Iceland in detail



Bargaining is not an accepted practice. You are expected to pay advertised rates.

Dangers & Annoyances

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 ( 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.

Road Safety

  • 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 or call 1777.

Weather Conditions

  • Never underestimate the weather. Proper clothing and equipment are 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 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.

Geological Risks

  • 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.

Discount Cards

Discount Cards Students and seniors qualify for discounts on internal flights, some ferry and bus fares, tours and museum entry fees. You’ll need to show proof of student status or age.

Embassies & Consulates

A handful of countries have formal embassies in Reykjavík. Up-to-date details of embassies and consulates (both Icelandic representation abroad, and embassies in Iceland) can be found on the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (; click on 'Diplomatic Missions', then 'Foreign Missions').

Emergency & Important Numbers

To call from outside Iceland, dial your international access code, Iceland’s country code (354) then the seven-digit number. There are no area codes in Iceland.

Emergency services (police, ambulance, fire, search & rescue)112
Directory enquiries118;
Iceland country code354
International access code00
Weather902 0600 (press 1 after the introduction)
Road condition information1777

Entry & Exit Formalities

Iceland is one of 26 member countries of the Schengen Convention, under which the EU countries (all but Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, Ireland and the UK) plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have abolished checks at common borders.

To work or study in Iceland a permit is usually required – check with an Icelandic embassy or consulate in person or online.

For questions on visa extensions or visas and permits in general, contact the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration, Útlendingastofnun (

Customs Regulations

Iceland has quite strict import restrictions. For a full list of regulations, see

Alcohol duty-free allowances for travellers over 20 years of age:

  • 1L spirits and 750mL wine and 3L beer, or
  • 3L wine and 6L beer, or
  • 1L spirits and 6L beer, or
  • 1.5L wine and 12L beer, or
  • 18L beer


  • Visitors over 18 years can bring in 200 cigarettes or 250g of other tobacco products.
  • You can import up to 3kg of food (except raw eggs, some meat and dairy products), provided it’s not worth more than 25,000kr. This may help self-caterers to reduce costs.
  • To prevent contamination, recreational fishing and horse-riding clothes require a veterinarian’s certificate stating that they have been disinfected. Otherwise officials will charge you for disinfecting clothing when you arrive. It is prohibited to bring used horse-riding equipment (saddles, bridles etc). See
  • Many people bring their cars on the ferry from Europe. Special duty-waiver conditions apply for stays of up to one year.


Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days.

Further Information

The visa situation for Iceland is as follows:

  • Citizens of EU and Schengen countries – no visa required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Citizens or residents of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the USA – no visa required for tourist visits of up to 90 days.
  • Note that the total stay within the Schengen area must not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period.
  • Other countries – check online at


  • Hot-pots and Pools Strip and shower thoroughly before entering a hot-pot or pool.
  • Shoes Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
  • Babies Leave your pram and baby outside when visiting boutiques and cafes (yes, you read that correctly).
  • Smoking Don’t smoke in public places, bars or restaurants.
  • Tipping Don’t feel obliged to tip in restaurants – it’s not customary.
  • Birdwatching Don’t stand near the edges of bird cliffs – lie on your stomach so as to not spook the wildlife.
  • Off-roading Don't drive off-road.
  • Drones Don't use drones in national parks.
  • Closures Don't ignore signs that advise that roads or sites are closed – this is due to safety reasons, and you endanger yourself and others by ignoring them.

LGBT Travellers

Icelanders have a very open, accepting attitude towards homosexuality, though the gay scene is quite low-key, even in Reykjavík.


Although Iceland is a very safe place to travel, theft does occasionally happen, and illness and accidents are always a possibility. A travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is strongly recommended.

Always check the policy’s small print to see if it covers any potentially dangerous sporting activities you might be considering, such as hiking, diving, horse riding, skiing or snowmobiling.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Internet Access

Wi-fi is common in Iceland.

  • Most accommodation and eating venues across the country offer wi-fi, and often buses do, too. Access is usually free for guests/customers. You may need to ask staff for an access code.
  • Most of the N1 service stations have free wi-fi.
  • The easiest way to get online is to buy an Icelandic SIM card with a data package and pop it in your unlocked smartphone. Other devices can then access the internet via the phone.
  • To travel with your own wi-fi hot spot, check out Trawire ( for portable 4G modem rental with unlimited usage from US$9 per day (up to 10 laptops or mobile devices can be connected).
  • Some car- and campervan-hire companies offer portable modem devices as an optional extra.
  • Most Icelandic libraries have computer terminals for public internet access, even in small towns; there's often a small fee.
  • Tourist information centres often have public internet terminals, often free for brief usage.


Online maps are are indeed useful but it's better to obtain paper maps in Iceland, and don't blindly follow GPS mapping instructions (stories abound of online maps sending drivers over mountain passes in winter because it's technically the shortest distance, but definitely not the safest).

Good online maps can be found at and

In recent years Iceland has been busy building new roads and tunnels, and sealing gravel stretches. We recommend you purchase a recently updated country map – ensure it shows the rerouted Ring Road (rerouted in East Iceland in late 2017).

Tourist information centres have useful free maps of their town and region. They also stock the free tourist booklet Around Iceland, which has information and town plans.

Tourist info centres, petrol stations and bookshops all sell road atlases and maps.

Map publisher Ferðakort ( sells online and has a dedicated map department at Iðnú Bookshop in Reykjavík. Forlagið (Mál og Menning) is another reputable map publisher with a wide range; browse at its store in the capital or online ( – click on 'landakort' in the category Bækur & Kort).

Both companies have good touring maps of Iceland (1:500,000 or 1:600,000; approximately 2000kr), useful for general driving. Ferðakort's more in-depth 1:200,000 Road Atlas (4000kr) includes details of accommodation, museums and swimming pools.

Both companies also produce plenty of regional maps – Forlagið (Mál og Menning) has a series of eight regional maps (landshlutakort) at 1:200,000 (1800kr each). There are also 31 detailed topographic maps at a scale of 1:100,000, covering the entire country – ideal for hikers – plus there are themed maps (eg sagas, geology and birdwatching).

Serious hikers can request maps at local tourist information centres or at national park visitor centres, both of which often stock inexpensive maps detailing regional walks and hikes.


Iceland is an almost cashless society where credit cards reign supreme, even in the most rural reaches. PIN required for purchases. ATMs available in all towns.

Exchange Rates


For current exchange rates, see


  • As long as you’re carrying a valid card, you’ll need to withdraw only a limited amount of cash from ATMs.
  • Almost every town in Iceland has a bank with an ATM (hraðbanki), where you can withdraw cash using MasterCard, Visa, Maestro or Cirrus cards.
  • Diners Club and JCB cards connected to the Cirrus network have access to all ATMs.
  • You’ll also find ATMs at larger petrol stations and in shopping centres.

Credit & Debit Cards

  • Locals use plastic for even small purchases.
  • Contact your financial institution to make sure that your card is approved for overseas use – you will need a PIN for purchases.
  • Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotels. Amex is usually accepted, Diners Club less so.
  • You can pay for the Flybus from Keflavík International Airport to Reykjavík using plastic – handy if you’ve just arrived in the country.
  • If you intend to stay in rural farmhouse accommodation or visit isolated villages, it’s a good idea to carry enough cash to tide you over.

Essential: Credit Card PIN

Note: a four-digit PIN is required to make credit- or debit-card purchases, and is essential for operating unstaffed petrol pumps. Ensure you have a PIN-enabled card before you leave home.


The Icelandic unit of currency is the króna (plural krónur), written as kr or ISK.

  • Coins come in denominations of 1kr, 5kr, 10kr, 50kr and 100kr.
  • Notes come in denominations of 500kr, 1000kr, 2000kr, 5000kr and 10,000kr.
  • Some accommodation providers and tour operators quote their prices in euro to ward against currency fluctuations, but these must be paid in Icelandic currency.


  • Tipping As service and VAT taxes are always included in prices, tipping isn’t required in Iceland.
  • Restaurants Rounding up the bill at restaurants or leaving a small tip for good service is appreciated.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers cheques and banknotes can be exchanged for Icelandic currency at all major banks, but be aware that bank branches are only found in towns of a reasonable size.

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary throughout the year (some places are closed outside the high season). In general hours tend to be longer from June to August, and shorter from September to May. Standard opening hours include the following:

Banks 9am–4pm Monday to Friday

Cafe-bars 10am–1am Sunday to Thursday, 10am to between 3am and 6am Friday and Saturday

Cafes 10am–6pm

Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday

Petrol stations 8am–10pm or 11pm (automated pumps open 24 hours)

Post offices 9am–4pm or 4.30pm Monday to Friday (to 6pm in larger towns)

Restaurants 11.30am–2.30pm and 6–9pm or 10pm

Shops 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, 10am–4pm Saturday; some Sunday opening in Reykjavík malls and major shopping strips

Supermarkets 9am–9pm

Vínbúðin (government-run liquor stores) Variable; many outside Reykjavík only open for a couple of hours per day

More Information

Some regional attractions and tourist-oriented businesses in Iceland are only open for a short summer season, typically from June to August. Reykjavík attractions and businesses generally run year-round.

As tourism is growing at a rapid pace, some regional businesses are vague about opening and closing dates; increasingly, seasonal restaurants or guesthouses may open sometime in May, or even April, and stay open until the end of September or into October if demand warrants it.

With the growth of winter tourism, an increasing number of businesses (especially on the Ring Road) are feeling their way towards year-round trading. Note that many Icelandic hotels and guesthouses close from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day.

Check websites and/or Facebook pages of businesses, and ask around for advice.

Note that many museums outside the capital only have regular, listed opening hours during summer (June to August). From September to May they may advertise restricted opening hours (eg a couple of hours once a week), but many places are happy to open for individuals on request, with a little forewarning – make contact via museum websites or local tourist offices.


The Icelandic postal service ( is reliable and efficient, and rates are comparable to those in other Western European countries.

A letter to Europe costs 225kr; to places outside Europe it costs 285kr. A full list of rates, branches and opening hours is available online.

Public Holidays

Icelandic public holidays are usually an excuse for a family gathering or, when they occur on weekends, a reason to head to the countryside and go camping. If you’re planning to travel during holiday periods, particularly the Commerce Day long weekend, you should book mountain huts and transport well in advance.

National public holidays in Iceland:

New Year’s Day 1 January

Easter March or April; Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to Easter Monday (changes annually)

First Day of Summer First Thursday after 18 April

Labour Day 1 May

Ascension Day May or June (changes annually)

Whit Sunday and Whit Monday May or June (changes annually)

National Day 17 June

Commerce Day First Monday in August

Christmas 24 to 26 December

New Year’s Eve 31 December

School Holidays

The main school holiday runs from the first week of June to the third week of August; this is when most of the Edda and summer hotels open.

The winter school holiday is a two-week break over the Christmas period (around 21 December to 3 January). There is also a spring break of about a week, over the Easter period.


  • Smoking Illegal in enclosed public spaces, including in cafes, bars, clubs, restaurants and on public transport. Most accommodation is nonsmoking.

Taxes & Refunds

The standard rate of value-added tax (VAT) in Iceland is 24%. A reduced rate of 11% applies to certain products and services, including books, food and accommodation. VAT is included in quoted prices.

Tax-Free Shopping

Anyone who has a permanent address outside Iceland can claim a tax refund on purchases when they spend more than 6000kr at a single point of sale. Look for stores with a ‘tax-free shopping’ sign in the window, and ask for a form at the register.

Before you check in for your departing flight at Keflavík, go to the refund office at Arion Banki (located in the arrival hall opposite the car-rental counter) and present your completed tax-free form, passport, receipts/invoices and purchases. Make sure the goods are unused. Opening hours of the office match flight schedules.

If you're departing Iceland from Reykjavík airport or a harbour, go to the customs office before check-in.


  • Public payphones are extremely elusive in Iceland, but you may find them outside larger bus stations and petrol stations. Many accept credit cards as well as coins.
  • To make international calls from Iceland, first dial the international access code 00, then the country code, the area or city code, and the telephone number.
  • To phone Iceland from abroad, dial your country’s international access code, Iceland’s country code (354) and then the seven-digit phone number.
  • Iceland has no area codes.
  • Toll-free numbers begin with 800; mobile (cell) numbers start with 6, 7 or 8.
  • The online version of the phone book with good maps is at
  • Useful numbers: directory enquiries 118 (local), 1811 (international).

Tip: Directory Listings

Due to the unique way in which surnames are formed in Iceland (girls add the suffix -dóttir, daughter, to their father’s first name; boys add the suffix -son), telephone directories are alphabetised by first name.

Emergency Numbers

For police, ambulance, fire and rescue services in Iceland, dial 112.

Mobile Phones

Mobile (cell) coverage is widespread. Visitors with GSM phones can make roaming calls; purchase a local SIM card if you’re staying a while.

More Information

  • As of mid-2017, the EU has ended roaming surcharges for people who travel periodically within the EU. Under the 'roam like at home' regulations, residents of the EU and European Economic Area (EEA, which includes Iceland) can use mobile devices when travelling in the EU and EEA, paying the same prices as at home.
  • For non-EU folks, the cheapest and most practical way to make calls at local rates is to purchase an Icelandic SIM card and pop it into your own mobile phone (Tip: bring an old phone from home for that purpose).
  • Before leaving home, make sure that your phone isn’t locked to your home network.
  • Check your phone will work on Europe’s GSM 900/1800 network (US phones work on a different frequency).
  • Buy prepaid SIM cards at bookstores, grocery stores and petrol stations throughout the country, and also on Icelandair flights. Top-up credit is available from the same outlets.
  • Iceland telecom Síminn ( provides the greatest network coverage; Vodafone ( isn't far behind. Both have voice-and-data starter packs including local SIM cards; Síminn's costs 2900kr (including either 10GB data, or 5GB and 50 minutes of international talk time). Nova ( is a third player, and is cheap but lacks countrywide coverage.


The smallest denomination phonecard (for use in public telephones – which are very rare) costs 500kr, and can be bought from grocery stores and petrol stations. Low-cost international phonecards are also available in many shops and kiosks.


  • Iceland’s time zone is the same as GMT/UTC (London).
  • There is no daylight saving time.
  • From late October to late March, Iceland is on the same time as London, five hours ahead of New York and 11 hours behind Sydney.
  • In the northern hemisphere summer, Iceland is one hour behind London, four hours ahead of New York and 10 hours behind Sydney.
  • Iceland uses the 24-hour clock system, and all transport timetables and business hours are posted accordingly.


It may surprise you to learn that public toilets are newsworthy in Iceland – the shortage of them hits the headlines every so often, and stories of tourists doing their business in public, in inappropriate places (eg car parks and cemeteries), are guaranteed to madden the locals. Many Icelanders view the increase in human waste being found in nature as being directly linked to campers and campervan travellers who shun campgrounds, and this has led to new laws prohibiting such camping.

Reykjavík and larger towns have public restrooms, but natural sights often have too few facilities for the increasing number of visitors. Long queues can form at the small number of toilets available, especially when buses pull in. There are also long stretches of road with few facilities.

The authorities have built a few new restrooms along the Ring Road (look for blue roadside signs of a black door), but our advice: plan your trip well; stop at facilities wherever you see them (eg N1 gas stations); and be prepared to fork out a small fee (eg 200kr) for the use of some facilities. Do not do your business in public because you'd rather not pay. If there's an emergency, find an appropriate place (do not dig up fragile land) and do not leave your toilet paper behind.

Tourist Information


Official tourism sites for the country:

Visit Iceland (

Inspired by Iceland (

Each region also has its own useful site/s:

Reykjavík (

Southwest Iceland (;

West Iceland (

The Westfjords (

North Iceland (;

East Iceland (

Southeast Iceland (;

Smartphone Apps

Useful and practical smartphone apps include the vital 112 Iceland app for safe travel, Vedur (weather), and apps for bus companies such as Strætó and Reykjavík Excursions. Offline maps come in handy.

There are plenty more apps that cover all sorts of interests, from history and language to aurora-spotting, or walking tours of the capital. Reykjavík Grapevine's apps (Appy Hour, Appetite and Appening Today) deserve special mention for getting you to the good stuff in the capital.

Travel with Children

Iceland may not be equipped with adventure parks or high-profile attractions for children, but the whole country is an adventure with its wide-open spaces, wildlife and science projects brought to life. It's a fairly easy place to travel with kids, and parents will find it free of most urban dangers, but do keep toddlers away from those cliffs and unfenced waterfalls!

Dramatic scenery, an abundance of swimming pools and the friendliness of the locals help to keep kids happy, and they will probably love the bird colonies, waterfalls, volcanic areas and glaciers. A number of activities can keep them busy, such as short hikes, super-Jeep tours, horse riding, whale watching, boat rides and easy glacier walks (for the latter, the minimum age is around eight to 10 years).

Reykjavík is the most child-friendly place simply because it has the greatest variety of attractions and facilities. Distances can be long in the rest of the country, so you may want to limit yourselves to one or two regions.

Families might like to check out the Íslandskort barnanna (Children's Map of Iceland), aimed at young kids and published by Forlagið (Mál og Menning) with text in Icelandic and English.


  • Admission for kids to museums and swimming pools varies from half-price to free. The age at which children must pay adult fees varies (anywhere from 12 to 18 years).
  • On internal flights and tours with Air Iceland Connect (, children aged two to 11 years pay half-fare and infants under two fly free.
  • Most bus and tour companies offer a 50% reduction for children aged four to 11 years; Reykjavík Excursions ( tours are free for under 11s, and half-price for those aged 12 to 15.
  • International car-hire companies offer child seats for an extra cost (book in advance).
  • Changeable weather and frequent cold and rain may put you off camping with kids, but children aged two to 12 are usually charged half-price for camping, hostel, farmhouse and other accommodation. Under-twos usually stay for free.
  • Many places offer rooms accommodating families, including hostels, guesthouses and farmstays. Larger hotels often have cots (cribs), but you may not find these elsewhere.
  • Many restaurants in Reykjavík and larger towns offer discounted children's meals, and most have high chairs.
  • Toilets at museums and other public institutions may have dedicated baby-changing facilities; elsewhere, you’ll have to improvise.
  • Attitudes to breastfeeding in public are generally relaxed.
  • Formula, nappies (diapers) and other essentials are available everywhere.

Travellers with Disabilities

Iceland can be trickier than many places in northern Europe when it comes to access for travellers with disabilities.

For details on accessible facilities, contact the information centre for people with disabilities, Þekkingarmiðstöð Sjálfsbjargar.

A good resource is the website God Adgang (, a Danish initiative adopted in Iceland. Follow the instructions to find Icelandic service providers that have been assessed for the accessibility label.

Particularly good for tailor-made accessible trips around the country are All Iceland Tours ( and Iceland Unlimited ( Gray Line Iceland ( and Reykjavík Excursions ( run sightseeing and day tours from Reykjavík and will assist travellers with special needs, but they recommend you contact them in advance to discuss your requirements.

Reykjavík’s city buses are accessibe courtesy of ramps; elsewhere, however, public buses don’t have ramps or lifts.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from


A volunteering holiday is a worthwhile (and relatively inexpensive) way to get intimately involved with Iceland’s people and landscapes. As well as the options below, a stint at the Arctic Fox Center in the wilds of the Westfjords is also possible.

To prevent any exploitation of volunteers, the union-led website outlines the rights of workers.

Iceland Conservation Volunteers ( Iceland’s Environment Agency, known as Umhverfisstofnun (UST), recruits around 150 volunteers each summer for work on practical conservation projects around the country, which mainly create or maintain trails in Vatnajökull National Park. Places on its short-term programs (under four weeks) are usually arranged through its partner volunteer organisations, such as Working Abroad ( or Iceland-based SEEDS. Longer-term placements are also possible on Trail Teams that work together for nine weeks over summer; see the UST website for details.

SEEDS ( Iceland-based SEEDS organises work camps and volunteering holidays (generally two to three weeks in length), primarily focusing on nature and the environment (building trails, ecological research), but also construction or renovation of community buildings, or assistance at festivals and events.

Volunteer Abroad ( Offers an overview of possible projects in Iceland. Note that many of the projects listed are under the remit of Umhverfisstofnun, but arranged through various international volunteering organisations.

Workaway ( This site is set up to promote exchange between travellers/volunteers and families or organisations looking for help with a range of activities (from au pair work to farm assistance). It has dozens of Icelandic hosts looking for unpaid help in return for accommodation.

Worldwide Friends ( Iceland-based Worldwide Friends runs short-term work camps that largely support nature and the environment. There are also options for involvement in community projects, and art and cultural events.

WWOOF ( World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (also known as Willing Workers On Organic Farms) has a handful of farm properties in Iceland that accept wwoofers, although there is no national WWOOF organisation. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures The metric system is used.


The increasing flow of tourists to Iceland requires more workers. To be hired for in-demand summer seasonal work (eg housekeeping and hospitality in hotels, guesthouses and restaurants) you must be from the EU/EEA. If you're after a professional job, Icelandic language skills may be a prerequisite (exceptions exist in the growing computer programming and gaming industries, and in tourism).

For non-EU/EEA nationals, things aren't so easy – you must have a work permit, which most commonly requires sponsorship from a local company. Full details are outlined on the Directorate of Immigration's site:

One of the best places to start gathering information and contacts is the website of Vinnumálastofnun, the Icelandic Directorate of Labour ( It provides information on work in Iceland, plus links to agencies that may be able to help.