While driving in an exotic foreign country sounds like the experience of a lifetime but it can be an equally daunting task if you are not aware of the laws of the land or even the weather. Every country has their own rules with regard to traffic and road safety and for the unprepared tourist it can be rather challenging than expected.
Anyway, Iceland is just perfect for road trips. And we’re here to make sure you have a wonderful time while you’re on the road. Let’s look at the Do’s and Don’ts of driving in Iceland.
Table of Contents
On the Right Side
Depending on where in the world you are from, it is necessary to be aware that if you wish to drive a vehicle in Iceland you need to drive on the right side of the road. For people from countries who drive on the left side, it requires a bit of adjustment and awareness to be able to drive safely in Iceland. But once you get the sense of it, Iceland is yours to explore.
Seatbelts are the safety norm in most countries today. And similarly seatbelts are compulsory under Icelandic laws as well. Even if you are driving for short distance, it is necessary to have seatbelts on. Safety is a big issue on the roads today and you never know when a seatbelt could be your saving grace. Also, it is important to know that there is a legal requirement to switch the headlights on at all times. This is important because during the winters, days are very short and mostly dark.
Choose the Right Vehicle
Anywhere else in the world, this wouldn’t be an issue. And you could probably get way with driving any car of your liking. But it is very important to choose the right car depending on where you are going in Iceland. If you wish to drive on the F roads (Mountain tracks) in the highlands, you should know that only four-wheel drive vehicle can access these terrains and only four-wheel drive car is legally allowed on the F roads. Imagine getting stuck in the slush in the middle of nowhere, probably take the 4WD.
Check the Forecasts
Iceland is well-known for its unpredictable weather and sudden changes in the weather are the quite common here. If you’re unlucky, or lucky, depending on the perspective you could experience all the four seasons in a span of minutes. So it becomes essential to be prepared before hitting that accelerator. Even if you have experience driving on mountainous roads or during the winter, sudden changes like snowstorms, fog or strong wind could take you in by surprise. So it would be in your best interest to check the forecasts and be prepared to tackle the Icelandic weather.
If you’re driving across the Icelandic countryside especially during the spring or summer, you’ll notice a lot of sheep grazing in the fields or near the road. While this can be a perfect view for some tourists, it can also be a nightmare for some especially if you’re driving. Before blaming the sheep for their lack of traffic sense and the tendency to jump on the road without any indicators, just be aware. And not just sheep, you could experience some Icelandic wildlife like reindeers and horses too. So it’s better to ‘Watch Out’!
Drink and Drive
Drinking and driving is a strict ‘no-no’ across almost all countries across the world. Likewise Icelandic laws have a ‘zero tolerance’ when it comes to alcohol and driving. Unless you wish to spend a night in a jail cell instead of a hotel, it would be a wise decision to skip on that drink before taking the wheels. Trust us you’d be much happier when you’re ‘not’ drinking and driving.
Like many things that are illegal in Iceland, driving off the road is considered ‘illegal’ according to Icelandic laws. If you’re one that cares about nature, it would be important to know that nature in Iceland can be a bit fragile. And you driving off road will only cause damages that will take ages to heal. The point is, there would be no point calling it ‘untouched wilderness’ if you decide to take your vehicle where you shouldn’t. So park the car and enjoy the scenery by taking a hike rather.
Park in the Middle of the Road
Yes it is true, no one really parks in the middle of the road. But if you stop your vehicle after every five minutes to take a picture or admire the scenic view, it would be similar to parking in the middle of the road, if you get the point. Though the beauty of the mesmerizing Icelandic landscape could be too hard to resist at times. It is important to be aware where you are stopping on the road in order to avoid unnecessary accidents. So unless there is a good parking space available avoid stopping on the roads.
You could lose a sense of speed and inhibition when you are deep into the Icelandic countryside and away from any form of traffic. Firstly, during such moments it is important to be aware that there is a speed limit even if you are away from the city. Secondly, it is important to know that once the tyres hit the gravel they lose their grip on the road in comparison to asphalt. So you could easily end up with an accident when trying to drive too fast on the gravel. It is best that you stick to the speed limits permissible under law.
Forget the Road Signs
There are lot of road signs in Iceland that educates the driver about what lies ahead. But if you don’t know what they mean, it defeats the purpose that these signs were even put up in the first place. So before you hit the road, don’t forget to learn about the steep bends, blind hills and one-lane bridges of Iceland and their road signs. It will only make your journey easier and worthwhile.