- How to Read Icelandic Road Signs
- Common and Important Road Signs in Iceland
- Prohibitory Road Signs
- Warning Road Signs
- Mandatory Road Signs
- Information Road Signs
- Service Signs
- Traffic Lights
- Outdated Road Signs in Iceland
- Quirky Road Signs in Iceland
- Road Signs in Iceland | In Conclusion
- Take the Next Steps Toward Driving in Iceland
Stay safe on the roads of Iceland with this comprehensive guide to the country's road signs! Prepare for any road trip, whether a self-drive journey around the entire Ring Road or simple city drives around Reykjavik.
Driving in Iceland presents unique hazards that drivers unfamiliar with the area might not be aware of. Road signs provide vital information to inform drivers about these. It's crucial to understand what road signs in Iceland mean, especially those warning about icy conditions, speed limits, and general safety tips.
Any visitor to Iceland who plans to rent a car for road trips or self-drive tours must be able to recognize Icelandic road signs and adhere to road rules. Understanding road sign meanings helps keep everyone safe on the roads.
Whether you're planning to traverse difficult terrain or stick to city driving, you've got to know the basics. Read on to learn about Iceland's different types of road signs so you can enjoy driving confidently during your vacation.
How to Read Icelandic Road Signs
Road signs are not supposed to be cryptic but rather as blunt as possible. Even though you're in a foreign country, they're meant to be easy to understand. Most Icelandic road signs use symbols and pictures to indicate their meaning.
This is especially so for warning, prohibitory, and mandatory signs.
Many Icelandic road signs look like those used in other parts of the world, making them easy to identify. For example, stop signs look similar, if not identical, to stop signs in your country, with English writing on them.
Some information signs include Icelandic words or place names spelled in Icelandic. These usually have an image that clarifies the sign's meaning.
Travelers to Iceland must be aware that the country uses the metric system. Therefore, speed limits are in kilometers per hour.
Common and Important Road Signs in Iceland
In Iceland, there are various types of common road signs. They are usually on roadsides, highways, and near intersections, making them easy to spot. As well as being common, they're vitally important.
The sign's colors and shape indicate its type. Keep reading to learn about Iceland's different types of signs, including traffic, informative, warning, mandatory, and advisory signs.
Prohibitory Road Signs
Prohibitory road signs are used on all road types to inform drivers about what vehicles are allowed to use the road and what rules apply to different types of vehicles. These include restrictions on turning around, driving too fast, and parking in prohibited areas.
These signs are easily visible on the roadside, often near intersections and crossroads, and sometimes on bridges. Prohibitory signs are usually circular, with red borders, yellow backgrounds, and black text.
Speed limit Signs
Speed limit signs have a black number in the middle, indicating the maximum speed allowed in that area, measured in kilometers per hour.
Prohibited Entry Signs
The sign prohibiting entry to all vehicles is a red circle with a yellow line through the middle. Or, you might see a yellow circular sign with a red border. This design indicates that the road is closed to all vehicles.
Often, a road prohibits entry to a specific type of vehicle. These signs are circular, with a yellow background, a red border, and a red line through the middle. In the center, you'll see a picture of the prohibited vehicle type, for example, a bicycle, motorbike, truck, tractor, or snowmobile.
Prohibited Stopping or Parking
These are blue circular signs with a red border. The prohibited parking sign has a single diagonal red line through the middle, whereas the prohibited stopping sign has a red cross.
End of Zone Signs
If you see a sign with four black diagonal lines through the middle, it highlights the end of a zone. For example, a speed sign with four black lines through it shows the end of a maximal or special speed zone, as applicable. You may also see a sign indicating the end of an overtaking prohibition zone.
Stop signs are plain and straightforward eight-sided road signs with a red background, white border, and the word STOP written in white text.
Other Examples of Prohibitory Signs
You may come across other prohibition signs that should be easy to identify. Numbers with arrows highlight weight, height, and width limits. Direction signs with a red diagonal line through the middle indicate that type of turn is illegal.
Warning Road Signs
Icelandic road signs come in different colors to warn drivers about potential hazards along the way. These include signs indicating road curves, priority signs, dangerous road surfaces, and reminders to watch for pedestrians or animals in the area.
Warning signs are triangular signs with red borders, yellow backgrounds, and black text.
Signs Indicating Changes to the Road's Direction
Black shapes in the middle of these signs let drivers know the road ahead is changing. This type of sign could show a bend to the left or right or a double curve coming up. A black cross in the middle of a triangular sign warns the driver about a dangerous intersection ahead.
Give Way Sign
The Give Way sign in Iceland is an upside-down triangle with a yellow background and red border.
These indicate an upcoming junction or crossroad. You'll be able to see from the symbol in the middle which side the intersection is on and what angle the road is coming from.
Warning Signs With Animals or People
If you see a sign with an image of an animal or person, this warns you to watch out for them, as there's a decent likelihood they will be in the area. Slow down and keep an eye out for horses, reindeer, people, or whatever the sign indicates.
Some warning signs help prepare drivers for dangerous road conditions ahead. A snowflake picture suggests there's a risk of ice on the road, whereas other signs should clearly show where there are hazardous verges or the roads may be slippery.
Other Warning Signs
When it comes to warning signs, use your common sense and remember that a picture says a thousand words. Pictures may indicate loose gravel, risk of avalanche or rock fall, bumps in the road, or a riverbank ahead. A sign with a black exclamation mark warns drivers to be careful.
Mandatory Road Signs
In Iceland, mandatory road signs are used where you are legally required to do something. They are not suggestions or information signs - you must follow them. As such, they are some of the most critical road signs in Iceland that you should know about.
You must understand how to correctly read and follow these road signs when driving in Iceland. Examples include direction signs and signs indicating paths dedicated to bikes or pedestrians.
Mandatory road signs are circular with a white border, blue background, and white text.
Some symbols and pictures are the same as on the warning signs. For example, the roundabout sign has three arrows in a circle, showing the direction of traffic flow. You might see this on a mandatory sign (the blue circle signs) or a warning sign.
These are easy to understand. Direction signs have an arrow telling you which way to turn - right, left, or straight. When there are two arrows, you can choose one of those two directions to turn.
A downward diagonal arrow tells you to keep to that side. Two small downward diagonal arrows show that you can pass on either side.
Paths for Specific Traffic Types
An image of a horse and rider, pedestrians, or bikes, indicates the path is for that type of traffic. If there is a line between two pictures, that shows there are separate lanes for each type of traffic.
Information Road Signs
Information signs inform road users about parking spots, one-way traffic areas, crosswalks, bus stops, and more.
The signs are typically rectangular or square, with a white border, blue background, and white text. Some of the main types of informative signs are detailed below.
Parking signs are relatively universal. Just look for a blue sign with a "P." Images on these signs tell you what type of vehicles can park there. There could be a picture of a bus, truck, bicycle, car, ambulance, or disability vehicle, for example.
Common Traffic Signs
Signs with an arrow pointing up or to the right indicate one-way traffic.
If you see a sign with a white symbol that looks like a large letter "M," it tells drivers there is a place for allowing oncoming traffic to pass.
A blue sign with a red and white symbol similar to a capital "T" means there is a dead end ahead.
Signs in Icelandic
Some informative road signs may include one or more Icelandic words, so learning these meanings is helpful to avoid confusion and frustration. These signs often have a symbol or supporting image.
A blue sign with an image of a camera may have the word "Löggæslumyndavél" underneath, which means "traffic enforcement camera" in English.
The word "stans" means stop in Icelandic, and you may see signs with this word at places like toll booths or busy junctions.
If you see the word "Snúningsrými," it translates to "rotational space." You might notice this word accompanied by an image of a truck and white around it. This sign shows that large vehicles may turn around in this area, with the white shape indicating whether the turning space is on the left or right.
The word "Út" means "out," and "Inn" means "in." Informative signs with one of these words will have an arrow showing the direction in or out.
Service road signs inform road users of valuable amenities in the area. Look for square signs with a white background and a thick blue border. These signs have a picture or symbol (usually in black) in the middle, indicating the service type.
Emergency services, such as a first aid station, emergency phone, shelter, pharmacy, or fire extinguisher, have a red symbol rather than a black one.
The police office sign has a yellow and black badge in the middle, making it easy to distinguish.
You might observe a range of general service signs on Icelandic roads. Examples include accommodation signs for hotels, campsites, caravan parks, or rental cabins.
Signs for recreational facilities include swimming pools, horse tracks, sports fields, ski lifts, river rafting, and more.
You'll also find signs for useful everyday amenities, such as supermarkets, food kiosks, banks, and ATMs. If you're after a bakery, look for a blue and white sign with a black pretzel in the middle!
Traffic lights are relatively universal, although there are sometimes slight variations. Any driver will know the red light means stop, and the green means go.
An amber traffic light (yellow light) means the light is about to turn red, so you should stop if you can safely do so. Yellow and red show the light is about to turn green, so you can get ready to go.
Outdated Road Signs in Iceland
Some Icelandic road signs have changed over time. The stop sign underwent two significant changes before the current 8-sided red sign. From 1945-1956 it was a blue sign with an upside-down triangular shape. It had a red border and the word "STANZ" in white.
Between 1956 and 1975, it was a yellow circle-shaped sign with a red border and a red triangle in the middle. The word "STANZ" was in black inside the triangle.
The old "be careful" sign was similar to the modern one because the colors and shapes are the same. However, previously it had a black vertical line in the middle rather than the exclamation mark you see today.
Quirky Road Signs in Iceland
You may see some unusual road signs during your time in Iceland. Some might be official signs, such as the orange rectangular sign with three runners. This sign has the word "götuhlaup" on it, which means "street running."
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Rob Oo. No edits made.
Icelanders take personal and environmental cleanliness very seriously. One of the things they can't stand is finding evidence of human waste tainting the pristine landscapes. Iceland's countryside lacks toilet facilities in some places, and, as a result, some people have made inappropriate toileting choices.
An unofficial sign began popping up around the country to curb this problem. It certainly looks official with its yellow background, red border, and black image of a person squatting with a poo on the ground. Of course, a red diagonal line through the middle indicates this is not ok!
Road Signs in Iceland | In Conclusion
Road signs help drivers navigate their way around Iceland and keep everyone safe. They also provide information about where you are going and where to find services and amenities.
Whether planning a day trip to visit the Golden Circle attractions independently or preparing for a multi-day self-drive adventure, understanding Icelandic road signs will help you tackle the Icelandic roads confidently.
Take the Next Steps Toward Driving in Iceland
Are you ready to take the next steps toward driving in Iceland? You can book a rental car from Reykjavik, Akureyri, or Keflavik International Airport before arriving in the country. Choose from a wide range of 4x4 vehicles, cheap car rentals, campers, or luxury cars to suit your needs.
Those who wish to travel independently can check out these top ideas for an epic 10-day itinerary in Iceland or what to do in four days if your timeframe is shorter.
Or, maintain freedom and flexibility while letting someone else take care of the planning by booking a self-drive tour. Self-drive tours include a full itinerary and your rental car and accommodation.
Check out this 10-day self-drive tour of the complete Ring Road and the country's top attractions. Those with more time can book the ultimate expedition, a 19-day self-drive tour around the country.
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