Driving around Iceland this past summer one thing was clear, the roads are busier than ever! We love seeing people take their adventures to the Icelandic roads to make the most of the time in our nature-rich country.
Whether it is for a quick day trip to visit the Golden Circle, navigating the streets of downtown Reykjavik (which can be an adventure in itself!), or experiencing Iceland on one of our self-drive tours, there is no doubt about it, renting a car while in Iceland is a great way to explore the country.
The view from the roads in Iceland is spectacular
We are clearly all for road tripping around Iceland, but there are some caveats to keep in mind as driving in Iceland brings its own unique challenges. From the unpredictable Icelandic weather to potentially driving a manual for the first time (or first time in a long time) all while navigating the roads in a foreign country it can feel overwhelming at times.
And did we mention the road signs you will come across?
These are just as important factors to be aware of while driving, and you might have already guessed this, but some of them are going to be in Icelandic. No need to stress though, with today’s post you will be well prepared to take on the road signs in Iceland with confidence and navigate around them with ease.
Mapping the road trip in Iceland
Types of Road Signs
To start our Icelandic road sign 101 lesson, let’s first talk about the different types of road sign categories you will find here. No need to memorize this information, this is just a general overview to be aware of so you will be prepared for what to possibly expect when driving around the country.
The type of road signs you will see in Iceland are:
- Warning Road Signs: These signs are of high importance to pay attention to as they alert you to any possible potential danger. These roads signs are typically red or yellow and include warnings for a wide range of things such as:
- Speed bumps in the road
- Upcoming tunnel
- Sheep on the road - an actual warning sign in Iceland and you definitely want to pay attention to it, the sheep like to take their time crossing the road, or jump back out unexpectedly.
- Road narrowing ahead
- Mandatory Road Signs: You will see these types of signs when you are required to carry out a specific task. These signs are not informational or advisory signs, rather they are ones that must be followed and are very important signs to be aware of before you start driving in Iceland.
A few examples of the types of mandatory road signs you will come across are:
- Direction of traffic on roundabout
- Mandatory left or right turns
- Mandatory shared path for pedestrians and cyclists
- Mandatory path for equestrians - you will see this sign more often than you may think in Iceland, but don’t worry it does not mean you need to look out for horses on the road as they will have their own dedicated path to stay on.
- Information Road Signs: The road signs you will see the most frequently on the roads in Iceland are information road signs. These types of signs are used on any type of road to provide users with general information about the road they are using.
Signs you will see include:
- Beginning of a developed area
- One-way traffic
- Upcoming police camera monitored zone
- Parking permitted
- Priority Road Signs: These road signs are to clarify who has priority at the junction/road ahead. It is important to pay attention to these signs as it may be opposite of what you are familiar with, for example in roundabouts or who has the right away.
A few more examples are:
- Road bends ahead
- Crossroad ahead with side road to either left or right
- Give way to oncoming traffic
- Priority road ahead
- Prohibitory Road Signs: Paying attention to and respecting these signs is an important part of being a responsible traveler in Iceland. These signs are used to restrict certain maneuvers or types of vehicles, set maximum speeds, and prohibit entry to restricted areas.
Other types of prohibitory road signs you may come across include:
- Beginning of speed zone
- No parking
- No entry, one-way traffic
- “Stans Eftirlit” - this means entry not allowed
All of the above categories of signs may have you feeling overwhelmed but fear not, many of these signs will be familiar to you and go along with road rules you are used to. And for those unexpected ones they may come up with, such as sheep crossing warning, you will now be well prepared.
Beware of the sheep
Key Road Signs
Now that you know probably more than you wanted to about the different road signs in Iceland, let's simplify all of that information and highlight some of the most common types of signs you will see around the country.
Point of Interest: Never miss an upcoming point of interest or hidden gem with this one insider tip. Keep a lookout for signs that have a square with loopy corner symbol on it, which can be seen in the image below next to the signs for Tjörnin and Ráðhús.
Road signs in downtown Reykjavík
When you see this symbol take note as this means an attraction is coming up. On the side opposite of the symbol you may also see a number that will inform you of how many kilometers away the upcoming stop is. Keeping a look out for this handy sign is an insider tip that will ensure you won’t miss any of the beautiful stops Iceland has to offer!
Speed Signs: Important signs to pay attention to for obvious reasons, speed signs in Iceland are yellow circles that are bordered by red. Keep in mind that Iceland is on the metric system so the speed will be written in kilometers per hour (kph). To give you an idea of types of speed limits to expect in Iceland here is a breakdown of the most common speed zones you will find with the average speed in that area:
- Residential Areas: Speed limit is between 30 kph/18 mph to 50 kph/30 mph
- Gravel Roads: Speed limit is 80 kph/50 mph
- Paved Roads: 90 kph/55 mph
Road sign in the Icelandic countryside
Single-Lane Bridge: When a single-lane bridge is coming up they will be well marked with a warning road sign symbolizing the single-lane bridge. While the symbol itself is pretty self explanatory the sign may also say “einbreið bru”, which means single-lane bridge. The main rule to keep in mind is that the vehicle closer to the bridge has the right away.
Bridge crossing a river
Many of the bridges you can see across the other side, but sometimes they are longer making this a hard task to do. If you find yourself about to cross a longer single-lane bridge, or a single-lane tunnel, keep a look out for a blue sign with a white “M”, this means there is an area to pull off to let oncoming cars pass. Single-lane bridges tend to trip up travelers in Iceland so do proceed with caution. Knowing what signs to lookout for will already have you one step ahead of the rest!
Gravel Road Sign: One road sign to be aware of is the gravel road sign. This sign informs you that the nice paved road you are currently driving will soon turn into a bumpy gravel road. These signs are actually two signs in one. The top sign will be a yellow triangle with a red border and a large black exclamation mark in the middle. Directly underneath this sign you will see another yellow second sign that has a picture of a car driving on a road with the words ‘malbik endar’, which translates to “asphalt ends”. Enter onto the gravel road slowly as there can be loose rocks on the road. Keep in mind the speed limit on these roads is 80 km/hour.
A typical gravel road in Iceland
Key Road Signs in the City
The chances are you are not coming to Iceland to spend much time driving around the few cities in the country. More likely than not though you will probably find yourself spending some time in a city such as the capital Reykjavik. For the most part city driving will be pretty self explanatory, but if you find yourself navigating the narrow streets of downtown you may come across an entire new set of signs that will be important to understand.
Here is a round-up of the most important signs in the city to be aware of:
- One-Way Roads: A common happening in the downtown area is one-way roads. Nothing is more stressful when winding down the small streets only to realize it is a one-way. Avoid this issue by keeping a look out for a road sign that is a red circle with a yellow bar through it. This means that entry is prohibited from the direction you are trying to enter the road from, but can access the road from a different direction.
- Driving Prohibited: You will find that some roads in the cities have been turned into pedestrian only areas. When you see a road sign that is a yellow circle boarded by red this means that all driving is prohibited on that road from all directions.
Road signs in downtown city centre
- Parking Signs: Parking signs are self-explanatory in Iceland as the signs will be blue with a large P on them. However, there are two additional parking signs to be aware of when driving in the city that you may have not come across before.
- No Parking: When you see a blue circle that is bordered by red with two red diagonal lines crossing each other this means that no parking or stopping is allowed in the area.
- Parking Prohibited: A second road sign you will see is also a blue circle boarded by red, however this one will only have one red diagonal line through it, indicaticating that parking in this area is prohibited. You are however allowed to stop and wait inside your vehicle with the lights on for a short period of time, such as if you are waiting for a friend.
This post packed a lot of road sign information in and you may find your head totally spinning with all the details it is trying to retain. Stress not, we’ve made a handy infographic with a few simple points to keep in mind. As long as you can remember these few key points you will be set for the road!
Now that you have completed your Icelandic driving lesson 101 you are all set to download the perfect Icelandic road trip playlist and hit the road! A final word about driving in Iceland, with the unpredictable weather be sure to check weather conditions before you head out, you can view road cameras here, and get important updates from SafeTravel. Interested in learning more about driving in Iceland? You can find a range of posts full of Icelandic drivers ed from our local experts here.