Even the most unusual road signs in Iceland are somewhat easy to understand. This mystical country is heaven for long and peaceful drives in nature, and we don’t feel like adapting to the Icelandic Road is a big deal. Most signs will look like they do at home, while others might look a bit peculiar.
Driving in another country can feel quite foreign (pun intended). And while you will be greeted by your usual stop signs and parking signs, there will be plenty of Iceland road signs that you won’t be familiar with. In this article, we discuss exactly what to expect on your drive around the island.
The Lowdown on Iceland Road Signs
We know you’ll have a lot of questions when starting your drive in Iceland. That’s why we’ve attempted to create a complete guide regarding Iceland road signs (but one that just won’t take you longer than the complete works of Shakespeare to read through). So, without further ado, here’s your little “cheat sheet” to driving in Iceland.
Are Road Signs in Iceland the Same as Us?
Not everything is completely foreign in a foreign country and the Iceland road signs are no different. There might be a few signs that will make you frown, but there are also plenty that is pretty universal.
The first that’s fairly standard across the board is that blue and yellow signs (typically in the shape of a rectangle) are instructional or informative. Yellow and red signs (typically in the shape of a triangle or circle) are warning signs or signaling some kind of danger.
The second that’ll make you feel right at home are signs such as ‘pedestrian crossing ahead’, ‘no entry’, ‘stop’ and many others that are copied and pasted versions of their international counterparts.
In What Language are Road Signs Written in Iceland?
This is the first roadblock (couldn’t resist!) most travellers hit when it comes to Iceland road signs. Most Iceland road signs are in Icelandic with very few exclusions. Luckily, road signs aren’t meant to be cryptic enigmas, but rather as blunt and straightforward as possible. This entails that you don’t have to be worried about how to read road signs in Iceland, as they will have accompanying pictures and be easily understood.
If you are in Iceland on holiday, you need to remember that the metric system is used here and thus, kilometers are the name of the game. Bear in mind, there is a difference between European vs American cars. Some European cars will have both mph and km/h on their speedometer, so just remember to check the right one when driving.
How to Read Road Signs in Iceland
We’ll suppress any inclination to turn this section into the punchline of a terrible joke by simply answering “with your eyes”. As discussed earlier, these signs are not meant to trick you or be hard to read, but some basic info never hurt anybody.
Shape, colour, and illustration are important parts of reading Iceland road signs. Warning signs will be triangles, often a yellow one with a red frame and an illustration depicting what you should look out for. Prohibiting signs are round, like the yellow signs with red frames and the speed limit in the middle.
Common road signs in Iceland are easy to identify; speed limits, stop signs, and warning signs. These look almost the same in most parts of the world and also in Iceland.
Most Important and Common Road Signs in Iceland
This is always a tricky thing to talk about. To paraphrase a book about some animals on a farm: all signs are equal, but some are more equal than others. This means that any sign on any Icelandic road is important, but understanding some signs is more important in certain situations.
Speed limit signs – Prohibition signs that tell you the max speed you are allowed to drive at. You will be fined, and you will have to pay it, even if you leave the country.
Stop signs –Eight-sided Iceland road signs with a plain and simple “STOP” written in the middle. We won’t explain this one further.
Narrow road signs – Warning signs telling you that the road ahead will be narrow. Very common outside the Reykjavík area, you’ll probably see these signs once you get out of the capital. Most visitors see these when they go for a day trip from Reykjavík.
Gravel surface – Warning signs telling you that the road will be mostly gravel ahead and no comfy tar. You might want to slow down a bit.
Poor road surface – Warning signs telling you that it’s going to be a bumpy ride for a while. You will definitely want to slow down.
One-lane bridge – Imagine a narrow road but with an angry North Atlantic Sea underneath, and you can’t fit your car and the car in front beside each other.
4x4 signs – Informative Iceland road signs telling you that you are in the wrong neighborhood if you don’t have a 4WD car. Better turn that standard 2WD car around and consider renting a 4x4 car for your next trip to Iceland.
Animal signs – Warning signs telling you which animals you might encounter on the road ahead. Common in rural areas with lots of sheep and in the east where the reindeer are.
Priority signs –Informative Iceland road signs telling you which road is having priority at the front. Often found in places where the road bends oddly and any meetings might become unclear.
Unusual Road Signs List
One-lane tunnel – Same as the one-lane bridge sign, but this time you can’t even drive off the road. You will have little crevasses in the tunnel to give way to oncoming traffic when needed.
Water-crossing signs – Informative Iceland road signs that tell you which type of 4x4 can cross the river and what you should think of when crossing.
Blind hill signs – Informative signs that tell you that the narrow road ahead will also have a hill that you will have trouble spotting any oncoming traffic. Better take it easy.
Speed camera signs – Informative Iceland road signs that tell you that a speed camera is put up ahead.
Iceland Street Signs List
Built-up area sign – An informative sign that will tell you when you are officially entering or leaving a built area. The latter will simply have the same sign but with a diagonal line across it.
Give way signs – Informative signs that tell you if you or oncoming traffic will have to move out of the way if you meet.
Simple Iceland Road Signs
As you have noticed, reading Iceland road signs isn’t rocket science. Even the really odd street sign meaning can be deciphered quite quickly, so renting a car in Iceland and driving around isn’t as foreign as one might think!