Unlocking Freedom: Yes, You Can Rent a Car in Iceland
Iceland is a country that’s seemingly made for road trips. Towns are few and far between, separated by gargantuan landscapes, glinting glaciers, and vast expanses of volcanic sands. This is a country that demands you get outside of the capital and explore even just a little bit, best done by driving in Iceland. Here’s everything you need to know about car rentals in Iceland and driving in the country.
Jump to chapter
- Should I rent a car in Iceland?
- Choosing the Right Rental Car in Iceland
- Where Can You Drive Your Rental Car?
- Choose Your car rentals Insurance Plan
- Reserve In Advance
- Have The Proper Documents At Pickup
- Understand Your Mileage Limits
- The Road Conditions in Iceland
- What is the Speed Limit in Iceland?
- Learn the Icelandic Traffic Laws
- Are There Toll Roads in Iceland?
- Driving Hazards in Iceland
- Sheep on the Road
- One-Lane Bridges and Tunnels
- Icy Roads and Closed Mountain Passes
- River Crossings (on F-roads)
- Gas Stations in Iceland
- Driving in Iceland in Winter
Should I rent a car in Iceland?
A common question we get is, “Do I need to rent a car in Iceland?”. The answer is yes! Renting a car is the best way to explore the country, thanks to the complete freedom you will have. You can spend as much time as you would like at any destination and even extend a day trip into an overnight one.
Public transportation can be a great way to explore big cities and we do recommend taking advantage of that if staying in Reykjavik or Akureyri. However, renting a car is ideal for those planning to leave the city and road-tripping around Iceland’s vast lands. You can spend your entire trip driving Ring Road or the Golden Circle. These road trips are some of the most sought-after in the entire world. The best part is, you can drive them at your own leisure and take as much time stopping as you want.
Choosing the Right Rental Car in Iceland
At Go Car Rental Iceland, we have a diverse fleet of rental cars for you to choose from when you rent a car in Iceland. With a wide selection of car rental types, we aim to provide the best car rental experience for our customers. Here are the different rental cars we offer:
Small rental car
Our small rental cars are a great option if you're traveling solo or simply prefer a compact ride. When you rent a car in Iceland from our fleet of well-maintained vehicles, you can expect the latest features to ensure your ride is comfortable and safe.
We also offer a variety of fuel-efficient rental cars, which can help you save money on gas during your travels. Make sure to keep an eye on your gas tank and refuel as necessary to enjoy a smooth journey in your rental car.
Midsize rental car
Renault Megane Sportswagon Plug-in Hybrid
For a comfortable and spacious ride, we recommend our midsize rental cars. You'll have plenty of legroom and ample space for your gear, coolers, and snacks.
This type of rental car is perfect for medium-sized groups. Our top priority is your safety, so all our rental cars have the latest safety features to ensure a worry-free journey. Enjoy your trip driving around Iceland in the comfort of our midsize rental cars.
4X4 rental car
Toyota Rav4 Hybrid
If you're seeking an adventurous trip through Iceland, it's likely that a 4X4 vehicle will be necessary. Our 4x4 SUV rental cars in Iceland are a great fit for those who want to explore off the beaten path.
With a four-wheel drive, you can confidently navigate Iceland's unique terrain. If you plan on driving F-Roads, a 4X4 rental car is essential as it is illegal to drive them without one. Choose the best car rental option for your adventurous spirit and explore Iceland with confidence.
Minivan rental car
Are you traveling with a large group or family? We got you covered. At Go Car Rental Iceland, we have spacious minivans with 9, 8, and 7-seater vehicles available.
Whether you're embarking on a day trip or a week-long Icelandic adventure, our minivans provide ample room for all your favorite people and their luggage. Rent a car in Iceland that accommodates everyone comfortably and create unforgettable memories together.
Do I Need a 4x4 Rental Car in Iceland?
If you’re feeling adventurous, then a 4x4 car rental in Iceland will allow you to travel on the F-Roads. These are the rough tracks that crisscross the Highlands, traversing some of Iceland’s most stunning – and powerful – landscapes.
If this sounds like the kind of thing you’re after, then you’ll need to start looking at our 4WD options. Legally, these are the only types of vehicles allowed on the F-Roads, many of which require river crossings that regular vehicles can’t handle.
It’s also important to note that the Icelandic F-Roads are only open in the warmer months, usually from around mid-June until the end of August. You can check up on the openings at the official website of Vegagerðin, also known as the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.
Where Can You Drive Your Rental Car?
Iceland is a sought-after destination for travelers worldwide, with many car rental companies offering competitive car rental prices to accommodate visitors' needs. To make the most of your visit to Iceland, it's crucial to understand where you can drive your rental car and which type of rental vehicle best suits your planned activities.
- The Ring Road: Route 1, known as the Ring Road, circles Iceland, connecting most towns and tourist attractions. When you visit Iceland, you'll find that many car rental companies provide a wide range of car rentals suitable for navigating the Ring Road. Standard rental cars, including 2WD vehicles, can easily and safely travel along this popular route.
- Golden Circle: This famous tourist circuit features some of Iceland's most iconic attractions, including Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall. Most car rental companies offer vehicles suitable for exploring the Golden Circle, allowing you to experience Iceland's beauty without breaking the bank.
- Remote Highlands: If you're looking to venture into Iceland's remote Highlands, it's essential to rent a 4x4 rental car in Iceland. Many of the roads in this region, such as the F-Roads, are mountainous gravel roads that can only be accessed by 4x4 vehicles. It's important to remember that it's illegal to drive on F-Roads without a 4x4 rental vehicle.
- Eastern Iceland: The eastern part of the country is characterized by its rugged terrain. Although some areas may be accessible with a standard rental car, it's recommended to opt for a 4x4 rental vehicle from one of the many car rental companies in Iceland for a safer and more enjoyable experience.
- Westfjords: The Westfjords region, known for its steep cliffs, narrow roads, and remote nature, also requires a 4x4 rental car. Choosing the right car rental company with competitive car rental prices will make your adventure more accessible and enjoyable.
In conclusion, while you can access most of Iceland's main attractions with a standard rental car, some regions require a 4x4 vehicle due to their challenging terrain. As you plan your visit to Iceland, consider your travel itinerary and choose a rental car in Iceland from a reliable car rental company that offers suitable vehicles for your desired locations.
Choose Your car rentals Insurance Plan
Picking your rental insurance plan is just as important as picking your rental car. To begin with, it's important to understand that there are three different levels of insurance to choose from, Plus+, Premium, and Premium Plus.
Premium Plus+ is the best option for those hitting the open road and traveling down F-Roads into Iceland’s unknown lands. Premium is excellent o for those arriving later in the day and still seeking good coverage. Plus+ has a variety of perks too and is wonderful for those staying around Reykjavik.
While there are plenty of insurance add-ons to consider, here are the top ones you need to worry about.
Super Collision Damage Waiver
The CDW and Super Collision Damage Waiver is included in all insurance plans with Go Car Rentals. It will cover collision damages to the vehicle's body and injuries to the driver and passengers. It also covers a majority of emergencies, hospital stays, and even medical checkups.
Gravel Protection is also included in all of Go Car Rentals insurance plans. It includes damage due to gravel roads, including the body of the rental car, the headlights, and even the front windshield. Gravel Protection can be a vital add-on when driving in Iceland.
Sand & Ash Protection
SAAP is included in our Premium Plus+ plan! SAAP stands for Sand and Ash Protection, and it covers just that. Sand or ash can cause a significant mess to a vehicle, sometimes requiring a whole new paint job. It is recommended any time of the year, but especially when the snow begins to melt, which causes the sand underneath to go from muddy to dry and loose. This can be added to your insurance plan.
Learn all about Go Car Rentals different insurance options!
Reserve In Advance
Summertime can be very busy in Iceland, which means booking in advance is recommended. While we have a large fleet of vehicles, we want to make sure you have the availability to book the one you want.
As soon as your flights are booked and your itinerary is set, book your rental car. This will give you a peace of mind while also ensuring your ideal rental car is reserved for your adventure.
Have The Proper Documents At Pickup
You need a driver's license that is issued in your country of residence to rent a car in Iceland. That means no expired licenses or old ones with holes punched in them. You also need to have had your license for at least one year.
Licenses must be in English as well, especially if they are foreign. If you have an international driver’s license, that is great. But your international driving license will only be valid if it is accompanied by your regular driver's license. So make a note to bring both with you.
When renting a rental car in Iceland with Go Car Rental, a valid credit card is necessary. We do not charge any deposit or block any money from our clients during the rental period. However, we do need to see a valid credit card upon arrival, which we will take an imprint of as a guarantee.
If you do not have a credit card, we can also accept debit cards. Please note that credit cards are always preferred.
Understand Your Mileage Limits
Most rental car companies will charge you if you go over a certain amount of Mileage. This means that you might have to cut your road trip short or leave out that destination you were interested in.
Some rental car companies offer unlimited mileage and GO Car Rental is one of them. We encourage you to take that extra turn or visit the remote hot springs that have been on your bucket list.
The Road Conditions in Iceland
Aside from the F-Roads in the central highlands, the main route that you’ll take to explore the country is Route 1, also known as the Ring Road. Circling the entire country, no matter how many detours you make, you’ll always come back to the ring road while driving in Iceland.
In general, the conditions of the ring road are very good, and the entire route is paved now (formerly there used to be long stretches of gravel road). Many of the most popular detours off the ring road are also paved, but if you venture into the more remote areas of the country (e.g., The Westfjords, or the far northeast corner of Iceland), then you can expect to run into some gravel roads.
The road conditions in Reykjavik are OK, although the city does suffer from some bad potholes and grooves in the road along the busier streets. During rush hour there’s a bit of traffic as well, but once you’ve escaped the city, the roads won’t be busy at all.
What is the Speed Limit in Iceland?
While driving in Iceland, be extra cautious about your speed. In Iceland, there are speed cameras set up around the country (mostly around the Reykjavik area) just waiting to catch drivers over the limit and give them hefty fines.
The maximum speed limits on Icelandic roads is 90 km/h (60 mph) and 80 km/h (50 mph) on gravel roads.
If you do go through any tunnels while driving in Iceland, the speed limit drops down to 70km/h (43 mph).
In the City, the speed limit drops down from 50 km/h (30 mph) to 15 km/h (9 mph).
Iceland also has lower advisory speed limits, which are indicated by rectangular blue signs with white letters. They are mainly used in trouble spots on rural highways such as when approaching a sharp corner or a single-lane bridge
Learn the Icelandic Traffic Laws
Iceland may have different traffic laws than the country you are living in, so be sure to review them before picking up your rental car. One example of this is turning right on red, which is allowed in some countries such as the United States, but not in Iceland. The only exception is if you see a "Hægri Kveiktu á Rauðum" sign displayed at the traffic light. In all other cases, avoid turning right on red when driving your rental car in Iceland.
You should also review our full list of Icelandic Road Signs so you can be prepared when driving.
Turn On Your Headlights!
In Iceland, it is essential to keep your rental car headlights on at all times, whether it is day or night. This is especially important during the winter months when the daylight hours are shorter, and darkness can set in quickly. Even if it is sunny outside, having your headlights on can help you see and be seen by other drivers.
In case of sudden weather changes, such as dust storms or fog, having your headlights on could save your life. Not having your headlights on can result in a ticket for reckless driving depending on the conditions
Wear Your Seatbelt
Seatbelts are mandatory in Iceland for both drivers and passengers while driving, regardless of whether you are on a remote road or a more populated one. This is particularly important when driving on F-Roads, as even though there may be very few other travelers, it is important to prioritize safety. Unexpected bumps or potholes can occur at any time, so it is crucial to wear your seatbelt at all times during your Iceland road trip. Wear your seatbelt always!
Drive on the Right Side of the Road
Driving in Iceland follows the right-hand side of the road, and overtaking is done on the left. Visitors from Canada or the United States should not have a problem as they are already accustomed to this.
However, those from countries such as Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, where driving is on the left side of the road, may find it more challenging. But, there's no need to be afraid. Just remember to take your time and do the opposite of what you usually would when driving.
Are There Toll Roads in Iceland?
The famous Hvalfjörður Tunnel near Reykjavik is now free, leaving only one toll road in Iceland - the Vaðlaheiðargöng Tunnel near Akureyri. There is a 1650 ISK toll for rental cars, which must be paid within a 6-hour window on the tunnel's website.
Driving Hazards in Iceland
Iceland is a unique country, with lots of fantastic landscapes. But as an isolated island in the North Atlantic, with volcanic energy brooding underground, and inhospitable expanses of sub-arctic desert and glacial runoff, driving in Iceland comes with a few hazards that are unique to the country.
We recommend checking out SafeTravel.is for Iceland travel safety tips
When renting a car in Iceland, travelers must be mindful of the weather, as it can change quickly. Driving can become dangerous in extreme conditions, so it is important to keep up with local weather warnings. The Icelandic Met Office website (www.vedur.is) is a great resource for staying informed about the weather.
Wind Ripping Off Car Doors
Yes, it does happen! We can’t stress enough how strong the wind can be in Iceland, and the last thing we want to happen is your driver-side door of the car rental being ripped off by a particularly strong gust.
Always be careful when opening your doors to hop out of your rental car, and hang on to the handles tight so the wind doesn’t catch them and fling them open at full pelt. You can also do your best to park facing into the wind, although for the most part, it’s a futile effort as it most often feels like it comes from every direction imaginable.
Sheep on the Road
There are a whole lot of sheep in Iceland, and as soon as the weather is warm enough, farmers let them out of their pens to roam free across the countryside. You’ll see them in the most unlikely of places, from high on mountain tops to deep valleys cutting into the Highlands.
However, a lot of sheep choose instead to stay close to the road – there’s plenty for them to eat around there, so why not? What you do need to be careful about is sheep on the road, as they’ll often use them to trot around the country.
In the Spring, there are also lambs to look out for as well. If one is on the opposite side of the road to their mother, when a car comes, they will dash across the road to them instead of staying away from the road. This is one to look out for.
One-Lane Bridges and Tunnels
A unique trait of driving in Iceland that surprises many is the fact that there are both one-way bridges and tunnels.
The bridges are mostly in the south on the Ring Road, but there are a few others around the country. Keep an eye out for the long bridges that cross the glacial runoff areas as you get closer to Vatnajökull glacier.
One-way tunnels can also be tricky, and depending on which direction you’re coming from, you will either need to give way or have right of way. There are a handful of these tunnels on the Tröllaskagi Peninsula in North Iceland,
Icy Roads and Closed Mountain Passes
For those travelling to Iceland in the winter, there’s a lot to love. From the dancing northern lights above to the pastel hues of the short winter’s day, this is a season that completely transforms Iceland into something else.
But during this time, you can also expect some of the worst weather. Temperatures plummet, and with a lot of rain and snow across the country, roads can become quite icy – and slippery.
Another hazard are the mountain passes across the country, where the roads have no choice but to lead you over a large mountain. With the added altitude, the weather can be entirely different than just moments before – strong winds and snow can completely shut off these roads.
These closed mountain passes in Iceland are also one of the reasons behind the creation of tunnels that bore through the mountains. It makes it easier for locals to get around without having to worry about the strong conditions on a mountaintop.
A big driving hazard for those with a regular car rental in Iceland are the F-Roads, although, for the most part, it’s hard to encounter them without seeking them out. If you do, however, there will be a sign that reads that beyond this point, regular vehicles aren’t allowed.
River Crossings (on F-roads)
Car rentals in Iceland and river crossings – there’s a long history of stranded cars in rivers, driven by those who weren’t allowed in the Highlands in the first place.
As we previously mentioned, if you’re driving in Iceland with a car rental, you’re only allowed onto the F-roads with a 4WD. Highlands are where some of the most explosive landscapes reside.
There’s the famous Landmannalaugar, the volcanic caldera Askja, the mountains of Kerlingarfjöll, and plenty more. But to get to most of these places, you’ll need to do a river crossing.
How to cross a river in Iceland?
A great rule to have is that if you would be unwilling to wade across the river, you should not attempt to drive across it. A good thing to keep in mind is that the water should not reach the top of the tires.
While crossing the river you should never stop, drive slowly but steadily in first gear, use the low range if that is available in your rental car and never drive against the stream.
Gas Stations in Iceland
In general, gas stations are pretty numerous around the countryside, so you can forget about running out of fuel. If you see one and you’ve got about half a tank, it might be a good idea to fill up.
A common practice at the Icelandic gas stations is if you select 'full tank', they will put a hold on your card a large amount of money, only charging the correct amount that you used a few days later. This can be inconvenient, to say the least.
The price of gas in Iceland varies but is generally expensive. You can browse the prices at the stations across the country using this handy website: bensinverd.is.
Driving in Iceland in Winter
Come winter, Iceland changes its tune, with brooding storms and fierce winds whipping across the country. Expect lots of snow, and mush once it melts a little thanks to the temperatures rising or it beginning to rain.
Driving in the winter can be hazardous, but generally doable. A 4WD car rental in Iceland during this time is a good idea, although those with experience driving in the cold and snowy conditions will feel confident with a regular vehicle. As always, pay attention to the weather and road conditions, watch out for any weather warnings on Safe Travel, and all should be well.
Frequently Asked Questions
To answer any remaining queries, here are some frequently asked questions about renting a car in iceland.
Is it easy to rent a car and drive around Iceland?
When is the best time to rent a car in Iceland?
Is Uber available in Iceland?
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