Driving in Iceland can be very different to driving in other places.
Travellers from all over are rush over to experience Icelandic nature and it’s magnetic surroundings and we here at Niceland just feel it is our duty to inform you about how traffic works on this island in the North Atlantic ocean.
The traffic in Iceland can be dangerous and what might be common sense for locals might surprise first time drivers. So, in an attempt to keep everyone on the same page (or the same road) you have a list with things to be aware of before getting behind the wheel.
1. Stopping in the middle of the road
The roads are narrow but the traffic can be fast and unpredictable. By stopping the car in the middle of the road you create serious danger. If you really need to stop, find a spot where you can park the car properly from the road. Be smart and be safe. We want you to experience nature not our hospitals!
On the Ring Road the speed limit is 90 km/h. If you are uncertain of how fast you need to go, stay on the right side of the road (obviously where there are double lanes!), so the ones driving faster can get past. Remember that driving to slow can be as dangerous as driving to fast. The roads here are small and might look all cute and innocent but do not underestimate the danger of them.
3. “All of the lights!”
Keep the lights on at all time! We never know how or when the weather will change and this makes it easier to locate other cars, especially when it comes to difficult weather conditions. So please make sure that every light works properly before driving. And use the turning signal. Always!
4. Gravel roads
While the Ring Road is paved there are still some gravel roads you need to be aware of. Some of them can be scary due to being placed right next to huge mountains with little or no safety nets. Others have endless holes that are both annoying and can damage the car if you drive to fast. Then we have roads that are crazy narrow, include crazy highs and limited views. So, just be careful and keep your eyes on the road (even though we know it can seem hard with these amazing views!)
Oh! Our lovely sheeps! We do love them but they have this weird tendency to suddenly deciding to run across the road in a moments notice. Often with a couple of little ones behind them. So, if you see them at the side of the road drive slow – if they are having a nap on the middle of the road honk your horn. That usually does it.
In case there are two lanes in same direction, the left lane is for the ones that drive faster than the others. If you need to overtake, use the turning signal and give the drivers some time to make note. Be sure that you can see the traffic that is coming towards you well, do not practice this when driving upwards or on bent roads. Have a clear view and do it safely. If you notice someone behind you preparing to overtake slow down a bit and even notify the driver by using the turn signal.
Road cycling is becoming a big sport here in Iceland so you will see a lot of them around. Even on the Ring Roads and small country roads. Be aware and respectful. If you need to notify a cyclist of your presence do it gently, so you don’t cause them to fall off or something worse.
We have a lot of one lane bridges in the country side, they can be really pretty but obviously only . We have this unspoken rule of slowing down when we notice the warning signs, just be aware, do not stop the car in the middle of them or try to be the first one driving over. Mutual respect is always the best.
9. Be aware of the weather
We have a very true saying: If you dont like the weather – just wait a moment. This means that you can indeed expect all sorts of weather when driving here and it can change at a moments notice. Check the weather forcast (here for example: http://www.road.is/) and be properly equipted. This especially goes for winter when the roads get really icy with storms and heavy snow.
10. Driving outside the road (“Utanvegaakstur” – just try to pronounce that!)
We love that you love the Icelandic nature. And we love that you want to experience everything and take in the energy. But please don’t drive off road. It really does damage to our precious environment and if you need more reason than that it is illegal and you will end up with a massive fine.
Do not let this abate you though, driving around Iceland really is a terrific way to experience our country.