A road trip isn’t necessarily what comes to mind when considering a trip to the Faroe Islands. After all, we’re talking about eighteen islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, and large stretches of water tend to present an inconvenient obstacle to people driving around a new place.
However, due to a series of old bridges, blasted out tunnels through the mountains and under the sea, and the the odd ferry here and there, a road trip through the Faroe Islands is both remarkably convenient, incredibly easy, and, quite simply, a wonderful way to travel.
Earlier this year, we spent a week driving around from island to island, hike to hike, epic scenery to epic scenery, and learned a few lessons that we think are absolutely essential for anyone hoping to take a Faroe Islands road trip.
In this post, we’re going to explain the essentials about car rental in the Faroe Islands, dealing with its infamous tunnels, sharing the roads with all those sheep and our own tips for driving across the idiosyncratically beautiful landscapes of the Faroes!
#1 Control Your Expectations / Fears
We’re absolute suckers for a great road trip, and as such, have a lot of experience driving in different conditions and environments. With single track roads, blustering winds, blind corners and endless tunnels under the sea, a little trepidation before driving in the Faroe Islands (especially if you’re not used to driving on the right hand side) is completely understandable.
However, trust us when we say that it is a truly pleasant experience, providing you use the required level of common sense and good driving throughout. The vast majority of the roads are in excellent condition, traffic is scarce, locals drivers are sensible, and your main issue will be resisting the urge to stop every few miles to soak in the wonderful views on offer across the islands.
#2 The Distances are Manageable
Another reason that the Faroe Islands are perfectly suited for an independent road trip is the short distances you’ll have to travel each day. This makes a 4-day road trip quite feasible for people who want to concentrate on the islands of Vagar and Streymoy without really feeling too rushed, whilst over a week-long road trip provides the opportunities for a number of additional adventures and time to delve a little deeper into each place.
For example, from Gásadalur on the western side to the island of Vidoy in the east, the drive (without stops) is just under two hours; meaning that you can plan your route safe in the knowledge that no day will involve hours of non-stop driving, and that it’s perfectly feasible to visit 2-3 locations in a day.
We will be sharing our own seven day Faroe Islands Road Trip Itinerary in the next few weeks to help inspire and shape your own route.
#3 Faroe Islands Car Rental: The Essentials
So, if you’ve reached this far, you now know that a road trip in the Faroe Islands is an excellent and realistic idea. Now for the hard part; it isn’t cheap.
A typical one-week car rental of the cheapest model in high season (April - September) will cost £400+ / €500+ (a Ford Ka rented via AutoEurope), and that is assuming the cheapest model is still available for your travel dates. Rent the car we did it in - a Nissan Qashqai - and that figure will be closer to £800.
Yep, our thoughts exactly.
Our advice to you is to therefore book your rental car as far in advance as possible, to secure the best rates available. Further, although our car of choice would have had a little more resilience on challenging roads, you really don’t need a jeep or a 4x4 to comfortably road trip around the Faroes - the cheapest option of a wee Ford Ka will do the job nicely!
AutoEurope | Whilst there's certainly a limited range of cars available, it offers the cheapest car rental we found on the islands. Check availability and pricing here.
UniCar.Fo | On the islands since 1992, Unicar has a selection of rental cars divided into 3 different price classes. Delivery at the airport and elsewhere on Vágar costs 300kr in addition, whilst collection at Unicar in Miðvagur it is free of charge.
62N | The longest queue at the airport was for 62N which reflects its position as the main car rental option in the Faroe Islands. It offers 10 different car types from Sixt, Hertz and Europcar, but its prices are high.
For most people, picking up your vehicle at one of the several Vagar Airport car rental companies is the logical choice. Just bear in mind, that most people on your plane will be doing the exact same thing, so queues are inevitable.
Make sure you have a valid driving license and credit card ready. As always, we recommend taking out full excess waiver insurance - just not with the company with whom you rent. We have an annual policy costing just £40, which allows us to rent a car all over the world with full security that we’ve covered. If you don’t do this, then you’ll either have the option to retain the standard excess (around 7,000 DKK / £834 / €938), or pay an additional amount to reduce the excess to a more sensible amount of approx. 1,000 DKK / £134 / €125.
To find out more about our travel budget in the Faroe Islands, and typical travel costs there, read this post (which will be out next week!).
As mentioned, the distances in the Faroe are really very manageable and as such, we only required one petrol station stop in the whole trip (and that was on the way back to Vagar airport).
If your car is less fuel-efficient, then take note of the following locations for petrol stations and remember to follow the golden road trip rule of never letting your fuel tank go much below ⅓ full before you fuel up!
As many of you will also be doing the odd hike or quite a bit of walking across your road trip, and coffee shops (let alone decent coffee) are not that common across the Faroe Islands, it’s a good idea to take a travel thermos with you.
#5 The Famous Faroese Fog
Something that everyone needs to be aware of before the visit the Faroes, whether you’re driving or not, is that a thick ‘Faroese fog’ is not uncommon. Indeed, it is responsible for many delayed hikes or changed plans as, once it descends upon its chosen island for the day, it’s pretty much impossible to do anything there.
Such foggy frequency is one of the principal reasons that it is a legal requirement for all drivers to always have their lights on whilst driving, even during daylight. The other reason for this requirement is due to one of the most memorable (and potentially terrifying) aspects of driving in the Faroe Islands….
#6 All About Those Tunnels
One of the most well-known sites in the Faroes - the hidden village of Gásadalur - is actually no longer that hidden. The reason? A tunnel was blasted into the rock back in 2006, to increase the total number of tunnels linking up the islands to eighteen.
Driving through dark tunnels is a signature of a Faroese road trip and, no matter how experienced you are, driving through some of these will unsettle you; they’re also without doubt the most likely spot for a tourist to have an accident.
The two large sub-sea tunnels (one of which is over 6 kms long!) and most of the others are actually modern and relatively spacious / well-lit, so don’t pose too many issues for drivers. However, it is the much older, dark, narrow single-lane tunnels which you will find on the northern islands of Kalsoy, Bordoy, and Vidoy which feel treacherous in comparison. It is not uncommon to enter these and be faced with a car coming towards you from the other direction, and this definitely induced a few butt-clenching moments in our car!
So, here’s what you need to know before setting off and seeking out the light at the tunnel’s end:
Tunnel Rules To Drive By
Always have your lights on. Always - have - your - lights - on!
The entrances of the older tunnels will have a very clear sign signalling who has right of way (indicated by the black vehicle); be sure to look out for these. In the modern tunnels, there are two lanes so right of way is not an issue.
Limit your speed when approaching, entering, and driving through the tunnels. Locals may take them slightly faster, but you should play it safe, slow, and steady - these tunnels are NOT made to go through quickly.
At single-lane tunnels, enter cautiously as a car may be coming in the other direction.
For cars that DO NOT have right of way, you’ll note upon entry that there are regular ‘passing places’ available inside the tunnel - each of these is marked by a sign, spaced out at approximately 100m intervals, and counting out the number remaining (and therefore proximity to the end). When these ‘passing places’ are on your right hand side, you have to go into them in order to let the oncoming vehicle pass. In this situation - the most likely context where you will damage your car - it’s incredibly important not to panic. Take a breath, slow down, and pull over into the nearest ‘passing place’ well in advance of their arrival. On occasion, more than one vehicle will join you in the passing place, so be aware of what is in front and behind you at all times as well.
In advance of exiting the single-lane tunnels, be aware that someone else may be waiting on the other side and unaware of your presence, so proceed accordingly. There are mirrors placed at every exit, so be sure to use them.
Lastly, if you are incredibly unlucky and come face-to-face with a truck in a single-lane tunnel, then you HAVE TO pull into the ‘passing place’ regardless of whether it is on your right or left. In short, ‘see truck = get out of way fast’.
Driving through these tunnels does get easier however, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to continue to approach them with caution. The guys at our rental car company told us that the tunnels are the main source of damage and insurance claims, so be aware of your inexperience in handling them, and ensure your priority is getting through them safely.
#7 Tolls Not Trolls
This is the very last time we’re going to mention those tunnels, we promise!
The two largest sub-sea tunnels (one connecting Vagar and Streymoy, the other Eysturoy with Bordoy) charge a toll fee of 100kr (£12 / €13) per return trip. For visitors, there are three ways that this fee can be paid:
Make a record of the tunnels, and visit a petrol station within three days of use to pay the full amount.
Have your car rental company activate the ‘toll chip’ in your car, and have the payment ‘per tunnel’ processed upon returning the vehicle.
Pay a one-off fee of DK 300 (£35 / €40) as part of your rental agreement which allows unlimited entries for the duration of your stay. This is the option we chose, and makes the most sense for those planning a comprehensive road trip.
#8 Sheep Sheep Sheep
That most-trotted out statistic about the Faroes - that it is home to more sheep than humans - certainly feels true when you’re driving around the islands. The gorgeous sheep which roam around pretty much wherever they fancy will often be spotted mooching around at the road side or in the middle of the tarmac, and so present a photogenic (but serious) risk whilst driving.
On some of the islands, the sheep were much more skittish than others, so always drive with the expectation that one will decide to leap out in front of you at the last minute.
If you do hit a sheep with your car, then you are required to contact the police.
#9 Passing Places
As with the North Coast 500 in Scotland, lots of narrow single-track roads mean that you have to understand how passing places work - very straightforward, but integral to being a good driver here.
Simply pull in to them if they’re on your right hand side in order to let the oncoming driver continue, and then pull out and continue your journey! Courtesy when driving on countryside roads is essential, so always give a little nod, wave or raise of the finger (not the middle one, obviously) to show appreciation to the driver who has pulled into a passing place to let you by.
And remember, these are not parkings spots for you to hang out in and take countless photos - if you’re quick you can capture a couple, but be aware that you may need to move quickly.
On a separate note, be aware that a driver driving down a hill must always pull into a turnout and give a way to the car going up the hill.
#10 Find Your Ferry
Although you can reach many places by car, a ferry is still necessary to reach a couple of the more remote destinations in the Faroe Islands - including the ridiculously photogenic islands of Mykines (unless you take the helicopter) and Kalsoy. For the former, you will simply leave your car in the car park and jump on the morning ferry as a foot passenger, but to reach Kalsoy, it’s essential that you take your car with you onto the ferry.
From our experience of the Klaksvik to Kalsoy ferry, and due to the increasing popularity of the hike to Kallur Lighthouse Hike, you are best to arrive early and be aware in advance that they do like to pack the cars in like sardines!
For more information on this ferry and hike journey with your car, read this post.
#11 Know your Limits
Across the island, the speed limits (unless indicated otherwise on a sign) are 50 km/h in built-up areas and 80 km/h on main roads. This may seem incredibly slow when being given your quick induction at the rental office, however once you’re out and about, driving through fog, tunnels and passing sheep, driving at speeds you are more used to at home will seem crazy.
As ever, be aware of driving and weather conditions and adapt accordingly to keep yourself and others safe; don’t drink and drive (and don’t have a drink on the flight over - two guys behind us in the queue tried that, and were declined their rental vehicle once it was smelt on their breath, quite rightly!)
#12 Buttercup Routes
Our own Faroe Islands road trip itinerary will bring you to many of the most photogenic and beautiful parts of the Faroes. If you prefer to follow a slightly looser approach to driving around the islands, then keep an eye out for the brown signs with yellow flowers which mark the ‘Buttercup Routes’; these indicate the most scenic driving routes for road trippers!
If you haven’t ever done a road trip before, then read our Beginner’s Guide to Road Trips (we promise, it’ll be out soon!), where we share advice on how to plan a route, apps to use, how to have offline maps and GPS, and mistakes to avoid when renting a car.