Driving in Iceland: Ultimate Guide 2023
Iceland is a country that is seemingly made for road trips. Towns are few and far between, separated by landscapes, glaciers, and volcanic eruptions. This is a country that demands you get outside of the capital and explore even just a little bit., best done by driving in Iceland.
Enjoy the beauty that the land of ice and fire has to offer!
The Ring Road is the primary and fundamental Road that circles the island and the most essential tourist spots are generally close to this route. That’s why renting a car in Iceland and arranging a route trip is currently a trend among vacationers and travel lovers alike.
Which car to rent in Iceland?
If you are visiting, Southern part of Iceland, or sticking around Reykjavik and the Ring Road, … a less expensive hatchback would be fine. However, if you are traveling during winter months or planning to travel on an F-Roads you can choose a 4×4 vehicle.
The cost of the rental is an investment in your Iceland adventure, so it’s worth spending a little extra for the freedom and flexibility of your own wheels.
Small 2WD cars are the most affordable and suitable for day trips. They were equipped with studded tires during the winter season to help the traction on ice too.
How much does it cost?
Renting a small car in Iceland cost anywhere between $40 to 100 USD per day (4200 ISK to 10600 ISK) depending on the model/season.
Four wheel drive
The affordable, 4×4 is perfect for Iceland’s rugged F-Roads. If you plan to explore, Iceland’s back roads at any point, you should hire a 4×4 vehicle.
How much does it cost?
Renting a 4×4SUV in Iceland costs between $75-$250 USD per day(10600 ISK-26500 ISK) and Land Rover would cost around $400 per day
Which is the best month to go to Iceland?
Mid-July, August, and early September is the best time to visit Iceland as it has the best weather for sightseeing outdoors.
Speed limits in Iceland
While driving in Iceland, be sure about your speed. For safety reasons, there are speed traps set up around the country. Just waiting to catch drivers over the limit and give them hefty fines. There are cameras that detect your speed.
How to spot these speed cameras?
Before every camera, there is a blue sign to warn motorists. This sign is there everywhere in Iceland, so memorizing it can save you from hefty fines.
It’s also good to know that all tunnels in Iceland have at least one-speed camera, so be sure not to cross the speed limit of 70 km/h.
If electronic monitoring with signs gives you a smiley face you are under the speed limit or a frowny face if you are over the speed limit.
90 km/h on highways
80 km/h on gravel Roads
70 km/h in tunnels
Plan a trip with enough time so you don’t have to speed.
Please wear a seatbelt too, it’s the law in Iceland!
What side of the road do they drive in Iceland?
The right side.
What is the Iceland car driving age?
You must be 20 years old to rent a car in Iceland. If you want to rent a 4×4 vehicle, then the age should be 23 years.
Must wear seat belts.
All passengers must wear seat belts
How do we overtake?
You drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. The general speed limit is 30 to 50 km/hour in populated areas.
Documents needed when renting a car in Iceland
A credit card
ID or passport
Driver’s license or international driving permit.
Driving laws: quick facts
Talking on mobile phones while driving (except with headsets) is prohibited.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is punished with hefty fines.
Iceland, driving license requirements.
If you have a valid driving license with a License number, photograph, and a valid date, should be written in English, then you won’t need an international license. You need to have the license for a minimum of one year to drive on Iceland Road. Or else you will have to apply for an international license to drive in Iceland.
Know the protocol at single lane Bridge
You may encounter this bridge in remote mountainous areas of Iceland and a handful of these tunnels are on the Peninsula of north Iceland.
One-way tunnels can be tricky depending on which direction you are coming from. You will either need to give way or have the right of way. The car that is closest to the bridge will move first and the others wait for them to cross.
Watch out for sheep!
You can witness many sheep roaming around in Iceland. There are more sheep once you go out of the Golden Circle, whenever you see sheep slow down and pay extra attention. Drive carefully through farmland as free, roaming sheep are frequently spotted, on the roadside, and often wander on the road.
Headlights must be always on
Make sure to always turn the headlights on if your vehicle does not have the auto function. This is for your own safety as well as other drivers’ safety.
Don’t stop in the middle of the road to take pictures
This is illegal to stop cars on the roadside, as it can be hard for others to see you. Park in designated spots, then walk to your photo spot.
Know the rules of roundabouts
There are many roundabouts in Iceland. The inner Lane has the right of way to exit, so the car on the outer layer must stop for the car on the inner Lane. You’re not insured if your car breaks this rule.
You cannot turn right at the red light! Wait for the green light to move.
Don’t drive off the road
Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland. The ecosystem on this volcanic island is incredibly fragile and will take many years to heal and is dangerous for motorists. So off-road driving is strictly prohibited.
Be prepared for sudden weather changes
There is a joke amongst Icelanders that says if you don’t like the weather, wait for five minutes.
If you plan a long drive, please check the weather conditions and plan.
Do you need to pay for GPS when renting a car?
No, but you can connect to the internet. Use your phone and Google Maps for navigation.
ESIM internet packages for Iceland
1GB -7 days-€4.12
3GB -30 days -€8.24
5GB -30 days-€11.90
Ring Road and golden circle(paved)
Iceland ‘s most popular destination is driving around Ring Road. You can choose it with a 2-wheel drive vehicle for driving the Golden Circle. This shorter route is a great day trip from Reykjavik if you don’t have much time.
Adventurous F-Roads (Gravel)
Most highland roads (mountain roads) marked with an F on maps have loose gravel surfaces, so please drive with extra caution, and pay special attention along the road. You must reduce your speed since these roads tend to be very narrow and often have very sharp turns.
These roads are more treacherous than other Gravel roads. You can travel for miles without seeing any other cars.
They require a 4-wheel drive rental car.
When a car comes from the opposite direction, slow down and pull out to the right side of the road. This can reduce the risk of costly damage to the windshield from flying stones.
F-Road does not mean of Road.
Driving completely off roads in Iceland is illegal and can damage your rental car and could damage the environment.
Local Access H-Roads (Gravel)
These are dirt roads that often lead to farms and private homes on the main paved roads in Iceland. They are better maintained than F-Roads, do not require a 4×4 in the summer, but or not plowed as frequently as paved roads in the winter.
How to drive on unpaved roads
Good to know: one of the most common places for accidents in Iceland is when a paved road, turns to gravel, as a car can easily skid out of control. Avoid this by reducing your speed as you approach the unpaved section.
Iceland has more than 8000 miles of road, out of these 3000 miles are paved.
Car rental insurance in Iceland.
- Collision damage waiver – Car rental companies offer various levels of collation damage waiver (CDW). it means the rental company won’t charge you over a predetermined limit. If you drop off the rental car with damage.
- The basic CDW comes with every rental. With most companies an additional daily fee (about $10) allows you to upgrade to super CDW(SCDW), Grand, CDW, and premium CDW. This lowers the amount you’ll be liable for any damage to the vehicle.
- The higher level CDW comes with added protection like
- Gravel protection around Iceland, there is a risk of other drivers throwing rocks at your vehicle as a drive-by, so it makes sense to grab this one for a few extra bucks a day.
- Sandstrom and Ash protection
High winds can blast your car with volcanic ash and sand causing extensive damage to your vehicle.
- Ice protection
Get this add-on if you’re traveling in the winter. Sliding of icy roads is a common occurrence in Iceland.
- River crossing Insurance
This covers water up to half of the wheel only, you’re not protected for deeper crossing (which you’ll find plenty of on F-Roads)
River crossing (on F-roads)
If you are driving in Iceland, with a car rental you are only allowed on to the F-roads with 4WD. In the Highlands, some of the most explosive landscapes reside. But to get to most of these places, you will need to do a river crossing. This requires a bit of planning. Here are a few tips.
- Know where your vehicle’s water line is (maximum depth). Going past it may result in damage.
- Try to cross the glacial rivers early in the morning when the flow is lower. As the day heats up, the river gets more powerful and deeper.
- Do not cross the river unless you are sure of being able to get to the other site. Wait for another vehicle to cross to see the depth or walk into the river. If you cannot walk into the river your car won’t make it.
- Use the low gear and don’t change gears while you are in the water.
- Shift your vehicle into 4×4 Low before you start to cross, not in the middle of the river
Drive, slowly and steadily through the current. Don’t drive too fast or splash into the water.
- Do not enter the river, where it seems calm. This is a sign of depth and is not the ideal spot to cross.
- Drive diagonally downstream, so the current helps push you across.
It’s not safe to cross. Try to watch someone else go first.
Accident and break down information
112 is the only emergency number in Iceland. This can be reached from anywhere in Iceland, from any telephone, by voice SMS, or by text message.
Download the Iceland app, which lets you check in before going on a hike or doing anything risky, to help provide location information.
Be aware that the telephone signal in the highlands is not very stable and you can go for a long while without a mobile connection.
Please bring a vehicle smartphone holder, so you can use your phone hands-free while driving.
Hiring a vehicle to drive on the F roads in Iceland
You will need a suitable 4×4 car to drive in Iceland Highlands. Vehicles that are suitable for F- road driving:
Group, M(manual) and group N(automatic) TOYOTA, RAV4 4 x 4 or comparable
Group J Suzuki jimmy 4 x 4(not suitable to drive on all Highland roads. Under all circumstances, it depends on the amount of water flow in the rivers if they can be crossed)
Group R (TOYOTA, land cruiser, 4 x 4 or comparable)
F- Road, driving tips in Iceland.
- These roads are extremely basic and not really maintained. You are on your own out there. No gas stations, no towns, no tow trucks.
- It’s forbidden to drive Iceland’s F-Roads without a 4×4 vehicle due to the rough conditions.
- Traveling in pairs with the second vehicle is highly recommended.
- The conditions of F-Roads can vary greatly. Some can be very easy to drive, while others are more difficult. You may not know which it is until you’re on it.
F-Roads are only open during the summer months, generally from June to September. Some don’t open until July.
Be prepared for winter driving.
Having a 4×4 car makes you feel more confident and in control on icy roads.
To prevent winter damage, try to park your car, facing the wind, pushing the door closed, not open. Crack your window first, and stick your hand out to test wind strength, then slowly open the door with two hands.
Be prepared for all types of weather. The weather in the highlands can change in a blink of an eye.
What is the currency used in Iceland?
1000 Icelandic krona is equal to €6.70. They will accept euros or USD.
Get ready for the adventure of a Lifetime in Iceland!
Don’t forget to check out Car Rentals Iceland: A complete guide 2023