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.
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! You can travel at your own pace, stop whenever you want, and have the chance to see things you may not see on a tour. Another benefit to driving yourself in Iceland is that many of the best spots are close to the road so you are able to easily stop and see waterfalls, hot springs, black sand beaches, and more! 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.
5 Things To Know About 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.
#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 a drive safe! 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.
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! 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!
#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!
#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.
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 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 Depending on where you are driving in Iceland, you may have to pay 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.
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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