Before you begin planning your self-drive vacation in Iceland, there are a few things about driving in Iceland you’ll need to know. As always, we want you to have a memorable trip for all the right reasons, not because of car trouble. No matter how experienced a driver you are in your home country, Iceland’s roads and weather conditions are going to be different from what you are accustomed to.
ROAD TRIP CHECKLIST
- Keep an empty water bottle with you and stop at the next spring to get some freshwater while eating your lunch somewhere out in nature.
- Remember to fill up the tank on your way from Höfn to Mývatn. Gas stations are few and far between in that area.
- Don’t rush! Start the morning early and stop as many times as you’d like along the way.
- Download some Icelandic music to get inspired while driving.
- Bring your bathing suit to visit a pool, hot spring or spa.
- Go for a hike every day. You’ll get a fresh perspective and see something you wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Have fun!
Your self-drive adventure in Iceland begins with picking up your rental car. Be sure to carefully review your contract and inspect your vehicle for existing scratches and damage before leaving the lot. It’s good to familiarize yourself with the insurance options available and ask the rental agent any questions you may have.
Gas stations are sparse between Vík and Mývatn, so please keep a close eye on your fuel levels. Self-service pumps are marked sjálfsafgreiðsla and full-service pumps are marked full þjónusta. Make sure to check which type of fuel your car requires (it is usually marked on the gas cap) before filling the tank. Opening hours will vary, but most gas stations in the Reykjavík area are open between 7am – 11pm. Typically, the larger stations, like N1, will remain open for self-service after closing hours.
Many streets in the Reykjavík city center are narrow and one-lane only. They are not marked as such on city maps, but generally, the direction of traffic tends to alternate with each parallel street so that if one street is left-turn only, the next one should be a right-turn street. Please familiarize yourself with the signs for one-way streets.
Few hotels in central Reykjavík offer overnight parking for their guests. You can, however, find metered parking in many downtown areas. Parking garages are another option but please keep in mind they do have closing hours. Tenon Tip: You can find free parking by Hallgrímskirkja Church!
The good thing about driving in Iceland is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of tolls. In fact, the only toll road in Iceland is at the entrance of the Hvalfjorður tunnel. The toll charge is 1000 Icelandic krona or ISK (roughly $10 USD) for regular passenger cars and can be paid by credit card or cash.
These roads are also known as F-roads and are loose gravel roads, typically in the interior highlands of the country. The majority of rental cars are not permitted on F roads and driving your rental car on an F road will void the insurance policy. F-roads are often impassable due to poor conditions and are typically closed from September through June. If you find yourself on an F-road, reduce your speed. Most F-roads are narrow and winding, and some forge streams and rivers. Your rental car’s insurance is invalidated when crossing rivers, even if you are in a 4×4 vehicle.
You may want to get off the beaten track, but be careful to do so without disturbing Icelandic nature. Off-road driving is strictly prohibited by law and is punishable with very heavy fines. Driving off marked roads damages fragile vegetation and can be dangerous for motorists.
Headlights are required while driving in Iceland 24/7 even when there is extensive daylight.
Tenon Tip: Watch out for sheep and other animals in the road.