What Side of the Road Does Iceland Drive On?

By Teo Spengler

U.S. visitors will be at ease when driving on the right side

What Side of the Road Does Iceland Drive On?

Iceland is coming into the limelight as an adventure destination, with its glaciers, fjords and incredible wildlife. The country isn't enormous; with a car, you'll be able to see most of the top sights in a few weeks of vacation. If the idea of driving in Iceland makes you a little queasy, it just means you have some questions you don't have answers to yet. Here are some FAQs about driving in Iceland that could give you the information you need to move ahead with confidence.

What side of the road do cars drive on in Iceland?

Don't worry. Iceland is similar to the United States in this respect. Cars drive on the right and pass on the left. That makes it a lot easier for U.S. drivers.

Are speed limits and road signs posted in miles?

Iceland, like much of the Western world, uses kilometers, not miles. Speed limits and distance signs in Iceland are posted in kilometers. The general speed limit is 30 to 50 km/hour in cities, 80 km/hour on gravel roads and 90 km/hour on paved roads. In miles, this translates to 18 to 31 mph in cities, 50 mph on gravel roads and 56 mph on paved roads.

Are the drinking and driving prohibitions the same as in the U.S.?

No, they are stricter in Iceland. It is against the law to drive with any alcohol at all in your bloodstream. This prohibition also applies to drugs. Penalties can be severe, including fines that will follow you back to the U. S. if you leave the country without paying.

Are the roads good in Iceland?

You may be surprised to learn that most of the roads in Ireland are gravel, not paved. Inner-city roads are paved, as well as the popular Ring Road that circles the country on the coast. When you come to a gravel road, you need to slow way down, often below the speed limit, to maintain good control of the car.

Interior roads are narrow, unpaved and can be mountainous. You should only tackle these roads with a four-wheel drive vehicle. In fact, you can only legally drive roads deemed to be "mountain roads" in 4x4 jeeps. These roads are identified on maps.

Wandering into the unpopulated areas can get you into trouble if you have car trouble or the weather takes a turn for the worse. The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue suggests that you download a special GPS safety app that allows them to locate you in case of an emergency.

Any other driving considerations to know?

  • Just as in the United States, the driver and all passengers must wear seat belts. 
  • You must keep your headlights on at all times, day and night, while driving in Iceland.
  • Don't try off-road driving in Iceland; it's illegal.
  • Iceland uses numerous speed enforcement cameras, so go slow.
  • Look out for livestock on the roads, including horses, sheep and cows. If you hit one, you will be found liable. Be especially careful if you see a ewe is on one side of the road and her lambs are on the other.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.