Iceland travel guide
A small dot in the Atlantic between Scandinavia and America, Iceland has built an impressive tourist industry from its abundant natural wonders. Even financial collapse during the global economic crisis failed to hold back “the land of fire and ice” for long, and visitors are once again flocking to its wilderness parks and dramatic landscapes.
The fire in question, of course, comes from Iceland’s abundant volcanoes, which burst periodically into life, with sometimes costly consequences for European aviation. Elemental forces bubble just below the surface across the island, heating the water in Iceland’s taps and swimming pools, and creating otherworldly landscapes of twisted lava and rainbow-coloured mineral sands.
Volcanic tourism is big news, with trips to bubbling fumaroles, live lava flows and perhaps the world’s most reliable geyser at Geysir, which blows its top every four to eight minutes. Thermal springs surface everywhere, providing hot spots on the nation’s beaches and heating the waters of the iconic Blue Lagoon, a surreal open-air swimming pool surrounded by a landscape of tortured black lava.
Ice is Iceland’s other big draw (the clue is in the name) – more specifically, the dramatic glaciers which slice down towards the coast, calving icebergs into eerie lagoons. Glacier tours, by snowmobile, on foot, or on the back of a tiny Icelandic pony, are an integral part of the Iceland experience. In places, you can even tick off a glacier and a volcano on a single trip.
What lures many people back to Iceland a second or third time is the quirky nature of the Icelandic people. Eccentric, creative and fiercely independent, the Icelanders are simply a lot of fun to be around, particularly during the endless days of summer, when the runtur bar crawl rages through the streets of Reykjavík, the island’s miniature capital city.
So come trek a lava-field, gaze on a glacier, spot a whale or a puffin, sample one of Europe’s strangest national cuisines, and brave the snows in winter to glimpse the northern lights in their full glory, undimmed by light pollution in the least densely populated nation in Europe.
103,000 sq km (39,769 sq miles).
334,252 (UN estimate 2016).
3.3 per sq km.
President Gudni Jóhannesson since 2016.
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir since 2017.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Iceland on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commercial flights to and from Iceland remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Iceland.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities. See information above in the ‘When you’re abroad’ section.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
When you’re abroad
You should liaise closely with your travel company or airline to ensure you are aware of any changes to schedules. Plan for the risks of disruption and local domestic measures affecting your travel when arranging your return to the UK.
If you will be returning to the UK, prepare for your return journey by pre-booking your arrival tests where required and completing the passenger locator form.
If you require a pre-departure test for travel to the UK you can request a booking online for an asymptomatic C-19 PCR test. The process differs if you are within or outside the greater Reykjavik area.
Payment is taken at the time of booking. You should request the certificate to be in English. You can have it sent electronically or printed for pick up at the health centre. You will be sent a bar code on your mobile phone which you will need to present on day of test. Tests will take place at Sudurlandsbraut 34, Reykjavik if applying in the greater Reykjavik area. You should receive you results within 24hrs of taking the test. The total cost is approx ISK 14,000 (£80) for those registered in the Icelandic health system or approx ISK 24,000 (£138) for those not registered in the Icelandic health system. This includes cost of clinic, test and certificate.
Travel in Iceland
There are currently no restrictions on travel within Iceland. However, you should regularly monitor government announcements for any rapid changes on the Government of Iceland website.
Hotels and private rentals are open.
You will be expected to follow any COVID-19 related requirements that are displayed in hotels, guesthouses, car rentals and other tourism companies throughout the country.
Public spaces and services
Restrictions include social distancing and bans on gatherings over certain numbers.
Detailed and up to date information on the full range of restrictions is at Covid.is (available in English).
You should also regularly monitor government announcements for any rapid changes at www.government.is/.
Healthcare in Iceland
For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
If you think you have COVID-19 or cold- like symptoms during your visit to Iceland then you must call the Health line on +354 544 4113 before going to a hospital or clinic.
In Iceland, examinations for notifiable diseases (including COVID-19) and their treatment is of no cost to the patient. But this does not apply to an elective PCR-test to diagnose COVID-19.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Iceland.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Iceland
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of Iceland announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
Iceland’s national vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. British nationals resident in Iceland are eligible for vaccination, as per their prioritisation criteria. The Icelandic authorities have issued guidance on vaccine rollout in Iceland. You should look at the Priority groups and Vaccine organization sections to find out how you will get the vaccine.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in Iceland, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
If you receive your COVID-19 vaccination in Iceland, you can get an EU Digital COVID Certificate from the national authorities. The Certificate proves that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. It will help facilitate your travel within the EU and, in some countries, you can use it to demonstrate your COVID-19 status to businesses and other organisations. For further information visit the European Commission’s EU Digital COVID Certificate page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Full information on the COVID 19 situation in Iceland, their requirements and advice is available in English at Covid.is.
Help and support
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
If you need urgent consular assistance, you can contact the British Embassy on +354 550 5100.
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.
In 2019 there were 6 road deaths in the Iceland (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 1.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
Licences and documents
You can drive using a valid UK or other EU/EEA driving licence.
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.
See the AA guide on driving in Iceland.
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.
Attacks in Iceland can’t be ruled out.
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.
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.
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.
If you are travelling to Iceland for work, read the guidance on visas and permits as the rules have changed since 1 January 2021.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, non-essential travel by British citizens from the UK/other non EU/EEA country to Iceland is only permitted if you:
- are resident in Iceland, or
- can adequately demonstrate you have either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or previously recovered from COVID-19 infection
All travellers must pre-register before arrival.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status
If you have had a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine, the certificate will only be valid for travel to Iceland on or after the 15th day since your second vaccination (or from the single dose of the Janssen / Johnson and Johnson vaccine). From 26 July you will also need to present a negative PCR or antigen (rapid) test that is no more than 72 hours old before departing to Iceland.
If Border Officials have doubts over your certificate, you will be tested and face quarantine. You may be put in to a managed quarantine facility if infected with a virus strain classed as particularly high risk for contagion or morbidity.
You will be asked to provide proof of vaccination which must contain the specific COVID information Iceland requires.
Iceland will accept the UK’s solutions to demonstrate your COVID vaccination status. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
Children born in 2005 or later and travelling with those who are fully vaccinated or exempt from testing and quarantine will also be exempt.
Certificates of previous infection must be a PCR test or antibody test by ELISA blood serum test and meet Iceland’s criteria.
Entry without a certificate of vaccination or previous infection
If you do not have an acceptable certificate of vaccination or of previous infection, and are not a resident of Iceland, there are only a very limited number of essential reasons for which you will be given permission to travel.
When flying into Iceland without a certificate of vaccination or previous infection you must follow these steps:
- present a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of your time of departure to Iceland (or get a ISK 100,000 fine for residents or a refusal of entry for visitors)
- take 2 COVID-19 tests, one on arrival and another 5 to 6 days later,
- quarantine between tests, until you have the results
Full guidance can be found in English on the Iceland website.
If you are a resident, then you are strongly advised to have a C-122 residence certificate with you at the airport to avoid issues at check-in.
Children who are 16 years or older need to undergo testing at the border, quarantine for 5 days and have a second test as above unless they are fully vaccinated.
Children born in 2005 or later do not need to have a PCR test at the border and are exempt from the obligation to present a negative PCR certificate on arrival. If you are travelling with a child, and need to be quarantined, so will the child. The child will be released from quarantine if your second test on day 5-6 is negative. Children travelling alone do not need to quarantine.
Travel from high risk countries
Iceland defines certain countries as high risk for travel. You will be prohibited from entering Iceland if you are travelling from, or have recently been in, these countries and do not have an acceptable certificate of vaccination or of previous infection.
If you are resident in Iceland, or have the permission of the Icelandic Authorities to travel from, or have in the previous 14 days stayed in, these areas you may need to stay in managed quarantine facilities if you do not have a suitable place to self-isolate in Iceland. These measures will significantly affect what you can and cannot do on arrival. If you have booked a trip to Iceland you should contact your tour operator and travel insurer about what this means for you and your plans.
Upon arrival you will be encouraged to sign up to the contact tracing app Rakning C-19. Further information, including how to download it, data usage, privacy and scope is available on the Rakning C-19 website.
Testing / screening on arrival
If you test positive on arrival you will be required to enter self-isolation (at your hotel or government-provided accommodation) unless further tests determine the infection is inactive.
You may also need to be tested again or enter self-isolation if you are exposed to a possible infection during your trip eg during the flight to Iceland.
Regular entry requirements
The rules for travelling or working in European countries changed on 1 January 2021:
you can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel as a tourist, to visit family or friends, to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events, or for short-term studies or training.
if you are travelling to Iceland and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.
to stay longer, to work or study, for business travel or for other reasons, you will need to meet the Icelandic entry requirements. Check with the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration what type of visa and/or work permit you may need.
if you stay in Iceland with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit
Any time you spent in Iceland or other Schengen countries before 1 January 2021 does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.
At Icelandic border control, you may need to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped on entry and exit. You may also need to:
- show a return or onward ticket
- show you have enough money for your stay
If you are a British resident in Iceland, you are advised to obtain a letter confirming your status from Registers Iceland. Our Living in Guide contains more information.
Check your passport is valid for travel before you book your trip, and renew your passport if you do not have enough time left on it.
You must have at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland).
If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Iceland.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Iceland on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Iceland.
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).
You should take out appropriate travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs.
From 1 January 2021, most people cannot use a UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to get medical treatment in Iceland. Check whether your card if valid.
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.
Iceland is volcanically and seismically active.
A fissure eruption occurred in March 2021 at Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes Penninsula and is still active. Larger volcanic eruptions took place in the area around the Bárðarbunga volcano on the Vatnajökull glacier in the east of Iceland in August 2014, and Eyjafjallajokull volcano in the south of Iceland in 2010 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 as well as causing glacial floods.
- If you have existing respiratory conditions, take particular care, monitor emissions and follow the advice of the Icelandic authorities.
- If you plan to visit the Geldingadalur eruption site please note its remote location. You can only reach the site via a hiking trail over rugged terrain that can take several hours. Good hiking shoes, warm clothing and wind and waterproof outerwear is essential. Beware gas emissions levels and follow advice of emergency services on site.
There has been seismic activity in the South West and North of Iceland. Tremors can be numerous but usually don’t cause damage. However, they can cause rock falls and avalanches in the mountain areas. You should take care when driving and hiking in these areas. Follow the safety 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:
- Icelandic Meteorological Office
- Icelandic Civil Protection and Emergency Management Authority - This also includes health advice.
- Safe Travel Iceland
- Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration
- Institute of Earth Science
- UK Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre
- Icelandic Volcanoes
- Icelandic National Broadcasting Service
You should check the latest information as you plan your trip.
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.
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.
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, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (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.
The FCDO 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 FCDO 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 FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
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.