A road trip around Iceland is a pretty magical experience, with vistas and sights you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Realistically, if you’re planning a holiday jaunt across the nordic expanse, this will likely be your first time driving in this country, so it’s important to consider the differences from your home.
We’ve pulled together our advice on how to drive in Iceland safely and legally, whilst getting the most out of your time here.
The very first thing you should be aware of when driving around Iceland are the laws of the road themselves. Although you won’t have to relive cramming for your driving theory test, you should understand some of the important rules that drivers in Iceland must obey to ensure safety for all.
We’ve broken them down below in sections for your convenience.
This might seem strange during a sunny day, but the law does require all drivers to have their headlights on at all times when operating a vehicle.
Due to the unpredictable nature of weather in Iceland, even during the summer and spring seasons, it’s much more effective to ensure all drivers keep their headlamps on, helping other drivers to spot you in adverse conditions. This removes the necessity for a driver to assess when they should be on.
Icelandic law requires all passengers and drivers to wear seat belts at all times. This is pretty standard practice for many countries, as it’s a proven way to improve everyone’s safety and as a result save lives.
Drivers in Iceland drive on the right-hand side of the road, overtaking on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re a driver in the USA or many parts of Europe, this should be exactly the same as you are used to, though drivers from the UK should keep this in mind. The steering wheel of an Icelandic vehicle will also be on the left-hand side, another thing for UK drivers to watch out for!
Fortunately, as roads in Iceland tend to be relatively straight, long and low in traffic volumes, you shouldn’t find the prospect of getting comfortable with the change if you are used to left-hand side driving.
It’s illegal to drive off-road in Iceland under any circumstances. There are hefty fines associated with this crime, so it absolutely isn’t worth taking the risk. Furthermore, the damage that could be caused to the natural habitat should not be forgotten. If you absolutely need to get somewhere, either find an alternative route or park your car in a safe location and get your hiking boots on!
Note that f-roads, while often more difficult to traverse than most roads, to the point where they might seem off-road, are still legal roads should your car be up to the task. We have written a guide on f-roads in Iceland for your assistance.
Icelandic roads have a few different speed limits, mostly based on their location and propensity for traffic build-up. We’ve listed the most common speed limits you will find, although do keep in mind that individual roads or routes may have unique speed limits in place!
Iceland speed limits for roads are as follows:
These are the biggest factors to keep in mind when driving throughout Iceland. Additional guidance can be found from the official Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) on driving safely in Iceland.
We recommend you ensure you have the right identification at all times, but it’s doubly important when driving around. Fortunately, this is much simpler than it sounds, and you won’t need to go out of your way to obtain a special permit for your holiday.
As long as you bring your normal legal driver's license, Icelandic authorities will recognise that as a legal admittance to operate a vehicle. Of course, we also recommend to keep your relevant rental and insurance documents with you at all times, just to cover any potential disputes that may crop up in unlikely situations.
To ensure your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible, we recommend you always check the weather and conditions of the road around the areas you plan to visit. Due to the rapidly changing weather and climate in Iceland, roads that are perfectly safe to travel one day could be particularly hazardous another, which affects the type of car and tyres you would want to consider for that journey.
You can keep up-to-date with road information from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) here.
We hope this guide has helped to educate about driving in and around Iceland, specifically when looking to drive on f-roads. For additional information about driving and other information about your journey to Iceland, please see our guides below.