Helpful Guide to Driving in Iceland

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?

Read more: Best 5 Days Itinerary to Iceland (Including Vik & Golden Circle)

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:

Primary Roads

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.

Golden Circle Route in Iceland
Driving in Iceland: The Golden Circle Route (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.

Secondary 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.

Highland Roads

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.

driving in iceland in winter
Driving in Iceland: A highland vehicle

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.

Road Signs and Navigation in Iceland

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

best way to get around Iceland
Driving in Iceland in Autumn

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

iceland winter road trip
Driving in Iceland: I stood next to the Highland vehicle, the tyres were almost my height.

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 is 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.

Have you been to Iceland?
Would love to know your driving experience in Iceland in the comment box below!

helpful tips in driving in iceland


Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Daily Mail UK, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her in travelling around the UK and beyond with a mission to promote sustainable tourism and share travel guides, travel tips, foodies, history and culture.

29 thoughts on “Helpful Guide to Driving in Iceland”

  1. So beautiful places i newer saw before. That is why i advise everyone to visit Iceland at least once . Thanks for this post, you inspired me to visit Iceland again.

  2. This is one of the most comprehensive guides to driving in Iceland I’ve read, and complete imo from 2 past trips as well. But, that said, as someone who is not experienced in driving in snowy conditions, that is not soemthing I’d do in Iceland in winter.N

  3. We are just like you and we prefer to rent a car to explore as much as we like. Thank you for the useful information about the roads in Iceland, we’re saving this article for later use!

  4. This is a very comprehensive guide! I wish I read this before I rented a car last year. I endorse your tip about getting insurance, as I saw someone who wrecked their car.

  5. I visited Iceland in winter, but because I was by myself and the road conditions were a bit tricky, I decided not to rent a car and do day tours instead. I think if I go back in the summer I would rent a car though. As you said, its easier to go at your own pace.

  6. This is really a clear and concise guide of the dos and don’ts for road users in Iceland. Anyone heading there should print it and keep it handy on the trip. It certainly will make life a bit easier. I would consider renting a car in summer, but not in winter. It’s a great way of doing things at your own pace.

  7. We loved our self-drive trip to Iceland, in the summer so no icy road conditions. We didn’t go on the more basic local roads which needed four wheel drive but otherwise explored primary and secondary roads. Great tip on the petrol options and that £130 pre-auth!

  8. What a comprehensive post! I wonder if an international driving license from the Philippines will be accepted? I would love to rent a car when I visit Iceland, so I will have freedom to decide where to go and how long to stay in each place.

  9. Iceland is a land that is the stuff of dreams. Of course to really have an immersive experience of its beautiful landscapes driving around is the best option. These are some really practical and sensible tips that will stand us in good stead when we get to Iceland. I found the tip regarding filling-up petrol really very useful and something we would keep an eye on. Hope to be driving around in Iceland some day. Hope that day comes soon enough.

  10. Thanks for writing such an extensive guide. I really appreciate the work that has gone into this post. We all are dying to go to Iceland. The recent season of Vikings has made the urge stronger… he he

  11. This is the most useful guide that I have come across for Iceland. You have captured tips for every season and all the types of roads, parking suggestions… Wow! It is a great Bible for any one heading to Iceland. Well. Done

  12. Hi! Love how detailed your guide is. May I know if it’s better to rent a 4×4 car when chasing the Norhtern Lights? Or will an ordinary car do?

    • Hi Lei! Thank you for the nice words. An ordinary car will be ok. As long as you go out of Reykjavik, Northern Light is not hard to miss. Good luck! I hope you’ll get all the perfect weather condition for it.

  13. Hi

    I am happy to see this blog and thank you for sharing. My family and I (5 adults) are scheduled to visit Iceland in late Sept2019 for 6 days.
    We don’t intent to tour the full ring road and the farthest we would like to see is the southern portion of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
    Diamond Beach. I read in one of the blogs that a camper van is not recommended during Sept because of strong wind and a small car is preferred. Your thoughts on this please? Also, do you know of any Filipino-owned rent-a-car company that provides reasonable rates?

    Thanks and hope to hear from you.

    Gigi Angelo


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