Driving in Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country, and the size of this island nation makes it easy for visitors to see a great deal of its fantastic sights. If you’re contemplating a visit to the Land of Fire and Ice, you’ll want to strongly consider driving in Iceland. You can rent a car in Iceland fairly easily, and an Icelandic road trip is the experience of a lifetime.

I’ve prepared some tips to help you prepare beforehand and while you’re there.

driving in iceland, harpa, conference center

Preparing for Driving in Iceland

Before you set out on your awesome road trip, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules of the road in Iceland.

  • In Iceland, ones drives on the right side of the road. If you’ve ever had the fun of having to drive on the left side when you aren’t accustomed to it, you’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief right now.
  • The driver and all passengers must wear seat belts. Younger children and infants will have to be in safety seats.
  • Headlights must be on whenever the car is in motion, day or night.
  • It is illegal to use a mobile phone when driving in Iceland.
  • As with many countries, driving while “under the influence” or while intoxicated is strictly prohibited.
  • Speed limits vary depending on the terrain and the level of population. For populated areas, it’s generally 30-50 km/h. On gravel roads, usually the limit is 80 km/h with the limit increasing to 90 km/h on paved roads in rural areas. If you’re from the US and aren’t familiar with the metric system, don’t worry about it. Your car’s speed indicator will be marked in km/h.

driving in iceland, cathedral, church

Tips for Driving in Iceland

  • Smaller bridges are often single lane, so you’ll want to pay extra attention for oncoming traffic as you approach. When stopping, making sure to leave adequate space for the other car to exit the bridge.
  • Make sure to slow down when the pavement surface changes, such as from asphalt (tarmac) to gravel. If you aren’t familiar with driving on gravel, it would be a good idea to go slower than the speed limit as you adjust.
  • The weather in Iceland can be rather mercurial. You can experience four seasons in the same day. Before heading out, especially if the weather appears rather dubious at the time, make sure to check the road conditions. Naturally, this is more of a concern in the winter when a gentle breeze and sunshine can quickly turn into gale-force winds and blizzard conditions.
  • Driving in the highlands can be more hazardous, so remember to take things slowly there.
  • Download the safety app to your phone before you head out. This can help emergency services find you in case you need help.
  • Even though you may have a 4×4 vehicle, note that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland. You can cause considerable ecological damage by not observing this law, as well as endanger yourself.
  • Be careful to not get distracted by the scenery. If you spot something interesting, make sure to pull over somewhere safe so you aren’t obstructing traffic as you gaze at the latest wonder you’ve spotted.
  • Because of the above, as well as due to possible weather changes, you’ll want to add extra time to any travel estimate. Trust me on this.

driving in iceland, waterfalls

Parking in Reykjavik

Parking in the city can be very tricky to find and can be expensive. It is cheaper as you get farther away from downtown.

In the city, P1 is the red zone and is the most expensive. If you have a P1 parking meter ticket, you can park in any of the four zones. A ticket valid for the P2 zone is also valid in zones 3 and 4. You get the idea.

It’s a relatively small city, so if you wish to park in the cheapest zone available, you really won’t have to endure too much of a walk.

Is an Iceland road trip in your plans?

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