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Why carry an IDP while driving in Iceland?

Your IDP is a valid form of identification in more than 150 countries worldwide and contains your name, photo and driver information in the 12 most widely spoken languages in the world – it is understandable to most of the local officials and authorities of the countries you visit.

It translates your identification information into 12 languages — so it speaks the language even if you don’t. Iceland highly recommends an International Driving Permit.

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Driving Rules in Iceland

Get in touch with your inner peace. See the Aurora Lights. Experience the serenity of nature. Visit Iceland. Discover Iceland through your own car to complete the wonderful journey. Take note of some of the driving rules in Iceland. 

Important Reminders:

  • Iceland drive on the right side of the road.
  • Minimum age to drive a car is 17 years old.
  • Safety first so buckle up.
  • No matter how beautiful the scenes are, keep your eyes on the road!
  • Speed limit is 50 km/hour in urban areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads.
  • Do not drink and drive in Iceland!
  • Off-road driving is illegal so keep on the roads only.

Driving in the Winter

Contrary to what you might think, it is safe to drive in winter in Iceland. Just remember to put winter tires on and you will be fine. Do not go away from roads as driving off-roads is illegal.

Enjoy yourself and have a safe travel.

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If you're planning to go for an Iceland road trip, there are some things you need to know first, like having an International Driving License for Iceland, the driving rules in Iceland, and the speed limit on the different Icelandic roads. You should also determine if it's possible to drive in Iceland with a foreign license without an IDP. To further understand, we have gathered some tips to prepare you for your drive to Iceland, as well as the top destinations to visit in Iceland.

Top Destinations of Iceland

Iceland, the island of fire and ice, became one of the world's top travel destinations because of its thrill-seeking adventures and beautiful natural landscapes. Here, you'll find active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, and many more. If you want to drive to some of Iceland's beautiful tourist spots, make sure that you have an International Driving Permit for Iceland.

To know more about the country, we have listed some of the destinations that would best describe the country's beautiful sceneries.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón (yu-kuls-aur-lon) was formed around 1935 because of its rising temperatures at the start of the twentieth century. Today, the expansion of Jökulsárlón is accelerating, and it is expected that the lagoon will continue to grow until it becomes a vast deep fjord.

Iceland's most famous glacier lagoon is approximately 60 kilometers east of Skaftafell, where giant icebergs float in peace. The beautiful blue glacier lagoon is where seals swim around the countless mountains of ice that regularly break off the Breiðamerkurjökull (brei-the-mersh-ker-yu-kull) glacier ice cap.

When is the best time to go?

The best time to drive to Jökulsárlón, Iceland, is in winter. Winter driving will give you a chance to experience the atmosphere of Jökulsárlón and why it became one of the most visited destinations in the country. But, you may also go during the summertime. The people in Jökulsárlón made sure to have all kinds of activities for every month of the year so that you may plan your visit to Jökulsárlón anytime.

What can I do in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?

During summer and winter, 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. But in late autumn, boats can no longer sail on the lagoon and depart from Jökulsárlón to a different ice miracle.

What makes it famous?

Jökulsárlón ranked as one of the top lagoons in Iceland because its lake is filled with the meltwater from an outlet glacier. It stands out since it also overflows with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high. This charming location is the highlight of many self-drive tours and guided packages. There are also underground rivers of meltwater in summer that cut through Vatnajökull, Iceland's largest glacier, where these rivers create a vast underground network of sapphire ice channels.

How to get to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?

Tourists that are driving in Iceland can also access it in the southeast of the country. From Reykjavik, it will take 4 hours and 37 minutes of travel to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

  • Drive to Suðurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49.
  • Then take a turn to Þjóðvegur to Austurland.
  • Your destination should be at the end of the road.

Skaftafell Nature Reserve

The Skaftafell is 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. It is an oasis of the nation's various landscapes and features. It was once a national park in its own right.

What makes it famous?

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.

What can you do at Skaftafell Nature Reserve?

With the right guide, you can try either ice climbing or glacier hiking. These activities are two of 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.

When is the best time to go?

Suppose you want to visit Skaftafell at its warmest time. In that case, the hottest months are June to August, where the warmest is generally in late July at around 56.3 degrees Fahrenheit (13.5 degrees Celsius), with the temperature dropping below 46.1 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 degrees Celsius) on rare occasions at night.

How to get to Skaftafell Nature Reserve?

If you're in Reykjavík, it will take a 4 hours drive to Skaftafell. It may be a long journey, but once you get there, it will surely be one of the highlights of your visit to one of Iceland's most magnificent natural reserves.

  • Take Suðurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49.
  • Then turn to Þjóðvegur 1, Route 1 and Þjóðvegur to Skaftafellsvegur in Austurland
  • Continue on Skaftafellsvegur.
  • Then take a left to Hæðavegur.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle offers spectacular sights and a glimpse into Iceland's history and culture. It is the most popular tourist place in Iceland, where the Haukadalur, Gullfoss, and Thingvellir are the main attractions.

What makes it famous?

The three destinations in the Golden Circle have different specifications on how they became one of Iceland's historical places. In Haukadalur, an area crowned by the geyser Strokkur, it spouts an enormous amount of hot water up to 20 meters into the air every 10 minutes.

The Gullfoss is the most traveled waterfall in Iceland as it echoes on theHvítá River, falling into the impressive 70-meter deep Hvítá canyon. On sunny days you would see a rainbow that stretches through the waterfalls and displays peace together with the waterfalls roaring power. Lastly, Thingvellir is a UNESCO's world heritage site, a national park of rich beauty and overflowing with historical and geological significance and the birthplace of Icelandic culture and democracy, the perfect completion of the golden circle tour.

What can you do at the Golden Circle?

Hiking, camping, and Swimming are the top activities to do in these locations. Just make sure to be mindful of your litter to preserve each landscape.

When is the best time to go?

If you plan to go on an Iceland road trip in these destinations, the best time would be in the summer. You would see a clear view of the geyser's eruption, the iconic rocky fields of the waterfalls, and the perfect sunrise and sunsets on Thingvellir.

How to get to the Golden Circle?

It would take you 40 minutes to travel to Thingvellir from Reykjavik, then another 47 minutes travel from Thingvellir to Haukadalur, and a 9-minute drive from Hakadalur to Gullfoss. Tourists driving in Iceland should follow these directions accordingly so that you will not have a hard time going to these destinations.

Reykjavik to Thingvellir

  • Drive to Suðurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49.
  • Follow Route 49 and Vesturlandsvegur/Þjóðvegur 1 to Þingvallavegur in Suðurland
  • From there, you will see the destination on the left side of the road.

Thingvellir to Haukadalur

  • Head northeast on Þingvallavegur.
  • Continue straight into Gjabakkavegur/Gjábakkavegur/Route 365.
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Laugarvatnsvegur/Route 37 and continue onto Route 35.
  • Slight left onto Haukadalsvegur.
  • At the left turn, you would be able to see the public parking space for Haukadalur.

Haukadalur to Gullfoss

  • Head south on Haukadalsvegur toward Route 35.
  • Sharp left onto Route 35.
  • Turn right onto Gullfoss Parking.
  • From there, you would see the remarkable site of Gullfoss.

Tourists driving in Iceland may go to each destination in the Golden Circle. If you like taking each scenery at your own pace, a self-guided is the perfect way to go; you can start early in the morning and finish later for quieter sightseeing.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

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. If you had the chance to have a day tour of the Peninsula, you'd get to see and experience many of Iceland's most sought-out natural wonders.

What makes it famous?

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.

What can you do at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?

You can take a hiking trail to see the incredible scenery before heading to Ytri Tunga (where the largest seal colonies nest) or Kirkjufell mountain, where trickling streams and whispering rivers surround it. The journey in Snaefellsnes is a fulfillment to anyone who wants to travel to Iceland.

When is the best time to go?

If you want to travel to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the best time would be in the summer. Sites like the Ytri Tunga and Kirkjufell mountain are at its best appearance during summer, and you could even camp during summer.

How to get to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula?

If you plan to drive to Snaefellsnes, Iceland, one tip that you should remember is that the best vehicle to rent is a campervan to ensure that your visit to the Peninsula will be worthwhile.

  • Drive to Suðurgata to Hringbraut/Route 49.
  • Take Þjóðvegur 1 to get to Þjóðvegur
  • Continue on Snæfellsnesvegur to get to 571 Ölkelduvegur in Vesturland
  • Turn left and continue to Lindarbrekka.
  • At the end of the road, you will see parking spaces for your vehicle.

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.

What makes it famous?

Heimaey, the largest of all islands, has a rough 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. And even though the island's volcano, called Eldfell (Mountain of Fire), erupted on January 23, 1973, after 5000 years of being dormant, the island remains one of the safest and most peaceful areas in the North Atlantic.

What can you do on Westman Island?

You can start your journey on to Eldfell volcanic crater and 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 take a boat where you can explore Westman Islands incredible caves and cliffs that inhabits the largest puffin colony in the world.

When is the best time to go?

Traveling to the island in the summer is the best time. You will get a chance to feel the island's archipelago in the summer and even have the opportunity to see all kinds of animals that the island has populated.

How to get to Westman Island?

Thankfully, driving in Iceland is as easy as sleeping; you just need to follow these directions to get to the destination. Also, make sure to always have your International Driving Permit when driving in Iceland. One condition when driving in Iceland today is that some of the destinations would require you to take a ferry or a plane to get to the spot.

  • To get to the island, you must first understand that even though you have the opportunity to drive, you must leave your car at the ferry dock and book a ticket to ride the ferryboat.
  • Take the Suðurgata road to Hringbraut/Route 49.
  • Then drive to Þjóðvegur 1, Route 1 and Þjóðvegur.
  • Continue to go to Landeyjahafnarvegur in Suðurland.
  • Turn right onto Landeyjahafnarvegur.
  • Once you get to the Landeyjarhöfn, take a Vestmannaeyjar ferry to get to the island.

Most Important Driving Rules

When planning for an Iceland road trip, there are some things you need to know, like having an International Driving Permit for Iceland, the driving rules in Iceland, and if you can drive in Iceland with your national driver's license. You also need to know what the car rental companies in Iceland usually require from drivers, or can you even pay with a credit card? We have written some tips for you to prepare for your drive to Iceland.

Do you need an International Driving Permit to drive in Iceland?

For you to drive as a tourist on your Iceland road trip, having an International Driving Permit is not required. But, because most car rental companies will require you for an International Driving License for Iceland, it's highly suggested that you apply for one.

Suppose you plan to go to Iceland within the next two years. In that case, you may apply for an International Driving Permit for Iceland online today. The International Driver's Association offers a three-year validity on your IDP, and they also provide a digital copy in cases of lost permits. You can also use your IDP in car rental agencies worldwide as this document is recognized in over 150 countries.

Before looking for car rental agencies in Iceland, you should be aware of the different requirements that you may need. These aren't only for car rental purposes but also for a smooth driving experience in Iceland. It is to ensure that their rules and regulations will be understood and followed rigorously. We have listed some of the primary conditions that every car rental agency needs.

  • Your valid national driver's license that's been held for at least a year.
  • An International driver's license for Iceland.
  • 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).

You may also register for an International Driving License in Iceland in their government offices, although we can not guarantee that the process would be quick. It might take you longer than usual and make your vacation shorter.

Driving Rules in Iceland

It is of utmost importance to know some of the important rules in Iceland, like their speed limits. Are car rental companies strict? Do take the time to read some of Iceland's essential driving rules because Icelanders take their regulations seriously. Take note that knowing some of these rules are crucial, and if not followed, you could get fined or, worse, get yourself in a bad accident.

Driving Under the Influence

Before opting for a rental car, note that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Iceland. Iceland has a very slippery road, and one slip up could cost you your life. If you are caught under the influence, the minimum punishment for first offenders is a fine of at least 100,000 ISK (Icelandic Krona) and loss of driving privileges for four months.

Weather Conditions

Before driving in Iceland, weather conditions should always be monitored because it can quickly change. Most people (tourists and locals) tend to ignore the country's wind and weather warnings, making it dangerous for their safety. Suppose you want to check for any information about the weather; in that case, the Icelandic meteorological society (government in Iceland) is responsible for all the advisory if it is safe to drive or not.

Speed Limit

Because of the ice and snow on the roads, the general speed limit in populated areas is 30-50 km/hour, on gravel roads in rural areas is 80 km/hour and on paved roads is 90 km/hr. If you ever see a blue rectangular shape sign with white letters, it is to advise you that the road has lower speed limits. The signs for speed limits are essentially used in troubled spots on rural highways, like a sharp corner or a single-lane bridge.

Road Stop

We know that Iceland is a beautiful place, and you may want to have a quick picture of the scenery, but don't ever stop in the middle of the road. Many people have died from doing this because they either want to see the beautiful landscape or need to grab something at the back of the seat. There are many pull-out or small side roads in Iceland; you simply need to drive to one.

Seatbelt Laws

Because Iceland has some crazy weather, wearing a seatbelt is one of their rules when driving in Iceland. Also, if you have a child under 12 years old, they must ride in the backseat. If you drive without a seatbelt, you will get stopped and fined by the police. Although there are no penalties for this rule, they strictly advise you to follow it to avoid any major road accidents.

Headlights

Another safety law when driving in Iceland is to always keep your headlights on, day and night. If someone flashes their headlights at you, that is because yours are turned off. Turning on headlights will indicate your approach when there is a sharp corner ahead and prevent a potential collision.

Mobile Phones

Driving while holding your phone is strictly illegal; you will need to use a hands-free device. Especially when you're driving during winter, you must be using a hands-free device because you may easily get in an accident.

Road Signs

In Iceland, you might see some weird signs on the road while driving. These signs were made specifically for the country because most travelers and some locals tend to get absurd accidents like falling off a riverbank. Also, most streets are heavily populated with animals, and they tend to wander the roads. To know about these road signs in Iceland before driving is better than going around the country blindly, and for you to know them, we have listed some of the unusual signs that you might encounter.

  • Heavy Crosswinds in the Area warning sign is a triangle-shaped sign with a black and white striped flag and should be taken seriously by anyone who plans to drive in the country. A road with this road sign should highly consider taking other routes (if there's any) because of the dangerous winds ahead.
  • Warning signs for animals are very common on residential streets and roads in the middle of the forest. The sign has a drawing of either a sheep, reindeer, or cow. When you see road signs like these while driving in Iceland, it is best to slow down and be alert about your surroundings.
  • No entry allowed is a weird warning sign because it's a blank circle with a red lining. There's no drawing or letters indicated in the sign, and if you see this while driving, it is mostly because the street is part of private property.

Driving Age

Before driving you should know the minimum and maximum age limit of driving license holders in the country first. If you are driving in Iceland, the minimum license age requirement must be at least 17 years old for locals but, if you're a tourist and needs to rent a car, you must be at least 20 years old (age may vary by car category), and drivers under the age of 25 may have to pay for a young driver fee. Generally, there is no maximum age limit when driving in Iceland.

Driving Side

If you're wondering which side of the road Iceland drives on (left or the right). Well, if you're from a country that operates on the left, you wouldn't have a hard time in Iceland because they also drive on the left side of the car.

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