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February 22, 2024

Traveling around Iceland by car

Renting a car in Iceland: useful tips for independent travelers
If you are planning to rent a car in Iceland for your travels, it is important to consider a few key points to ensure your trip is comfortable and safe.
5% discount on car rental in iceland for our friends here!
Take it and enjoy the trip
Read the traffic rules on the official website
Iceland is an amazing country with breathtaking nature that you want to explore at your leisure without being restricted in your freedom of movement. Public transportation on the island is rare, expensive and there are only connections between villages and small towns.
If you want to explore the island extensively and completely, a car is your only option.

In this article, we have tried to cover all the important points and answer the questions you may have when preparing for your trip.

Exploring Iceland by car, what you need to know before your trip

The official ferry website
if you are planning to explore the island by car, you can choose one of two options:

Arriving by ferry
If you prefer to travel by car, you should consider coming to Iceland by ferry. This is not the easiest or cheapest option, but it is usually suitable for those who spend longer periods in Iceland and live in a motorhome or are planning a real off-road expedition in a specially converted car to explore the center of the island, for example. We have talked in detail about traveling to Iceland by ferry in this article.

2. Car rental
This method is easier and cheaper. If you are planning to rent a car in Iceland to drive yourself, there are some important points to keep in mind to make your trip comfortable and safe.

Special features of driving in Iceland. Basic traffic rules

Here you can monitor the condition of the roads, this is important, do not take risks and always check if a particular route is open.
The usual European traffic rules apply in Iceland. Remember that left-hand traffic prevails here, speed limits are strictly enforced and fines for speeding are very high. Be sure to observe the traffic signs and safety rules.

We have written more about the rules in this article. Please read this article before you drive a car in Iceland.

Basic rules

  • A speed limit of 50 km/h generally applies in populated areas.
  • On highways, the limit is often increased to 60 km/h.
  • In residential areas, the speed limit is usually only 30 km/h.
  • A speed limit of 80 km/h applies on gravel roads.
  • Speeds of up to 90 km/h are permitted on asphalt roads.
  • It is important to pay attention to signs indicating whether other speed limits are in force.
  • Although Google Maps and other maps can be helpful for navigation, you should bear in mind that they do not always show closed or impassable roads correctly. We advise you to exercise caution and not to rely solely on these tools.
Exploring Iceland by car, what you need to know before your trip

Choosing a car for traveling around Iceland

A normal car is suitable for a tour of the island in summer.
For trips to the center of the island or in winter, four-wheel drive cars and jeeps are required.
If you are planning a summer trip, and the route leads along the main roads of the country - the diamond ring (the route around the island, includes all the main attractions), then an ordinary car will suit you.

However, for trips to central and inaccessible areas of the country, especially in winter, it is advisable to hire a four-wheel drive car. Make sure that the vehicle you choose suits your route plans. If you are not sure which vehicle to choose, contact the car rental staff, who will usually be happy to advise you.
5% discount on car rental in iceland for our friends here!
Take it and enjoy the trip

Which car rental in Iceland to choose?

If you want to dedicate your first few days to exploring the Icelandic capital, it's not a good idea to rent a car straight away. It's better to rent a car in Reykjavik itself the night before your trip around the island. You can find out How to get from the airport to Reykjavik in this article.
Many rental companies offer car rentals directly at the airport, which is very convenient for travelers. Keep in mind that the distance between Iceland's main airport Keflavik and the capital Reykjavik is almost 60 kilometers, so check the route before you leave.

If you arrive in Iceland after a long flight, often very early in the morning, there are a few things that make it inadvisable to leave immediately. Try Nap&Go, a program specially developed by the Icelandic government to reduce the risks for people on the road! To avoid mistakes on the highway, you can check into a hotel or guesthouse near the airport at a special Nap&Go rate and get a few hours of sleep before starting your journey.
Traveling around Iceland by car

Car insurance in Iceland

Be careful with doors:
With many car rental companies, doors are not insured if they are blown out by the wind, and in Iceland this is not uncommon.
If you rent a car in Iceland, we recommend that you take out fully comprehensive insurance that covers all types of services. This will protect you from possible unpleasant situations and unplanned expenses. Remember that there are a large number of tourists on the island, not all of them drive safely, many buy fully comprehensive insurance and do not worry about minor damage, so we recommend protecting yourself.

In our practice, we have experienced cases of cars being damaged in parking lots near supermarkets or tourist attractions.
rent car in Iceland driving in Iceland wind

Do you need a credit card when renting a car in Iceland?

Be prepared to be asked for a credit card if you do not have full insurance. Be sure to check if you need a credit card when booking a car.

Also keep in mind that almost all gas stations on the island are paid for by cards, and using cash is almost impossible.

OFF-ROAD in Iceland

Driving off-road is strictly forbidden!
There are three types of roads in Iceland - asphalt roads, dirt roads and F-roads.

To drive on the F-road, 4x4 vehicles are required. There is always a warning sign in front of such roads. Such routes often lead through the center of the island and involve crossing rivers. If you are interested in such a driving experience, you should make sure before renting that the rental company allows you to drive on such roads; this is usually stated in the rental conditions. Cars for such trips are much more expensive and must be fully insured.

Driving off-road is strictly forbidden in Iceland. If you decide to drive through the fields, you can expect to be heavily fined and severely reprimanded by the Icelanders.

The precedent set by a Russian blogger a few years ago clearly showed how seriously Icelanders take the protection of nature. The blogger was fined 450,000 ISK and banned from entering the country.
The Icelandic police report can be viewed here

The photos were taken by police officers from Loegreglan á Norðurlandi eystra

Roads and bridges

If you are traveling in Iceland in a rental car, you should keep an eye on the local infrastructure, including the condition of the roads and bridges.

In Iceland, bridges are often single-lane, which can cause traffic problems. Make sure you are familiar with the traffic rules on bridges and always give way when oncoming traffic is approaching faster. This will help keep Icelandic roads running safely and smoothly.

Find out about the current road conditions and traffic rules on bridges before your trip to ensure a comfortable and safe journey.

Useful websites before traveling to Iceland by car

These websites will make your trip to Iceland more comfortable and safe - The Road and Coastal Administration has all the inside scoop on road conditions and weather. Yep, you heard it here first. - Safetravel connects travelers in Iceland with resources to help reduce their exposure to risks. - Take the Iceland drivers test to prepare you for driving in Iceland. - The Icelandic Meteorological Office provides weather and northern light forecasts.
rent car in Iceland driving in Iceland
Don't forget to take into account the traffic and weather conditions in Iceland. In some parts of the country, the roads can be narrow and windy, and the weather can change. Check the weather forecast and road conditions before each trip.

Renting a car in Iceland opens up many possibilities for an independent and memorable trip. By following simple guidelines and taking care of your safety, you can enjoy everything this amazing island has to offer.

If you don’t feel like preparing your trip and driving a car in a foreign country, we are happy to help! You can join our upcoming tours, or order a individual trip from us.
5% discount on car rental in Iceland for our friends here!
Take it and enjoy the trip
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