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Driving and Public Transportation

Iceland - Driving and Public Transportation


Driving

Driving in Iceland is on the right-side of the road. Headlights and seatbelts for all passengers must be on at all times. There are excellent car hire desks from Hertz and Avis in the airport, as well as a local company, Alp. Hiring a car can be extremely expensive, especially for four-wheel-drives. Renting cars on-location is almost never cheaper than doing so in advance.

Be aware that car rentals - also at the airports - are not open around the clock.

There is one main highway, Route 1-Ring Road, that encircles the country. If traveling around the country, the gas tank should be kept near full because stations can be 100-200km apart. Also, because of Iceland's everchanging weather, one should keep extra food and know where guesthouses/hotels are located in case of a road closure.

Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer because of wet and muddy conditions which make them totally impassable. When these roads are opened for traffic many of them can only be negotiated by four wheel drive vehicles. The roads requiring four wheel drive (and possibly snow tires) are route numbers with an "F" prefix, e.g. F128.

Icelandic roads are adequate or at least tolerable if you are driving in populated areas. The interior of the country is a different matter and a good four-wheel drive vehicle is essential even if you stay to the "roads", you might have to cross many rivers and fords, some of which can be over 4 feet (1.2m) deep - especially if it has been raining.

A word of warning is in order: With the growing number of tourists on the Icelandic roads it has become evident that the roads are dangerous for the visitors. Please be careful! The number of drivers that lose control of hired cars on the gravel roads is disproportionately high. And the accidents are sadly too often fatal.

There are two signs that foreigners should pay attention to. First, "malbik endar" means that the road changes from a paved road to a gravel road. Slow down before these changes, for one can lose control easily. Also "einbreið brú" means that a one-lane bridge is approaching. Arrive at the bridge slowly and assess the situation. If another car has arrived at the bridge first allow them the right-of-way.

If you are travelling by road a great site to check is the Iceland Meteorological Office who have an excellent set of pages including the Icelandic Road Administration on all of the main roads.

The DUI limit in Iceland is 0.05%. The minimum fine for DUI is ISK 70,000, approx. $1,100, as well as a revoked driving licence for a minimum of two months.

Driving in Iceland is an amazing experience - the changing landscapes are unlike anything else in the world. Pay attention to the driving rules and you will have a wonderful time. However, exercise caution when driving in Reykjavik. Reykjavikers can be very aggressive drivers and, unlike in most of western Europe, taking over on the right IS allowed. Stick to the right lane if possible and drive carefully and calmly.

See Icetourist.is for further detailed information on driving in Iceland.


Plane

Aircraft in Iceland are like buses or trains elsewhere - they're the main form of internal travel other than the roads. Be warned though, that the ride can be a bit bumpy if you're coming into one of the fjords like Akureyri.

Scheduled service to domestic destinations, including Greenland and Faroe Islands, is provided by Air Iceland.


Bus

BSI Travel Runs regular bus service to most parts of the country, especially around the Ring Road (Route 1).

Special offers include 1-4 week unlimited bus travel round the Ring Road (optionally with travel round the West Fjords); one time-unlimited breakable journey around the Ring Road in either direction.

Some of the largest day tours and Sightseeing companies Iceland Excursions - Gray Line Iceland & Reykjavik Excursions operate tours all year around and bus routes all over the West, South and East part of the country and SBA-Nordurleid which operates routes all over the North and East of Iceland.


Bicycle

Cycling is a good way to experience Iceland, and provides a very different cultural experience to other means of transport. You should bring your own touring bike, as buying a bike locally can be expensive. Traffic in and out of Reykjavík is heavy, otherwise, it's OK. You can cycle safely on the Ring Road, or take the bike on the buses (which are equipped with bicycle racks) serving the Ring Road and do side trips. However, if going self-supported, considering the weather and conditions, it is strongly advisable to have a previous touring experience.


Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is a cheap way of getting around in Iceland. The country is among the safest in the world, people are quite friendly and the percentage of cars who do give rides is high, especially in the off-season. However, low traffic in areas outside Reykjavik makes hitchhiking in Iceland an endurance sport. Even on the main ring-road there is quite often less than one car an hour in the eastern parts. Nearly everybody speaks English and most drivers are interested in conversations.

Hitchhiking into the interior is tough, but everything works if you have enough time - calculating in days, not in hours. For longer distances or less touristic areas be prepared with some food, water and a tent or similar. The weather can be awful and sometimes spoils the fun of this way of traveling.


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