What’s it like driving in Iceland? Top tips for driving on Icelandic roads.

Route 1 Iceland towards Vatnajokull National Park.  Route 1 in winter.

Renting a car in Iceland is by far my favourite way to get around and explore the country. But what it’s like driving there? Read on for my top tips and things you need to know when renting a car in Iceland.

What type of car should I rent in Iceland?

Having visited the country on many occasions I would definitely say that a 2WD car would do fine for the average first time visitor. Many of the main sights will be accessible with any standard car. However if you plan on being more adventurous and driving into the central highlands of Iceland or on F-Roads then a 4WD will be needed as the roads are much more tricky to navigate.

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How easy is it driving a car in Iceland during winter?

Iceland is a year round destination so don’t let the cold winter weather put you off from planning a trip in the off-season. I’ve frequently driven the Icelandic roads in winter and have been lucky to only infrequently experience delays or have to change plans. But it can happen.

The road conditions can change at a moments notice, so I would recommend keeping track of the latest conditions on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website. This is a great resource with details on weather conditions, any road closures and live webcams.

Roads can become snowy or icy, so rental cars should as standard be equipped with studded tyres to provide extra grip. If driving in these conditions then make sure to take it slow and carry essential supplies with you should you have any delays.

My best advice? Try to keep your plans flexible in the winter and avoid long driving days.

Snowy roads in Iceland

Is off-road driving allowed in Iceland?

The simple answer to this is no! Make sure you keep to marked roads and never drive off road. This can cause lasting damage to the landscape and will take decades to recover. Not to mention you could be slapped with a fine from the police.

What types of roads are there in Iceland?

There are three main types of roads in Iceland. Paved roads, gravel roads and F-roads or mountain roads.

Route 1 is the main ring road which circles the entire island. It is now completely paved and in the summer months quite simple to drive for even the most inexperienced driver.

You’ll find a few minor roads that are still gravel. Gravel roads can be driven by all types of cars, but take care and drive at a slower speeds as it can be easy to lose grip and begin to slide out of control.

To drive on an F-road you’ll need a 4WD vehicle, and the roads are usually only open for a short time during the summer months. These roads generally take you to the remote interior of Iceland. I wouldn’t recommend driving these roads unless you’re an experienced driver or have made sensible plans in advance. They will also be closed during the winter.

Icelandic roads in winter

Which side of the road do they drive on in Iceland?

You’ll be driving on the right hand side of the road.

What are the speed limits on Icelandic roads?

The speeds limits in Iceland are:

  • 50 km/h (31mph) within cities
  • 80 km/h (49mph) on dirt and gravel roads
  • 90 km/h (55mph) on paved country roads

Where are the petrol stations in Iceland?

Petrol stations are generally fairly easy to find when driving around the ring road and outside of Reykjavik. There will be occasions were you’ll be driving for 1 to 2 hours without coming across one however, so I would recommend topping up whenever you get the chance when you’re in the most remote areas. This map is worth viewing to give you an idea.

Some petrol stations will be self service and card payments only. Closer to the urban areas you’ll find the larger petrol stations with facilities and places to buy food. Make sure to check out the hotdogs!

Mountain road in Iceland

How old do you need to be to rent a car in Iceland?

The minimum age to rent a car in Iceland is 20 years old. To rent a 4WD vehicle or a minibus it’s 23 years old. You must present a valid driver’s license that has been held for a minimum of one year.

Where can I park in Iceland?

Parking is free throughout most of the country except for in central Reykjavík, central Akureyri and a few tourist spots.

If you want to stop or park temporarily to take a photo then always find a safe place off the main road. Stopping or parking your car on the side of a road in the countryside is highly discouraged as it can be very dangerous.

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