When driving in Iceland there will be many things that you’ll need to be aware of, so we’ll cover the most important things first that should keep you out of trouble with the law.
- Seat belts are required for EVERYONE, anywhere in the car. Even children.
- Headlights are required to be on at all times.
- Cars in a roundabout or traffic circle have the right of way over cars entering it.
- No right turns on a red light.
- You cannot use your phone at all while driving
Now that we have you covered with the 5 big things from avoiding accidents and getting tickets we can cover other important information that you’ll need to know.
Speed limits won’t be something you’ll really need to worry about at least within Reykjavik. The maximum speed within the city is 50km/h (just over 30mph). Outside of the city it can be as high as 90km/h (a little over 55mph). However you will see 70-80km/h in some places where the road conditions may not be the best, or where there are turns. If you do not feel safe driving at the posted maximum speed limit, it is advised to drive at a speed where you do feel safe.
Iceland is a beautiful country, and even a short trip outside of the capital you are going to want to stop and take pictures. Please do not be a typical tourist and stand in the road to take your pictures. It is quite dangerous, and it happens more than you would believe. Soft shoulders on the side of the road do not make good places to stop.
We suggest that you find a designated place to take pictures or that you look for a safe place to turn off of the road. You will find a number of different points to turn off that you can safely stop your car at and take as many pictures as you need to. Just be careful not to do any off-roading (we’ll cover that next).
Taking your car off road is not only dangerous and bad for the environment, it can also be expensive. Make sure that you only drive on designated roads to avoid massive fines. In 2018, 4 drivers were each fined 1.4 million ISK (roughly $13,000 USD) for taking a 4×4 off road. It is a steep fine, but they are trying to preserve the natural beauty of Iceland by limiting the human impact to the land.
112 & 1777
These are the two numbers you’ll want in your phone before you go anywhere. 112 is the emergency phone number, just like 911 is in the US. This is the number you’ll want to contact if anything goes wrong and you need some help.
1777 is the number you call for road conditions. In the spring or fall months, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable, and a blizzard might cut off access to a place you had planned to go to. You can call this number and find out what the current road conditions are so you can decide if it is safe to attempt your trip, or if you should plan for something else.
Many places within Reykjavik have paid parking. You will often see a semi large sign with a P on it above the parking spaces. There is an app that Icelandic people use to pay, but for tourists its often just easier to use the terminal located in the middle of the parking section.
Icelanders Often Don’t Signal
Be aware, especially in the city that many Icelandic people don’t use turn signals. It is not normally such a problem when your normally driving, but it can be frustrating when you are trying to enter a roundabout. Just be aware that drivers in the roundabout have the right of way, and be extra careful for the ones which may not signal.
Gas stations are self serve, and you can pay right at the pump. Just make sure that your credit card has a pin, as the terminal will ask you for it for security. This is a lot like asking your zipcode in the US. It should go without saying that the price listed is the price for a liter. It is almost 4 liters per gallon. The price for a liter is usually around 220 ISK, making it a little under $6 USD (at the current exchange rate).
Be sure to factor the gas price in when you are calculating renting a car.