Driving in Iceland

Driving in Iceland is quite different from driving in many other countries

The safety of our customers is important to us. We encourage you to learn about the main things you need to know to ensure your safety while driving in Iceland. Here you´ll find good and useful information that could prevent unpleasant incidents and unnecessary costs. 


The Road System in Iceland

Paved Roads
In Iceland, you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. Most major highways are paved. Highway no. 1, commonly known as the Ring Road, is the most traveled route around Iceland. It is open throughout the year, but weather conditions can cause temporary closures during winter. The total length of the Ring Road around Iceland is 1322 km.

Gravel Roads
Keep in mind that gravel roads can be very narrow and slippery, often with potholes or washboard surfaces. Reduce your speed and slow down even further when approaching oncoming traffic as dust could obscure your vision and loose stones could chip your windscreen and ruin the paint job.

Highland (F) Roads
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). The highland roads are also often very narrow and are not made for speeding at all. In addition to not having an asphalt surface, the mountain roads are often very rough and windy. Journeys may therefore take longer than expected. Please read more about higland driving and river crossing here below.


Paved Road Ends

Special caution must be shown when a paved road ends and you drive onto a gravel road which often is narrower and slippery.




Single Lane Bridges

There are many single lane bridges in Iceland, both on and off the Ring Road. The rule is that the car closer to the bridge has the right of way but it is wise to slow down and assess the situation, see what the other driver intends to do, before driving across.



Seat Belt Use

Seat belt use is required by law. All passengers must wear seat belts at all times. Children under 135 cm must use a car seat fitting their age, height and weight.




Mind The Speed Limit

The Highway no. 1 (Ring Road) speed limit is a maximum of 90 km per hour. On gravel roads in rural areas, the speed limit is a maximum of 80 km per hour. At times you may need to drive at a slower speed due to road, weather, or traffic conditions. In urban areas, the general speed limit is 50 km per hour.



No Speeding

The speeding fines can be very high and additionally, the police may insist on immediate payment. Icelandic roads are not constructed for speeding so please drive safely, respect the speed limit and enjoy driving in Iceland.

Do Not Drive Off-Road 

Driving outside marked trails is prohibited and is subject to nature conservation law. The flora in Iceland is very sensitive and such driving can cause damage which nature may never repair. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see vegetation - e.g. on sand or wasteland - it is forbidden to leave a trace on unspoilt land. Note that driving on F-roads and gravel roads is not off-road driving – but when you drive off them, it is.



Highland Driving and River Crossing

Driving into the highlands is only allowed on four-wheel-drive SUV car groups that Europcar allows for such use. Keep in mind that no insurance covers damages to the chassis of the vehicle nor damages caused by driving in or across rivers or any kind of waterways. Remember 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. 



Beautiful scenery

The landscape in Iceland is beautiful and can draw the driver’s attention away from the road. It is important to stay focused while driving but also to not slow down too much as it can create dangers for others. Of course, it would be ridiculous to stop the car in the middle of the road to take pictures but sadly many such accidents have happened in Iceland. If you want to admire the landscape and take pictures, find a safe spot to stop the car outside of the road and enjoy the scenery.

Winter Driving

Driving on icy roads can be very challenging, especially for drivers inexperienced in such conditions. It is best to avoid such situations if possible, but if you must drive on icy roads, make sure you choose your speed in accordance with what you can handle. In icy conditions and bad weather, the regular speed limit doesn‘t apply as it only applies in the best conditions.


Closed means closed

If you see a road marked with a Closed sign, please do not continue. We don‘t close roads unless it is necessary and continuing will most likely cause you to get stuck in snow which means you will waste precious time (your own and others‘) and money getting people to help you get unstuck.




Lights on

Some newer car models require you to manually turn on your lights in order to save energy. According to Icelandic law the lights must be turned on while driving, all year round. Auto-setting might not be enough, so make sure you remember to turn the lights on each time.



Livestock on the roads

In Iceland you can expect livestock on or by the road. These are usually sheep but you might also encounter horses or cows. This of course calls for extra caution as it can be difficult to work out what the animals intend to do. When you see a lamb on one side of the road and another sheep on the other side, drive very carefully as it is likely that the lamb will run to its mother or the other way around when cars approach.


Mind the Doors in Strong Wind

Damage to doors and fenders can occur if doors get blown up when opened in strong wind. In order to avoid such damage, it is important to take into account the wind direction and park the car with the front end facing the wind. Remember to hold the door handle firmly when reaching for the opening lever.




Do not park facing against the traffic

Drivers who park the wrong way could risk being fined. Vehicles must be parked the same way as flow of traffic.





Rules on who should give way in multilane roundabouts differ quite a bit around the world. The biggest variation is whether the inner or outer lane should give way. To make life simple we want to point out to you that in Iceland it is always the outer lanes that give way for inner lanes. This applies to all multilane roundabouts in the country no matter how many lanes there are.



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. Most stations in the Reykjavík area and larger towns of Iceland have automats in operation, which accept debit and credit cards as well as wallet payments via smartphone.





Use of Smart Devices

Be smart, be safe, pay attention to the driving. Do not use your phone or tablet when driving. You will get heavy fines.





Opening of Mountain Tracks

Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer because of wet and muddy conditions which make them totally impassable. When these roads are opened for traffic they can only be negotiated by 4x4 vehicles. Please make sure when you reserve your Europcar rentalcar that the selected vehicle qualifies for such use. For some mountain tracks, it is strongly advised that two or more cars travel together. Also, before embarking on any journey into the interior collect as much information as possible regarding road conditions from a travel bureau, tourist information office, or the Public Roads Administration, tel +(354) 1777, daily from 8AM to 4PM. Always take along a detailed map.


Driving with Elfis

Are you ready to go on a ride with Elfis? These quality content videos from the Icelandic Traffic Authority reveal all the key tips for safe driving in Iceland.

Watch it here

The Safetravel driver’s test

Don ́t forget to take the Safetravel driver’s test before you hit the road.

Take the test!

Weather and road conditions

Make sure you look up weather and road conditions and drive in accordance with these conditions. You can look up weather conditions on most weather apps and you can look up road conditions here:


Risk of falling asleep at the wheel

In the summer time you can have daylight 24 hours a day. This can mess with your internal clock causing the body to not realise that it‘s tired until it suddenly crashes. Take care of getting a good night‘s sleep every night. If you fly overnight to Iceland, as is common when coming from America, make sure that you are not too tired to drive when you land and try not to drive too far before your first sleep. You can get a room at a hotel near the airport and rest for a few hours in the morning for a discount price. Please see www.napandgo.is for more information.

Free Travel App from Europcar

Get the "Friend" App from Europcar and receive alerts on weather and road conditions.

Read more


More useful stuff

The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue


Weather forecasts from The Icelandic Meteorological Office


Road conditions from the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA)