In principle, none of us object to the advantages toll roads bring. In some countries, opting to drive on toll roads rather than the back roads is a way of beating the traffic and reaching your destination much more quickly. But for travellers, navigating a new system of revenue collection can be a minefield. No one wants their holiday to be spoiled by a notification of a fine, so it’s best to be well prepared before getting behind the wheel of your rental camper in iceland. You certainly don’t want to wait until you see a toll booth to think about how you need to pay. Here’s what you need to know about tolls in Iceland.
Do I need to pay a toll to use the ring road?
There’s an easy answer to this: no. As of the time of writing, there isn’t a single toll road in Iceland, meaning you can drive on any road toll-free. That’s not just the ring road, popular with visitors who rent a car, but also the country’s rugged F roads that criss cross the mountainous interior. The nation’s road authority, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA), is responsible for a network of about 13000 km of roads, but doesn’t choose to recoup some of its expenditure on construction or maintenance via a toll system. That’s great news not only for locals but also for tourists who are planning an Icelandic road trip.
But there’s a catch
Unfortunately, there is one place in the country where you’ll need to pay a toll, and that’s in the north just east of Akureyri. The Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel complements a stretch of road that traverses the Vaðlaheiði mountain pass. Instead of being forced to take the mountain pass road, drivers can now travel beneath Mount Vaðlaheiði rather than over it if they wish. Given Iceland’s propensity for inclement weather, road closures and delays while snowfalls were cleared used to be common.
Although, if you wish to pass through the Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel and cut 16 km off the route that follows the ring road, it will cost you. This controversial civil engineering project ran considerably over budget and opened later than planned when it went opened in December 2018. The tolls went live at the start of January 2019.
Tolls in Iceland - Price
At present the charge is 1500 ISK for a car under 3.5 tons, rising to 5200 ISK for the largest vehicles. Motorcycles are exempt but bicycles are prohibited from using the tunnel. If charges apply, you can pay online by credit card. You can double-check the price here on the tunnel.is website. Though it probably won’t help holidaymakers, there’s also the option of purchasing trips in bulk to take advantage of a discounted rate. As the smallest increment is ten trips, you’d have to be a pretty indecisive – or lost – tourist to be going back and forth that much. If you’re resident, that might be of interest, however.
If you are driving in that part of the country and do intend to go through the tunnel, then you’ll need to be aware that you can’t just pay for the journey once you get there. There are no physical toll booths. Instead, to drive through this 7.4km tunnel, you need to go online. Drivers also have the option of signing up to be charged to a pre-authorised card or attached bank account.
Avoid tolls in Iceland
You don’t actually have to drive through the tunnel, though. There’s a detour, although it’s not well signed, which has caused some complaints. The speed limit inside the tunnel is 70km/h, so if you take the old route between Akureyri and Húsavík via Víkurskarðið it will add only about ten minutes to your journey time. You’re on vacation – what’s the rush? If you do opt for the toll tunnel, pay up promptly. However, some local residents are skeptical that the roads authority will clear snow as frequently as they used to. Whether that’s the case or not is still to be seen, but it might factor in your decision if you are planning to visit Iceland in the winter.
However, there’s something else to bear in mind. Leave it more than three hours to settle your account, and up the fee goes. For example, the toll for cars becomes 2500 ISK. If a trip has not been paid for within three hours of that journey, the toll bill will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle together with an added collection fee of 1000 ISK. Don’t think you can get away without paying, either. When you rent your car, you’ll have to supply a credit card for incidentals and the agency you rent from will add it to your bill. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the rental companies to shoulder the cost of your excursions.
Hvalfjörður Tunnel used to be a toll road
There is some good news though. If you’re planning to take Route 1 north away from Reykjavik, then you might have to drive around or under Hvalfjörður. The tunnel that was dug twenty or so years ago cut off considerable mileage necessitated by detouring around the fjord. But if you’re planning a day out to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, using the tunnel cuts off a lot of driving. Of course, you didn’t have to take the tunnel, but if you only had a day for sightseeing, why would you waste it on looping the fjord?
To recoup the costs of construction, the owners of the tunnel imposed a toll for users of 1000 ISK per car. As of September 2018, the toll has been abolished. Ownership has reverted to the national road authority and so that situation is unlikely to change. Given how close the tunnel is to Reykjavik, and how convenient for travellers, it’s great to hear that tolls are a thing of the past. Note, however, that the speed limits and speed cameras which enforce them still apply. Watch your dials so you don’t end up shelling out the money you’ve just saved to be able to pay a speeding ticket instead.