Iceland Driving Guide
Driving in Iceland is the only way to fully experience this island nation’s stunning beauty. Check these essential tips, get your International Driving Permit and you’ll be ready to go.
Iceland is one of the most famous tourist countries in the world. This Iceland driving guide will explore their history, people, and how they became a famous tourist country. You will also know the dos and don'ts when you visit this country.
When you’re looking for an inexpensive yet epic road trip with more freedom in exploring what the country has to offer, you can drive around it. Do take note, to prevent authorities from cutting short your exhilarating trip, you need to include an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) as part of your must-haves. Learn more facts about how you can drive legally within Iceland as you read this content.
How Can This Guide Help You?
Driving through Iceland can be an exhilarating adventure for most tourists. Especially with the beautiful destinations and picturesque landscapes it promises. However, if you are not confident with driving in this country, then this guide will walk you through its basic information, road rules, IDP FAQs, and more
Iceland, the land of fire and ice, became a popular travel destination over the past few years. From the thundering waterfalls to the epic natural displays during the night. It's easy to see why people worldwide would want to visit and revisit the country, and that's why this driving guide is here to let you know some tips if you are visiting Iceland for the first time.
Iceland is a Nordic island country that's located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is generally part of Europe, although it is closest to Greenland, an island covered by North America. It is the world's largest island and the second-largest island in Europe. It has 30 minor islands, including Grímsey and Vestmannaeyjar.
Although it is named “Iceland,” only 10% of this country is covered by permanent ice. It is the exact opposite of Greenland, which has a temperature lower than Iceland, contrary to its name.
Iceland's official language is Icelandic. It is an Indo-European language that belongs to a sub-group of the North Germanic language. It has a close relation to Norwegian and Faroese, with a slight trace of Celtic influence in ancient Icelandic literature.
Originally, Icelandic has barely changed since the 9th and 10th centuries upon the country’s settlement. In this modern age, Icelandic has continuously conserved the Scandinavian tongue and retained its three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The top 3 of the most spoken language in Iceland are as follows:
- Icelandic at 93.2 %
- Polish at 2.71 %
- Lithuanian at 0.43%
Today Iceland's population is around 300,000, and 89% is Icelandic, making it the least populated country in Europe. Their market company has the lowest taxes than other OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). They also have the highest trade union membership in the world.
The country has a land area of 40,000 square miles and is volcanically and geologically active. It is a country that consists of a table characterized by sand, lava fields, mountains, and glaciers. Iceland's climate is subarctic, meaning that it has long and cold winters and short, cool to mild summer. Even though it's close to the Arctic, Iceland remains ice-free during summer due to the warm North Atlantic Current.
According to Landnámabók, Iceland's ancient manuscript, Iceland started settling between 874-1262 AD after a Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson permanently decided to stay on the island. During this time, Norwegians and Scandinavians also emigrated to Iceland. By 930, the island was claimed by Althing - a legislative and judicial assembly that regulates the Icelandic Commonwealth.
After the International economic relations increased in 2001, Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debts that increased Iceland's national gross income. In 2003-2007, Iceland was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world until a major financial crisis occurred. It resulted in great net migration of at least 5000 people in 2009. Their economy slowly stabilized through the years and grew by 1.6% in 2012.
The country's government is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. The national parliament called Icelandic Alþingi or Althing was founded in 1845 as a consulting body to the Danish monarch. It claims to be the longest-running parliament globally. The governments of Iceland have always been coalition governments, involving two or more parties, for no single party received a preponderance of seats in the Althing in the republican period.
Iceland has maintained a Nordic social welfare system - it covers the economic and social policies and cultural practices common to the Nordic countries. The Nordic social welfare system provides citizens' universal health care and tertiary education. Because of Iceland's social welfare, they rank third globally by median wealth per adult, ranking sixth as the most developed country globally by the United Nations Human Development Index, and ranked first as the Global Peace Index.
Since Iceland has been one of the most visited countries globally, it has been the pride and joy for the positive and negative effects of the overtourism phenomenon. Tourism helped the country overcome a severe financial crisis and allowed a new breed of entrepreneurs.
The country's economy's revenue increased by up to 27% in 2013, having 47% of tourism revenue, according to Iceland's statistics.
Because tourism has a massive impact on the country's economy, Iceland's fishing and manufacturing sectors have decreased over time. The overall economy became dependent on its foreign visitors. And by 2017, the country had over two million foreign visitors. It made an outstanding share of the export revenue of nearly 30% in tourism.
International Driver's Permit FAQs in Iceland
An International Driver's Permit (IDP) is an additional document that allows you to rent a car and self-drive to all of your destinations throughout the country you're visiting. Applying for an IDP will depend on how long you have driven with your license, age, and if your license needs an endorsement. It also eliminates language barriers when you come across typical road problems such as overspeeding.
What Are the Benefits of Using an International Driver's Permit in Iceland?
Having an International Driver's License for Iceland is one of your requirements to rent a car. It is also useful when you ever come across any road situations like overspeeding because it can eliminate language barriers if you and the officer can not understand each other. An International Driver's License for Iceland is also an authorization that allows you to self-drive on your vacations and agrees to their terms and conditions when driving.
If you want, you can apply for an International Driver's Permit for Iceland today because if you have the option to choose whether your IDP is valid for a year, two, or three years. So if you have any plans to visit the country for the next three years, having an IDP in advance could give you more time to plan on your drive-in locations. Also, if you plan on applying for an International Driver's Permit for Iceland today, it would be cheaper than registering a year before your tour.
You may apply for an International Driver's Permit at the government office in Iceland; if you have enough time on your schedule or register online, you may have a short vacation time.
Is My Local License Valid in Iceland?
Driving in Iceland with a foreign driver’s license is valid. However, regardless of your license, authorities and car rental companies might still question you due to the language barrier. With Icelanders unfamiliar with your language, this is a major concern if you drive as a tourist in Iceland. Carrying an IDP translates your driver’s license to more than ten languages, resolving the language barrier.
Does an International Driver's Permit Replace My Native License?
Your native license and your International Driver's Permit are two different things. It does not replace your native license. Having an International Driver's License is required in Iceland if you wish to drive within its jurisdiction. It is only permitted in Iceland and can not be used in your home country. Moreover, an IDP is part of the car rental companies' requirement to drive in Iceland.
The International Driver's Permit can not be used in other countries except for the government stated in the document. It cannot even be used in your native country. The IDP serves as your translation for your native driver’s license to more than ten languages to fix the language barrier between you and the country’s authorities.
Renting A Car in Iceland
Now that you have your International Driver's License/Permit for Iceland knowing, what the best companies to rent a car is the next step to experience the beautiful landscapes while driving in Iceland. Renting a car is a more viable option for tourists than bringing their own cars for an Iceland road trip. Here are the top recommended car leasing companies that you may want to consider. All of these companies are located at Keflavik International Airport, so you shouldn't have any trouble picking up your vehicle if you pre-booked it.
If you want to travel to Iceland, you need to know that there are not many buses in the country and no public railway systems in Iceland. But don't you worry, renting a car in Iceland is very common for the tourist and most of the tourists do. They want to witness and experience everything that the country has to offer, and there's a lot!.
Deciding what car you should rent is hard enough, let alone choosing what car agency would perfectly fit your budget. To know where you can rent that perfect car for you, we have listed some of the best car rental agencies Iceland has to offer.
Lotus Car Rental
Lotus Car Rental is located at Keflavik International Airport. It is one of the popular options if you want to rent a car in Iceland. They offer a transparent service meaning that they wouldn't add more fees than the one initially discussed. They also accept credit card payments.
The company has every vehicle that most tourists would need to have a good drive in Iceland, from small cars that can travel to any cities to 4x4 cars that could travel to almost any Iceland road and in any Icelandic weather.
The company is one of the famous international rental agencies if you want to rent a car. They have several offices globally, Iceland being one of them. The company's branch that focuses on Iceland has 4x4 vehicles and camper cars for travelers that want to experience the Icelandic landscapes. You may pre-book a car with them online, or you may go directly to their office at Keflavik International Airport to book a vehicle. They accept credit card payments.
Blue Car Rental
An Icelandic car rental was founded in 2010, also located at Keflavik International Airport. They also have a branch in the capital of Reykjavik that offers their services. Blue Car Rental has a wide variety of cars to choose from that can provide you with the best vehicles that would fit your trip.
If you want to go camping along with the breathtaking Icelandic landscapes, Camping Cars' is the best local car agency in Iceland that would help tourists like you to pick out the best vehicle for your trip if you plan on camping throughout your vacation. Their cars consist of different kinds of camping cars which the country has to offer.
Also located at Keflavik International Airport, the company will have an employee waiting for you outside the airport upon your arrival to prepare everything needed for your vehicle. If you plan on having a nice camp out during your stay in Iceland with a comfortable rooftop tent, Camping Cars' is the best company for you.
Icelandic Car Rental
Even with a very self-descriptive name, the company is another popular car rental available in Iceland. Their main office is located at the Keflavik International Airport, making it a convenient location for you to pick up your car as soon as you arrive in Iceland. They also have an office in Reykjavík and offer a shuttle from the airport up to their office.
The company has an excellent standing for its services. It has many experienced and professional employees that would take care of your every need. Being a local company, they can offer you the best car for your trip to Iceland, so before you start your adventurous journey around the historical landscapes, you may want to consider Iceland Car Rental as an option.
If you want to pre-book your cars, you may do so online to make your trip more comfortable and hassle-free. They accept credit card payments. Some of these car rentals offer a lower price if you book a car a week before your vacation.
Before you rent a car in Iceland, you would need to provide the rental agency's necessary documents, but note that this may vary from company to company. The basic requirements would be:
- Your valid driver's license that's been held for at least a year
- An International driver's license
- Your passport
- A valid credit card for the payment
- Evidence of any driving endorsements for people that possess a UK license (Except for Northern Ireland).
Remember that this is only the primary requirement. Some companies might have additional requirements, so ensure that all needed specifications are prepared before renting a car.
Before you lock on the car of your choosing, you need to make sure of four things: weather conditions, season, road type, and if you know how to drive a manual car. Most rental cars in Iceland are manual, so make sure to double-check the vehicle if it's manual or automatic because you might find yourself renting a manual car without knowing how to use a gear shift.
To know what kind of car you need for your trip, here are the three common types of vehicles that are perfect for your drives.
The Two Wheel Drive is a small car and the most affordable. It is perfect for your day trips around Reykjavik and on paved roads around Iceland. All Two Wheel Drive cars are also provided with studded tires to help with ice traction if you're driving in Iceland during the winter season. It will cost you around $40-$100 per day (4200ISK - 10,600ISK), depending on the model and season.
It is perfect for Iceland's F-roads (Off-Road trails) if you want to explore Iceland's back roads at any point. This car will cost you around $75 - $250 per day (10,600 ISK - 26,500 ISK), but if you want a more expensive four-wheel like a Rover or Super Jeep, it could set you back for $400+ per day.
A campervan is both 2WD and 4WD, depending on which variety you choose. This type of car is for people that wish to camp with the Icelandic landscapes throughout their holiday. Renting a campervan can cost you from $140 to $250 per day (14,800 ISK - 26,500 ISK), depending on the model and season.
Car Rental Cost
The average cost of rental cars in Iceland is $84 per day. Depending on the car rental company and your vehicle choice, there are other cheaper rental cars in the country if you have a limited budget. When looking for a rental car in Iceland, it's good to know how many your group is and what activities you will do when you get to the country. There are plenty of vehicles to choose from, and every single one can complement the type of activities you would do.
The minimum age for you to rent a car in Iceland is 20 years old for vehicles Economic, Compact, Compact Wagon, Intermediate 2 and 4 doors, and Intermediate Wagon. For all types of cars, you should be at least 23 years old. If your age is 25 and under, you will be charged a young driver fee.
Car Insurance Cost
There are no specifics on the cost of car insurance because of the different kinds of insurance available in Iceland. Many companies also would rather disclose the price range of their insurance while choosing your rental car. So when looking for car insurance, make sure to ask every bit of detail you want to know to make sure that the insurance is worth getting.
Car Insurance Policy
Yes, it is highly required to apply for car insurance. The companies listed in this article offer all proper insurance so that you can have a safe and easy drive in Iceland. Listed below are all the insurances that you need to get for you to drive in Iceland.
It is a protection from someone else's claims, and it covers any damage if you accidentally harm another person, vehicle, or property while driving in Iceland. TPL can also include passengers in your car in case they experience injuries or damage. It is a legal requirement and should be included for free. If a car rental offers it as optional insurance for an added expense, consider it a warning sign.
Collision Damage Waiver
The Collision Damage Waiver refers to the car rental agency to waive your rights for the damages while renting their car. The insurance covers almost all of the damages. It leaves you with a self-risk amount that you are entirely liable for. It can amount to around $2370 (278,200 ISK), depending on the car rental agency.
Super Collision Damage Waiver
Advancement of the Collision Damage Waiver and lowers the self-risk amount. Iceland has a high risk of accidents due to road and weather conditions. It is always best to predict the worst. The SCDW helps you to prevent even higher expenses to any damages that occur.
Many had the impression that Gravel Protection is only required for those who are taking the F-roads. However, most Iceland roads contain a lot of loose gravel due to the bad weather and constant use of studded tires. The tires can cause the stone to shoot up and cause several kinds of accidents, either from cars in front of you or vehicles from the opposite direction.
Sand and Ash Protection
Sand and Ash Protection is more of just-in-case insurance and is only required from April to June since the grass needs to grow enough to keep the sand in place.
F-roads and Water Damage
Some agencies offer additional insurance covering damage due to crossing rivers because most 4x4 vehicles aren't protected against water damage. If you plan to drive an F-road that contains a river, you should consider getting this insurance. It covers any damages while crossing rivers and lowers your self-risk amount.
Each insurance has a self-risk amount, which will depend on the company, whether high or low. Some companies also offer an "Insurance Bundle" with a zero self-risk; if any damages occur, you won't need to pay anything. However, it usually doesn't cover certain damages like water and undercarriage damage, so be sure to understand the contract to be entirely sure.
Aside from these driving etiquettes, knowing some other driving tips can help people who are unsure about the requirements and if there are some foreigners who can use their US driver's license. Below is brief information about these topics.
Is it Possible to Drive in Icelandic Roads With a US driver’s license?
You are required to have an International Driver's Permit, whether you're driving in Iceland with a US license or a Japanese license. Without your IDP, you will be fined if you get caught, and also car rentals will require you to have an IDP.
What Are the Driving Requirements in Iceland?
If you're staying as a tourist in Iceland, the driving requirements you need is your native driver's license and an International Driver's License. But if you want to stay a little longer, you can exchange your driver's license for an EU license; just make sure that you have a permanent home in Iceland for a month.
The Iceland driving license requirements are a 35x45mm photograph, a foreign driving license, and a health certificate issued by a doctor. Once you have everything prepared, you may head to the Icelandic local District Magistrate or the local police.
Road Rules In Iceland
Before you start wandering around in Iceland, you should know some of the country's essential rules. Remember that understanding all of these rules is necessary because there are specific roads for your chosen car when driving in Iceland. There are roads where you should never stop, even if you need to. These rules could save your life, literally.
Before driving in Iceland, you need to be sure that you have understood some of the country’s essential driving rules because most of them could get you fined or heavily injured if not careful enough. For you to know some of them, we have listed the most necessary when driving around Iceland.
Driving Under the Influence
One important driving rule in Iceland is not to drink and drive. You should never attempt to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Iceland. It is strictly illegal. The roads in Iceland are slippery, especially if you drive in Iceland during winter. If you're caught, the minimum punishment for first offenders is a fine of at least 10,000 ISK and lose your driving privileges for four (4) months.
Driving off-road and driving on F-roads are entirely different things. Driving off-road can get you into serious trouble with huge fines while going on F-roads are the marked dirt roads in Iceland, but you would need a 4x4 vehicle to drive on F-roads, instead of a 2-wheel-drive vehicle.
A seatbelt is one of the rules of driving in Iceland. It is highly required, and if you went without wearing your seatbelt, you could get stopped and fined. Even passengers need to have their seatbelt strapped, especially children under 12 years old.
There are several overnight parking locations in Iceland for camper vans. Driving a camper van can be the best experience you'll have during your Iceland road trip. There are also free parking zones in Iceland, but there are also parking zones where you need to pay. Some parking zones accept credit card payments.
Having an idea about the important rules of driving in Iceland is a must, but remember that their general rules are also important. They are the type of regulations that might also be common in your country or just some obvious rules that every driver should know, and who knows, you might learn some new tips when you’re driving in Iceland.
International Driver's Permit
Suppose you're a tourist who plans to drive in Iceland. In that case, you need to have an International Driver's License to rent a car, especially if you have a non-Romanized driver's license. Car rental agencies will require you to have an IDP before you rent a car; this document allows you to drive the Icelandic roads with ease.
Whether you're driving in Iceland with a foreign license or a local license, you must always have it with you every time you ride. If you are a tourist driving in Iceland with an international license, you would need to have an International Driver's Permit together with your license to drive in Iceland.
In Iceland, you should always turn on your headlights day and night. It is part of their safety law, so if someone flashes their headlights at you, that is because your headlights are turned off.
Suppose you're driving in Iceland, and you saw a two-lane roundabout. In that case, you need to know that the lane's inner part always has priority over traffic on the outer road. Roundabouts can be very dangerous for foreign travelers if they are unaware of this rule.
Driving With A Cellphone
Driving while using your mobile device is also illegal; you can get fined if you're caught using your mobile device. One tip if you're driving in Iceland, always remember to use a hands-free device for a more comfortable drive.
Stopping in the middle of the road
Whether you want to take a quick picture of the scenery or want to have a brief rest, you should never stop in the middle of the road. Another part of the country's safety laws is that many have died from doing this. There are plenty of ring roads and a golden circle on roads with popular destinations.
A little tip while you're driving in Iceland, you might find a group of Icelanders on the road; do not be afraid of them. Icelanders love to help you, and if they don't speak any common language, you can signal them for help.
If you plan to drive all over Iceland, you should know all the speed limits on each type of location. If you're in populated areas such as cities, your general speed is between 30 - 50 km/hour (19 - 31MpH), on paved roads is 90 km/hour (56MpH), and in rural areas is 80 km/hour (50MpH). Once you are caught overspeeding, you will have a ticket that’s worth 30,000 ISK (Icelandic Króna), which is equivalent to 247 USD. You may pay this upfront or receive the ticket by mail.
If you're wondering which side of the road you're going to drive in Iceland, you should know that they operate on the left, like many other countries in the world. Also, if they wish to overtake, they would go to the outermost lane of the road, and on a roundabout, cars that are on the right side of the lane have control of the car flow.
Traffic Road Signs
Road signs in Iceland display and advise you in some way that you may not have seen before. That's why you should learn some road signs before driving in Iceland can help you once you're familiar with them. We have listed some weird Icelandic road signs, just in case you spot some of them while driving.
Warning for Sheep, Reindeer, and Cows on the Road
These are all triangle-shaped road signs where you will see a picture of the animals mentioned. They have individual signs but have the same meaning to them. In Iceland, it is essential to have this kind of warning for you to slow down because these animals might pop out on the road, or some of them are being transported from one place to another.
Heavy Crosswinds in the Area Warning
You might see these road signs on mountain roads or any roads that are in high places. It is triangle-shaped with a black and white striped, cloth-like sign. If you reviewed all the streets to your destination and find this, we would advise you to consider other routes. It can be highly dangerous, depending on how strong the wind is.
Poor Road Surfaces Ahead
This type of road sign can be seen in places that are commonly used when traveling in Iceland. It is another triangle-shaped sign with two bumps as a picture, meaning almost all vehicle types use this road, so they get worn out easily.
Right of Way
Traffic from the right has the right of way unless some signs or lights state otherwise and areas such as parking lots and petrol stations. To know what kind of road signs declares the right of way, we have listed some of them below.
Yellow Diamond Sign
It is a blank yellow sign that is commonly seen on main roads, and whichever side it is on will mean that they have the right of way. For example, the road sign is on the left side of the road, meaning they have the right of way.
Universal Give Away Sign
This sign is equivalent to a stop sign, except it is an inverted triangle with red lines on the side and has a blank yellow color in the middle. If you ever see this road sign in Iceland while driving, you need to stop and look around you if there are any incoming cars ahead.
Pedestrian Crossing Sign
Like in any other country, if you see a sign stating that pedestrians are crossing or even if there is only a mark on the road where they can travel and if there aren't any traffic lights, the pedestrians have the right of way. These are also commonly seen on main roads and in streets with a residential area.
Legal Driving Age
To drive in Iceland, you must be at least 17 years old if you're a local in Iceland, but if you are a tourist, you need to be at least 20 years old to drive and rent a car. The availability of car categories may vary due to your age, and if your age is below 25, you may have to pay a young driver fee.
Law on Overtaking
The law about overtaking in Iceland is that you should be on the road's left side to overtake and drive on the road's right side because cars in Iceland drive on the left side. Meaning the driver's side is on the left.
If you're wondering whether it is left or right when you're driving in Iceland, they operate on the left, like many other countries in the world. So if you live in a country that moves on the left side, then driving in Iceland would be easy enough for you. However, if you're used to driving on the right side of the road, you might need to practice a bit before you get on a four-wheel-drive.
Other Road Rules
Aside from the essential road rules mentioned above, knowing the country's seatbelt law is also vital if you wish to drive in Iceland. Authorities in the country are rigorous when it comes to the drivers in their country since it is easy to get in an accident while driving on their roads.
What Are the Seat Belt Laws?
Seatbelt law in Iceland is one of the safety rules that you should never brush off. Driving in Iceland without your seatbelt will get you stopped and fined. Also, passengers under 12 years old cannot ride in the front, and infants must be seated in a car safety seat.
Seatbelts are required by law in Iceland, and you should be wearing them at all times, even when you're driving a short distance. Although they don't have any specific penalties for breaking this law, they're still strict when wearing seat belts. Most of their road accidents are because of people who don't wear seatbelts.
Driving Etiquette In Iceland
When driving in Iceland, there are etiquettes that you need to practice because when you're out on the open road, your car might break down, or you might get pulled by the police without you knowing the reason. There are plenty of speed cameras along the Icelandic roads, especially on ring roads, so if the police pulled you over, you should know how to react in a situation like this.
When your car has a major breakdown, and you don't know where you are, you can either stay with your vehicle until someone passes by or contact your rental car office for assistance. But if it's a minor breakdown, like a flat tire, you can check the car if there is a spare tire so that you can quickly fix it and be on your merry way.
If you're in a life or death situation, you need to call the emergency number in Iceland, 112, immediately. You can report any extreme accidents, from natural disasters to terrible car collisions. Another thing is that if you're on F-roads and your car broke down, it is highly advised to stay in your vehicle until help arrives. F-roads are patrolled regularly by the search and rescue team that checks the roads for stranded drivers.
If the police pulled you over for a speeding ticket, you would be given the option to pay on the spot or receive the ticket later on by mail. If you paid for it up front, they would give you a 25% discount, so instead of paying 30,000 ISK ($247), it will be reduced to 22,500 ISK ($185). If you paid for it on the spot, the police officers would give you a receipt so that you would have evidence that you have paid for your ticket but if you chose to receive it by mail, make sure to write it down in English form and to pay the speeding ticket.
Another fact about mailing the ticket is that the car rental company might charge you a handling fee of around 5000 ISK ($39) because, by law, the police needed to trace the car to know if it's from a car rental company or a personal vehicle. And once they realize it's a rental, the company is required to provide the police with your information.
Iceland's language is a bit tricky on the tongue. It would be hard to ask for direction if the person you talked to doesn't know how to use the English language. For you to know some basic Icelandic, we have listed some that are relatively easy for first-timers.
- Hvar er stiginn? - Where are the stairs?
- Hvernig get ég komist til Reykjavíkur? - How can I get to Reykjavík?
- Hvar er salernið? - Where’s the restroom?
- Hvar er næsta bensínstöð? - Where’s the nearest gasoline station?
- Her er veðurskilyrðin í dag? - What is the weather condition today?
Checkpoints are border surveillance that allows the police officers to determine whether you have a valid license or if your car registration is up-to-date. If ever you see a checkpoint on the road, don't panic and answer all the questions that are asked, and give them any necessary documents if needed.
If they don’t understand your native driver’s license’s language, you can present your International Driver’s Permit to them. The IDP translates all the essential information that authorities will need from your valid native driver’s license.
Driving Situations and Conditions in Iceland
Weather conditions are one of the most crucial things you should check before driving in Iceland. You might wake up with a sunny morning, but the weather in Iceland could change as quickly as snapping your finger. And road situations are also as critical as its weather because you might come to a slippery road, so better to check both weather conditions and road situations to know if you need a new set of tires or safe to drive anywhere.
Iceland is known for implementing a strict road safety policy to guarantee its residents' and tourists' security. Due to the Icelandic Transport Authority, non-fatal road accidents had declined by 1,271 in 2018 compared to 2017, where there are 100 more injured individuals. Icelandic Transport Authority is responsible for encouraging visitors to familiarize themselves with the local weather and climate conditions to minimize accidents.
There are two common types of vehicles in Iceland used to explore all the country's beautiful landscapes. These two types of cars are:
A two-wheel drive car is one of the most common cars in Iceland. It is perfect for city drives and is provided with studded tires to help you with ice traction if you're driving during winter. It costs around $40-$100 per day (4200ISK - 10,600ISK), depending on the model and season.
A camper van is both 2WD and 4WD, depending on which variety you choose. This type of car is for people that wish to camp with the Icelandic landscapes throughout their holiday. Renting a camper van can cost you from $140 to $250 per day (14,800 ISK - 26,500 ISK), depending on the model and season. A camper van is very common for tourists to choose when renting a car. It is because you can select either a Two-Wheel Drive or a Four-Wheel Drive. Most people use Four-Wheel Drive to enjoy the country's beautiful nature and landscapes fully.
Iceland has only one toll road, and it is in the Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel at Route 1 at the Akureyri. If you're going on that road, make sure to have some extra cash in your pocket if it doesn't accept credit cards.
Road conditions and weather in Iceland should always be checked if you're going on a long drive. You may check with the Public Roads Administration, or you can ask at a tourist information center, staff at hotels, restaurants, or petrol stations. Driving during winter may be challenging, but authorities would always update the information on the internet or signs along the road. It is also mandatory to change the car tires with winter tires where road conditions can be risky. It's important to know the potential road hazards before you go on an Iceland road trip.
Roads in Iceland can be split into main roads, secondary roads, mountain roads, and privately owned roads.
- Primary roads (one or two-digit roads) are well maintained and regularly paved
- Secondary roads (three-digit roads) are less maintained, and;
- The mountain roads (prefixed with "F") are for four-wheel-drive vehicles and are always closed during the winter.
Iceland people are very safe drivers; they are careful, especially during the winter season, when the Icelandic weather can be harsh. They make sure that they are strictly following the safety of driving on each specific road. And if you do see a group of Icelanders by the road, don't be afraid because they would be more likely to help you if you ever had car problems. Follow the road rules if you want to take a winter self-drive tour.
Aside from these driving conditions, some visitors in the country might wonder if they are capable of driving in the country. These driving conditions are important to know if you are eligible for a self-drive option whether you're renting a two-wheel drive car or a four-wheel drive. Below are some qualities that might boost your driving confidence.
What are the Driving Conditions in Iceland today?
Driving conditions in Iceland today should be positively considered if you want to have a self-drive road trip during your visit. Authorities in Iceland are stern when it comes to their driving qualifications, mainly because they have difficult roads that need a skilled driver. These qualifications are:
- Having a driver's license and have held for at least one year for tourists.
- Must be at least 20 years old
- Has an International Driver's License
- Must be knowledgeable of Iceland's rules and regulations, and their road signs
Are They Using Kph or Mph?
In Iceland, they determine their speed using Kilometers per Hour (Kph) because they have lower speed limits than other countries. Roads indicated by rectangular blue signs with white letters in Iceland are advised to slower speed limits. They are mainly used in troubled spots on rural highways, such as having a sharp corner or a single-lane bridge.
Things To Do in Iceland
Having fun in Iceland, and you want to stay longer? Then you should consider having an Icelandic driver's license. Applying for their native license is one way to extend your privilege when driving in their country. But before you apply for a license, you must first know the driving license requirements in Iceland.
Drive as a Tourist
Driving as a tourist in Iceland is the best way to see its beautiful landscapes, especially if it's your first time visiting the country. Although the roads can be difficult, and you might even encounter heavy fogs along while driving. Nevertheless, renting a car and experiencing the open road in Iceland is great if you want to have the best time visiting the country.
Work as a Driver
And if you do want to have a driving job in Iceland, you need to have the following driving requirements:
- Meet the minimum age requirement
- A requirement of class B driving license in Iceland with a passenger endorsement
- Health Certificate issued by the doctor
Other requirements will depend on the company.
Work as a Travel Guide
Working as a travel guide in Iceland is possible if you have the right qualities when applying. One requirement is that you would need to have a strong background in the traveling industry, and you would need to have a fair amount of knowledge about the country's tourist destinations. The employer will discuss other qualities once you applied for a job.
Apply for Residency
Applying for a residency in the country is a bit complicated because the time required will depend on whether you have a family in the country, if you want to pursue your studies, or if you have been staying in the country because of work-related issues and family. If you wish to apply for a permanent residency in Iceland, it's best to have all the information you'll be needing for you to prepare your requirements.
Other Things To Do
Once you know what type of job you would want to pursue, you might also want to look into having an Icelandic driver's license. But if you're looking for a job as a driver, then knowing this information is essential if you want to have a driving job in the country.
How Can I Get an Icelandic Driver’s License?
If you plan to stay for a long time in Iceland, you may want to get yourself an Icelandic driver's license so that you'll be able to have a job in Iceland while you're there. But before you can exchange your license, you must first meet their qualification, which is one month of residency in Iceland. The second step is to prepare all the required documents for the Iceland driving license if you meet the qualifications. These are:
- A 35x45mm photograph
- Foreign driving license
- A statement concerning your health or health certificate issued by a doctor
You may submit your documents to the Icelandic local District Magistrate or the local police. If you have already exchanged your driver's license for an EU license in another EU country, you may use it in Iceland; you don't need to apply for a new driver's license.
The driving licenses in Iceland are valid for 15 years, but this will vary on your age. If your age is between 17 to 24, your driver's license will only be valid for three years. If your age is 71, you must renew your driver's license at the age of 74; if it's 71, it must be renewed after three years; If 72, it must be renewed every two years until you reach the age of 80. After the age of 80, you must renew your driver's license every year.
Top Destinations In Iceland
Iceland or locally known as the island of fire and ice, has become one of the world's top travel destinations because of the thrill-seeking adventures and beautiful natural landscapes. Here you'll find active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers that nature-lovers will undoubtedly seek. To have an idea of where to go to experience the country's majestic landscapes truly, we have listed some of the best destinations that would feel like a fairytale-like setting for your next own epic road trip.
If you visit Iceland, you would see many wonderful and historic landscapes on your trip, even if you just have a drive. Every landscape that you see and every city you go to would have the atmosphere of a fairyland. And to have the utmost experience in Iceland, we have listed some of the best locations that would make you want to go back to every chance you have.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón (yu-kuls-aur-lon) was formed around 1935. Its rising temperatures at the start of the twentieth century. Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating and expects that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a vast deep fjord.
Driving to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavík would be at least four hours. When going to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, there are many beautiful landscapes along the road, and if you want to stop and appreciate the scenery, make sure to pull over at the designated spots.
- From Reykjavík, drive to the roundabout at Suðurgata and take the 3rd exit onto Hringbraut / Route 49.
- Continue to Route 49 until you see the Vik/Hverageroi exit.
- Take the Vik / Hveragerdi exit to merge into Suðurlandsvegur / Route 1
- On the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Route 1. Continue driving to Route 1 for 370 km.
- Once you see the Diamond Beach Parking and the Jökulsárlón bus stop, turn left, then turn right.
- Continue driving until you see the shore of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
Things To Do
There are underground rivers of meltwater in summer that cut through Vatnajökull (Iceland's largest glacier). These rivers create a vast underground network of sapphire ice channels. But in late autumn, boats can no longer sail on the lagoon and depart from Jökulsárlón to a different ice miracle.
a. Take a Boat Ride
During summer and wintertime, a boat tour will take you to the lagoon in a boat where you will see the magnificent glaciers and wildlife within the vast icebergs and will even get the chance to taste the 1000-year-old ice.
There are also underground rivers of meltwater in summer that cut through Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier. These rivers create a vast underground network of sapphire ice channels. But in late autumn, boats can no longer sail on the lagoon and depart from Jökulsárlón to a different ice miracle.
b. Explore the Ice Caves
When visiting Jökulsárlón, you can also go ice caving if you're not into boat riding. There are plenty of natural blue ice caves in Vatnajökull glacier where you can explore. Each cave has its unique shape and size, but they all have the unbelievable royal blue color of ice.
c. Go Ice Climbing
If you like to have an adventure during your holiday, you might want to try ice climbing in Jökulsárlón. While ice climbing, there is also a chance that you might see some wildlife around the area, like seals and birds, and if you're staying in the area for a while, you might even catch the famous Aurora Northern Lights since it is one of the popular places to see it.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve
A national reserve in southeast Iceland that embodies unusual landscapes beyond compare to anywhere in the world. It covers over 4800 square kilometers that are composed of rivers that cut through a great black desert. Skaftafell Nature Reserve is an oasis of the nation's various landscapes and features. It was once a national park in its own right.
The drive from Reykjavík to Snaefellsnes Peninsula is about two hours despite having to drive from south to north. Make sure to stop at the appropriate ring roads if you want to take a break from driving.
- From Reykjavík, drive to the roundabout at Suðurgata and take the 3rd exit onto Hringbraut / Route 49.
- Continue to Route 49 until you see the Vik/Hverageroi exit.
- Take the Vik / Hveragerdi exit to merge into Suðurlandsvegur / Route 1.
- On the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Route 1. Continue driving to Route 1 for 327 km.
- Then turn left to Skaftafellsvegur, and continue for 1.5 km.
- Once you see a fork-in-the-road, turn left and continue for 900 m.
- Slightly turn left onto Hæðavegur and continue for 400 m. You will see Skaftafell Nature Reserve on your left while driving on Hæðavegur.
Things To Do
Skaftafell Nature Reserve is known for its beautiful hiking trails, often called "hiking paradise." There are easy treks that lead to several sites, such as the waterfall Svartifoss, circled by bizarre and beautiful basalt columns and glaciers.
a. Go Ice Climbing
Ice climbing or glacier hiking are the best activities on the most authentically Icelandic experiences you can partake, while you're in the country. If you wish to climb Iceland's highest peak, the Hvannadalshnúkur, Skaftafell, is also the perfect base camp. Suppose you want to visit Skaftafell at its warmest time.
The hottest months are June to August, where the warmest is generally in late July, with the temperature dropping below 46.1 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius) on rare occasions at night.
b. Join Glacier Tours
There are also Glacier Walk tours in the area that you can join if you want to learn and explore the famous glaciers in the area. There are various glacier tours you can choose from, and you wouldn't miss them since there are plenty of tour companies available in Skaftafell.
c. Go Mountain Climbing
If you want to have more climbing adventures in Skaftafell, you can also try mountain climbing in Hvannadalshnjukur mountain. This mountain is 6,900 feet, and it is the highest mountain in Iceland or to Hrútsfjallstindar Peaks with 6,150 feet. Just be careful when climbing these mountains, and be sure that you have a professional guide with you to make sure that you can go up and down safely.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula is in West Iceland and is often referred to as "Iceland in miniature" because of the different varieties of geological phenomena it contains. Suppose you had the chance to have a day tour of the Peninsula. In that case, you'd get to see and experience many of Iceland's most sought-out natural wonders.
The drive from Reykjavík to Snaefellsnes Peninsula is about two hours despite having to drive from south to north. Make sure to stop at the appropriate ring roads if you want to take a break from driving.
- From Reykjavík, drive to Suðurgata street and take the 3rd exit on the roundabout to Hringbraut / Route 49.
- Continue onto Vesturlandsvegur/Þjóðvegur 1 and continue for 2.3km.
- On the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and continue onto the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel for 5.9 km.
- You will see a roundabout at the end of the tunnel, take the 1st exit to Þjóðvegur, and continue for34.4 km.
- Then turn right onto Borgarbraut and continue for 1.9km.
- When you see another roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Snæfellsnesvegur and drive for 75.6 km.
- From Snæfellsnesvegur, turn right onto 571 Ölkelduvegur, then turn left, and continue to Lindarbrekka for 1.3 km.
- You shall see Snaefellsnes at the end of the road.
Things To Do
Within Snaefellsnes, there is a glacier-capped volcano called Snaefellsjökul. It is found at the tip of the Peninsula with an elevation of 1446 meters. Some have claimed that the glacier is a center of tremendous and pure dynamic power and maintains it to be one of the seven most important cosmic energy centers on the planet.
a. Go Hiking at Snaefellsnes
At Snaefellsjökul, you can take a hiking trail where you can see the incredible scenery before heading to Ytri Tunga (where the most massive seal colonies nest), or Arnarstapi and Hellnar, two of the oldest fishing outposts located in the coastal area of Snaefellsnes.
b. Visit the Kirkjufell Mountain
You can also go to Kirkjufell mountain. Trickling streams and whispering rivers surround it. Visiting Snaefellsnes is a journey into the world of diversity that fulfills anyone who wants to travel to Iceland.
c. Stroll at the Ytri Tunga Seal Beach
The Ytri Tunga Seal Beach is home to the seal colony in Iceland. If you want to catch them during the seal season, plan your trip within the summer. When visiting the area, there is a sign posted on the beach that all visitors must be at least 50 meters away from the seals for them not to be disturbed. Also, you can not swim within its waters, but you can still stroll on the beach.
The Westman Island
Westman Island or Vestmannaeyjar in Icelandic is a group of 15 islands and over 30 massive cliffs, rocks, and skerries that are 70 kilometers off Iceland's southern coast. It is the home of the largest island in the country called Heimaey. It has a wild population of 4100 and is the only populated island of the entire archipelago. It is also the home of the puffin's largest colony on the planet.
When planning your trip to the Westman Islands, it's good to take note that you would need to take a ferry ride to get to the island. But all in all, the trip to Westman Island can be adventurous.
- From Reykjavík, drive to Suðurgata street and take the 3rd exit on the roundabout to Hringbraut / Route 49.
- Take the Vik / Hveragerdi exit to merge into Suðurlandsvegur / Þjóðvegur 1 and continue for 69.2 km.
- Then turn right onto Landeyjahafnarvegur and continue for 11.9km until you see the Vestmannaeyjar ferry dock and take a ferry to Vestmannaeyjar.
- Once you get to the island, take the Skildingarvegur and continue onto Heiðarvegur, then straight on to Strembugata and Dalavegur.
- Take a left to Fellavegur and continue for 130 m. You will see the destination on the left.
Things To Do
Westman Island became famous when Eldfell (Mountain of Fire), a volcano in Heimaey, erupted on January 23, 1973, after 5000 years of being dormant. Even though a volcano erupted in Heimaey, the island remains one of the safest and most peaceful North Atlantic areas.
a. Explore Eldfell and the other areas
Eldfell is a volcanic crater where you can take in the beautiful scenery before going to Eldheimar. A museum built on top of an excavated house buried in the ash of 1973 and explores Westman Islands' incredible caves and cliffs that inhabit the world's largest puffin colony.
b. Visit Heimaey Town
When you visit Heimaey town, you will notice that it is spread throughout the harbor since 1973, a volcanic eruption created a lava wall in the area. There is a Museum in the town called Aquarium and Natural History where you can visit and see some Icelandic fish and sometimes some puffin chicks. In the museum, there are some aquatic animals where you can interact with.
c. Go around the White Church in Heimaey Town
After you visited the museum, you can also check out the white church in the town. You will see a statue commemorating the fishermen who got lost at sea, or go to the library if you like to read about the town’s history or visit the Folk Museum located above the library where more of the towns' history is located.
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