Driving in Iceland
Roads in Iceland
It is surprising to many travelers to learn that a large portion of the road system in Iceland is made up of gravel roads. This can even be the case on Route 1 around Iceland. Roads can be in various conditions, with potholes or washboards but most of the time they should give a good ride if care is taken.
When passing another vehicle on a gravel road, sand and small rocks can cause damage to cars. Therefore we offer our customers to purchase Gravel protection, insurance which protects the driver against any liability concerning cracked windshields or other damage caused by gravel.
Traffic congestion's are not common in Iceland. Even so, there are times of day that traffic gets heavier, especially in Reykjavik; the morning traffic around eight o’clock when people are driving to work or school and again between four and five in the afternoon when people return home.
There are a few weekends a year when the traffic to and from Reykjavik gets heavy. These are the biggest travel weekends for Icelanders who take to the roads heading both east and north. The Pentecostal Weekend at the end of May each year is the first, then the first weekend of July and lastly the “Verslunarmannahelgi” (traders-weekend), a three day weekend at the beginning of august.
Off road driving
Driving off road is prohibited under Icelandic law due to very sensitive soil and vegetation. Even hikers can cause permanent damage to the land, which may recover slowly or not at all. Those caught driving off road will be fined and charges will be filed.
Weather and seasonal road conditions
Checking the weather forecast before heading to the roads is always a good idea. The Icelandic Met Office provides updated weather reports and maps in English (see here). On the left you can choose which part of the country you would like to look at more closely.
If coming a cross a weather sign like the one seen here to the left, please read the information given carefully.
"Lokað" means closed. The road ahead is closed and you should not attempt to continue. Find a place to rest until the weather clears.
"Óveður" means storm. On the road ahead the weather is very bad and you should avoid driving further if possible. Find a place to rest until the weather clears unless there is an emergency.
The numbers on the right side of the weather sign indicate the wind speed in meters per second.
The Icelandic Road Administration holds out a website with information regarding current road conditions and weather conditions. This information is provided in a color code, easily readable and updated on the hour (see here).
Roads marked green are clear and safe.
Roads marked blue are slippery and should only be driven on winter tires.
Roads marked white have a snow cover.
Roads marked red are closed or impassable.
Road and traffic signs
Speed Limit under best conditions. When roads are slippery or visibility low drivers should slow down and evaluate what's a safe speed.
Children at play. Drive slowly since children may be playing in the neighborhood. This sign is usually found in urban areas near schools, bus stops and playgrounds.
Slippery road. Road can be slippery due to rain, ice on the road or because of newly laid asphalt.
End of tarred road. This sign means that a gravel road is ahead. Drivers should slow down as the car can start to slide due to change in tire grip.
Single lane bridge. This sign is very common in Iceland. Only one car can cross a bridge at a time. The general rule is that the vehicle that arrives first at a bridge end should cross first. Since it can be difficult to evaluate the speed of the car coming towards you, it is recommended to slow down.
Single lane tunnel. The sign indicates that a single lane tunnel is ahead. Drivers should slow down and make sure that the tunnel is clear before driving through.
Unbridged river. This sign indicates that a river crosses the road and no bridge is available. Only 4wd vehicles should cross such rivers.
4X4 road. Road only accessible for 4 wheel drive vehicles.
Hills with loose rocks. This sign indicates that the road is close to a hill with loose rocks. This means that there can be rocks and gravel on the road so drive carefully.
Sheep near road. This sign is common in Iceland. It indicates that animals are not all fenced in and can therefore be near, or even on the road.
Horse path. This sign can be found both in urban and rural areas. It marks a path for horses and drivers should drive slower if horses are near as they spook easily. This puts horses, riders and drivers in danger.