Iceland, a Scandinavian nation, features dramatic landscapes of volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields. The magical and varied landscape combined with long, bright Icelandic summer days will attract the attention of outdoor enthusiasts.
Driving in Iceland would be easy and smooth if you had the following information and documents.
What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?
An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.
On the other hand, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.
Do I need an IDP for Iceland?
If you are a Tourist looking to visit Iceland and its capital Reykjavik, it is highly recommended to carry an IDP. This helps in reducing any language barrier, especially at checkpoints and in the vehicle rental process.
How can I get my IDP?
You can apply for an IDP through our website. All you need is your current driver’s license details, a photo of yourself, and your driver’s license to verify your identity.
A digital IDP takes up to 2 hours to land in your inbox. Alternatively, if you want a faster processing time, you can choose an Express Order, in which you will receive your IDP in 20 minutes.
A printed IDP can be delivered to your doorstep, with the estimated delivery date varying between 2-30 days, depending on the selected delivery method.
Benefits of Carrying an IDP in Iceland
Functioning as an ID
An IDP is a practical travel document because it also serves as an ID card. This is useful if you want to keep your passport in a secure location for security reasons. Your IDP can be used in place of your national ID card. This is especially true if the ID card is a language not used internationally.
Quicker traffic authority stops
In some countries, foreign licenses are available for a short time. This is intended to boost tourism and reduce the annoyance of tourists. However, traffic police may have trouble decrypting the driver’s information on your driver’s license while the traffic is stopped. Carrying an IDP guarantees that police officers can quickly write down your details and send you along the way. This is especially useful in emergencies and car accidents.
Car rental companies
Foreign companies may be reluctant to rent a car to a foreigner without an international driver’s license. Since an IDP is a legal document approved by the United Nations, most international and domestic car rental companies accept IDP as a valid driver’s license. It also saves valuable vacation time and unnecessary delays when dealing with landlords.
United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic
International driving permits are issued through institutions authorized by the United Nations. They comply with UN road traffic conventions. There have been three international motor traffic conventions – in 1926 (Paris), 1949 (Geneva), and 1968 (Vienna). Specific automotive associations and institutions have been given authority to act on behalf of the country’s government in issuing IDPs.
Driving requirements for non-citizens in Iceland
Before traveling to Iceland, make sure you have a valid driver’s license. You must have a driver’s license for at least one year to drive on Icelandic roads.
To rent a car, you must be at least 23 years old to rent a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle.
When should I get an Iceland Driver’s License?
One might consider obtaining an Icelandic driver’s license if you stay in Iceland long-term.
If you have a national driver’s license from the UK, Japan, or within the EEA, you can exchange your domestic driver’s license for an Icelandic one without retaking the driving test, permitting that the applicant is a resident of Iceland.
After the application is made, the district commissioner must obtain confirmation from the license issuing country that the rights are valid. After that, an Icelandic driver’s license will be issued. After obtaining an Icelandic license, you must submit a license from the EEA countries to the district minister. This is because you cannot hold licenses from two European countries simultaneously.
Driver’s license holders from countries other than the EEA, the United Kingdom, or Japan can apply for a domestic driver’s license in Iceland after staying in Iceland for six months. Applicants must pass both theoretical and practical driver’s license tests.
Renewal of IDP or original license in Iceland
Renewing your IDP
You can renew your IDP simply through our website, receiving an online copy in your inbox in as little as 20 minutes if you choose the express option.
Renewing your original driver’s license
Since an IDP is not a stand-alone document for driving in any country, you must have a valid, unexpired driving license to show if requested. If your license expires while you are abroad, you will be required to renew it to keep driving in that country. The procedure for renewing a license differs widely by country. License renewal may include a vision test that cannot be done online, meaning you must return to your country of origin to renew your license. Most governments provide an online license renewing service for expatriates.
Car Rental in Iceland
The best website for a rental car is Discover Cars. The team searches all the car rentals around the globe to help you determine the best possible prices. It’s the most convenient way to rent an Icelandic automobile.
Requirements to drive a rental car in Iceland
The requirements to drive in Iceland are:
A valid driving license – a requirement is that your driver’s license must contain Roman English characters. If not, you will need to obtain an IDP.
Be older than 20 – this can be 21 or 23 in some cases.
Driving in Iceland
A driver’s license is required to be able to operate vehicles outside of your home country without affecting any local legislation or regulations. Rental companies may require an International Driving Permit before renting you a car.
Driving rules in Iceland
It’s vital to brush up on the rule before getting behind the wheel to prevent a fine or serious injury. Fortunately, like in many countries, driving rules are almost the same.
All passengers in the car are required to wear a seat belt
Driving under the influence is strictly prohibited
The speed limits are 30 – 50 km/hour in populated and ice-y areas (however, if you see the blue rectangular sign in white letters, you should know there are no speed limits)
When driving at night, your headlights must remain on for the entire drive
Driving while using a mobile phone is strictly prohibited
The emergency number to dial is 112 (don’t worry, the operator will be English speaking)
Different road types in Iceland
There are varying land types while visiting Iceland, and you have to decide how you are preparing to travel. Are you interested in exploring the Iceland mountains with Nordic explorers? Are there any other options for relaxing and enjoying driving? It determines how many roads to drive in a particular area.
Ring Road & Golden Circle (Paved)
Some of Iceland’s most famous destinations can be seen driving through Ring Road. This mostly asphalt road runs through several villages around the island’s outer perimeter and includes its capital, Reykjavik city. There are some remote areas with dirt, however, the two-wheeler is going to work well for it. This road has a speed limit of about 90 km/h (56 mph). While it is possible in theory to travel across America nonstop for approximately 17 hours, you should be planning on traveling for between 7 and 10 days. The Golden Circle has two-wheel drive vehicles.
Adventurous Iceland’s F-Roads (Gravel)
How much do people believe in elf? They can be found at the F road. The specially designated dirt mountain road runs through the rocky interior of Iceland. If a collision occurs, it’s highly recommended that a person travel in a group of two vehicles. Some of these rocky, sometimes dirty roads can be a little harder to navigate than some gravel roads. You can go for miles and never see a car. Iceland requires a four wheel driving rental vehicle on the roads. It requires a whole lot of attention from you! Some F-Road roads get very rough and are often crossed by deep glacier rivers. F-Road, not off-road.
Local access H-Roads (Gravel)
There are dirt roads that often take the land and private houses away from the main roads of Iceland. They are more maintained than a F road, are less prone to plow in the winter, but do not need a 44 at night.
Driving mistakes to avoid while driving in Iceland
Make sure always to check weather warnings
Driving in Iceland is no joke. Winds and weather can change on the fly. In Iceland, it is important to know both wind and weather warnings. This is the most common mistake people make when driving in Iceland, and it is also the most dangerous and important to your safety!
Don’t plan too much into one day
Iceland looks like a small country, but it’s a little wider when it comes to driving. Make sure you know your limits and consider the time you have. If you want to enjoy a drive, be careful not to overload too much into one trip. It would be much more fun to visit fewer places and savor the ones you do see than to be stuck in the car all day long.
Do not stop in the middle of the road for pictures
This is very dangerous and is a big mistake people make when driving in Iceland, so keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.
Instead, drive slowly until you see an exit or a small side road. There are countless small exits along the Icelandic ring road, so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to get off.
Fill up your gas tank beforehand
If you want to go to off-road attractions such as waterfalls, you need enough gas to come and go to the next gas station safely. When driving in Iceland, it is important to fill up early and often. Don’t make the mistake of not doing so. Make sure to note on your GPS device or google maps the locations of gas stations in your area.
Driving on dirt roads or roads with pre-approved names and titles is permitted, but Iceland should not drive off-road under any circumstances.
Top 5 places to Visit in Iceland
Iceland, a land of fire and ice, became the most famous destination for tourists due to thrill-seeking activities and the beauty of the natural landscapes in this stunning country. This area has active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers and more.
Skaftafell Nature Reserve
Skaftafell is an international, national park located southeast of Sweden with a unique landscape beyond any comparison anywhere on the planet. It spans an area of more than 470 square miles that consists of rivers that traverse the huge Black Desert. The place is one oasis of various national scenery and characteristics. Previously the park had an imposing national park on itself.
Skaftafell Natural Reserve has many beautiful hike paths called “hiking paradise.” The easy trek leads to various locations like the waterfall Svartifoss, surrounded by bizarre basalt columns and glacial ridges. I’m curious about Skaftfell Nature Reserve.
The Snafellsnes Peninsula is in the west of the state and is sometimes called an island in miniature due to various geologic features contained there. If you are planning an overnight trip to the Peninsula, then you will be allowed to experience some of the best natural wonders.
Located in the Snaefellnes area exists a glaciated volcano called the Snaefell – Jäkul. The area is located on a peninsular edge and has a height of 1446 meters. Various claim that the glacier is an enormous source of pure dynamic power and that it has the distinction among the seven major planets of cosmic power.
The Westman Island
Westman Island or Vestmannaeyjar is an island in Iceland with 15 islands and over 30 massive mountains and cliffs. Heimey, the biggest of all islands, carries 4,4100 people and is the most populous island across the archipelago. It has served the world’s most populous puffin colonial population.
Even though Eldfell volcano, named Mount Fire, began to rise on the island on March 25, 1974 after nearly five years of dormant the island continues to be among the safest, most peaceful places on the Atlantic Ocean. What was the fun of a West Man Island trip?
Golden Circle offers breathtaking views and an inside look at our country’s past. There are several tourist attractions here, including Haukdalur Gull Fosse, Thingvellir, and Haukdalur. The three destinations at Golden Circle have different details about their role as historic destinations. In Haukadalur, crowned by geysers Strokkur, the giant hot water is pushed into the air every 15 minutes. Gullfoss is the most visited waterfall in the country, as it echos on the Hvtá rivers and drops into the spectacular 70 meters long Hvtá canyon.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsaarlon came into existence in 1935 due to rising temperatures at the beginning of the 20th century. Today expansion is accelerating in Jökulsárlón, which is likely to expand until it is transformed into an enormous fjord. Iceland is famous for its glacial lagoon about 60 km south of Skaftafell. A beautiful ice lagoon in the blue ice provides a sanctuary to seals swimming along the numerous mountain ice capped by the glaciation of Breiamerkurjökull or Brei-the-mersh-kery. The best time for traveling to Jökulsárlon is during winter.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do UK drivers need an IDP for Iceland?
It is possible to drive in Iceland with a UK or EEA license. However, for ease of mind, it’s always best to carry an IDP to ensure your documents can be read hassle-free.
Do I need an International Driving Permit for Iceland?
We highly recommend having an IDP when traveling to Egypt, as many countries require you to have a valid driving license and an IDP.
Are you supposed to drive on the right or left side of the road in Iceland?
Icelanders drive on the right side and overtake on the left.
Can you turn right on a red light?
No. It is considered illegal unless legal authority is given.
What documents do you need to rent a car in Iceland?
To rent a car in Iceland, you need a credit card, an English driver’s license (or a formal translation), and at least one year of driving experience.
What car insurance should I get in Iceland?
CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) is often included in the rental price, and many companies offer optional insurance such as SCDW, GP, TP, SAAP / SADW, and premium insurance. It is advisable to add gravel protection, especially when cruising the south coast of Iceland or reaching the central highlands.