Home > Blog > Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Iceland

Everything You Need to Know About Driving in Iceland


Driving in Iceland

Planning a road trip to the incredible Land of Ice and Fire? You’re in for a treat! Traveling by car is the perfect way to explore all the many natural wonders that Iceland has to offer, from fiery volcanoes to expansive glaciers and cascading waterfalls.

You can explore on your own time and to your heart’s content as you venture across Iceland by car. Due to the country’s unique terrain, driving in Iceland will most likely be different from driving in your home country.

Get prepared for your amazing Iceland road trip with our top tips for driving in Iceland, including Iceland driving rules and important info to know. Let’s get started, so you can hit the road and begin your once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Driving in Iceland guide

Iceland Driving Rules

First of all, it’s important to know these Iceland driving rules, including which side of the road to drive on, speed limits in Iceland and other vital driving regulations to be aware of for your Iceland road trip.

  • Iceland driving side – If you’re wondering what side of the road you’ll need to drive on, the Iceland driving side is on the right side of the road. If you need to overtake, you must overtake from the left. For most Europeans and Americans driving in Iceland, it’s handy to know that you’ll be driving on the same side of the road. 
  • Iceland speed limits – The general speed limit is 30–50 kilometers per hour in populated areas, 80 kilometers per hour on gravel roads and 90 kilometers per hour on asphalt.
  • Priority on the road goes to vehicles on the right, buses and emergency vehicles.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited and punishable with heavy fines. The drink drive limit is 0.05%.
  • Everyone in the car must wear a seat belt at all times, in both front and rear seats.
  • Dipped headlights must be used at all times throughout the year, whether it’s day or night.
  • Horns can be used when overtaking or in cases of emergency or immediate danger.
  • If you’re driving a motorcycle, a crash helmet must be worn at all times.
  • Children under the age of 3 must be placed in a suitable child’s car seat.

Iceland driving

Important Iceland Driving Information

When driving in Iceland, you’ll need to know the difference between the road types in Iceland and the number to call in an emergency.

Road Types in Iceland

One of the main important things to be aware of when driving in Iceland is the different road types you’ll most likely come across. There are three types of road in Iceland:

  1. Paved roads – The easiest of Iceland’s roads to drive on, paved roads are those that will take you to most of the country’s top tourist hotspots. City roads and the main Ring Road (Route 1) in Iceland are paved, regularly maintained and flat. Any vehicle can drive safely on paved roads.
  2. Gravel roads – Unpaved gravel roads can be driven on by any car; they don’t require a 4x4 vehicle. However, it’s important to slow down, especially when approaching a gravel road to maintain control of the car on the uneven surface and avoid any loose stones causing damage to the vehicle.
  3. F-roadsF-roads in Iceland are mountainous, unpaved roads leading to and within the Icelandic Highlands in the interior of Iceland. Some F-roads feature river crossings, loose rocks and sharp turns. You most likely won’t need to travel on the F-roads, unless you plan to go on an adventure to some of Iceland’s more remote natural locations. You’ll need a 4x4 rental car to drive on the uneven terrain of F-roads.

Type of Roads in Iceland

Emergency Number in Iceland

The emergency number in Iceland is 112. We recommend keeping this number to hand in the unlikely event that you’ll need it. Dialing this number puts you in contact with all emergency services, including fire, police, ambulances and even Search and Rescue.

Guide to driving in Iceland

Tips for Driving in Iceland

Get set for your Iceland road trip adventure with our helpful top tips for driving in Iceland, covering everything from how to navigate a single-lane bridge to making the most of your time on the road in this incredible island nation.

  • Make sure to stick to marked roads – Did you know that off-roading is illegal in Iceland? As well as for safety, it’s forbidden to drive outside marked roads or tracks in order to protect Iceland’s delicate flora and fauna.
  • Reduce your speed when the road surface changes – One of the main causes of road accidents in Iceland is drivers not reducing their speed when a paved road turns into a gravel road. Make sure to drive with caution and go slower when a road surface change is up ahead.
  • Reduce your speed when seeing another car on a rural road – This is important because rural roads tend to be unpaved, meaning loose gravel and stones are prone to fly and cause windscreen breakage if traveling at higher speeds.
  • Only one car on a single-lane bridge at a time – Another common road situation in Iceland that visitors might not be used to at home is driving across a single-lane bridge. It’s not as scary as it sounds; you just need to make sure that you clearly agree with the other car which one of you will drive over the bridge first. Typically, the car that’s closer to the bridge should go first.
  • Be prepared for one-lane tunnels – In remote and mountainous areas of Iceland, you may come across one-lane tunnels. Be aware that you may need to drive into one of the passing places to allow oncoming traffic to drive past. If the passing place is on your side of the road, you’ll be required to pull over. You’ll be able to see how long the tunnel is by reading the sign on the tunnel entrance.
  • Look out for animals, particularly sheep – Iceland is famous for its wild nature, so it’s not surprising that animals can accidentally end up on the roads. That’s why it’s important to look out for any wandering sheep, horses, cows or other animals when driving around Iceland. There will be road signs to indicate areas where it’s particularly likely to see sheep and other animals in the road so you’re aware.
  • Keep a map handy – When traveling around Iceland visiting the country’s awe-inspiring natural attractions, you may find yourself venturing off the beaten path and, occasionally, away from areas with phone signal or GPS. Or, you may run out of phone battery. In these instances, it can be a life-saver to have a paper map to refer to, so you always know where you’re going.
  • Learn about Iceland’s specific road hazards – Being prepared can help keep you safe when driving in Iceland. We can give you the thumbs up for this one already, as you’re learning all about driving in Iceland by reading this article! We also recommend checking out this Icelandic Transport Authority video on dangers on Icelandic roads for more helpful information.
  • Check weather and road conditions before you set out – As the weather can be changeable in Iceland, we always recommend checking the local weather forecast and road conditions in Iceland before your journey. This is especially important to make sure your route is clear and there are no road closures along the way.
  • Plan time for stops along the way – Iceland’s landscapes are sure to take your breath away with their otherworldly beauty and majesty! When planning your road trips, be sure to set aside enough time to stop along the way and explore Iceland’s natural wonders for yourself.
  • Get comprehensive insurance cover – While most rental companies offer basic insurance with their vehicles, we recommend taking a comprehensive insurance package for peace of mind. For example, there are specific insurance packages that cover damage from sand, ash and gravel, due to the nature of Iceland’s terrain and roads.
  • Fill up your tank whenever you have the chance – You’ll usually find petrol and gas stations dotted around the country along all the main roads. It’s always advisable to make sure you have a full tank when heading out on your journey, especially when traveling to more remote areas of the country where there will be fewer gas stations.

tips for driving in iceland

Driving in Iceland at Night

As with traveling anywhere by car at night, driving in Iceland during the dark comes with more risks than driving in the day. Particularly with Iceland’s unpredictable weather, rugged terrain and the proximity of wildlife to the roads, we highly recommend avoiding driving in Iceland at night.

If possible, we recommend planning your trips to coincide with daylight hours. This can be harder when driving in Iceland during winter, as the sun only shines for several hours each day. If you must drive in Iceland at night, make sure to take all necessary precautions, including making sure you’re well-rested and alert, driving slower and keeping headlights on at all times.

Driving in Iceland in the night

Driving in Reykjavik

Driving in Iceland’s urban areas, including the capital of Reykjavik, will most likely be similar to city driving in your home country. Although Reykjavik can be busy in summer, you’ll be able to navigate the city easily by car and can usually find a parking spot somewhere in the capital.

Reykjavik isn’t too big, so you shouldn’t get lost! You can easily reach the main Ring Road from Reykjavik that will take you to some of Iceland's most impressive attractions. The famous Golden Circle route that takes you to Thingvellir National Park, the volcanic Kerid Crater and the geothermal Reykjadalur Valley also starts and ends in Reykjavik. 

Get Set For Your Iceland Road Trip Adventure!

Ready to hit the road and experience the magic of Iceland’s volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and mountains for yourself? Get your Iceland rental car sorted ahead of time, so you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy your perfect Iceland vacation!

After picking up your car at the airport or in the capital, you can hit the Ring Road and explore the beautiful landscapes of Iceland to your heart’s content. Exciting! Can we come along, too?