The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of small islands with an absolutely stunning landscape. At every turn there are amazing views! However, connecting these islands was not easy an task. A series of underwater tunnels, bridges and small roads were carved into the mountains in order to provide access to the villages. After reading about the one-lane tunnels, I was suddenly not so sure about wanting to drive there! However, since public transportation was not a practical option, we decided to rent a car. Read all about our experience driving in the Faroes – an adventure in and on itself!
Options for rental car
While renting a car is a very popular option in the Faroes, there are only a handful of companies providing the service. Most are local companies, so don’t expect to find all of the international brands. As you are probably aware, rental car rate inclusions change depending on the market. After comparing different companies, this is what we found out for the Faroes:
- Mileage – most local companies provided unlimited mileage
- Collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance – included by most companies
- Liability insurance – not offered, even if trying to purchase separately
- Road assistance – available for a daily fee
- Tolls – the car is equipped with a transponder (free). The company will add the tolls to your final bill and charge your credit card. The tolls are for using the sub-sea tunnels (DKK 100, payment in one direction only).
- Airport pick-up – not all companies have presence at the airport as most are based in Tórshavn. If your car needs to be delivered, a fee will be added.
- Additional driver – no additional fee
- Automatic transmission – automatic cars were twice as expensive as manual transmission, basically because there are no compact/economy cars available
- Price tracking – prices did not fluctuate with time
- Wifi – available for an additional fee. We did not use it as we have the free international roaming provided by Sprint.
- Recommended companies – when doing our research, we did not find that any company was recommended over others (or that any particular one should be avoided). However, you should always read reviews before committing to a company so you can be aware of any local scams.
TIP: Book your rental car as soon as you have your dates, especially if you drive an automatic car. There are not many options!
We decided to hire from Avis since we have elite status with them (through our Chase Sapphire Reserve). However, no special rates or any other perks were offered. The rate was similar to the local companies, which included CDW. The only difference was that Avis has limited mileage to 400 km. After doing some calculations, we figured that would be enough for our 3 day stay. However, we went a bit over that, and had to pay for it. Our car was a hybrid Kia Optima, and we loved how smooth the drive was.
At the airport desk, the staff was very pleasant. The cars are located in the airport parking, right outside the terminal. We noticed there were a lot of scratches and some minor damage not included in our documents, so after taking pictures and video, we walked back to the terminal to have it all sorted out. The staff took notice of all the additional damage and corrected the paperwork. So make sure to check your car, document anything you see, and go back to the desk if necessary.
Drop off was easy – just drop off the key at the airport desk. Remember to take pictures of the mileage and the condition of the car. You will receive your final bill over email in a few days. Final bill includes the tolls.
About road conditions
The roads are well maintained, which is good when you are going up and down on those steep hills and around windy roads. The roads between the larger towns usually have one lane in each direction.
However, the roads to the smaller villages are usually one-lane to hold traffic in both directions. These roads have frequent pull out spots (turnouts). So who gets to pass, and who has to pull over? You must review the Visit Faroe Islands video guide to learn about this and other important rules to follow when driving in the Faroes.
Some of the roads are very curvy and at sharp angles, and there may be tour buses or public transport buses sharing your space. This is why I only made it half way to Gjogv before I decided to turn back. At some point the one-lane road has a lot of hairpin curves and I had just seen a tour bus coming down. Too stressful to think about how to share the road with the bus on those sharp curves!
You also need to be careful about sheep suddenly getting on the road.
And of course, there is the occasional instagrammer who thinks it is cool to walk down an empty road 😉
What about the tunnels?
The islands are connected by a series of tunnels.
The two sub-sea tunnels have one lane in each direction and they are wide. They have frequent rest/service areas. You will go downhill and then uphill as you reach the other side of the road. Not sure if it was my imagination, but I could smell the salt from the ocean!
Vágatunnilin connects Vágar to Streymoy (drive from the airport into Tórshavn).
Norðoyatunnilin connects Klasvík to Eysturoy (drive to Klasvík for the ferry to Kalsoy).
The land tunnels are usually one-lane for both directions. Most of them are dark, so be sure to have your car lights on! There are frequent pull out spots, marked with a reflective M sign on the opposite site were the spot is.
Enter and exit the tunnels carefully and to the side so you can see any cars coming in/out of the tunnel. I was mostly worried about driving in these tunnels, especially in Kalsoy, where there’s about 4 of these in a row! That truly was an experience that I will not soon forget.
A parking disk is provided with your rental, and is attached to the lower right hand corner of your front window. While in Tórshavn, Klasvík, Runavík and Vágar airport, you need to enter the time at which you parked your car.
The villages we visited had a parking area just outside the village. You could simply not miss them as you were driving in.
So just avoid driving into the village. The streets are narrow, and if there is parking, it will most likely be next to a house. So leave those for the local residents!
Taking your rental car on the ferry
A ferry network is available where there are no tunnels connecting the islands. These ferries cannot be reserved in advance, so you need to arrive early to get a spot. The Klasvik-Sydradalur (Kalsoy) ferry is very popular, so be there at least an hour before departure.
At the ferry dock, line up your car in the waiting lanes. Payment is usually made only in one direction and when you board the ferry. They squeeze every inch of space, so you may not be able to step out of your car.
How’s the weather?
Weather in the Faroes is unpredictable. We had one day of glorious sun, while the next two days were rainy and foggy. So you must always be alert to changing road conditions.
You will notice that on rainy days, the collecting water from the mountains will start forming many waterfalls along the side of the roads.
The fog can be dense and thick at times, catching you unexpectedly while on the road. Be very careful! Look how thick the fog was that you do not see the village in the distance:
TIP: There are two roads that reach Tórshavn. Road 10 is 3 minutes faster, so it will be preferred by the maps app. However, this route goes high in the mountain. On the other hand, Road 50 follows the coastline. On the days that there was a lot of fog, we found it easier to drive around the coastline. Regardless of the route that you take, be careful when you drive!
- Driving is on the right side of the road.
- Lights should be ON at all times.
- Speed limit is 80 kmh outside the villages and 30 kmh in the villages (at the time of writing). Drivers are polite, but if you are going too slow they will not hesitate to pass you!
- Maps – we used google maps for navigation. Be sure to pick up a paper map at the Visit Faroe Islands desk at the airport.
- Gas stations – there were a few gas stations scattered through the islands. However, there are some islands that do not have one, so make sure to check your fuel before heading out. You can pay at the pump with your credit card, however, our US-based cards were not accepted, so we had to go in the store. Closest gas station to the airport is in Sorvágur (across the pier to Mykines). When we filled our car, half a tank of diesel was about 40 USD.
- Driving in the Faroe Islands video guide – Visit Faroe Islands created a video with information about road rules, tunnels and use of pull outs. Be sure to review the video before heading out!
So what’s it really like to drive in the Faroe Islands? It is a challenging adventure, but well worth it for the breathtaking landscapes!