Top events in Iceland

September
29

First held in 2004, this festival has shone a spotlight on international filmmaking. Directors, cinematographers and producers are on hand to talk...

November
02

This annual music festival brings together emerging musical talent and international acts. With performances, DJ sets and aftershow parties often...

December
31

Icelanders know how to have fun and just before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, spectacular fireworks light up the sky. Popular...

Icebergs in southern Iceland
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Icebergs in southern Iceland

© 123rf.com / Mary Lane

Iceland Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

103,000km² (39,769mi²).

Population

341,243 (2020).

Population density

3 per sq km.

Capital

Reykjavík.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Gudni Jóhannesson since 2016.

Head of government

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir since 2017.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

A country of extreme geological contrasts, Iceland has built up an impressive tourism sector with over 2 million visitors a year flocking to see its moss-covered lava fields, glacier-fed ice caves, rock-ribbed coast and ash-spouting volcanos.

Widely known as "the land of fire and ice", Iceland is crammed with magnificent scenery that delights and awes at every turn. The word fire in the phrase refers to Iceland's abundant volcanoes, which burst into life periodically. Elemental forces bubble just below the surface across the country, and clever Icelanders have long been accessing geothermal energy to generate electricity, heat tap water and warm up tomato greenhouses.

Volcanic tourism is also lucrative, with tourists taking trips to see bubbling fumaroles and soak in thermal springs. The two famous examples of the latter are the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon near Reykjavík; both are geothermal spas that aim to soothe your aches and pains.

Ice is Iceland's other big draw (the clue is in the name) – more specifically, the dramatic glaciers that slice down towards the coast, calving icebergs into serene lagoons. About 11% of the country is covered in glaciers, with Vatnajökull being the largest and extending some 8,400km² (3,243mi²) in the southeast with thick layers of snow blanketing many high, majestic mountain ridges. Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur (2,119m or 6,592ft) can also be found here. Guided tours to glaciers, ice caves and frozen waterfalls are widely available.

Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city, is where most travellers start their journey. This fun and vibrant city, with its many museums, marine excursions, and colourful nightlife, is certainly a worthy diversion.

So come to experience walking in a lava cave, climb a glacier, spot a whale, or catch the colourful northern lights in their full glory, undimmed by light pollution in the least densely populated nation in Europe. No matter what you do, a holiday in Iceland is an experience you'll remember for a lifetime.

Travel Advice

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.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Iceland.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. 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.

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.

Accommodation

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

All domestic restrictions have been removed on 25 February 2022.

You should 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.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further Information

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.

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

In 2020 there were 8 road deaths in Iceland (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 2.2 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2020.

In 2020 there were 727 road traffic accidents with injuries, 131 of them serious. In total there were 5504 registered road traffic accidents in Iceland (source: Department of Transport Iceland).

If you are planning to drive in Iceland, see information on Driving Abroad.

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. Make sure that the car you hire is suitable for your travel in Iceland and it has all the necessities and equipment you might need when driving on the highland roads and outside of the capital area. It’s extremely important that the car has the right tyres, especially in the winter months. 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.

Driving a British car abroad

You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. From 28 September 2021 UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the GOV.UK Displaying number plates website for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.

Road safety 

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; exact dates can vary from year to year. Keep dipped headlights on at all times. This is a legal requirement and you could be fined if you don’t. 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.

Driving regulations

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.

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.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Iceland, attacks 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.

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.

This page has information on travelling to Iceland.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Iceland set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Iceland’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

All travellers

There are no COVID-19 related travel restrictions for Iceland.

If you’re fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for Iceland are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

Proof of vaccination status

You don’t need to provide proof of your vaccination status for entry to Iceland.

If you’re not fully vaccinated

Entry requirements for Iceland are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year

Entry requirements for Iceland are the same for all travellers, regardless of your COVID-19 recovery status.

Children and young people

There are no specific entry requirements for children and young people.

If you’re transiting through Iceland

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.

Check with your airline before departing.

Exemptions

There are no exemptions to Iceland’s entry requirements.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

Passport validity

If you are planning to travel to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

You must check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

Visas

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 are travelling to Iceland for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.

If you stay in Iceland with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

Passport stamping

Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Iceland as a visitor. Border guards will use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, border guards will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.

You can show evidence of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area, and ask the border guards to add this date and location in your passport. Examples of acceptable evidence include boarding passes and tickets.

You may also need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • show you have enough money for your stay

If you are resident in Iceland, read our Living in Iceland guide for passport stamping information.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

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

Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

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).

Healthcare

You should take out appropriate travel insurance that includes cover for emergency medical treatment and associated costs.

Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

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 small volcanic fissure eruption occurred in Meradalir on the Reykjanes peninsula in August 2022.

A fissure eruption also occurred close by in March 2021 at Geldingadalur on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Larger volcanic eruptions also 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. You should monitor alerts from the Icelandic Met Office and monitor the Almannavenir Facebook page and Twitter: @almannavarnir for the latest updates.

  • If you plan to visit the Reykjanes eruptions site please note the location is remote and the area is still seismically active. You can only reach the site via a hiking trail over rugged terrain that can take several hours each way. Make sure you have the right equipment. Good hiking shoes, warm clothing and wind and waterproof outerwear is essential.

  • Beware of gas emissions levels and take particular care if you have existing respiratory conditions. Monitor emissions and follow advice of the Icelandic Authorities.

  • DO NOT walk on lava from these eruptions. It is still very hot and fragile and dangerous to walk on.

  • Show caution in and around mountains/hills/slopes due to danger of rock fall and landslides.

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: 

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.

Travel safety

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.

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, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.’

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.