Season Guide: Travelling and Driving in Iceland During Summer

A car driving in the Icelandic countryside.

Whether you‘ll be cycling, driving, or using public transport, travelling in Iceland, even during summertime, might differ from what you‘re used to. Road conditions, hilly landscape, unpredictable weather, and a limited public transport schedule are all part of that. To help you out, here is our summer guide to travelling and driving in Iceland.

Cycling in Iceland 

If you want to cycle in Iceland, summer offers the best conditions in terms of both weather and road conditions. Within cities and towns, people bike on sidewalks or bike lanes. Icelandic roads are not made with bicycles in mind, which means that when travelling outside towns and cities, you‘ll mostly have to cycle on the side of the road alongside driving cars. If this is your chosen way of travelling across the country, you must be highly aware of your surroundings. Cycling off-road/off-track is strictly prohibited. 

Plan ahead when opting for public transport

Public transport tends to run smoothly in Iceland during the summer, as weather and bad road conditions are far less likely to cause delays or cancellations. The main cause of delays during the summer is traffic, which is at its peak on Fridays and Sundays. Many public transport routes run less frequently during the summer, so make sure to check the schedule.

Driving around Iceland: Cities, towns and the countryside

There are three main types of roads in Iceland: asphalt, gravel, and mountain roads. During summer, a regular car with summer tires will do fine on both asphalt and most gravel roads. The main thing to remember is to slow down when going from asphalt to gravel so as not to lose control of the car. When meeting cars from the opposite direction, take it slow and stay as far to the right as possible, as gravel roads are often narrow. On all roads, beware that rapidly changing weather can quickly change driving conditions, and watch out for sheep crossing the road. 

Driving in the Highland 

Should you venture into the Highland or other mountain roads, you‘ll need a 4×4 jeep. Campervans and regular cars are NOT equipped for these roads. Be mindful that some mountain roads don‘t open until late in the summer. Vegagerðin has a live map of general road conditions, which roads require mountain vehicles, and which roads are open/closed.

Icelandic driving regulations

Driving regulations in Iceland might be different to what you‘re used to. For your own safety and that of others, please familiarise yourself with them. Here are the top rules to remember:

  • In Iceland, cars drive on the right side of the road and priority is given to the right. 
  • In double roundabouts, the traffic on the inner lane has priority over the outer lane.
  • The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 or 90 km/hour on rural paved areas, and 80 km/hour on rural gravel roads. Some roads may not be suitable for the legal maximum speed, in which case you might spot a sign like this, with a suggestive maximum speed:
  • All passengers must wear seatbelts, and children must have appropriate safety equipment. Car seats for children can usually be added when renting a car. 
  • Headlights are required to be on day and night.
  • Driving off road is strictly forbidden and can result in a very high fine.
  • It‘s illegal to drive after consuming ANY AMOUNT of alcohol or drugs.

For a comprehensive list of road signs, check out this guide.

Does Uber exist in Iceland?

Taxi in Iceland's capital, Reykjavík

Simply, no. Uber – and also Lyft – do not exist in Iceland. But don’t worry, there are other ways to get around Reykjavík.

The Icelandic "Uber"

The closest thing to Uber in Iceland would be the relatively new taxi service by Hopp, mostly known for their electric scooters all over the capital area. Recently, Hopp also launched a new taxi service, where you can easily book a ride, get a detailed fare estimate, and track your taxi in real-time, just like with Uber or Lyft.

Taxis in Reykjavík

The most used and available option is the classic taxi service. There are several 24-hour taxi companies in Reykjavík, like Hreyfill, BSR, and Borgarbílastöðin. All taxis have official mileage meters and standard taxi fares. Please take into account that taxis can be quite pricey in Iceland. For instance, a taxi from the International Airport in Keflavík to Reykjavík (45min drive) can range from ISK 16,000-30,000 [€110-250 / $120-270]. There are special airport taxis available that offer special fares on those transfers.

The Stræto bus system

The cheapest way to get around Reykjavík and the suburbs is by bus. The bus company Stræto serves the capital area of Reykjavík and you can basically get around to most places. The fares range from ISK 315 for young people below 18 and seniors to ISK 630 for adults [€2,12-4,25 / $2,30-4,60].

To pay on the bus, you need to use the app Klappið on your phone – keep in mind that it sometimes has issues with foreign credit cards. You can also pay with cash on the bus. Make sure to give the exact amount, as the bus drivers can’t give any change. As of the moment, NFC solutions like Apple or Google Pay are not offered on the bus system. 

If you’re interested to read more about the public transport system in Iceland, check out our in-depth article here

Public Transport Woes Over Pride Weekend

strætó bus reykjavík

Overfilled buses led to some inconvenience this past weekend as Reykjavík celebrated its annual Pride Parade, reports Vísir.

With downtown Reykjavík filled with festivities, many capital area residents chose to take the bus instead of parking during a busy weekend. In fact, Reykjavík Pride claims to have had a record number of attendees this time around.

However, reports of overcrowded buses and long wait times show that Strætó was not able to keep up with increased demand, with Vísir reporting that some capital area residents simply gave up after being passed by five full buses.

Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson, a spokesperson for Strætó, stated to Vísir that Strætó followed their normal weekend schedule during Pride. There had been a discussion about whether to increase the service, similar to what’s done on Culture Night (Menningarnótt), but due to a shortage of funds, nothing was done.

Jóhannes continued, saying  “we know of very many who didn’t get a spot. Many buses were just filling up.”

He stated that there will be further discussion next year about whether the bus service should be adjusted to meet the demand during the Pride Parade.

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In Focus: Public Transport Funding

public transportation iceland

With ambitious climate goals, rising oil prices, and an energy transition underway, many Icelandic politicians want to de-centre the private automobile. One might assume that public transportation in Iceland would simultaneously see increased support. Sadly, this has not been the case, and in addition to large budget deficits in 2022, public bus service Strætó has […]

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Strætó’s Reykjavík Night-Time Service Could Resume Next Year

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to the operations of Strætó (Iceland’s public bus service), RÚV reports. The increased allotment is intended to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service in Reykjavík during the weekends.

An unsuccessful trial period

In early July, Strætó announced that the Reykjavík night bus, Næturstrætó, would return to service on July 9 following a two-year hiatus in response to low demand during the pandemic. During this hiatus, many capital-area residents had called for its return, arguing that it provided an affordable and safe alternative to taxis.

During a trial run between July and October of this year, however – when the night bus departed downtown Reykjavík every hour and stopped at the capital area’s seven suburban neighbourhoods – demand once again proved wanting. As noted in a press release from Strætó in October, an average of 15 passengers travelled aboard the night bus during each trip, which amounts to approximately 300 passengers over a weekend:

“In light of this, and given the finances, Strætó’s board has agreed that continuing night-time service during the weekends, now that the trial period has concluded, cannot be justified. The service will, therefore, be discontinued.

The mayor takes a u-turn

At a city council meeting yesterday, however – roughly six weeks after Strætó announced that it would be discontinuing its night-time service – Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service.

As noted by RÚV, Strætó’s night-time bus service was a key campaign issue for the Progressive Party, which went on to form a majority coalition, during municipal elections last spring.