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Driving in Iceland

Most Iceland Guest car rental packages include journeys on the Ring Road (Route 1), the national highway that loops around the island. The total distance is 1,339 kilometres, and most of it is paved expect some stretches in the East. It is considered a generally safe journey -- just keep the basic rules in mind:

  • Drivers drive on the right side of the road.
  • The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90 km/h on asphalt roads
  • Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times day and night
  • In Iceland all driving off road or on unmarked tracks is prohibited by law
  • Passengers in the front and back seats of an automobile are required by law to use safety-belts
  • Icelandic law forbids any driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Please watch out for sheep near the roads in the rural areas
  • Reduce your speed on gravel roads
  • Always familiarize yourself with road signs and traffic rules before setting off on your drive
For detailed information on road conditions, visit www.vegagerdin.is/english or call +354-1777 (8:00-16:00)

This brochure is also helpful: Have a safe journey (PDF-document)

For travellers on Iceland Guest car rental packages, an Iceland road map is provided. You can also find maps and maps of Iceland at tourist information centers, bookstores or filling stations. 

Icelandic road hazards
Special warning signs indicate danger ahead, such as sharp bends, but there is generally not a separate sign to reduce speed. Please choose a safe speed according to conditions. Also, please be aware of blind hills,one-lane bridges and other hazards in the countryside, as well as roundabouts and one-way streets in the city centre of Reykjavik. Please make sure you understand the road signs before driving.

Filling stations
In the greater Reykjavík area most filling stations are open every day to 23:30. Opening hours around the country, where the pumps are privately operated, can vary from place to place. Please note that in the southeast part of the country, there are long distances between filling stations. Many stations in the Reykjavík area and larger towns of Iceland have automats in operation after closing, which accept visa and euro credits cards with 4-digit PIN.

Most rental cars use regular petrol, not diesel, so make sure to ask a station attendant if you are unsure which pump to use.

Driving on mountain roads (F-roads)
Only sturdy 4x4 (all wheel drive) vehicles are allowed on mountain roads (called F-roads on maps), and we recommend that only experienced drivers attempt these roads. These roads, most of which lead into the interior highlands of Iceland, are very rough and have a surface of loose gravel. The surface on the gravel roads is often loose, especially along the sides of the roads, so one should drive carefully and slow down whenever approaching an oncoming car. 

The mountain roads are also often very narrow and winding, and are not made for speeding. Journeys therefore often take longer than might be expected. In many cases there are also unbridged rivers or streams to cross, which is absolutely not recommended for inexperienced drivers. 

Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer because of wet and muddy conditions which make them totally impassable. For some mountain roads, it is strongly advised that two or more cars travel together. 

Before embarking on any journey, collect as much information as possible regarding road conditions from a  tourist information office or the office listed below:

Public Roads Administration
Tel.: +354-1777 · daily 8:00-16:00
Website: www.vegagerdin.is/english

And never rely only on GPS -- always take along a detailed map!

Average opening dates of some mountain tracks

LAKAGÍGAR (F206) Jun. 12th
Sigalda – Landmannalaugar Jun. 12th
Landmannalaugar – Eldgjá Jun. 23rd
Skaftártunga – Eldgjá Jun. 4th
Keldur – Hvanngil Jun. 30th
Hvanngil – Skaftártunga Jun. 30th
(DÓMADALUR) Jun. 15th
EMSTRUR (F261) Jun. 24th
Gullfoss – Hveravellir Jun. 11th
Hveravellir – Blönduvirkjun Jun. 2nd
Hrauneyjar – Nýidalur Jun. 27th
Nýidalur – Bárðardalur Jun. 27th
SKAGAFJÖRÐUR (F752) Jul. 3rd
ASKJA (F88)  
Askja – Herðubreiðarlindir Jun. 19th
Askja – Dreki Jun. 20th