Travel Guide Iceland - Page 5

5. How to get around

In Iceland almost everything is done via car. There are some buses which drive around the island, but as a photographer this is nothing you would like to do. No individual stops, checking time tables and searching for the next bus stop isn't the way you would like to travel. Think of your equipment as well.

Although it is possible to use the ferry and drive your own car to Iceland, I would not recommend it as Iceland's streets and weather are rough and your car is suffering a lot. I still remember my first visit to Iceland when I fetched my rental car. As a German I am familiar with looking for holes and scratches everywhere before I even start the engine. When I pointed out all the scratches to the renter, he started smiling and mentioned "we don't care about these". Well, they really don't, gravel roads will always lead to some scratches somewhere, it's normal. 

I learned that a rental car company searches for two things when you return your car - if you hit an animal and if you have used the spare wheel. That's it. 

Have a look at my rental car's evolvement over 2 weeks time, I was so nervous when I returned it, in Germany this would never be possible, in Iceland they just smiled when I said "eh, sorry". 

The rental car company I was using all the time and I can clearly recommend is Blue Car Rental

How my rental car evolved over 2 weeks time


Before driving make yourself comfortable with the speed limits and traffic rules. If you are not into reading to memorize these rules, a way better solution is to watch this video, really great, fun to watch and informative (about 9 minutes).

Anyway, the basic things you need to know are (not a complete list):

   - Speed limit 50 km/h in built-up areas
   - Speed limit 80 km/h on gravel roads (outside of built-up areas)
   - Speed limit 90 km/h on tarmaced roads (outside of built-up areas)
   - On single-line bridges the car which is closest to the bridge passes first.
   - Mountain roads (F-roads) require a 4x4 car, no insurance will cover costs if you pass with a non-4x4 car.
   - Headlights have to be turned on 24 hours a day
   - Driving off-road is forbidden
   - Everyone has to wear a seat-belt during driving

A more detailed overview can be found at the website of the Icelandic Transport Authority, and a flyer has been published. 

Bear in mind that on the ring route and in urban areas there are speed cameras. Driving too fast can lead to excessive speeding tickets, and as I have mentioned in section 2, road conditions vary, there can be animals on the street and much more can happen, so you should stay within the given speed limit. Additionally, there are blue speed limits sometimes which make a recommendation how fast you should pass, they are normally pretty accurate. Last, speed limits are valid until a new sign shows a different speed limit.

Depending on where you are, roads can look like this even in summer


Iceland consists of about 13.000 km of roads, and about 4.000 km are tarmaced, including the ring route with some minor exceptions in the east/northern east of Iceland. These 4.000 km include Reykjavik, leading to the fact that if you leave the ring route you mainly have to deal with gravel roads. And even the gravel roads differ a lot, there are pretty comfortable ones where you can drive 80 km/h, and others where the gravel is so huge that you feel like driving on rocks with huge holes. And never forget, there can always be holes in streets. 

The ring route is always cleared from ice and snow, however it can take some time. The ring route itself is mainly a 2-lane-road, the others can be single lane as well. F-Roads for example are mostly single lane roads and difficult to drive. F-roads are closed outside of summer, and other streets can be closed as well depending on how extreme the weather is. Make yourself familiar on the web site before you start driving, and check in between as well. This web site contains all necessary information on road and weather conditions you should stick to. Their web site offers webcams as well which can be pretty helpful.

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