Due to its climate, Iceland may seem like a scary place to rent a car. Iceland is cold and windy for most of the year. On the southern side, precipitation can amount to 80 inches per year. Fear not, rent a car in Iceland, with reasonable precautions Iceland driving can be very safe. Motorists should be prepared to abide by local laws, purchase insurance, take extra precautions in the Highlands, watch for livestock, regularly fuel up, and slow down near potential obstacles.
If you are coming from the United States, know that your license is valid in Iceland. Driving is on the right-hand side and law requires that all passengers wear safety belts. Headlights should remain on at all times. There are significant fines for driving under the influence and for off-roading. Check with your car rental agent to see if you are restricted from Highland roads (also known as F roads). These roads can be very rough and can result in fines and cost of damage to the vehicle. If you are not restricted, take extra precaution, as the roads are often narrow and bumpy. The conditions are not fit for a compact car (check with your rental agent for a larger four-wheel drive vehicle).
Do not skimp on insurance. Often there is additional coverage for gravel and windshield damage. This nominal daily fee can save you a lot if gravel causes damage to the undercarriage of your car. It can also save you money if there is any damage to the windshield. It’s better to have the insurance and not need it, then need it and not have it.
When there is apprehension due to road conditions, slow down. The speed limit is 50 km per hour in the city, 80 km per hour on gravel, and 90 km per hour on paved highways. Always drive for the road conditions. On single lane bridges, slow down to see if a car is already on the bridge. If a car is approaching, always give the right of way to the closest car. Be mindful of limited view curves and be prepared to slow down as needed. When transitioning from pavement to gravel, always decrease your speed down to limit sliding. Also, keep on the look out for livestock on the road. Seeing sheep on the road isn’t an uncommon occurrence. If you hit an animal, you not only have the cost of the car, but you have the cost of the animal.
Don’t forget to refuel when you’re close to going under a half of a tank. Outside of the capital area, gas stations become more scarce. Some gas stations can be non-traditional and might only consist of one pump and only take a credit card. If you are nervous about using your credit card, you can use prepaid credit cards. Also be aware that gas in Iceland is expensive.
Because of the climate, you might forgo renting a car and driving in Iceland. Don’t let this discourage you. Driving in Iceland can be not only safe but also fun (bring your camera!). Find out if you can drive on the F roads, purchase additional insurance for potential vehicle damage, slow down for possible obstacles, and keep your gas topped off and most importantly enjoy.