Driving in Iceland can be exhilarating, breathtaking, magical… but sometimes, it’s also a little terrifying and will have you gripping the steering wheel – it’s all about being prepared and knowing what to expect!
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about driving around this beautiful place – what kind of car to rent for your trip, insurance, and more tips for driving in Iceland!
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Should You Drive in Iceland?
When you start planning your trip to Iceland, one of the first things you should ask is whether you want to drive while you’re here!
Your trip will likely begin in Reykjavik, and while it’s totally possible to get around the city with public transportation, if you want to explore more of the country, this isn’t really an option. But, if you don’t want to rent a car, it is possible to get to some of the more remote locations with a tour instead of driving yourself! Many of Iceland’s tours leave from Reykjavik, so you can have some adventures without having to drive.
But, I think exploring Iceland in a rental car and driving yourself is the best option, as a road trip around Iceland gives you way more freedom and flexibility. Just make sure to keep reading so you know what to expect!
Do you need an international drivers license in Iceland?
Good news – most people do not need an international driver’s license in Iceland. There are a few requirements for driver’s licenses to allow you to rent a car and drive in Iceland!
- Your driver’s license must be in English, or in a language that uses Latin letters. American, Canadian, British, Australian, Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and European (EU) driver’s licenses are valid in Iceland – if you’re traveling from another country, you may need an international drivers license in Iceland!
- The drivers license must have a photo of the driver.
- Your must have had your drivers license for at least a year.
- The drivers license must have an issue date and an expiration date.
So, most likely, you don’t need an international drivers license in Iceland – but if you’re traveling from a country not listed above, make sure to double check!
What Side of the Road Do You Drive on in Iceland?
In Iceland, they drive on the right side of the road! So if you’re coming from the US like me, there’s nothing to get used to.
What Kind of Car is Best for Driving in Iceland?
If you’re planning on driving in Iceland, it’s really important that you choose the right car! What kind of car you need really depends on what you plan to do – so here’s what you need to know about the best car for driving in Iceland.
Two Wheel Drive
A two wheel drive car is absolutely fine for driving in Iceland – if you plan to stick to the Ring Road and you don’t want to drive into the Highlands. A two wheel drive car is going to cost less than a 4×4, so if you don’t plan to go on the F-Roads, this is perfect for you.
Discover Cars is the best place to look for a rental car in Iceland – you’ll see options for different budgets from different companies!
Four Wheel Drive
I recommending renting a 4×4 for driving in Iceland, as this will allow you to take the F-roads into the Highlands, where you’ll find the best scenery and the least people! Renting a 4×4 is more expensive, but it’s worth it. A bigger car is also great for car camping, which can be a fun way to explore!
Car Insurance for Driving in Iceland
With any rental car, you’ll have the option to add insurance. Typically, collision insurance is included with rental cars, and you can add more. Here’s a breakdown of the car insurance in Iceland, and what I recommend.
- Gravel protection – this one is definitely recommended for driving in Iceland! Even if you plan to be on mostly paved roads, wind in Iceland can be really strong and flying gravel can damage the car.
- Tire insurance – if you plan to drive on gravel roads or F-roads, this is a must. Popping a tire isn’t too uncommon!
- Sand and ash protection – this one is recommended for all cars, as sandstorms can happen and they can leave a lot of scratches.
- Theft protection – Iceland is pretty safe, and thefts and break-ins are rare. So this car insurance isn’t 100% necessary, but I chose to get it for peace of mind.
Iceland’s weather is known for being kind of wild, so especially if you’re traveling during the off-season (anytime that isn’t July and August), it’s definitely recommended to get all the insurance! But even if you drive in perfect weather, your car, or cars around you, can cause gravel to fly, and I think when it comes to insurance, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Laws for Driving in Iceland
If you’re planning on driving in Iceland, here are the laws that you need to be aware of!
f-roads Require a 4×4
These roads require an entire blog post, so make sure to check out this guide about driving on F-roads in Iceland!
But, what you need to know for driving in Iceland is that if you want to drive on the F-roads, you need a 4×4. For all rental car companies, it’s illegal to drive one them without one, and any damages will not be covered by insurance. Most of the roads have a sign in the beginning, warning travelers that a 4×4 is required to proceed.
It’s so worth it to drive on the F-roads, but you’ll quickly see why a 4×4 is a must once you find yourself bounding on rocks, sliding on sand, and having to cross rivers!
One thing that’s unique about driving in Iceland is that your headlights need to be on all the time, even in the day. This is because the weather can be dramatic, so it’s much safer to leave the lights on all the time in case of fog and rain.
It’s illegal to drive off road in Iceland! Even in the Highlands, you must always stick to established roads. This is to protect the environment, so be sure to follow this rule! On narrow roads, if you see a car coming, try to find a wide spot where you can pull off to the side without going off the road.
Tips for Driving in Iceland
If you’re planning a trip, here are some tips to keep in mind when driving in Iceland!
Consider the weather
You’ve probably heard a million times by now that weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and wild. So before you drive, always consider the weather – and if it’s unsafe to drive, don’t do so. There have been powerful gusts of wind that have taken cars off the road!
Look up road conditions before you go
Before you drive on any F-roads, and even on paved roads if the weather is bad, check out Road.is for current road conditions. It will tell you about the roads, any closures, weather considerations, and more before you drive.
Watch out for sheep
The sheep in Iceland seem to love hanging out close to the road and crossing at inopportune times. So, always keep an eye out for them, don’t drive faster than the speed limit, and be ready to brake for sheep!
Learn to drive a Manual
When you’re driving in Iceland, it’s really helpful to know how to drive a manual car! I know it’s not super common here in the US, but learning to drive one will save a lot of money – because most cars in Europe are stick shift cars. You can find automatic transmissions, but they’re much more expensive to rent.
Planning on Driving in Iceland?
If you have any questions about driving in Iceland, or you have your own tips to share, leave them in a comment below! And check out these other posts to help plan your trip:
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