Iceland

309 k
Population
Krona
Currency
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. There is no need for an International Driving Permit.

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 hire 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. 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. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are high.

Many highland tracks only open for a short part of the summer. If you intend to drive to the highland, or the more remote regions of the country, check with the Icelandic Road Administration (Vegagerdin) - telephone +354 522 1000 - before you leave. Vegagerdin 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.

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 2015 there were 16 road deaths in Iceland. This equates to 4.92 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2015.

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 there are incidents each year of 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.

Terrorism

There is a low threat from terrorism, but 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 considered to be 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.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

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. Make sure next of kin details are entered into the back of your passport.

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 have a UK passport endorsed British Citizen, British National Overseas or British Overseas Territory Citizen you do not need a visa for stays of up to 3 months. Other types of British national will need a valid Schengen visa to enter Iceland. 

Iceland is a member country of the European Economic Area. British Citizens are entitled to live and work in Iceland with a residence/work permit, which you can get from the Directorate of Immigration, Útlendingastofnun, Skogarhlid 6, 105 Reykjavík. Telephone: 510-5400.

Passport validity

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

UK Emergency Travel Documents

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

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

If you’re visiting Iceland you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it 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. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

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

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: 

Icelandic Meteorological Office

Icelandic Civil Protection Authority - This also includes health advice.

Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration

Institute of Earth Science

UK Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre

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.