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.