Everything You Need to Know About Road Signs in Iceland

Everything You Need to Know About Road Signs in Iceland

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An Icelandic road sign warning about a risk of ice on the road.

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.

Overhead view of a car driving along the picturesque roads of Iceland, surrounded by greenery and a stream beside the road.

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.

Blue rectangular sign with a white border and white writing saying "Taxi".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.

A yellow triangular sign with a red border and black X in the middle, indicating a dangerous intersection.

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.

Yellow circular Icelandic road sign with a red border and black number 60 in the middle, indicating the maximum speed allowed is 60 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.

A yellow circular Icelandic road sign with a red border, indicating 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. 

A circular yellow Icelandic road sign with a red border and line through the middle showing that horses and riders are not allowed.

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.

The prohibited stopping sign in Iceland is a blue circular sign with a red border and a red cross through the middle.

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.

A yellow circular sign with four black horizontal lines in the middle, crossing out the number 60 and indicating the end of that speed zone.

Stop Signs

Stop signs are plain and straightforward eight-sided road signs with a red background, white border, and the word STOP written in white text.

Iceland's stop sign is an eight-sided red sign with the word "stop" written in English in the middle.

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. 

An Icelandic road sign indicating that a U-turn is illegal in that area.

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.

A yellow triangular Icelandic road sign, warning drivers that the road curves to the left.

Give Way Sign

The Give Way sign in Iceland is an upside-down triangle with a yellow background and red border.

The give way sign in Iceland is an upside-down yellow triangle with a red border.

Junction Signs

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.

Iceland road sign indicating a side road junction on the left with priority.

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.

A yellow triangular road sign in Iceland warning drivers to watch out for sheep.

Road Conditions

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.

A yellow triangular Icelandic road sign indicating the road is slippery when wet.

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.

A yellow triangular Icelandic road sign with a red border and black exclamation mark telling the driver 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.

The mandatory road sign in Iceland indicating a roundabout is a blue circular sign with three white arrows in the middle showing the direction of traffic.

Direction Signs

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 mandatory "turn right" road sign in Iceland with a blue background and a white arrow pointing to the right.A downward diagonal arrow tells you to keep to that side. Two small downward diagonal arrows show that you can pass on either side.

A blue circular sign with two small white arrows pointing to each side indicates 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.

A blue circular mandatory road sign in Iceland showing separate lanes for bicycles and pedestrians.

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

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.

A blue square sign in Iceland with a white letter P and a picture of a truck, indicating parking for trucks.

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.

A blue rectangular Icelandic road sign with a red and white "T" in the middle, showing a dead end is 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.

A blue rectangular sign with a white image of a speed camera and Icelandic words informing drivers of a speed enforcement area.The word "stans" means stop in Icelandic, and you may see signs with this word at places like toll booths or busy junctions.

A yellow, red and blue sign in Iceland with black writing and the word "stans", informing drivers to stop.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.

An Icelandic road sign showing a space for trucks to turn around on the 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.

A blue sign with white writing saying "ut" in Icelandic, meaning "out" in English, and showing drivers which direction to go.

Service Signs

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.

A square sign with a white background, blue border, and red cross in the middle shows indicates a nearby first aid station.The police office sign has a yellow and black badge in the middle, making it easy to distinguish.

An Icelandic road sign with a blue border, white background, and a yellow and black badge in the middle, indicating a police station.You might observe a range of general service signs on Icelandic roads. Examples include accommodation signs for hotels, campsites, caravan parks, or rental cabins. 

A blue square sign with a white background and black image showing a campsite in Iceland.Signs for recreational facilities include swimming pools, horse tracks, sports fields, ski lifts, river rafting, and more.

A blue and white square service sign with a black image of a person in water, indicating a swimming pool.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!

A blue and white square road sign in Iceland with a black image of a pretzel, indicating a bakery.

Traffic Lights

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.

A red and yellow traffic light in Iceland shows 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.

An outdated stop sign in Iceland with an upside-down triangle shape, a red border, blue background, and the word STANZ on it.

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.

An outdated stop sign in Iceland with a yellow background, red border and triangle, and the word STANZ in the middle.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.

The outdated "be careful" road sign in Iceland is a yellow triangle with a red border and a black vertical line in the middle.

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."

An orange rectangular Icelandic road sign with three people running means "street running".Iceland is well known for its folklore, including legends of trolls, elves, and sea monsters. Keep your eyes open for unofficial warning signs of creatures lurking in the midst!

A lakeside sign in Iceland warning people to be careful of sea monsters.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!

Finally, keep an eye out for cute signs like the duck signs you'll see around Tjornin lake in Reykjavik.

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.

An image of the Strokkur geyser at Geysir geothermal area on the Golden Circle driving route at sunset.

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.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall on Iceland's South Coast is a top attraction for those who travel independently or take a self-drive tour.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.