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Is my 4X4 OK for river crossings on highland F-roads in Iceland?

23. April, 2019

The highland F roads in Iceland usually start to open in June with opening dates varying from year to year. Driving in the Icelandic highlands is much different from driving on Road 1. Icelandic F roads are unpaved and almost all have one or more unbridged river crossing. People often ask us at Safetravel if the type of rental car they have is suitable for a particular Icelandic highland F road and its river crossings. Something to note is that river levels in the Icelandic highlands change by the day and even by the hour in summer due to warm temperatures or rain. This means that conditions can be tricky to monitor and it can be difficult to answer the question ”Is my 4×4 OK for this highland F road in Iceland?”

The real question you should ask

A better question instead is ”Are my driving abilities suitable for this highland F road in Iceland?” Most of the time accidents in the rivers are caused by driver error not vehicle size although vehicle size/ground clearance is definitely also a problem. Driving too quickly through the river is the most common problem. There is NO INSURANCE FOR RIVER CROSSINGS IN ICELAND (or anywhere else in the world). If you get stuck in a river and the car is damaged you will end up paying thousands of euros/dollars in damages. If you take this into consideration it is maybe not the best time to try crossing a river for the very first time. Sometimes rivers can be impassable for any 4×4 no matter the size so you should always check in with Safetravel for conditions before setting out.

What can you do to minimize your risk?

  • Check our conditions page or send us an email/message if unsure
  • Choose a vehicle with good ground clearance (often these cost more than Jimny/Dusters which are lower to the ground)
  • Do your research – read our page on driving in the Icelandic highlands
  • Drive VERY slowly through the river and do not switch gears!!!
  • Wait for another vehicle to cross to see the depth or walk into the river – if you can’t walk into the river your car won’t make it over either
  • Know your abilities and when to abandon the travel plan and turn around
Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, City Hall, Tjarnargata 11, 101 Reykjavik Iceland safetravel@safetravel.is +354 570-5929 Disclaimer