the speed limit is usually 50 km/h (31 mph). In rural areas the speed limit is usually 90 km/h (55 mph), but it can depend on whether or not the roads are paved or gravel. Iceland has many speed enforcement cameras all around the country so please follow the speed limit.
2. Prepare ahead of time
When driving the ring-road in Iceland, it is best to be prepared for anything. It is always smart to have packed some snacks and some warm clothing. There are multiple gas stations on the ring road where you can fill up the car and buy some more food. Just make sure that you bring your credit or debit card (and know your pin number) since many gas stations are self-serviced!
3. Know what type of car you need
The type of car you need for driving around Iceland depends on the season. During the summer, if you plan on staying mostly in Reykjavik and traveling the ring road, you should be fine without a 4x4 car. However, if you want to explore the highlands at all, we recommend that you get a 4x4 car. During the winter you should always drive a 4x4 car.
Here you can get a great deal on car rentals in Iceland.
4. Watch out for sheep
Drivers hitting sheep on the road is an unfortunate accident that happens too often. Sheep roam free in many areas of Iceland, so make sure that you drive carefully and pay attention. Be patient as the sheep cross the road and just enjoy the view.
5. Be prepared for any type of weather
In Iceland the weather can drastically change in a matter of a few minutes. It can be sunny one moment, and snowing or hailing the next. Be careful when driving on icy roads, sometimes it is difficult to see the ice on the roads so make sure that you are watching the temperature outside.
6. Phone coverage
It is possible to buy an Icelandic pay-as-you-go sim card that you can put into your phone at the airport, some grocery stores, and tourist shops. But beware that you will not get phone reception or 3g/4g coverage everywhere in Iceland. Sometimes when you are travelling in the highlands or between some large mountains, you will lose your cell reception.
7. Know where to go
If you look at maps before you go and schedule your trip well, you can see so much of Iceland. Be careful with overscheduling since sometimes you will want to make unscheduled stops when you see the raw beauty of Icelandic nature.
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8. Don’t rely solely on GPS
Sometimes tourists in Iceland will input the street name of their hotel in Reykjavik and start driving from the airport. After a few hours of driving they will sometimes end up in rural areas with nothing but farmland around them. Many places in Iceland have the same names, so make sure you are paying attention when you plug in your information into your GPS. When this happens, it often makes the news and gives Icelanders a good laugh!
9. No off-roading
Driving off the road in Iceland is illegal. In Iceland we value the nature greatly, so please do not drive off road and ruin it. The Icelandic nature is in some places very young, and driving on it will cause harm. Drivers that are caught driving off road have to pay hefty fines. In some instances, charges are filed.
10. Let someone know where you are going
If you are planning on driving to the highlands, we suggest that you tell someone where you are going and when you are going to return. It is also wise to share with people the GPS location of where you plan to go. A good thing to remember is the emergency telephone number in Iceland: 112. Iceland has a great Search and Rescue Team are able to help out in difficult situations.
11. Remember to wear a seat-belt
By law, it is mandatory to wear seatbelts in Iceland. You must wear seatbelts at all times when you are in the car. It does not matter whether you are driving the car or just a passenger. Also, children under the age of six have to sit in car seats that are appropriate for their height and weight. By breaking these laws, you can expect a hefty fine from the police. We want you to be safe when you are in Iceland, so please use a seatbelt.
12. Take guided tours
If you want to explore the highlands and travel with an experienced driver-guide, it can be smart to take a Super-Jeep Tour. By doing so, you can travel safely and stress free, and just enjoy the magnificent Icelandic nature.
Here are some of our Super-Jeep Tours.
For further information and to learn about Icelandic road signs click here for a pamphlet from the Icelandic Road Traffic Directorate.