DRIVING IN ICELAND
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Road conditions in Iceland vary substantially. Route 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.
- Choose a vehicle which you are used to driving and can handle easily.
- 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. They lose control of their vehicle and drive off the road.
- Blind summits are common in Iceland. Slow down and keep to the right-hand edge of the road.
- One-lane bridges are still common in Iceland. Slow down and use caution when driving across them
- Roads are often raised on embankments to keep them clear of 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.
- There is sunlight 24 hours a day in the summertime. Drivers need to be aware of this and not drive for too long, as they might otherwise fall asleep behind the wheel.
- The speed limit in urban areas is normally 50 km per hour. Outside towns, it is 90 km per hour on paved roads and 80 km per hour on gravel roads. Always adjust your speed to the driving conditions.
- Domestic animals are often close to, or even on, country roads. If you hit a domestic animal you must notify the nearest farm or police. Most farmers are insured today. Beware of lambs who may run to their mother across the road when they get scared. Do not try to make a sudden swing around an animal as this may cause you to lose control of the car and roll-over.
- The use of hands-free kits is compulsory for mobile phone use whilst driving.
- Driving while intoxicated from drug or alcohol use is prohibited.
- Headlamps are required to be lit 24 hours a day while the vehicle is in operation.
- Weather conditions can change quickly, no matter if it is summer or winter. Route 1 Car Rental always recommends that you check the weather and road conditions before heading out on your travels. You can do so by calling 902 0600 or 1778, or check out The Icelandic Met Office, Icelandic Road Administration, Safetravel.is or by talking to the locals.
- Strong winds can make you loose grip of the door and cause it to fly open and damage the car. Get used to holding on tightly to the handle when the doors are opened.
- The emergency services app is called 112 Iceland. It is easy to use and adds safety to your trip. Read about it and download it here.
The use of front and back seat belts is compulsory – they save lives!
Ash-/sandstorms are not an uncommon occurrence in Iceland. Because there is so little vegetation in Iceland there is little to nothing to bind the sand and ash to the ground, so when it's windy we experience ash- and sandstorms. They occur mostly in the southern part of the country or anywhere where there are big open plains with loose sand.
These storms can severely damage vehicles by sandblasting the paintjob or in extreme cases blow out the windows. Ash can also get into the ventilation system of the vehicle and block it, causing the car to overheat and possibly damage the engine. Unfortunately the renter is liable for these damages but Route 1 Car Rental offers an Ash/Sand Insurance that fully covers all damages to the vehicle's paintjob and windows (does not cover damages to the engine) caused by these storms. It is important that if you get caught in an ash-/sandstorm that you drive with extreme caution as your vision will most likely be limited and driving fast can further damage the paintjob. It is also very important that you do not attempt to wipe of the vehicles afterwards as that may cause further damages to the car. The residue ash/sand must be sprayed off with clean water (do not use sponges or brushes) and that you do not use the windscreen wipers unless they and the windscreen are completely clean.
We of course highly recommend that you try to avoid these storms, and do so by avoiding driving in areas with big, open, sandy plains when it's windy. Like mentioned before always check the weather and road conditions before heading out on your travels to avoid getting caught in these kind of storms.
Gravel roads are very common in Iceland and you will most likely encounter at least one of them on your travels around the island. The road conditions can vary from road to road, as well as change with the weather and season. It is important that you drive at a speed that matches the road conditions as the gravel roads can be quite slippery, especially when the road is wet.
When the paved roads end, please make sure to slow down before driving onto a gravel road. If you are going too fast then you increase the risk of skidding on the gravel and losing control of the vehicle. The speed limit on gravel roads are 80 km/h, but we at Route 1 Car Rental always recommend driving slower for your safety.
Please keep in mind that when driving on gravel roads you increase the possibility of gravel damages. Unfortunately the renter is always liable for all damages caused by gravel, but Route 1 Car Rental offers Gravel Protection that fully covers all gravel damages to the car's paintjob, windscreen and lights.
For more information regarding our insurance policy please refer to our FAQ section.
Have a safe trip!