Travel Tips

Here you will find useful information for traveling in Icelandic. Please read before starting your amazing adventure.


Preparation

Icelandic nature can be wild and dangerous, especially for those unfamiliar with it and unused to travelling in uninhabited areas and rough country. Travellers should prepare well for each trip and know its trail and route conditions. This is the best way to prevent accidents and ensure a pleasant and safe journey. 

Choose clothing and footwear with care.  Read about conditions in the area you will be traversing and talk to people with local knowledge, such as rangers.Let somebody know about your planned trip.

Check weather and road conditions – information available from the Public Roads Administration, tel. 1777 or at www.road.is

Check the weather forecast – information available from the Icelandic Meteorological Office, tel. 902-0600, the Teletext or at www.vedur.is

Preface

Iceland offers the traveller an adventure in a beautiful and rugged landscape. However, experience shows that the forces of Icelandic nature can be harsh and inhospitable, and travellers are well-advised to exercise caution and respect for the country’s natural environment. Unfortunately, there have been far too many accidents in the past few years involving foreign tourists travelling around the country. These accidents range from minor to fatal. The most common type of accident is that of hikers losing their footing on uneven terrain. The most serious injuries, however, are caused by road traffic accidents where travellers drive too fast in unfamiliar conditions and do not wear seat belts.

Weather

Icelandic weather is very volatile. Fair weather can change into a raging storm at a moment’s notice. Keep this in mind at all times, especially when travelling in the highlands.For every 100m in altitude gained, you can expect the mean temperature to drop by 0.6°C and precipitation to increase. The temperature can drop below the freezing point even during summer, especially at night. At mountain tops, wind force can multiply. 

Telephone connections

The mobile phone connection is fairly reliable in towns, but outside them it can be very unstable. Therefore, do not rely on a mobile phone as a safety measure. The long-range NMT network covers most parts of the highlands but not all parts. The signals are often strongest on top of hillocks and mountains. Travellers intending to explore out-of-the-way areas are encouraged to use the Travellers' Reporting Service of the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR), tel. +00354 570 5900.

The Emergency Number in Iceland is 112.

Driving

Road conditions in Iceland vary substantially. Highway 1 is mostly paved, but other country roads are often very narrow, steep and washboarded gravel tracks with potholes and sharp corners. Those unfamiliar with such conditions often find it difficult to drive on Icelandic roads, especially gravel roads. Drivers are advised to choose a vehicle which they are used to driving and can handle easily. Many travellers who are not used to driving jeeps find them difficult to handle on Icelandic gravel roads.  Slow down when you meet other vehicles, especially when driving on a gravel road. Where the road changes from a paved road to a gravel road, you need to slow down considerably. Many serious accidents occur every year at such places, especially among drivers who are unfamiliar with such road conditions, lose control of their vehicle and drive off the road.

Mountain roads

Most mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a gravel surface. The surface on gravel roads is often loose, especially on the shoulder and centre of the road, so slowing down whenever approaching an oncoming car is a good practice. Mountain roads marked (F) on public maps are often narrow, pacing a vehicle can be tricky and care should be taken to pick a suitable spot. Many bridges in Iceland are also narrow and are only wide enough for one car at a time.

For information on road conditions, tel.: +354-1777, daily 8:00–16:00, or visit  www.road.is.  The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads, and 90 km/h on asphalt roads.

Speeding

Fines for speeding in Iceland are substantial, follow the speed limit but always adjust your speed and driving according to conditions.

The speed limit in urban areas is normally 50 km per hour. Outside towns, it is 90 km, on paved roads and 80 km on gravel roads. Always adjust your speed to the driving conditions.

Off Road Driving

Generally driving outside marked trails is prohibited and is subject to nature conservation law. Driving rental cars on roads or tracks that do not have a road-number is forbidden. Passenger cars and 2wd vehicles are strictly forbidden on roads that are marked with an F on public maps. This also applies to Kjölur (road 35) and Kaldidalur (road 550), however our cars can be driven on roads marked with F along with road 35 and 550.

River Crossing

Crossing rivers should be attempted only in fourwheel-drive vehicles, such as jeeps. Ensure that the four-wheel drive has been engaged before driving into the water. Drive very slowly but steadily in first gear and use the low range if available.

Keep in mind that fords over glacial rivers keep changing. On warm summer days, the flow increases as the day progresses. Heavy rain often causes rivers to swell, sometimes making them uncrossable even for large and wellequipped vehicles. Glacial rivers usually have less water in the mornings.

Deaths have been caused by underestimating the water volume in rivers. Before crossing a glacial river, it is necessary to examine its velocity, depth and bottom by wading into it. If you find that you would be unwilling to wade across the river on foot, you should not attempt to drive across it. Seek advice from experienced drivers and watch how and where they cross.

Please Note! Insurance does not cover damages to the chassis of the vehicle nor damages caused by driving in or across rivers or any kind of waterways.

Few points regarding rivers and streams in Iceland:

  • Rivers often have less water volume in the morning than evenings, this is especially so for glacial rivers
  • Fords over rivers change over time, fords over glacial rivers can change in minutes!
  • Rain causes most rivers and streams to swell and often making them impassable! Seek advice from experienced native travelers or rangers before attempting river crossing and ensure that the four-wheel drive has been engaged before attempting river crossing.
  • The general rule is “if you are unwilling or able to wade across, do not attempt to drive across”

Driving outside marked trails is prohibited and is subject to nature conservation law.

Petrol

There is only one petrol station in the highlands (at Hveravellir) that sells petrol and diesel. Keep this in mind when driving in the highland.

Blind summits

Blind summits are common in Iceland. Slow down and keep to the right-hand edge of the road.

One-lane bridges

There are many one-lane bridges in Iceland. Slow down and use caution when driving across them.

Embankments

Many Icelandic roads are raised on embankments against winter snows. Therefore, roll-over accidents often occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles and drive off the road. Such accidents can be very serious, especially when seat belts are not used.

Sunlight

In the summertime, there is sunlight 24 hours a day. Drivers need to be aware of this and not drive for too long, as they might otherwise fall asleep behind the wheel.

Animals

Domestic animals are often close to, or even on, country roads. Drivers who hit animals may be required to pay for the damage.

Mobile & Driving

The use of hands-free kits is compulsory for mobile phone use whilst driving.

Driving while intoxicated

Driving while intoxicated from drug or alcohol use is prohibited.

Headlamps

Headlamps are required to be lit 24 hours a day while the vehicle is in operation.

Seat Belts

The use of front and back seat belts is compulsory – they save lives


We recommend that you visit the SafeTravel webpage and watch "how to drive in iceland" video to ensure your safety while traveling in Iceland.

www.safetravel.is