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Driving in Iceland

We often get questions about how it is to drive in Iceland. The short answer is that is relatively easy, but… and there is always a but.

We decided to gather a few facts and advises from our guides and our sales team!

The Icelandic road system is extensive and easy to navigate. Highway no. 1, commonly known as the Ring Road, is the most travelled route around Iceland. It is open throughout the year, but weather conditions can cause temporary closures during winter. Most major highways are paved, but it may surprise travellers to learn that a large portion of the Icelandic road system is made up of gravel roads, particularly in the highlands.
Gravel roads can be in various conditions, with potholes or washboard surfaces, but most of the time they should give a good ride if care is taken. You should always navigate these roads with care, as loose gravel can be difficult to drive in. Be careful when you pass another vehicle. Sand and small rocks can easily cause damage to cars, such as cracked windshields or a ruined paintjob.

Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times, day and night. Passengers in the front and backseats of an automobile are required by law to use safety belts. Icelandic law forbids any driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while talking on a mobile phone is also banned.

Seatbelts are mandatory, both in front seat and back seat.

Off-Road driving is forbidden in Iceland, unless the track is marked as a Mountain track. Fines for illegal off-road driving are severe.

The speed limit in populated areas is usually 50 km/h. Speed limit signs are not posted unless other speed limits apply. The speed limit is often 60 km/h on throughways. In residential areas
it is usually only 30 km/h. The rule of thumb in rural areas is that gravel roads have a speed limit of 80 km/h, and paved roads 90 km/h. Speed enforcement cameras are widely used
in addition to strict police surveillance.

There are many single lane bridges on the Ring Road. The actual rule is that the car closer to the bridge has the right-of-way. However, it is wise to stop and assess the situation, i.e. Attempt to see what the other driver plans to do.

In Iceland, you can expect livestock to be on or alongside the road. Usually it is sheep, but
sometimes horses and even cows can be in your path. This is common all over the country, and can be very dangerous. Sometimes a sheep is on one side of the road and her lambs on the other side. Under these conditions––which are common––it is a good  rule to expect the lambs or the sheep to run to the other side. If a car hits such an animal, the driver can expect to be held liable for it.

Automated self-service filling stations are operated in all towns and along major highways. Distances between filling stations may vary. Make sure you have enough fuel to reach the next one.

These notes are intended for driving on the ring road, not the Highland roads. More on that later…

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