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Driving in Iceland

Iceland offers travelers an adventure in a beautiful and rugged landscape. However, experience shows that the forces of Icelandic nature can be harsh and inhospitable, and tourists are well-advised to exercise caution and respect for the country's natural environment.

Unfortunately, there have been accidents in the past few years involving foreign tourists travelling around the country. The most common type of accident is that of hikers losing their footing on uneven terrain. The more serious injuries, however, are caused by road traffic accidents where travelers drive too fast in unfamiliar conditions and do not wear seat belts.

I recomment you to read the brochure Have a Safe Journey - a brochure for foreigners travelling in Iceland.

Icelandic Roads

Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. 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 are not made for speeding. The same goes for many bridges, which are only wide enough for one car at a time. In addition to not having an asphalt surface, the mountain roads are often very windy. Journeys may therefore take longer than expected. The total length of the Ring Road around Iceland (national highway) is 1,339 km. 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.

Highland Driving and River Crossing

Driving rental cars on roads or tracks with no road number is forbidden. Passenger cars and 2wd vehicles are strictly forbidden on roads that are marked with an F on public maps. This also applies to Kjölur (road 35) and Kaldidalur (road 550).

No insurance covers damages to the chassis of the vehicle nor damages caused by driving in or across rivers or any kind of waterways. Driving outside marked trails is prohibited and is subject to nature conservation law. Keep in mind that fords over glacial rivers keep changing. On warm summer days, the flow increases as the day progresses. Heavy rain often causes rivers to swell, sometimes making them uncrossable even for large and well equipped vehicles. Glacial rivers usually have less water in the mornings. Deaths have been caused by underestimating the water volume in rivers. Before crossing a glacial river, it is necessary to examine its velocity, depth and bottom by wading into it. If you find that you would be unwilling to wade across the river on foot, you should not attempt to drive across it. Seek advice from experienced drivers and watch how and where they cross. Crossing rivers is only allowed on four-wheel drive Jeeps. Ensure that the four-wheel drive has been engaged before driving into the water. Drive very slowly but steadily in first gear and use the low range if available.

Please note

Special warning signs indicate danger ahead, such as sharp bends, but there is generally no separate sign to reduce speed. Please choose a safe speed according to conditions. Motorists are obliged by law to use headlights at all times, day and night. In Iceland all driving off roads or marked 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.

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. Many stations in the Reykjavík area and larger towns of Iceland have automats in operation after closing, which accept VISA and EURO credit cards as well as notes.