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7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Driving In Iceland + 20 Tips!

If you are considering driving in Iceland, we say good for you! Iceland is a fantastic country but MANY people make crucial mistakes which can lead to danger or a bad experience. There is plenty of information on the web about driving in Iceland but most of it, including a lot of this guide [just scroll down!] focuses on what you should do! But this guide is different. This is going to tell you what you should AVOID doing when driving in Iceland. 

Believe it or not, driving in Iceland isn’t as scary or dangerous as you may think!

Whether you are visiting Iceland in winter or taking an Iceland road trip during the warmer months, driving in Iceland is something you can easily do! For being an Arctic country, the roads in Iceland are extremely well kept and riding along them is pretty smooth.

We have driven in Iceland countless times at this point covering thousands and thousands of miles on various Iceland road trips and have made countless mistakes. This [unfortunatly] has given us first-hand knowledge on what you should NOT DO when driving in Iceland. This is NOT meant to scare you, but to prepare you so that you can have a safe and wonderful time! Iceland is a stunning country full of natural wonder and driving yourself around is one of the best ways to see what Iceland has to offer! Before you embark on driving in Iceland, there are a few things you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable time in the country.

Save money in Iceland by staying at an Airbnb! Get a FREE $40 Airbnb Coupon by using our code when you book! 

stunning sunset on the road while driving in iceland

Everything You Need To Know About Driving In Iceland

7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Driving In Iceland

Mistake #1: Not Heeding Wind And Weather Warnings

Think this is cliche? Think again! Driving in Iceland is no joke and the wind and weather can change at the snap of a finger. It is of crucial importance to heed both wind and weather warnings in Iceland. This is the number one mistake people make when driving in Iceland it is also the most dangerous and crucial to your safety! Please, if it is not advised to drive during your trip, do not try and drive anyway!

The weather warnings are put out by the local Icelandic meteorological society and they know Iceland better than any of us ever could. The wind in Iceland can be so bad that you will get blown clear off the road and it happens quite often to tourists who make this mistake when driving in Iceland. Not only will this put you at risk, it will put the local search and rescue teams at risk too as they must go out in a storm to risk their own safety to save you! 

We beg you, please heed any wind and weather warnings in Iceland. Even if it looks like a nice day to you or the roads don’t look super bad, the warnings are there for a reason. Driving in Iceland can be a very enjoyable activity but you must not make this mistake. This is for your own safety! 

Click here for local weather updates! 

when driving in Iceland, make sure to heed wind and weather warnings so the road isn't icey!

Mistake #2: Trying To Do Too Much In One Trip

We are here to tell you that Iceland is a fabulous country and driving in Iceland can be stunning and beautiful until it isn’t! Another huge mistake people make when driving in Iceland is trying to do too much in one trip and being stuck in the care the entire time. Iceland is way too beautiful to be stuck sitting in your car for hours on end when you really should be out exploring! Make sure to do your research ahead of time so that you don’t take on too much in one trip. 

We planned a trip to Iceland and made this mistake and instead of exploring on a beautiful sunny day we had to drive what ended up being 8 hours per day at least two days of our trip. This really sucked and was a huge mistake because we tried to take on too much in a short amount of time. Although Iceland seems like a small country, it is actually a bit spread out when it comes to driving. Make sure to know your limits and consider the amount of time you have.

Driving the whole 1000+ mile Ring Road in 4 days is totally doable, but your butt won’t leave the seat and you really won’t get time to enjoy all the sites Iceland has to offer. If you want to enjoy driving in Iceland instead of hating it, make sure that you don’t try and cram too much all into one trip! You will have a lot more fun seeing fewer things for a longer amount of time than being stuck in the car all day. 

woman with map on side of road while driving in iceland

Mistake #3: Stopping In The Middle Of The Road For Pictures

We see so many people in Iceland committing this mistake and people have actually died from doing this before! We strongly urge you to never stop in the middle of the road in Iceland for pictures or whatever reason. The roads in Iceland can look quite desolate so you may think what is the harm in simply stopping in the middle of a wide-open stretch to get out and take a photo or explore a little or grab a bite to eat. This is incredibly dangerous and a huge mistake people make when driving in Iceland.

Instead, simply drive until you see a pull-out or small side road. There are tons of small pull-outs all along the Ring Road in Iceland so it shouldn’t be more than a few minutes before you can pull off. When driving in Iceland, keep in mind that there is often no “shoulder” or area to pull off the road like there is in many other places. This is why people resort to this mistake and end up simply stopping in the middle of the road. 

Sadly, this is a common and dangerous mistake we see every trip and people die annually from doing this. Recently, a tourist got hit by a car standing in the middle of the road at night trying to see the northern lights. If you must cross the road, follow proper protocol and look both ways and quickly cross but do not park your car in the road or leave it for any reason. There are plenty of pull-outs so that this is not necessary unless in extreme circumstances such as car failure. 

pull off don't park in the road in iceland

Pulling off into a lovely picnic area is a great place to stop if necessary!

Mistake #4: Spending Too Much Money On A GPS

Iceland is already expensive as it is, why spend even more money if you don’t have to? Another huge mistake people make when driving in Iceland is spending big bucks for a GPS from the car rental company and then barely using it. We have spoken with many travelers who did this and ended up not using the GPS at all. In fact, we have actually done this ourselves and the GPS stayed in a box in the back seat because we never used it at all! 

Instead, we recommend utilizing your phone plan’s global roaming policy. Cell service in Iceland is incredibly good as the Icelandic government makes safety a priority and thus the coverage is great. If you do not have an international plan, we recommend downloading Google Maps offline. This way, you can still go everywhere you need to go without paying a cent! You can still utilize your phone as a GPS device without ever paying for a phone plan if you don’t want to or if it isn’t included. 

Now, this mistake is based on age and will depend on who you are. If you aren’t into all the apps and downloading maps is confusing to you, maybe using a traditional GPS is worth the money for you and you should upgrade and go for it. But for everyone else, especially those of you with phone plans like T-Mobile or Sprint that offer free global roaming, you will be able to use your GPS like normal and this will be a big waste of money when driving in Iceland. 

use your phone instead of buying a GPS in Iceland

Mistake #5. Failing To Fill Up The Gas Early And Often

Oh my goodness, this mistake could leave you stranded for hours when driving in Iceland. At the very least it may force you to pass up a wonderful opportunity like it did last time we were in Iceland. Yes, we didn’t even take our own advice and fell prey to this terrible mistake when driving in Iceland! When you are driving, fill up your gas tank early and often. Iceland is very rural in the majority of the country and this means that gas stations are spread out. If you want to go to an attraction that is off the main road, say, a waterfall, you will have to have enough gas to get there and back and then to the next station safely.

It is essential to fill up early and often when driving in Iceland so please do not make the mistake in failing to do so. If you are still 3/4 full yet pass a gas station? Please, we beg you to stop and fill up! This may seem like an annoyance, but it is 100% worth it so you aren’t stranded somewhere without any gas. If you don’t want to fill up early and often, consider having a full gas can in the car with you as you are driving. You can purchase one at many of the grocery stores in Iceland. 

We have this article about gas stations in Iceland that includes a map of the gas stations so you are able to plot out your trip. The last thing you want to do is to be stranded out in a remote area of Iceland without any gas. Make it a game in your vehicle for someone to remind the driver that this is the rule and to encourage them to stop and fill up. Unless you just filled up 10 minutes ago, it is something you should highly consider doing. This is a very common mistake when driving in Iceland it can be avoided so incredibly easily! 

5 Things To Know About Gas Stations In Iceland

Mistake #6: Driving Off-Road In Iceland 

Driving off-road in Iceland is completely and 100% illegal! Not only do not many tourists know that this is even a thing, but some also do it anyway! If you get caught, you face huge fines and potential jail time, but more importantly, you are damaging the harmful ecosystem forever! It is allowed to drive on dirt roads or pre-approved roads with names and stakes, but driving off-road should never be done in Iceland under any circumstances.

Yes, this includes driving in a seemingly innocent field or on a beach. Unless otherwise stated, stick to the approved roads at all times. Sometimes, people make this mistake while driving in Iceland because they simply don’t know and off-roading is a “thing” in their home country [like it is in the USA!] We are here to tell you that it is illegal in Iceland and remind you not to make this mistake when visiting the beautiful country. Not only will you have to pay a high fine, but you will also damage the environment for decades to come. Plus, did we mention it is totally illegal? 

car off-road in iceland which is illegal

This is SUPER ILLEGAL!! Do not ever do this!

Mistake #7: Completely Writing Off Driving In Iceland In Winter

We understand you are scared! But completely writing off driving in Iceland during the winter is a mistake! We are Floridians and our very first trip to Iceland was in winter and it was also our first time driving in the snow. If born and bred Floridians can do it, we promise you can do it too! In fact, driving in Iceland in winter is actually the perfect place to learn to drive in snow and ice. The majority of the roads in Iceland are quite flat which means there isn’t much crazy mountain driving. This is a safe and easy place to learn how to navigate driving in potential snow and ice without the fear of plunging off the side of a cliff. 

It is a huge mistake to completely write off driving in Iceland simply because it is winter. Iceland in winter is totally magical and this allows you the freedom to see the country as you please. Visiting Iceland during the winter is also more affordable and you can see the country in a different light. We urge you to not cancel or write off driving in Iceland during the winter.

Simply proceed with caution, follow the weather warnings as listed above, and drive slowly and safely. If you feel uncomfortable, simply slow down. If the snow is very heavy, simply stop and pull off the road until you feel comfortable driving again. Finally, the roads in Iceland are VERY GOOD during the winter. The government keeps them up quite well and they are cleared quite often. You really shouldn’t be scared to drive in Iceland in winter and it would be a mistake to write it off without at least considering it and doing more research! 

don't skip driving in iceland in winter!

Should You Rent A Car In Iceland?

The decision to rent a car and go driving in Iceland is up to you! This depends on how long you will be in Iceland, where you want to go, your budget, and your travel style. If you don’t want to drive in Iceland, that is totally okay! There are plenty of tours in Iceland where you don’t even have to drive if you don’t want to! We even created this 3 day Iceland itinerary with a self-drive option and an option where you do not have to drive yourself in case you aren’t comfortable driving in Iceland.

If you ask us our personal recommendation, we always recommend renting a car and driving in Iceland! This is one of the best ways to see the country and you are able to proceed at your own schedule. If you have a lot of luggage like us, you can easily transport it in the car from place to place and you have a warm spot to eat lunch or get out of the elements. Driving in Iceland is quite easy and rental cars aren’t horribly expensive which is why we recommend it as a great way to explore the countryside!

Where To Rent Your Vehicle When Driving In Iceland

When renting a car for your Iceland trip, you will usually have two options. You will fly into Keflavik International Airport which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t in Reykjavik! The airport in Iceland is actually over 45 minutes away from the city! When driving in Iceland, you will rent a car on or near the Keflavik Airport. If you are planning on camping in Iceland and want to rent a camper van, you will be renting near the airport or in Reykjavik city.

If you are renting your vehicle in Reykjavik, you will have to take a shuttle bus into the city. Some Iceland car rental agencies offer free shuttles so be sure to ask before you arrive at the airport and are left high and dry waiting or paying a lot of money.

You will pick up your Iceland car rental either on airport property, within 15-20 minutes away from the airport in an industrial area, or in Reykjavik proper. Just make sure to check the address when booking your vehicle if you plan on driving in Iceland so you can know what to expect!

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

What Are The Speed Limits In Iceland?

Unlike you may think, the speed limits in Iceland are actually quite slow! The roads are often wide open and you may be tempted to speed, but we urge you to proceed with caution. The speed limits in Iceland are there for a reason and they are meant to keep you safe. The weather changes on a dime in Iceland and you never know when a wind, snow, rain, or any other type of storm may come upon you. This is for your own safety!

Speed limits in Iceland:

90 kmh | 55mph on paved roads/highways
80 kmh | 50mph on gravel or dirt roads
50 kmh | 30mph in any cities or small towns

These speed limits in Iceland will be posted on signs but sometimes change very quickly. We recommend downloading the GPS app “Waze” which will tell you and alert you when the speed limits change. Otherwise, designate one of your passengers to be on “speed limit alert” when driving in Iceland. The Iceland speed limit on roads may seem slow, but it is there for a reason! 

speed limits in iceland

Speed Cameras In Iceland

When driving in Iceland, you will rarely see a police officer! In fact, we can’t remember the last time we ever saw one! That being said, you will come across various speed cameras during your trip. The speed cameras are easy to spot as there is generally a “warning” sign telling you the camera is approaching. This is your cue to slow down should you have gotten a little overzealous and been going over the speed limit. You should not be driving super fast in Iceland and should always adhere to the speed limits posted above. The fine resulting from speed cameras in Iceland can range from $200-$500 USD and higher! 

Do You Need An International Driver’s License Before Driving In Iceland?

Whether or not you need an international driver’s license before driving in Iceland is a commonly asked question! For our first trip to Iceland, we applied and got an international driving permit and it made no difference. As long as you have a driver’s license in your country, you will be good to go when driving in Iceland.

All foreign driver’s licenses are recognized as legal when driving in Iceland. That being said, you do have to be a minimum of 21 years of age to rent a car in Iceland and 23 to rent a 4×4 vehicle so be sure to check with your rental agency. The age to rent a car or receive a driver’s license may be different in your home country so this is great to keep in mind if you are younger. Do not worry about applying for an international driver’s license when driving in Iceland, but make sure to bring your passport and local driver’s ID.

person driving a car in iceland road

Which Side Of The Road Do You Drive On In Iceland?

If you are wondering which side of the road to drive on in Iceland, we have all the answers! When driving in Iceland, you drive on the “right” side of the road. If you are used to driving on the “left” side of the road, don’t be afraid! Iceland is the perfect place to try driving on the opposite side of the road! Roads in Iceland are straight, flat, and often desolate so you can get the hang of it quite quickly with practice and caution. Just keep in mind that in Iceland, cars drive on the right side of the road. If you are used to driving on the right side, this should be easy for you! 

Driving on the right side of the road wasn’t always the law and Icelanders used to drive on the left side of the road like the UK and Ireland but authorities changed that law in 1968. Now, you drive on the right side of the road in Iceland and the steering wheel is on the left side of the car.

Another reason for the change was because almost all cars being imported to Iceland had the steering wheel on the left side of the car and were made for right side driving. The Icelandic authorities wanted to make life easier so they simply changed the laws and there has been driving on the right side of the road in Iceland ever since! Even if you aren’t familiar with driving on the right side of the road, driving in Iceland is a wonderfully easy place to master this skill because the roads are flat with minimal traffic.

do icelanders drive on the right or left side of the road?

Finding Gas Stations In Iceland

When driving in Iceland, we recommend you fill up early and often! Although there are a reasonable amount of gas stations in Iceland, they are quite spread out! Check out this map of gas stations in Iceland and make sure to take a screen shot or bookmark when driving in Iceland! There are lots of gas stations in Reykjavik and on Iceland’s south coast, but they become few and far between if you are visiting the West Fjords, north Iceland, or the east Fjords.

This is nothing to worry about when driving in Iceland, as long as you fill up when you are at half or before you drive for a long stretch. If you rented a 4×4 vehicle and plan to go driving on the F-Roads in Iceland, we recommend bringing extra gas with you if possible. There will be nothing worse than getting stuck in the middle of Iceland with no phone service and no way to fill up your gas tank. We want you to have fun driving in Iceland so make sure to always keep an eye on your gas gauge and fill up sooner rather than later!

N1 gas stations in iceland

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

#1 You do not have to rent a 4×4 if you want to drive along any part of Iceland’s Ring Road

This is one of the most common questions we are asked when it comes to driving in Iceland. Once and for all, you do not need to rent a four wheel drive car to drive in Iceland. We have visited when the roads are covered in snow during the off-season and when the roads are clear and had a two-wheel drive car each and every time with no issues. If you visit Iceland in winter, all cars will have appropriate snow tires so you don’t have to worry about slipping.

If you do not rent a 4×4 vehicle, you will not be permitted to drive in F or H roads which go into  the more remote parts of Iceland. These Iceland roads are unpaved and cannot be accessed in winter so if you want to do an Iceland road trip in winter just stick with a 2×2 vehicle. If you plan on driving around Iceland on the famous Ring Road or driving the Golden Circle or anywhere near Reykjavik, you will not need to shell out more money to rent a 4×4 car. Many people blow their Iceland budget on an expensive rental car that they don’t even really need! If you want to visit all the best and most famous parts of Iceland, save your money and rent a 2×2 vehicle.

Read next: The Ultimate 5-Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

#2 Keep your eye out for speed cameras when driving in Iceland

Like many countries, the Iceland government wants to be sure no one drives crazy fast. As a result, there are speed cameras set up around many parts of Iceland. You do not want to get a speeding ticket in Iceland so you are going to have to reign it in and drive safe! You most likely won’t see police officers while driving in Iceland, but you will come across speed cameras.

The speed cameras are usually near more heavily populated areas near Reykjavik and Selfoss and about 1-2 hours from either city. They get more sparse the further away from the big city you go. The max speed limit for driving in Iceland is 90 km/hr on paved roads and 30-50 km/hr in cities. We understand that fast driving in Iceland can be tempting as the country is full of large flat segments of road, but you need to reign it in and stay within the speed limit. If you must speed while driving in Iceland, go no more than 5-10 km/hr over the speed limit to keep your speed safe.

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

If you are wondering what speed cameras look like in Iceland, you are in luck because they are actually quite easy to spot! Unlike speed cameras in America which are hidden, the Icelandic government wants to make driving in Iceland as pleasant as possible. As a result, about 1/4 of a mile before you see the giant and noticeable pole with the speed camera on it, you will see a sign posted warning you that a speed camera is coming up! If you are driving a little too fast, this is your warning to remember to slow down while driving in Iceland or risk getting a speeding ticket!

We found the warning signs before you reached the actual camera to be very helpful and a good reminder to stay at a safe speed when driving in Iceland! It can be tempting to drive faster along the Ring Road in Iceland because it is so flat and straight but be sure to heed the speed limit signs for safety and so you don’t get an expensive ticket.

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

#3 Make sure to budget wisely for the cost of gas when driving around Iceland

We hate to break it to you, but the cost of gas in Iceland is very expensive. Even if you are taking all the necessary steps to visit Iceland on a budget, there is no way you can reduce the cost of gas other than not driving anywhere or taking a tour. Gas is often one of the top 5 things people forget to budget for when planning a trip to Iceland. This is another reason why we always suggest getting a two-wheel drive car as opposed to a 4×4.

On a small economy car, the cost of filling up the tank from empty consistently ran us about $80USD. If we were to fill the same car with the same tank in America it would cost about $25-$30. As a result, it is important to be realistic about the cost of driving in Iceland and to budget money for gas. Make cuts in other areas of your Iceland trip such as food or fancy accommodations to save money for driving in Iceland. Your wallet will thank you!

Read Next: Don’t Go Out To Eat: 7 Tips For Visiting Iceland On A Budget

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

 #4 Don’t panic if you come across a one-lane bridge and/or tunnel during your Iceland road trip

Who said Iceland driving was boring? It sure isn’t when you have to keep an eye out for all the one-lane bridges and tunnels when driving around Iceland! The bridges in Iceland were built long before the current influx of tourists so having a major highway was unnecessary since much of the island is remote. As a result, many bridges in Iceland, even quite long ones, are only big enough for one vehicle to fit on at a time.

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

Since Iceland is flat and empty and you can see far down the road at most points, you are usually able to see pretty easily if it is safe to pass over a one-lane bridge or if you need to pull over and let someone else pass first. If you are driving in Iceland over a longer bridge, there are actually pull-out spaces on the bridge itself in the event that two cars start to cross at the same time and have to pass each other.

The general rule of thumb is the car that arrives at the bridge first is the first to cross it. That being said, not everyone listens to this rule so it is essential to keep an eye out if you hope to self-drive in Iceland. A car may not stop at all until it is too late so it is up to you to keep your eyes peeled at all times to ensure the other vehicle stops and pulls over before you cross. If it doesn’t appear they are going to, it is up to you to pull over and let them pass, despite you arriving first! Driving in Iceland over one-lane bridges and tunnels is a little scary at first but after doing it a few times you will be an old pro!

5 Things To Know Before Visiting Iceland In Winter

#5 Depending on where you are driving in Iceland, you may have to pay a toll

If you are hoping to visit The Snæfellsnes Peninsula in west Iceland or head to the western fjords, you are going to come across the lone toll road in Iceland! It comes in the form of a tunnel that goes under the ocean to connect two pieces of land. You are able to drive around it but it takes quite a bit longer.

The toll costs $10 per way which doesn’t seem like that much when you are sitting at home, but will actually be quite annoying if you are driving in Iceland and just come across it unexpectedly. The toll is located about 1.5 hours west and north of Reykjavik. We chose to pay the money and go through the underwater tunnel which shaves off a few hours of time driving along the winding inland road. Depending on where you plan to drive in Iceland and how much time you have for your Iceland road trip, taking the toll may be your best option. Just be sure to remember it is there and have $20 on hand so it doesn’t seem as bad when you come across it when driving in Iceland.

#6. You Do Not Need An International Drivers License To Drive In Iceland

Many people, including us on our first trip, think that in order to drive in Iceland you need to apply for and present an international drivers license. This is actually not true! All drivers licenses are accepted in Iceland and you are legally allowed to drive in Iceland if you are allowed to drive in your home country. On our first trip, we went through the time and money to get an international license only to find out it is unnecessary. A US drivers license is valid for driving in Iceland as is ones from Europe and Asia.

That being said, some car rental agencies may choose to limit what kinds of roads you can drive on based on your driver’s license. If you are hoping to drive the Ring Road or explore the Golden Circle, you won’t have any limitations. The limits may be applied to off-road driving or driving through rivers or down dangerously steep hills. Rest assured that you do not need an international drivers license when driving in Iceland, but don’t forget to bring yours along in addition to your passport!

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

#7. Driving Off-Road Is Illegal In Iceland

If you are hoping to go off-roading while driving in Iceland, think again! Driving off-road is highly illegal in Iceland and should never be done. If you are driving in Iceland during the warmer months and want a bumpy ride, you should rent a 4×4 and explore the F or H roads in Iceland. While these roads are unpaved but they are still considered roads!

Driving off of the designated road, whether it is the Ring Road or a dirt road, is very harmful to Iceland’s delicate ecosystem. If you think that no one is around and you won’t get caught, consider all the growth you will be destroyed with your selfish decision and stick to the designated roads. Understand that you are a guest in another country and respect the laws and the thousands of year so environmental growth that lay just off the roads in Iceland. Stick to the approved roads for a safe, legal, and environmentally friendly experience driving in Iceland.

Read Next: The Ultimate Iceland Packing List: What To Bring To Iceland

5 Things To Know About Driving In Iceland

Tips For Driving In Iceland In Winter

If you happen to be visiting Iceland in winter and plan to drive, these quick tips and tricks, combined with the ones listed above, will make your trip safer and more enjoyable!

Drive Slowly And Carefully When Driving In Iceland In Winter

If you are driving in Iceland in winter, make sure to drive slowly and carefully! From our experience, the roads in Iceland are great to drive on in winter and ice is minimal compared to other winter travel destinations. That being said, ice is common on roads in Iceland so be sure to heed warnings from officials and drive with caution. If there is fresh snow on the road there is a higher chance that there will not be ice when driving in Iceland in winter.

You Don’t Need A 4×4 When Driving In Iceland In Winter

Just because you are driving in Iceland in winter does not mean that you have to shell out a ton of money to rent a 4×4 vehicle if you don’t want to. A 2×2 or regular car is perfectly fine for driving in Iceland in winter and we have done it twice and lived to tell the tale! The only thing is your car may have a lower clearance and if you are driving over a large fresh snow pile you may hear a light scraping sound. This is just the snow hitting the bottom of your car and isn’t dangerous or damaging. If there isn’t lots of fresh snow on the road you won’t hear a thing when driving in Iceland in winter.

Always Use Your Headlights For Winter Driving In Iceland

During the winter, Iceland is dark for many hours of the day. Even when the sun is out, it is still that sunset glow and not fully bright out. As a result, make sure to use your headlights when driving in Iceland in winter for maximum safety and security of all!

Check For Road Closures And Stick To The South When Driving In Iceland During Winter

If you are going to drive in Iceland during the winter there will be road closures. Make sure to keep an eye out for them and avoid traveling to the north as this is where road closures will be more common. If you are driving in Iceland in winter, stick to Iceland’s warmer [and stunning] south coast! There are almost never any road closures on the south and on Iceland’s Golden Circle drive unless something major happens, so you are set to go and have fun driving in Iceland in winter!

Winter Driving In Iceland Is Totally Doable And Not Scary

If you are prepared, winter driving in Iceland is doable and not scary! We are from Florida so if we can do it twice we are sure you will be just fine! Driving in Iceland in winter simply means being prepared, taking things slow, and paying a little more attention than usual! We are confident that you will get the hang of driving in Iceland in winter quite quickly. The landscape is incredible and the Iceland road trip will be a memorable experience.

Armed with these tips, you will be successfully driving around Iceland in no time! Driving in Iceland really isn’t scary or difficult and it is actually one of the more enjoyable countries to travel in! Before you hit the road, make sure you have enough gas and program your GPS so you don’t get lost! We can’t wait for your to visit Iceland!

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

Should You Pay Extra For A GPS?

If you plan on driving in Iceland, pretty much every single car rental agency will try and up sell you a GPS. These GPS devices are what we used before they even came out with GPS on the phone, so they are indeed a bit dated. We recommend that you refuse the GPS the rental agency tries to sell you and simply use the GPS on your phone when driving in Iceland.

Either Google Maps or Apple Maps works great and you can even download Google Maps to your mobile device ahead of time if you don’t think you will have phone service or if you are going to a remote area! Visiting Iceland is already expensive enough as it is, there is no need to take it further by spending useless money when driving in Iceland when your smartphone will work just fine.

That being said, if you are more old-school or don’t want to use your phone battery up, a traditional GPS could be a consideration. Even better? If you have a traditional GPS at home, throw it in your luggage and use it when driving in Iceland!

 Driving In Iceland with a GPS

How To Drive On Iceland’s F-Roads

If you are driving in Iceland and plan to visit the F-Roads, there are a few things you need to know! First off, you do not have to drive on F-Roads in order to have a great trip! Pretty much every well-known stop in Iceland can be reached driving in a 2×2 car on a regular road. If you have already been to Iceland or you want to get into the back-country, you may want to consider driving on F-Roads.

When driving in Iceland, you are forbidden from taking F-Roads unless you rent a 4×4 vehicle. Your car rental will have giant warnings that will tell you to NOT take this 2×2 vehicle on any F-Roads. If you rented a 4×4 car then you are good to go for driving in Iceland on F-Roads. These roads lead to a lot of wonderful places but you should drive them with care. They are very rugged and remote. F-Roads are closed during the winter months due to snow so if you want to do more remote driving in Iceland, make sure to go when there is little to no chance of snow.

As far as safety goes, make sure to have extra gas or a full gas tank and chart out how far you will be driving in Iceland before you begin. It is also a good idea to tell someone where you are going or to drive in groups, especially if this is your first time exploring the F-Roads in Iceland. If you break down, lose a tire, run out of gas, or get injured, you will be on your own and it is a good idea for someone to know where you are going or to go in a group.

We recommend downloading the 112 emergency app which is Iceland’s app that allows you to check in before driving or hiking far. This way, people know where you are and how to come get you. Additionally, F-Roads are patrolled semi-regularly by search and rescue teams but you will not want to tempt fate and it is better to be safe than sorry!

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland on F-Roads

What To Do If You Get In An Accident Driving In Iceland

If you are driving in Iceland and the worst happens, try to relax and breath, you will get out of this! When driving in Iceland, you need to know the emergency number is 112. Every country is different and 112 is the number to call in Iceland. If you have been injured, call or text 112 immediately and stay in your car and wait for support.

If you have not been injured but your vehicle has been damaged, there is no need to call 112 as it is for real emergencies. Call the roadside assistance number that your car rental agency provided you with upon picking up your rental and they will send assistance. In the past, we have seen car rental agencies drive over 6 hours to help a traveler swap out a car after they had been in an accident.

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

Should You Get Car Insurance In Iceland?

This answer depends on how risky you plan to be when driving in Iceland. Conditions are harsh and driving in Iceland may very well result in damage from your car. There are wind storms, dirt roads, ice, you name it. That being said, we have never purchased car rental insurance when driving in Iceland. This doesn’t mean you should listen to us, but we make some unwise decisions and want to be upfront.

That being said, our credit card comes with great car rental insurance up to 75K if that vehicle was put on the credit card. This is the option we choose to go with since we pay a pretty hefty annual fee for our credit card, so the choice is yours. If you can afford it and swing it, we do recommend getting car insurance when driving in Iceland, at least a little bit, especially if you are going to be driving on sketchy roads.

Most car rental agencies in Iceland offer some form of a Collision Damage Waiver which we don’t love. This means that you won’t be charged more than a certain amount of money if there is damage to the car. The limit is often very high, around $1500-$2000 so if you have any minor damage you will still have to pay out of pocket!

If you do $10K of damage and total the car then $2000 will seem like a small price to pay. If you damage a wheel or windshield and damage is $1000, you will have to pay that entire $1000 as it is under the limit. For an added cost, you can buy higher insurance which will lower the rate you pay and provide you with more coverage, but you will pay more up-front.

Just make sure to look over every option and make a choice that is wise and informed for you! Every car rental agency is different so be sure to investigate yours when driving in Iceland.

7 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland

Is Driving Necessary In Iceland?

If you are tentative about driving in Iceland, we beg you not to be! We are Floridians and if we can drive in Iceland then anyone can! We have driven in Iceland in all four seasons including rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind and more. If you take proper precautions you should be 100% fine! 

When it comes to driving in Iceland during your Iceland road trip, keep in mind to look out for local road closures and safety information. You can visit this website to keep up with the conditions during your trip! It is run by locals and has all the up-to-date information you could ever want or need. 

That being said, if you do NOT want to drive in Iceland, there are still some options for you! We recognize that driving is a privilege and we want to provide you with other options! 

Day Tours From Reykjavik

There are so many wonderful day tours that you can take from Reykjavik. If you aren’t driving in Iceland, simply take a bus from Keflavik Airport to the city center of Reykjavik [or your hotel shuttle]. Many tours in Iceland pick you up form your hotel which is a wonderful option. We put together the best 15 Tours in Iceland for your money and the majority of them start in Reykjavik. 

There are many wonderful tour options from Reykjavik if you don’t want to drive like this four hour Nothern Lights tour departs from Reykjavik and takes you into the darkness for best chances of viewing the lights. This is actually exactly where we saw the Northern Lights in Iceland on our first trip so hopefully, you will have the same luck! If you are looking to see some of the best the country has to offer, The South Iceland Full Day Tour From Reykjavik covers everything you need to see from Iceland’s black sand beaches to the most popular waterfalls in Iceland! You will never have to drive and you will still get to see fabulous sites in Iceland!

Multi-Day Group Tours

Another option where you don’t have to drive but can still experience the best that Iceland has to offer is by taking a multi-day group tour. You won’t have to plan each individual day on your own and you can truly see the best Iceland has to offer with a local guide. Depending on how long you want to spend in Iceland, these are a few of our favorite multi-day tours in Iceland: 

5 Day Winter Tour Of Iceland: Golden Circle, South Coast, Ice Cave

3 Day Golden Circle, Glacier Hike, Ice Cave, Northern Light Tour Of Iceland

Hitchhiking

Yes! You heard that correctly! Hitchhiking is very popular in Iceland. Many people experience Iceland simply by hitching rides from others. Unlike the United States, people DO pick up hitchhikers and it is a popular culture in Iceland. This is a safe and free way to get around Iceland without a car. That being said, you will have to put some work into it by standing out until a car passes to pick you up. We saw many hitchhikers and many people picking them up so if you are brave this is totally an option! 

Bus Passports

We have to be honest, busses are not a huge thing in Iceland. That being said, they ARE a thing that exists and you can totally use them if you are interested. The best way to use buses during your trip is to check into getting a bus passport. This is the most economical way to travel in Iceland if you are going to visit multiple destinations. The busses in Iceland can get you to popular locations such as Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, and there is even a bus that will take you to Thorsmork in the Highlands if you are interested in doing some hiking during your Iceland itinerary. 

tour bus in iceland with tour group

Additional Reading For Your Visit To Iceland:

Have you ever been driving around Iceland? What are your thoughts on Iceland driving? Did you do Iceland’s Ring Road or only a part of it? Let us know in the comments! We are happy to answer any questions you may have about driving in Iceland in the comments as well! 

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7 big mistakes to avoid when driving in iceland

 

21 thoughts on “7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Driving In Iceland + 20 Tips!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Thank you!! Yes, the gas can get pretty pricey so it is better to go into the trip just knowing you will spend a lot on gas

  1. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    The one lane bridges were definitely the most surprising thing. Especially on days when lots of cars were on the roads, the wait times at these bridges were a bit of an annoyance. Iceland has been very good at upgrading their roads to account for the increased tourism, so hopefully they’ll go about replacing these bridges soon. Or at least the one next to Jokulsarlon!

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  3. Rudolf France

    I have an Italian Driver’s license. It is allowed to use it in Iceland or do I need to get an international driver’s license?

  4. Pingback: Driving in Iceland in Winter - Firsthand Experiences and Practical Tips

  5. Suzanne Fluhr

    On our 7 day stopover in Iceland (flying between London and Boston), we didn’t rent (hire) a car. We went on small group day tours with GeoIceland. Now that we know the lay of the land (so to speak), I’d love to return and drive the Ring Road (in a 2 x 2 car, thanks to you.) I think we would bring some of our own food from Reykjavik. Eating out can also expensive and on the road, there seem to be few options. GeoIceland recommended that we bring our own lunches on our day tours and I’m glad we did. Seeing the Northern Lights remains way up on my Bucket List.

  6. Jay-Louise Musgrave

    Thank you for the great trips. My friend and I are going to Iceland in October and talking about renting a car for 3 of the 5 days we are there.

  7. Chester S. Foster

    We’re planning a 3-week trip across Iceland in mid-October. I think it’s plenty of time to see the country’s highlights and still have some spare time for more adventures. I’d love to explore remote areas and discover local wilderness. However, I’m confused. Should we rent a 4×4 car? Will the roads be still open to drivers by that time?

  8. Hogan

    I am traveling to Iceland in 3 weeks and was a bit worried about driving in early October. I feel a lot more comfortable after reading this article. Thank you so much for taking the time to list out all the details for us! I really appreciate the heads up on gas prices, had no idea they were that astronomical.

  9. Rita

    Great info and Pics. Do you know about ferries to Iceland? Bringing your own vehicle? How might the cost compare to renting?

  10. Benjamin Au

    Thank so much for writing this article. I am hesitating whether to go on tour or self drive. I am worrying if i drive on my own, it will be quite tired.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      It depends on how far you are going! If you are doing the south you should be fine. If you are doing the whole ring road alone it will be a bit much but it is possible!

  11. Wanderbee

    Hi there, Thanks for the informative post. Reading it has made me feel lot more excited about Iceland. I wanted to check with you for a couple of things if you could help – Is it okay to self drive in Iceland during October if one does not have prior experience with left hand drive or driving in snow ridden roads?

  12. FM Chong

    Thank you for sharing all the useful information. I’m now looking forward to planning a road trip in Iceland.

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