Foreign travel advice

Iceland

Summary

Approximately 298,000 British nationals visited Iceland through Keflavik airport in 2018. Most visits are trouble-free.

If you’re living in or moving to Iceland, visit our Living in Iceland guide in addition to this travel advice.

Iceland is volcanically and seismically active. You should monitor the Icelandic Met Office website for the latest updates and follow the advice of the local authorities. In case of an emergency, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland will send out text messages to anyone located in the vicinity.

Weather conditions can also be severe and change rapidly. In order to receive the latest updates and alerts, you should monitor the Safe Travel website, Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website and Icelandic Met Office reports.

If you need to contact the emergency services, call 112.

If you’re travelling around Iceland, download the 112 Iceland app and leave your travel plans with Safe Travel in case you need assistance from the Icelandic emergency services. Keep mobile phones switched on and always follow the advice of the local authorities.

Terrorist attacks in Iceland can’t be ruled out.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you’re travelling to Iceland to do business or provide services, see further guidance on providing services in Iceland after Brexit.

Safety and security

Crime

Petty theft and anti-social behaviour can occur, particularly around bars where people gather late at night in downtown Reykjavik. Take sensible precautions and avoid leaving valuables lying around.

Road travel

You can drive using a valid UK or other EU/EEA driving licence.

You will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some European countries as a visitor if there’s a no-deal Brexit. Check this guidance page for full information. You should also check guidance on driving in the EU after Brexit for information on other additional documents you may need to carry. If you’re living in Iceland, check the Living in Guide for information on requirements for residents.

Make sure you have the correct vehicle insurance cover before you arrive. Read the small print on car rental agreements and make sure you understand which damages are covered by the excess or damage waiver. Some car hire agreements limit the class of roads you are allowed to drive on. Costs for breakdown recovery, especially in remote areas, can be very high. Iceland can be affected by strong winds causing localised sand and ash storms. Though this extreme weather is infrequent, British tourists have had to pay significant sums of money to repair damage to hired cars caused by sand and ash.  

Distances between towns can be great, roads are narrow and winding, and speed limits are low. Driving takes longer than you think. Take particular care on gravel and loose surfaces and reduce your speed when driving on them. Driving conditions may be hazardous and roads impassable, especially in winter. Winter (but not studded) tyres are mandatory from around 1 November to 14 April; however, exact dates can vary from year to year. Keep dipped headlights on at all times. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are high.

Many highland tracks are only open for a short part of the summer. If you intend to drive to the highland, or to the more remote regions of the country, check with the Icelandic Road Administration (Vegagerdin) - telephone +354 522 1000 - before you leave. This provides up to date information on all roads in the country and will also advise you on weather conditions and off-road driving, which is strictly controlled.

Beware of rapidly changing weather patterns, including river levels, which can change dramatically even within the same day. Driving in the highlands should only be done in a 4x4/4WD vehicle. When crossing rivers in the highlands, you should drive slowly (5-10kph) and use 4WD.

Drink/drive laws are strictly enforced. Alcohol limits are far stricter than UK levels. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are severe.

In 2017 there were 16 road deaths in Iceland. This equates to 4.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2017.

See the AA guide on driving in Iceland.

Accommodation

Hotels in Iceland are often fully booked for the summer period. If you visit on flight only tickets make sure all your accommodation has been reserved before departure. The British Embassy can’t help you find accommodation.

Hiking and adventure tourism

Hiking, mountaineering and other adventure sports are increasingly popular activities in Iceland. Unfortunately each year there are incidents with visitors getting into difficulty and needing the help of the emergency services.

Follow the guidance of the Icelandic emergency services as detailed on the Safe Travel website. Leave travel plans and contact details with your hotel, or directly on the safe travel website, and take a mobile phone with you.

When hiking, choose a trail suited for you and your level of experience. Conditions in Iceland will be different to what you’re used to.

Take sufficient food, equipment, clothing and emergency rations, plus an appropriate means of communication, for the worst-case scenario. A map, compass, GPS and telecommunication equipment should always be used when travelling outside urban areas.

Going too close to the ocean, cliff edges and hot springs is a common cause for accidents in Iceland.

Terrorism

Attacks in Iceland can’t be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

.

Local laws and customs

Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Possession of even small quantities or soft drugs can lead to heavy fines and/or imprisonment. Using or importing khat/qat is prohibited in Iceland.

Smoking in restaurants, bars, public transport and public buildings is prohibited. Anyone caught smoking will be asked to leave the premises and may be fined.

You don’t have to carry your passport with you, but it is sensible to keep some form of ID on you. The British Embassy in Reykjavik deals with a significant - and increasing - number of lost passports by British citizens each year. You should keep your passport somewhere safe at all times and make sure next of kin details are entered into the back of your passport.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people enjoy progressive rights in Iceland. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010 and same-sex couples have had equal access to adoption and IVF treatment since 2006. Reykjavík has a visible gay scene, with at least one gay bar in the downtown area. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Whale products are available in Iceland but tourists should be aware that its importation into the UK or EU is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Any importation of whale products to the UK will result in seizure of the goods, possibly a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a custodial sentence.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

If you hold a British Citizen passport, you don’t need a visa to enter Iceland. If you’re planning to stay longer than 3 months, see our Living in Iceland guide and contact the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration, Útlendingastofnun, Skogarhlid 6, 105 Reykjavík (tel: 510-5400) if you have further questions.

The rules for travelling or working in Europe will change if there’s a no-deal Brexit, but you should not need a visa for short trips.

The European Commission has proposed that British Citizens would be able to visit countries in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa.

If you’re travelling to Iceland, previous visits to the Schengen area within the 180 days before your date of travel would count against the 90-day limit, but trips to EU countries outside the Schengen area (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) would not. The 90-day visa-free period would not entitle you to work - most countries will require a visa and work permit. You may also need to get a visa before you travel if you’re planning to stay longer than 90 days, or your visit would take you over the 90 days in 180 days limit. You should check with the Icelandic Embassy what type of visa, if any, you will need.

After Brexit, on arrival in the Schengen area you may be asked to confirm that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your stay. As non-EEA nationals, different border control checks will apply, and you may also be asked to show a return or onward ticket. UK nationals would not have an ongoing right to use the separate lanes provided for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

The rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change if there’s a no-deal Brexit. If your adult passport was issued over 9 years ago, you may be affected. You should use this tool to check your passport is still valid for your trip before booking travel.

Adult and child passports should have at least 6 months’ validity remaining on your date of travel. If you renewed your passport early, extra months would have been added to your new passport. Any extra months on an adult passport will not count towards the validity requirement, so some passport holders will need to have more than 6 months remaining in order to travel.

You can check your passport here.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Iceland.

Health

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Access to healthcare for British nationals travelling or living in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will change if there’s a no-deal Brexit. More information about healthcare for UK nationals living in and visiting Iceland is available on the NHS website.

You should still get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. UK-issued EHICs remain valid, but this will change if there’s no deal.

The EHIC entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Icelandic nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Whether you’re travelling before or after Brexit, it is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs. The existing EHIC arrangements are not an alternative to travel insurance, as some health-related costs, including for medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment, are not covered. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

If you’re living in Iceland, you can also find more information on healthcare for residents in our Living In Iceland guide.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately. 

Natural disasters

Iceland is volcanically and seismically active.

A large volcanic eruption took place in the area around the Bárðarbunga volcano on the Vatnajökull glacier in the east of Iceland in August 2014. Eyjafjallajokull and Grimsvötn volcanoes erupted in 2010 and 2011 respectively causing disruption to Icelandic and European airspace.

Further volcanic eruptions are possible and there is the potential for sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases to be emitted during eruptions.

  • If you have existing respiratory conditions, take particular care and monitor the advice of the Icelandic authorities.

Up to date information on seismic activity and the effects of volcanic eruptions in Iceland can be found on the following websites: 

Money

Iceland is expensive. Credit cards are widely used. Icelandic Kronur are available through banks and cash machines in Iceland although some UK banks require advance notice before allowing debit or credit cards to be used in Iceland.

Arctic travel

Large numbers of British nationals travel successfully and safely in and around the Arctic each year. The Arctic is, however, a vast region, comprising the northerly areas of Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Alaska (United States). In addition to reading the specific travel advice for each of these countries, prospective visitors to the Arctic should also consider carefully the potential remoteness of certain destinations from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. Independent travellers in particular are advised to develop contingency arrangements for emergency back-up.

The most popular way of visiting the Arctic is by ship. As some areas of the Arctic -specifically the more northerly and remote regions - can be uncharted and ice-covered, you should check the previous operational experience of cruise and other operators offering travel in the region. You should also consider the on-board medical facilities of cruise ships and talk to cruise operators as appropriate, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

The eight Arctic States take their international search and rescue obligations very seriously, and have recently signed a binding agreement on search and rescue co-operation in the Arctic. However, in the highest latitude regions of the Arctic, cruise ships may be operating in relative isolation from other vessels and/or inhabited areas. You should be aware that in these regions, search and rescue response will often need to be despatched from many hundreds of miles away, and assistance to stranded vessels may take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Search and rescue assets are also likely to offer only basic transport and basic medical care, and are unlikely to be capable of advanced life-support. Responsible cruise operators should happily provide additional information relevant to the circumstances of the cruise they are offering, and address any concerns you may have.

Consular assistance and support to British nationals in the Arctic will be affected by the capacity of national and local authorities. You should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment or potential repatriation.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.