DRIVING IN ICELAND
The 10 basic rules
There’s so much fun and freedom to be had by hiring a car in Iceland. You’ll be safe and sound as long as you abide by the local laws. Some of the road rules are unique to Iceland.
1. Drive on the right.
2. Never drink and drive.
3. Always wear a seat belt.
4. Never exceed the speed limit.
5. Keep your headlights on at all times.
6. Only certain types of vehicle may drive on F roads (ask before you hire).
7. Slow down to make road surface transitions (paved to unpaved, or for wooden or metal bridges)
8. Always stop for waiting pedestrians, and in winter stop well ahead of them.
9. Never sleep in your car. It's illegal. Camping is only permitted in a registered campsite.
10. Never drive your car off the marked road. It's illegal.
Before you set off you your journey, you need to check the road conditions and the weather conditions.
Reading the road
Check the Public Roads Administration website (www.road.is).
The website provides a colour-coded map showing the condition of roads.
Green means a road is easily passable.
An icy road has three levels:
orange (patches of ice on the road)
light blue (the road is quite icy)
dark blue (the road is covered with ice)
With studded winter tyres, your hire car will manage just fine if you drive with intelligence and vigilance.
A snowy road has three levels:
white (up to 10 cm of snow, so your hire car will just about manage it)
pink (10 to 20 cm of snow, so your hire car must have four wheel drive)
black (over 20 cm of snow, so your hire car needs have a high clearance)
Red means a road is impassable.
Watching the weather
Wind speeds in Iceland are always given in metres per second.
Purple means wind speeds of 16 to 24 m/s. This is 36 to 54 mph: gale force winds. Gusts are going to make driving difficult. If there is snow, it will be blown across the road reducing visibility significantly. The conditions demand that you drive with a lot of concentration. Park your car facing the wind. If you don’t, the door could be damaged when you open it.
Pink means wind speeds of 24 m/s and higher. This is 55 mph: storm force winds. Your hire car is not insured beyond this speed. If the road is icy or snowy, your car could be blown off the road. Even if the road is easily passable, sandstorms can destroy your windows and paintwork. Not only will your bill be huge, but you’ll also have to drive the damaged car back to Reykjavík to have it replaced.
Electronic weather boards
When you pass the electronic weather boards, check the information carefully. They show three pieces of information:
the direction the wind is coming from (in letters)
the average wind speed (in metres per second)
the temperature (in Celsius)
If there are wind gusts over 20 m/s, these will be shown in red. A wind speed (either average or gusts) over 24 m/s spells danger and you should stop short of the location shown on the sign.
In the example below, it would be safe to drive to Hafnarfjall (though in winter the visibility may be reduced by blowing snow) and it would be risky to drive to Kjalarnes.