Driving in Iceland
Before you hit the road and head-off on an epic adventure, please acquaint yourself with the rules and regulations and get the head's up about driving in Iceland with our concise guides and safety tips.
It's not uncommon for people visiting Iceland to hire transport or even bring their own cars via the ferry service; so for those of you keen to explore Iceland independently, there's some important information about driving in Iceland you need to know first.
Knowing the driving rules in Iceland will help to keep you safe from harm and from expensive fines! Here's a short summary for you. In Iceland you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads. Drivers and all passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts. Older children must wear seatbelts and younger children and infants must be seated in car-safety seats.
Car headlights must be switched on at all times, day or night, when driving in Iceland. The use of mobile phones whilst driving is prohibited.
Driving after consumption of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Iceland. Don’t drive under the influence, even if it is acceptable in your own culture. In Iceland it is forbidden! The minimum punishment for a first offense is a fine of at least 100.000 ISK and loss of driving privileges for 4 months.
In Iceland, traffic on the inner lane of a two-lane roundabout always has priority over traffic on the outer lane. Many foreign travellers are unaware of this rule, and therefore roundabouts can get very dangerous. Especially in Reykjavík, you will find quite a lot of two-lane roundabouts and it’s crucial to understand the priority rules.
Driving around Iceland
Driving around Iceland is a wonderful way to experience all those wonders of nature at your own pace. Most people visiting choose to drive the ring road (Rte.1) since it runs by the island's beautiful coast connecting a progression of natural wonders and attractions.
The Ring Road extends around the coast of Iceland with a total length of 1,339 kilometres (832 miles). The road is mostly paved and very well maintained, however there are stretches of unpaved gravel surfaces in the eastern part of the country. The majority of the Ring Road is comprised of a single carriage way with two traffic lanes, one in each direction. Note that it may expand with more lanes when it passes through larger towns and cities.
Be smart and seek information on weather and road conditions before your trip, this is especially important during the winter season. If you’re careful, respect speed limits and other traffic regulations in Iceland you’re likely to have a safe trip and no fines!
We recommend that you read the guide on driving in Iceland and watch the video as well. The website also has information on all road conditions in Iceland: Road Conditions in Iceland
Before you start driving in Reykjavík it's worth pointing out that although the majority of drivers here are responsible, there exists a minority of impatient drivers who don’t use their indicators. It's also common to see some people talking on the phone whilst driving, and the occasional aggressive speeder or tailgater. Don't let these few law-breakers put you off driving or let them influence you in any way! Respect the driving regulations and enjoy your trip.
Don't be distracted!
When driving in the Icelandic countryside it's very easy to get distracted by the gorgeous surroundings! No matter how beautiful something is don't let it distract you from your driving. If you see something that demands your attention, please find a place safe place to park and give the attraction your full attention instead!
Some of the roads in the countryside may be rougher, narrower, and far more hazardous than you are used to. Smaller bridges are often single lane so drivers should be cautious of opposite traffic when crossing. Respect speed limitations and slow down when the road changes from tarmac to gravel or to a single-lane bridges. Extra caution must be taken when driving in the highlands, crossing rivers or driving in the snow since it can be hazardous, especially to the inexperienced driver. Although speciality vehicles are not necessary to drive on Iceland’s main ring Road (Rte.1), 4x4’s are needed for those who wish to explore Iceland’s interior - note that these roads are only accessible during summer.
Off road driving is illegal in Iceland! The Icelandic nature is unique and untouched in big areas and we want to keep it that way in the future. Off road driving is subject to high fines and even imprisonment!
The Search and Rescue Association of Iceland (ICE-SAR) has released a safety app for visitors travelling in Iceland. Using GPS technology the app enables emergency services to trace your steps and locate you promptly in case of emergency. As a potentially a life-saving device, this app is a must for hikers and people travelling in remote areas in Iceland.
Parking in Reykjavík
There are many parking options in Reykjavik with specialized parking zones, multi-storey car parks, parking lots and street parking available. Ticket dispensers in pay-and-display zones accept both coins and credit cards. You have to put in the license plate number of your car and there is no need to print out the ticket and display it in the cars. Parking rates in Reykjavík vary according to parking zones, the closer you park to Reykjavík city centre the more expensive is it. Keep in mind that the city is relatively small, so even if you park in the outskirts of Reykjavik centre you’re only 3-5 minute walk from downtown Reykjavík on foot.
Parking zones are divided into P1, P2, P3 and P4. P1 is the red zone and the most expensive parking zone in Reykjavík but the P1 parking meter ticket is also valid in zone P1, P2, P3 and P4. P2 is the blue zone but the P2 parking meter ticket is also valid in zone P3 and P4. P3 is the green zone but the P3 parking meter ticket is only valid in zone P3. P4 is the yellow zone and the P4 parking meter ticket is also only valid in zone P4.
Enjoy your stay in Iceland and most of all have a safe, pleasant and economic trip!