Driving in Iceland is nothing short of amazing. Every inch of road is packed with stunning nature while its major highway, the Ring Road, makes self-driving in Iceland easy. Also known as Route One, the tour route runs along the best sights, is easy to navigate, and encircles the entire country. Plus, there are plenty of great restaurants and accommodations along the way.
A bit of preparation is key to any great road trip. This is especially true when you’re driving to new places on unfamiliar roads. In this guide to driving in Iceland, you’ll find everything you need to know before you hit the pavement and start your adventure.
Top Tips & Rules for Driving in Iceland
1. Always have enough fuel — the next gas station might be far away. Though Iceland is a huge country, the population is very small. The distance between towns can be big and sometimes you’ll drive for an hour without seeing a car, person, or house. So if you’re well below half a tank and you see a gas station, fuel up before it’s too late!
2. Always get insurance. Most car rentals offer additional gravel and windshield insurance. This usually isn’t a large fee to pay, especially when you think about the big bill you could get from an accident. This is especially wise if you plan to travel on gravel roads.
3. Animals don’t understand traffic, so always slow down. Sheep are especially notorious for not understanding traffic movement. If a mother sheep is on the right curb and her whole flock is on the left, her lambs will run across the road to their mother at all costs (even life!). So always slow down and drive with care when sheep are near the road.
4. The general speed limit for the Ring Road is 90 km/h (60 m/h). Always keep an eye on your gauge, especially in nasty weather when you should drive with extreme caution. In urban areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h. On gravel roads the limit is 80 km/h.
5. Seeing something pretty doesn’t mean you can stop in the middle of the road. Iceland is gorgeous and there’s no doubt you’ll see jaw-dropping beauty while on the road. That being said, the country’s stunning landscapes don’t give drivers the right to stop in the middle of the road as soon as you see something pretty. Always find a good spot to park off the road and out of harm’s way. Also, please don’t leave the door open when out of the car — this has caused too many accidents.
6. Know the basic laws beforehand so you don’t learn it the hard way. Always follow these basic laws while driving in Iceland:
- Drive on the right-hand side
- Seatbelts are worn by all passengers
- No talking on the phone while driving (unless you use a headset)
- No texting (it’s strictly forbidden)
- Headlights on at all times
- No driving under the influence (big fines and/or license is suspended/revoked)
- No driving off-road (also big fines)
7. Slow down and drive carefully on Iceland’s one-lane bridges. These one-lane bridges were built to save money when road traffic was a lot less congested than it is now. The basic rules for bridge crossings are: slow down, drive very carefully, give large vehicles the right-of-way, and when someone has waited to let you pass, wave to thank them.
8. If you’re not confident or feel nervous about driving, don’t. Join a tour instead. Joining a guided driving tour gives you the chance to enjoy all that Iceland has on offer without the hassle of driving. All you need to do is stare out the window and enjoy the surrounding nature. If this sounds appealing to you, guided tours are the top alternative to driving.
9. Check the weather forecast. Even though it isn’t always accurate, it’s better to have a general idea of what to expect than be surprised by an unexpected storm.
Is it easy to self-drive in Iceland?
Self-driving in Iceland is not only easy but also one of the best ways to see the country. Iceland is filled with such incredible beauty that you can drive for days without tiring of the incredible nature passing by your window.
Iceland self-drive tours are one of the most appealing ways for visitors to explore the country by car. If you’re looking for the convenience of preplanned travel logistics and the flexibility of sightseeing at your own pace, then self-driving is meant for you.
Most tours include best-price pre-booked accommodation, car rentals, and hand-picked itineraries of Iceland’s must-see spots.
Iceland Self-Drive Tours in Summer
With an abundance of active wildlife, impressive waterfalls, and hiking trails, Icelandic summers are nothing short of magical. Here are a few of the best routes to travel along to visit the country’s top summer attractions:
- The Ring Road. Iceland Ring Road self-drive itinerary highlights include everything from Skaftafell Nature Reserve to whale watching at Dalvik. If you want to discover the most popular summer attractions, we recommend the ultimate self-drive tour around Iceland.
- Near Reykjavik. Want to stick around the Reykjavik area? The 4-day self-drive near Reykjavik is a great option for visitors who have limited time in Iceland and want a mini-Iceland trip to the country’s top destinations.
Iceland Self-Drive Tours in Winter
Iceland flaunts some of its greatest features during winter. Though the weather is more unpredictable than in summer, most Iceland winter self-drive tours are available and absolutely worth the trip. Check out these top places to cruise to during winter:
- The South Coast. There is much to be discovered on a South Coast self-drive in Iceland. Drive south along the Ring Road to enjoy icy wilderness such as crystal-blue ice caves, Vatnajokull Glacier (the largest in Europe!), and gushing waterfalls.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Explore the unforgettable attractions of “Iceland in a nutshell” during a four-day Snaefellsnes adventure. The self-drive tour takes you to famous attractions, including the picturesque Mt. Kurkjufell and the icy wonderland of Snaefellsjokull.
How much does gas cost in Iceland?
The price for a liter is around 200 ISK ($1.58 USD) and 13 000 ISK ($103 USD) to fill a tank. As gasoline prices fluctuate, we suggest taking a look to see what the current prices are before your trip.
Please note: If you select the “fill tank” option at Icelandic gas pumps, the gas station may automatically hold a large sum of money (starting at around $200 USD). It can take up to one week for the gas station to charge you for the correct amount and release the large hold on your credit card.
What are the requirements for renting a car in Iceland?
- The minimum age to rent a car is 20 years (min. age varies depending on car category).
- You need to have at least one year of experience driving (valid driving license).
- A credit card is not always necessary, but strongly recommended.
- You need to have a driving license in English or with an official translation.
Do you use manual or automatic cars in Iceland?
Almost all rental cars in Iceland are manual, so if you want to rent an automatic car be sure to ask for it in advance.
Where can I get info on road and weather conditions in Iceland?
For road conditions, closed roads, etc.: visit www.road.is or call 1777. You can also try +354 522 1100. Open 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in summer and 6:30 am to 10:00 pm in winter.
For weather reports: www.en.vedur.is or www.yr.no
Is driving the Ring Road in winter safe?
Iceland weather can be challenging, ruthless, and unpredictable. Reykjavík and its nearby outskirts are usually smooth sailing, but once you get outside of the city, it’s possible to face uncomfortable driving conditions such as slippery roads, vertical rainfall, and blinding snow.
If you aren’t comfortable driving in such conditions during winter, you can always join a guided tour. Tours are a great way to pass the responsibility of driving onto a skilled driver who is experienced navigating Iceland’s roads in winter.
Remember the golden rule of winter driving: If you are not comfortable driving in snowy conditions, don’t do it!
BUT if you have experience driving in snow in northern climates, then go for it! Just prepare well, check the forecast, know the rules of the road, and follow all road signs. Roads are often inaccessible during winter, so make sure to check the road and weather conditions before hitting the road.
Want to travel in Iceland by car? Browse our wide selection of self-drive tours!
Anything else you want to know about driving in Iceland?