Coming to Iceland for the first time is a memorable experience. The landscape is unlike anything else found in the world, the culture is warm and welcoming, and you are likely to remember your trip for the rest of your life. But, it is important to keep in mind some simple safety tips if you have never been here before. Driving in Iceland can be deceiving, and the weather can change at a moments notice. Let’s make sure that you have a fun and safe trip by going over some important safety advice and driving tips for your visit to Iceland. Safe travels!
Tips for Safely Driving in Iceland
Renting a campervan or RV and setting off along Iceland’s Rind Road attracts thousands of tourists here each year. The scenic route takes you around the entire country and gives you the opportunity to explore the island at your own pace. I highly recommend that everyone do it at least once in their lives. That being said, driving in Iceland can be treacherous if the necessary precautions aren’t taken. We have many one-lane bridges, loose gravel roads, and suicidal sheep throughout the country. First things first, let’s talk about speed limits.
Speed limits around Iceland are 90 kilometers per hour (about 55 miles per hour) for paved roads and 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour) for gravel roads. The speed limits may seem slow compared to other countries, but there are good reasons. The weather can change at a moments notice. Driving any faster during inclement weather risky and is only going to result in an accident. Also, paved roads can suddenly turn into gravel roads. If you aren’t paying attention, it is very easy to lose control of your vehicle.
Single lane bridges can be hazardous if you don’t use proper etiquette as well. When driving, always be mindful of oncoming drivers about to enter a single lane bridge at the same time as you. I always try to be as courteous as possible and usually will let them pass first unless I am far away. You shouldn’t be in a rush when visiting. Remember, if you need to wait a few minutes then so be it. I am sure to either your left or right is a stunning vista that will help you pass the time or to take a photo. Patience goes a long way.
Tips for Safely Driving in Iceland – Part Two
Taking photos can be more dangerous than it seems. People, even very recently, have died trying to capture the perfect picture of Iceland’s natural beauty. Stopping to take a photo when you are driving is especially dangerous. Some tourists get so excited to grab their camera to take a stunning picture before the moment is gone, that they forget to protect themselves. If you need to stop, which I guarantee that you will, park your car safely off to the side out of the way of oncoming traffic. It could be the choice between life and death.
Sheep. Oh, how we love our sheep. Did you know that Icelandic sheep aren’t indigenous to Iceland? Our Viking ancestors picked them up like little furry suitcases and brought them with them. How cool! While we do love our free-roaming sheep, they tend to have no etiquette when it comes to grazing. They will graze near or on the side of highways throughout the country. If you are driving to fast and hit one, it could be deadly (plus you’ll have to pay the cost of the sheep to its owner). Be mindful of our four-legged friends when you are driving.
Lastly, always pay attention to road closures and the signage when you are driving. Here in Iceland, we close roads for a reason. While we want you to drive on all of them, sometimes inclement weather or dangerous roads force us to close the roads. Don’t think you know better than the locals! Every year countless tourists end up trapped on a closed roadway with either stuck vehicles or vehicles that are totally flipped over. Save yourself the embarrassment of calling your campervan or RV company for roadside assistance. No one wants to wait for help on vacation.
General Safety Tips for Iceland
Iceland benefits from having a notoriously low crime rate. It isn’t uncommon for Icelanders to leave their valuables (or children) unattended in public. So you shouldn’t worry too much about anything happening to you or your belongings as a result of a crime. That being said you should always be aware of your surroundings, mainly out in the wilderness. If you decide to go it alone into nature, there are some things you need keep in mind during your next trip to Iceland.
Firstly, don’t die over a photo. Every year dozens of tourists die trying to take the perfect selfie. When you are composing a selfie shot, you are no longer aware of your surroundings or footing because you are looking at a phone screen. Use caution when around waterfalls especially or beaches like Reynisfjara, which has had several tragic accidents. One wrong step or an unexpected wave and you could be in a perilous situation. The same goes without saying for photography as a whole.
Thousands of photographers a year come to Iceland to capture Iceland’s stunning views. A favorite activity for tourists and photographers is to go hiking and scale rocks or glaciers to get the perfect photo. Stones and glaciers can be especially dangerous if they are unstable. Check your footing, and as always be aware of your surroundings.
Safety Advice and Driving Tips in Iceland
The goal of this post is not to scare, but to inform. Rarely does anything happen here out of the ordinary regarding safety (if anything, vans flipping from slippery gravel is about the worst it gets). But, there is always a chance that something could happen. We want you to have the best time possible here during your stay. We want you to have beautiful memories of your first, second, or tenth time here in Iceland. Be aware of your surroundings, respect mother nature, and please don’t die for the perfect selfie.