Iceland has become a trendy destination for travellers from around the world. Driving in Iceland is one of the common ways to get around this beautiful country. On our trip to Iceland, my husband and I preferred to have a car to enjoy and see more of the various places and to enjoy the scenery and activities at our own pace.
The team of the car rental service explained to us the route that we can take and the highlights of the Golden Circle Iceland Driving Routes and the South Iceland Driving Route. They also made us aware of the various tips and tricks when driving in Iceland.
See this Around Iceland Road trip package by Iceland travel.
I will be sharing with you some handy tips when driving in Iceland, so shall we begin?
- Here are some tips and things to know in driving in Iceland
- Different Road types in Iceland
- The National and Municipal Roads
- Speed Limit in Iceland
- Off-road Driving in Iceland
- Road Signs and Navigation in Iceland
- Getting Petrol in Iceland
- Driving License Needed
- Car Rentals and Driving Insurance
- Manual or Automatic driving?
- Other Driving Tips in Iceland
- Parking in Iceland
- Driving in Winter in Iceland
Here are some tips and things to know in driving in Iceland
Different Road types in Iceland
There are different types of roads that you should be aware of for your safety while exploring the vast and rugged landscape of Iceland. This will also save you from getting hefty driving fines while you are in Iceland. Toll roads can also be found in Iceland so always keep an eye on the toll road signs.
The National and Municipal Roads
These are the public road system in Iceland that are maintained by the government. The national and municipal roads are classified into five different types. These are:
These roads are the main artery of the road system in Iceland. Route One or Ring Road is one of the primary roads in Iceland. These primary roads interlink all the municipalities around the country. Some parts of the Golden Circle route is also considered a primary road.
Primary Highland Roads
These are also known as the F Roads or the mountain roads. These types of roads are found in the highlands where most of the volcanoes and glaciers are located.
This road system is closed during the wintertime due to safety reasons. Only 4×4 vehicles are advised to access these roads.
These types of roads are typically connected to the two main primary roads in Iceland. The secondary roads also link various villages to the primary road systems.
Local Access Roads
The local access roads are the roads that will typically lead to the rural communities, e.g. farms, factories, churches, and other places outside the populated areas in Iceland.
This road type usually is running across the mountains and moors in Iceland. Same as the Primary Highland roads, these roads are closed if you are planning on driving in Iceland in winter. Only large vehicles such as 4×4 and larger are permitted to use these roads.
Speed Limit in Iceland
Watch your speed! It is easy to speed while trying to take in the beautiful landscape of Iceland. There is an expensive fine if you get caught by the police and speed cameras.
The speed limits in Iceland
- 90 km/h on Paved roads
- 80km/h on Gravel Roads
- 50km/h on Urban area.
Off-road Driving in Iceland
Most of Iceland landscapes are covered with moss and other plants that live in very harsh Arctic conditions. Icelandic government set a driving rule that it is imperative not to drive off-road unless it is a paved mountain road or F roads.
If you are caught violating this, you will face a hefty fine due to the reckless driving and destruction of the Icelandic protected landscapes.
Familiarise yourself with the different Icelandic Road signs. Most of the signs don’t have any English translations. Bring a map and mark all the destinations you want to visit. There are some areas in Iceland where you won’t get any mobile phone or GPS signal.
If you have any pocket Wi-Fi router, this will also be handy for road and walking navigation in Iceland.
Getting Petrol in Iceland
This is very important if you don’t want to max out your pocket money while in Iceland!
The majority of the petrol station in Iceland are self-service, and most likely they only accept card payments. Pick the exact amount of money in Icelandic Kronas you want to spend in topping up your petrol. During our trip to Iceland, my husband and I were not aware of this and our money was on hold after filling up at the petrol station.
I highly recommended NOT to choose the FILL-UP option as this will authorise your card up to a maximum of £130 or the equivalent amount in your currency per transaction. This authorisation will hold your money for the next ten days regardless of how much you’ve spent on petrol!
Also note the travel distance and the amount of petrol that you have on your vehicle, especially if you are making various road trips from Reykjavik. The petrol stations in Iceland are sparingly dotted around the country and not situated in a very close distance to each other. To prevent any breakdowns, just make sure that you have enough petrol before you head off for a long road trip in Iceland.
Driving License Needed
Valid Driving licenses issued by the USA, Canada and the European Economic Area (EEA) are permitted to drive in Iceland and you do not need to have an International Driving License. If your driving license is from a different country mentioned above, you will have to secure an International driver’s license to be able to drive in Iceland.
As for the British Driving License, in case your car rental in Iceland requires a DVLA Driving License code check your Driving License, you can get your DVLA code here. During our trip, my husband was the designated driver and I was in charge of the navigation etc. We only have to show my husband’s driving license and DVLA code.
Car Rentals and Driving Insurance
The car rental service in Iceland that we took was complete with all the car insurances needed for our trips like the Gravel Protection, Super Collision Damage Waiver Insurance and Satellite Navigator (GPS).
This is advisable to have because some roads in Iceland are dirt roads and it is inevitable that your car will be scratched due to the stones and other debris on the road. The car rental companies in Iceland will advise and brief you prior to handing you your car keys to familiarize you with the safety driving rules and driving signs in Iceland.
Like with any car rentals, you have to return the vehicle in the same condition when it was given to you and make sure to top up the petrol prior to returning the car to the car rental services. See some top Iceland budgeting tips and car rental hacks to save money.
Manual or Automatic driving?
This will depend on your preference. Both transmissions are available with most car rental services in Iceland.
During our trip, my husband and I preferred to use a Manual transmission car. We find it more economical in petrol usage compared to an Automatic car.
Other Driving Tips in Iceland
Headlights are required at all times while driving and always use your seatbelt when driving as a standard practice.
Requirements for car rental
You must be 18 years old with a valid driving license issued by the USA, Canada or EEA region. Otherwise, an international driving license is needed. Getting the extra insurance for Gravel Protection, Theft and Super Collision Damage Waiver are worth it.
Depending on your planned activities, you can rent a car with a smaller engine if you are planning to go around the primary roads in Iceland. If you intend to be more adventurous and go to the F Roads in Iceland, then you must get the 4×4 type of car or bigger. Car rental prices vary per day from €35 – €100 per day.
Parking in Iceland
Parking in Iceland is normally free unless you are in Reykjavik and Akureyri centre.
There are parking meters displayed around Reykjavik where you need to pay by the hour (pay and display). The parking zones are divided into four in Reykjavik:
P1 Red Zone
Price: 275 ISK Mon- Fri: 09:00 – 18:00 | Sat: 10:00 – 16:00 | Sun: Free
P2 Blue Zone
Price: 150 ISK Mon- Fri: 09:00 – 18:00 | Sat: 10:00 – 16:00 | Sun: Free
P3 Green Zone
Price: 125 ISK for 1 to 2 hours | 30 ISK per hour after the first 2 hours. Mon- Fri: 09:00 – 18:00 | Sat: 10:00 – 16:00 | Sun: Free
P4 Yellow / Amber Zone
Price: 150 ISK Mon- Fri: 09:00 – 16:00 | Sat: Free | Sun: Free
There are also alternative car parking buildings in Reykjavik.
Driving in Winter in Iceland
If you are planning to visit Iceland in the winter months, be prepared for road closures. Most of the F roads in Iceland are closed due to the dangerous weather and road conditions.
Some of the main roads will be open as usual, but be extra careful when driving. Iceland is known to have very erratic weather conditions and the daylight during the winter months are very short.
I hope this Driving Guide to Iceland will enable you to enjoy this beautiful country and everything it has to offer. In case you will need a visa to visit Iceland, you can check out my Schengen Visa guide and these other handy tips for the Golden Circle tour.