For the recent years it has become more and more popular to explore Iceland on an individual basis for example by renting a car and driving around Iceland independently. While all of this is good fun, a few downsides have sadly been acknowledged, mostly in connection with safety and respect for the local environment. We would like to address a few of these points here as we find it vital that both groups - guests and hosts - reach a good working relationship if we all want to continue to nourish our freedom of travelling in Iceland in the future.
It may come to a suprise to some that Iceland has a total ban on off road driving. Every year tourists take a fail on that matter and get stopped, arrested and heavily fined for doing just that! Include some public shaming in the local press and all the fun turns sour. So don´t! Iceland´s nature is very, very vulnerable and damages will last for decades. Even if YOU think there is nothing to destroy, always stay on the road or track. Don´t be that guy: http://www.visir.is/g/2018181119940/ferdamadurinn-bidst-fyrirgefingar-a-utanvegaakstrinum
Most of Iceland´s roads are either paved or gravel roads. They all have numbers. We also have a few mountain or highland roads, they too have a number and they all start with an „F“ for „Fjallavegur“ (mountain road). For all of the F – roads you need a 4x4 and some roads may be even limited for some 4x4 cars. So always check with your car rental company which roads you are actually allowed to drive on. These F -roads open late and close early during summer. Some of them are only open from mid July to mid August. So always check on the website published by the Icelandic Road Authority if the road you are planning on driving is actually open, that goes for both F roads and ordinary roads.
And please remember: Closed means closed! www.road.is
The Save Travel website was built up in cooperation with the Icelandic Search and Rescue Association. Every day updates are posted on potential dangers tourists may encounter – may it be due to weather, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or other. You can also leave a travel plan (for free) if you are going into areas that are remote or if you are travelling on your own which will make is much easier to find you if you do get into trouble. On this website you will also find very valuable information about how to cross rivers, about livestock on Icelandic roads, how to call for help etc. The best way of not getting into trouble is to listen to the authorities and to be organized. So read up, get informed and travel responsibly. And remember: If you do get into trouble it will be most likely volunteers who leave their jobs and families to come out to rescue you. So please don´t be reckless!
Weather changes quickly, sometimes in a few minutes. The higher you are i.e. on a glacier the quicker the weather may change. Weather in Iceland is highly unpredictable. Prepare and check regulary: Icelandic Weatherforecast in English: https://en.vedur.is/
Respect Mother Nature
We are all in for a good laugh and we understand that taking astonishing selfies is just that - but what is happening almost on a daily basis on the famous Reynisfjara black lava beach is the opposite of "good fun", it is simply reckless, stupid and dangerous behavior! Sorry for the blunt speech but there are no other words for it. There have already been quite a few fatal incidents with so called “killer waves” and warning sign posts have been set up all over the place. Still it seems like a lot of people simply ignore them. By all means, come and enjoy Iceland - but don´t be stupid!
The same goes for going too close to cliffs & canyons, for crossing rivers or walking on floating icebergs in the glacier lagoon. Don´t let the last selfie you ever took be an Icelandic one!
Respect the locals!
Icelanders are happy with the tourism, it creates jobs and revenues and Icelanders in general are very hospitable, open and welcoming people. Self-drive tours and camper tours around Iceland have become very popular in recent years. Sadly we have also seen an increase in tourists camping and doing number two´s in local people´s backyards, tourists stealing crops from fields and even chasing and killing farm animals. Please don´t be the one who spoils the precious relationship of guests and locals! Be friendly, be polite, make use of the many wonderful campsites or at least ASK before you camp on a field. More and more communities are now banning free camping because of that kind of behavior, so do ask the locals before you put up your tent or park your car or camper for the night! Icelandic camp sites are actually not expensive and quite a few of them are next to a swimming pool or at least have toilets and showers. Always take all rubbish with you and dispose of it at the proper place, do no feed livestock or climb fences to take a funny selfie with a horse or sheep. You wouldn´t like it if people did that to your pet either! When visiting local swimming pools, do as the locals, strip and wash with soap without your bathing suit before entering the pool.
We sincerely hope you enjoy your travels in Iceland . Please make sure that others can enjoy theirs in the future, too! We highly recommend to have a look at the very entertaining yet informative Iceland Academy Classes teaching you how to travel safely and responsibly in Iceland! https://www.inspiredbyiceland.com/icelandacademy/
„Travel makes a wise man better but a fool worse.” – Thomas Fuller
Text by: Meike Witt
Photos: Exploring Iceland