Road rules differ from country to country, but that doesn’t mean that the “but I’m not from here” excuse is going to get you out of trouble. You need to ensure that you know exactly what is expected of you when driving in another country. Iceland does not look kindly on road rule transgressions and exceeding the speed limit in Iceland.
So, to help you on your Iceland trip, we’ve created this comprehensive guide that you can use as a reference.
The Speed Limit in Iceland
The speed limit in Iceland can basically be divided into three general speed limits:
- Speed limit for paved/tarred roads away from towns & cities: 90km/h (55mph)
- Dirt or gravel road speed limit: 80 km/h (50mph)
- Speed limit in towns & cities: 50 km/h (30mph)
Just keep in mind that this is to be used as a general rule of thumb – you still need to adhere to whatever is displayed on the road signs.
The F-roads in Iceland
When visiting Iceland, you’ll often hear and see signs mentioning the F-roads. This can be confusing when you take the 3 different types of roads and their speed limits into account. What are F-roads in Iceland?
These are not just dirt and gravel roads, but the rough roads found in the more remote regions of Iceland that can only be accessed with a 4x4 rental. Although F-roads can be found across the island, the majority sits in the Highlands.
Since the F-roads have things such as Iceland river crossings, etc. you will find many road signs on the F-roads that you may not find on other roads/routes on the island. The same goes for the speed limits. Certain parts might be suitable to drive at 80 km/h, whilst others with more rocky terrain, loose sand, potholes, or river crossings may require much slower speeds. So, keep a close eye on what the road signs say.
Speed limit in The Most Popular Road Trip Routes in Iceland
There are a few popular road trip routes across the island. For easy reference, we’ve provided the speed limit for all of them below:
- Ring Road Speed Limit: 90km/h. (Although there is a small piece of the Ring Road on the east coast that is a gravel road, it can still be driven by a 2-wheel drive vehicle)
- Golden Circle Speed Limit: 90km/h
- Arctic Coast Way Speed Limit: 80 km/h as the majority of the roads are dirt/gravel roads, but also 90km/h on the paved roads
- South Coast Way Speed Limit: 90km/h
- Westfjords Way Speed Limit: varying between 90km/h on paved roads and 80km/h on dirt/gravel roads
When You Should Not Adhere to the Speed Limit in Iceland: Weather Road Conditions
The local saying on the island says that “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland”. This is irrespective of season. So, when you add the Iceland winds, blizzards, and rainstorms of the winter months, there are days on the island that driving 90km/h is unimaginable when it comes to your safety.
Repercussions for Breaking Road Rules
Iceland doesn’t play around when it comes to breaking the rules of the road. And there can be various repercussions when you cross the line. If you exceed the speed limit in Iceland or are found guilty of any other road rule transgression, you will be fined. Not only are fines in Iceland not amounts to scoff at, but you will also have some explaining to do when it comes to your rental agency.
The other repercussion is on the insurance side of things. It doesn’t matter how comprehensive your vehicle coverage is, no insurance company will cover negligence. That’s why you need to make sure that you don’t exceed the speed limit in Iceland or break any other Icelandic traffic laws. You shouldn’t be driving 90km/h with ice on the paved road. Because if something should go wrong, the insurance claim won’t be paid out, and you’ll be left to pay out of pocket.
A Few Helpful Tips for Driving in Iceland
You now know exactly what is expected of you regarding the speed limit in Iceland. But there are a few extra things to take note of to ensure that you stay on the right side of the traffic law:
Keep to the Right Side
No, literally. You have to drive on the right side of the road. For those coming from the UK, Australia, South Africa, etc. this can become pretty tricky. We know that driving on the left side of the road can be a difficult habit to break. And, unfortunately, even adhering to the speed limit in Iceland whilst driving on the left side of the road is guaranteed to end badly.
Don’t DIY Your Own Road
Even if you are driving at a snail’s pace, but you’ve decided to DIY your own off-road route, you’re in for a lot of trouble. Parking or driving on the side of the road or any other place that’s not a designated road is highly illegal in Iceland.
This is not just for your own safety (remember when Ed Sheeran burnt his foot in Iceland whilst stepping through soft soil into a boiling hot spring?). It’s also to protect the sensitive Icelandic ecosystem. Mostly in the parts where you’ll find the Icelandic moss that can take decades to recover from damage, if at all.
Ensure That Everyone Has Their Seatbelts on
It is illegal for anyone driving in Iceland not to have their seatbelt on. Even if you are sticking to the speed limit in Iceland, but if you get pulled over and even one person in the car doesn’t have a seatbelt on, you’ll be in heaps of trouble.
The Speed Limit in Iceland: There for Your Benefit & Safety
The speed limit in Iceland can be a challenge to those who are used to careening down highways at 120km/h. But in the Land of Fire and Ice with diverse terrain and safety issues, the speed limits and road rules are there for your own benefit and safety.
If you have any more questions regarding the speed limit in Iceland and other rules of the road, chat with your rental agency when renting a car in Reykjavik, and they’ll be happy to assist.