Iceland has a very low crime rate and in general any risks you’ll face while travelling here are related to road safety, the unpredictable weather and the unique geological conditions.
- A good place to learn about minimising your risks is Safetravel (www.safetravel.is). The website is an initiative of the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR).
- The website also provides information on ICE-SAR's 112 Iceland app for smartphones (useful in emergencies), and explains procedures for leaving a travel plan with ICE-SAR or a friend/contact.
- Unique hazards exist for drivers, such as livestock on the roads, single-lane bridges, blind rises and rough gravel roads.
- The numerous F roads are suitable only for 4WDs, often involve fording rivers, and are often only open for a few months each year, in summer.
- For road conditions, see www.road.is or call 1777.
- Never underestimate the weather. Proper clothing and equipment is essential.
- Visitors need to be prepared for inclement conditions year-round. The weather can change without warning.
- Hikers must obtain a reliable forecast before setting off – call 902 0600 for a recorded forecast (press 1 after the introduction) or visit www.vedur.is/english for a forecast in English. Alternatively, download the weather app of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO), called Vedur.
- Emergency huts are provided in places where travellers run the risk of getting caught in severe weather.
- If you’re driving in winter, carry food, water and blankets in your car.
- In winter, rental cars are fitted with snow or all-weather tyres.
- When hiking, river crossings can be dangerous, with glacial run-off transforming trickling streams into raging torrents on warm summer days.
- High winds can create vicious sandstorms in areas where there is loose volcanic sand.
- Hiking paths in coastal areas may only be accessible at low tide; seek local advice and obtain the relevant tide tables.
- In geothermal areas, stick to boardwalks or obviously solid ground. Avoid thin crusts of lighter-coloured soil around steaming fissures and mudpots.
- Be careful of the water in hot springs and mudpots – it often emerges from the ground at 100°C.
- In glacial areas beware of dangerous quicksand at the ends of glaciers, and never venture out onto the ice without crampons and ice axes (even then, watch out for crevasses).
- Snowfields may overlie fissures, sharp lava chunks or slippery slopes of scoria (volcanic slag).
- Always get local advice before hiking around live volcanoes.
- Only attempt isolated hiking and glacier ascents if you know what you’re doing. Talk to locals and/or employ a guide.
- It’s rare to find warning signs or fences in areas where accidents can occur, such as large waterfalls, glacier fronts, cliff edges, and beaches with large waves and strong currents. Use common sense, and supervise children well.