Iceland is a peaceful country with modern healthcare services and low levels of crime and pollution. By using common sense and following standard safety precautions, you can look forward to a safe, enjoyable journey on your visit to Iceland.
Prepare yourself for an adventurous time in Iceland with the basic health and safety information below.
FINDING A DOCTOR
- In every major town around Iceland, there is healthcare centres with a doctor-on-call.
- Walk-in hours at clinics vary for urgent, non-life-threatening care.
- In case of a medical emergency, dial 112.
FINDING A PHARMACY OR CHEMIST
- Pharmacies are called apótek or lyfjaverslun in Icelandic and can be found in most towns around Iceland.
- Hours of operation are typically 10:00-18:00 Monday to Friday and 10:00-16:00 on Saturdays.
- Note that over-the-counter medications for minor ailments (e.g., for pain relief and allergies) are only sold at pharmacies, not at grocery stores
HEALTH AND TRAVEL INSURANCE
- We urge all travellers to have comprehensive travel insurance.
- For medical services, Scandinavian citizens must present their passport whereas citizens of EEA countries must present a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or else be charged in full.
- Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries will be charged in full at hospitals and clinics.
SAFETY TIPS FOR RURAL AREAS
- Check the daily weather forecast often as conditions can change quickly in Iceland. Get weather reports in English from the Icelandic Met Office.
- Stay a safe distance from shorelines at beaches due to the risk of deadly “sneaker waves” and strong undercurrents.
- Never climb on icebergs, even on beaches.
- Do not walk on or inside a glacier unless you are on a professionally guided excursion.
- Be careful around hot springs and mud pots; always stay behind safety barricades.
- Pay attention to cliff edges, especially on windy days.
- Never stop your car in the middle of a road, or on the shoulder of the highway, for a photo. Park only in safe, designated areas.
DRIVING IN ICELAND
Are you prepared for your road trip? Learn the rules of the road with some top tips here:
Always check the weather and road conditions prior to embarking on a long drive. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, and enjoy the journey!
Before travelling to Iceland, ensure you have a valid driver's license. You need to have had the license for a minimum of one year to drive on Iceland’s roads. Also, to rent a car you need to be at least 20 years of age for a passenger vehicle, or 23 years of age to rent a 4WD or all-wheel-drive vehicle.
REPAIRS OR BREAKDOWNS:
If any problems arise, including a flat tire, contact the car rental agent for assistance right away. They will be able to arrange roadside assistance for you. In case of smaller problems, like if your windshield wipers stop working (possibly from insects or dirt), you can stop at a gas station and ask the service staff to clean them or assist you.
THE "RING ROAD":
The Ring Road is the nickname for Route 1, the country’s only interstate highway that circles the entire island (except for the Westfjords). As the interior highlands are mostly impassable, the Ring Road stays close to the coastline for its entire 1,328 km (825 miles) span. Most of Iceland’s most popular attractions are near or just a short detour from this highway.
DRIVING LAWS: QUICK FACTS
- In Iceland, motorists drive on the right-hand side of the road
- Motorists are obliged to use headlights at all times
- All passengers must wear seat belts
- Talking on mobile phones while driving (except with headsets) is prohibited
- Driving under the influence of alcohol is punished with hefty fines, starting at 70.000 ISK
SPEED LIMITS AND FINES
Fines for speeding are high, ranging from 30.000 ISK to 150.000 ISK. The general speed limits are as follows:
- 50 km/h or less in urban/residential areas
- 80 km/h on gravel roads (we recommend slower speeds)
- 90 km/h on paved roads like the major highway, Route 1.
Please note that speed cameras are posted around the country—particularly in urban areas and in the Hvalfjörður tunnel.
RURAL ROAD HAZARDS:
Any bridges in rural areas—even on the Ring Road—are only wide enough for one car at a time—the car closest to the bridge gets the right of way for crossing these single-lane bridges. Also, proceed with extra caution when approaching a blind hill or when the paved section of a road ends and transitions to gravel. Be sure to familiarise yourself with road signs.
SHEEP: Sheep actually outnumber people in Iceland! As such, please drive carefully through farmland as free-roaming sheep are frequently spotted near roadsides and often wander onto the roads. If you notice sheep near the road, slow down, and if they are on the road, honk the horn.
ROAD TUNNELS: You may encounter one-lane tunnels in remote, mountainous areas of Iceland. When driving through these tunnels, you might need to pull into the turnouts (or 'passing places') at certain intervals to allow oncoming traffic to pass.
HIGHLAND ROADS (F-ROADS): Most highland roads (or mountain roads), marked with an “F” on maps, have loose gravel surfaces, so please drive with extra caution and pay special attention along the shoulders of the road. You must reduce your speed—especially with oncoming traffic—since these roads tend to be very narrow and often have very sharp winding turns.
OFF-ROAD DRIVING: Driving off marked roads can damage fragile vegetation and be very dangerous for motorists. Therefore, off-road driving is strictly prohibited and heavily fined by authorities.
GAS/ PETROL STATIONS
Gas is slightly cheaper at self-service stations such as ÓB, Orkan and Atlantsolía. They only accept credit cards with a 4-digit PIN number. You can also purchase a pre-paid gas card from the service centre if there is one. self-service pumps are marked ‘sjálfsafgreiðsla’ and full-service pumps are marked ‘full þjónusta’. Make sure to check which type of fuel your car requires (it is usually marked on the gas cap) before filling the tank.