Reykjavík Basics: How to avoid speeding tickets in Iceland

DRIVE WITHIN THE SPEED LIMITS!!!

Sorry about the big capitals above but really, this is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won’t get a ticket. Why am I writing this post then? Sit down children, I’m going to tell you a story…

A couple of summers ago I got the nice assignment at work to tell a little old lady that she had won a flight for two to Iceland with accommodation and I also go to help her organize her trip. This old lady was a hoot and because she wanted to make the most of her stay in Iceland she decided to rent a car, make the stay longer and explore as much as she could with the limited time she had. She decided to take her grandson with her because she wanted him to see more of the world and this trip, that initially was supposed to be free, ended up costing her quite a bit with all the extras she booked.

Anyway, so the little old lady and her grandson leave Reykjavík and enjoy some time on the road and when they get back she tells me they might have run into some troubles with the law due to speeding and road cameras but she wasn’t sure because no one had contacted her or said anything when she returned the car. She assumed that they were in the clear and left Iceland happy and amazed with all the remarkable things they had seen and experienced.

To make a long story short she contacted me a few weeks later telling me that her card had been charged by the car rental because of not one but two speeding tickets. She still didn’t know how much she was expected to pay as he hadn’t received the ticket yet. Some more weeks passed and then I heard from her again. The total amount she had to pay for the two tickets: 100.000 ISK which was close to 800 USD back then. For that amount she might as well have bought the tickets to Iceland herself.

Speed limits and tickets

The general rule is that 90 km/hour is the maximum speed you can drive at outside of towns and villages in Iceland in perfect circumstances on tarmac and without a carriage. On unpaved roads the speed limit is 80 km/hour Nowhere in Iceland are you allowed to drive faster than that. Somewhere the speed limit can be lower if the circumstances call for it such as steep mountain roads or sharp turns. There are usually plenty of signs that tell you the maximum speed so not knowing is really not an excuse.

The table below tells you how the speeding ticket system in Iceland is built up. The yellow line represent the speed limit on any given road and the pink line represent the actual speed the driver is caught driving at. The numbers in the other boxes represent the fine in thousands (ISK) + the months the license is suspended. I don’t know if the Icelandic police has jurisdiction to suspend foreign licenses but they can and will give out tickets.

 

How do you get a ticket?

As you may have noticed if you have driven around Iceland there are not a lot of police around. There are plenty of speed cameras though and even thought there are big signs that tell you that they are there, somehow people don’t slow down and end up getting a ticket.

Also, even though there are not a lot of police around they do lurk around and show up when you least expect it. Certain counties are notorious for very efficient speed control and the police knows exactly where to hide so you won’t figure out they are there until it’s too late.

I’ve also heard, and I don’t know if this is true or not, that they just love to bust tourists in rental cars.

But nobody told me I got a ticket when I dropped off my rental car, that must mean I’m in the clear, right?

Wrong. It always takes the authorities some time to process the ticket and then it takes the car rental agency time to put two and two together and figure out who was driving the car when the ticket was issued. What’s more, some car rental agencies will charge you a processing charge on top of the actual ticket.

The moral of the story?

Respect the speed limits. They are there for your protection and if you get a ticket like the little old lady you might end up paying more for your holiday than you planned for. Apart from that, some roads in Iceland are particularly dangerous, so dangerous in fact that every summer a whole lot of tourists get a tumble when they loose control of their cars, sometimes resulting in injuries and even deaths.

And the little old lady?

To finish the story of the little old lady; I met with her when she came to Reykjavík and she kept in touch by sending me humorous stories and photos of the travels she’s done since she left Iceland. At 74 she’s always on the move and despite having some problems with her legs she hiked up to Machu Picchu this year and was already planning more travels last I heard. She’s truly inspirational and I can only hope I’ll be that cool when I’m 74.

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21 thoughts on “Reykjavík Basics: How to avoid speeding tickets in Iceland”

  1. Katharine Kroeber says:

    For US folks, 80 kph roughly equals 50 mph, and 90 kph is roughly 55 mph. So, considerably slower than most places (highways anyway) in the States.

    1. Matthew says:

      And the ticket prices are much higher, it seems, in Iceland as well…

  2. Good information. We had researched speeding tickets in Iceland before we went last time, when we spent two weeks around the ring road. We had heard penalties were steep, which is what prompted the research. That being said we were very mindful of our speed and had cruise control set a lot. We were likely overly cautious but we were in no rush!

    There was one incident that had us worried, in the Hvalfjordur tunnel. We passed one of the cameras and realized we were driving approximately 10+ over the limit. Fortunately we didn’t get a ding on the credit card later on!

  3. Kenendy says:

    Disgusting fines, especially considering what speeds you see the locals driving at safely. This is just another tourist tax, clearly. If you think that 96 km/h on the Ring Road merits a fine of that magnitude then frankly you shouldn’t be behind the wheel. I’m now paranoid that I didn’t slow down to 95 km/h in time for the tax booth. What a shame that such a great country with such great people can allow this nonsense. If you aren’t driving 100 km/h on that road between photo radar booths then there are piles of cars behind you waiting to pass and not a single one has a rental agency indicator anywhere on them. What a disgrace.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Actually this is not a tourist tax at all since locals get the same fines if they are caught speeding. They may know more about where the speed cameras are located though but if the police is lurking somewhere they will stop the locals just like they stop the rental cars. Plus you never know who’s in the rental car (like I’m a local and often use rental cars on my trips).

      The speed limits are there to protect you! Roads in Iceland are often narrow and there are many places that seem innocent that are known as accident zones. The locals should not speed either but maybe they feel more comfortable because they know the roads well and drive them often.

  4. Christian says:

    I rented a car for 7 days and in my experience I didn’t see one local driving at the speed limit. Driving at the speed limit made me feel like I was ruining everyone else’s day with the lines of cars behind me and people tailgating me like crazy. Especially in Reykjavik itself. I don’t blame them; the speed limits are absolutely ridiculous. They could allow faster speeds where it’s safe, and slower speeds for the dangerous areas. Instead it’s just slow everywhere. Still, as a tourist, I can never risk speeding because I don’t know where the cameras are.

    1. mm Auður says:

      You also don’t know where the dangerous areas are…

      1. Matthew says:

        Doesn’t give the locals the right to pile up behind a tourist driving the speed limit, attempting to avoid a ticket

  5. Sesselja says:

    From what I’ve heard, the Blönduós county is especially industrious when it comes to tracking down careless drivers who break the speed limit. One old guy told me half-jokingly that half of the town’s income came from fines, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a kernel of truth in that statement…

  6. Angela Doman says:

    Be what it may, we should respect the laws of the places we visit. Locals know the roads and risks. It’s really not cool to want to visit a place and then complain about having to follow their rules.

  7. Phoneutria says:

    Thanks for the info, I usually drive +10 of the speed limit (of course speed depends how good road conditions are) so that would cost me 70-200€.
    I will definitely turn on back that annoying speed limit sound on my Garmin GPS when I’ll be in Iceland.

  8. Guy geffen says:

    I have been now looking for a few days already over the internet to learn about speeding tickets in Iceland. I truly beleive they are scamming tourists! We drove a big hummer who couldnt even reach 90 on these teribble roads. I am a very cautious driver and I keep focus. I am not talking about a 5 or 10 km/h vialation, they sent me a ticket for going 124 km/h ! the cars speedometer ends at 120!! I clearly remeber speed cameras from the kind that shows you how fast you go, bleeping numbers at me showing numbers well over a 100 while I was going 60 or 70!! this is a disgrace, 200 $ for it.. I am thinking of not paying but I am afraid the rental company will charge it from my card.

    1. mm Auður says:

      This is not a tourist scam. Maybe a faulty camera but not a scam. Is it possible that your car had a miles per hour speedometer instead of km per hour?

    2. Matthew says:

      Just say your card was stolen and you will get a new one with a new number, or cancel the card and open a new account, transfer the balance…

      1. mm Auður says:

        Or just pay the ticket?

        1. Matthew says:

          Agreed! but I’ll just drive the limit, let the locals pass, and hope all the cameras are in proper operation when I visit next week.

  9. Ruth says:

    What happens if you are a tourist and don’t pay?

    1. mm Auður says:

      They send the bill to your home. I would suggest you just pay.

  10. Mary says:

    Any way of contesting them?

    1. mm Auður says:

      You can contest them but I haven’t heard of many people who have been successful in contesting their speed and parking tickets.

  11. Brian says:

    We (Canadians/Ontario) circumnavigated (clockwise) Iceland in August 2015 (16 days). The posted speed limits seemed reasonable and easy to abide. Yes, sometimes, we would creep over the limit, but the navigation system alerted us. We never seemed frustrated nor felt that we were struggling at the posted speed. I don’t recall a single incident where there was a long queue behind us. Some roads demand the total concentration of the driver, and even the legal limits would be too high for safe negotiation of the twists and turns; and besides, the faster one goes, the less one gets to admire the awesome beauty that is everywhere. If one has to rush, then one hasn’t done adequate planning.

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