Is Iceland Open for Travel? | Latest Info on COVID-19 in Iceland

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Svanhildur Sif Halldórsdóttir

Are the Icelandic borders open for visitors? Do I need to go into quarantine when I visit Iceland? What is Iceland doing to combat COVID-19? Read on for the latest information on COVID-19 in Iceland.

Table of Contents

Latest Travel Restrictions in Iceland

A white van in front of a sunset in Iceland
Photo: Photo Tim Trad via Unsplash

Iceland’s borders are open for visitors from the Schengen area, a zone of 26 European countries which have abolished their internal borders to allow free travel. However, there are strict restrictions regarding testing and quarantine for those planning to visit. 

Those looking to travel to Iceland from the US or UK or other countries outside the Schengen area will have to wait. However, the Icelandic government is planning on opening the borders to those outside Schengen who can present a certificate that they’ve been fully vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies. The changes are scheduled to take place on April 6th.

You can read more about vaccination and antibody certificates here:

Currently, all those wanting to visit Iceland need to pre-register at the Official COVID-19 information site.

Kirkjufell Mountain on Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

All those visiting now need to present a negative PCR test taken in the last 72 hours before boarding the aircraft or ship, or a certificate stating that they have been fully vaccinated or have had a previous COVID-19 infection.

They will then need to take two COVID-19 screening tests, separated by a 5-day quarantine. The first one will be done at the border upon arrival, the second one at a health care facility near the preferred quarantine location.

Getting Tested in Iceland for COVID-19

The first tests are being carried out at the main ports of entry to Iceland: Keflavík International Airport, Reykjavík Domestic Airport, Akureyri Airport, and the town of Seyðisfjörður. 

Icelandic horses grazing in the countrysiden the
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

The Primary Health Care of the Capital Area, deCODE genetics, and the Landspítali University Hospital’s department of biological and viral sciences perform the tests. Ten stations have been set up at Keflavík Airport which will be able to service 200 people an hour. 

All those who travel to Iceland via Keflavík International Airport must have on a face mask during the flight and while in the airport.  

Both tests are free of charge. The first takes place upon your arrival to the port of entry, and the second can be performed at health clinics around Iceland. You will be informed by text or email as to the address and time of your second appointment.

How to Quarantine in Iceland

A man sitting on a ledge in the Icelandic Highlands.
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

After entering Iceland, travellers must go straight into quarantine and remain there until getting their second test results back. Here you can find a list of accommodations that welcome guests for quarantine.

It should be noted that those who break quarantine can face a fine of ISK 150,000-250,000 ($1,100-1,800/€900-1,500), depending on the severity of the violation.

What are you allowed to do during a quarantine:

  • Stay in your room as much as possible but you may leave to seek necessary health care services, after consulting with a primary care clinic (see a list of health clinics below).
  • You may not have direct contact with a person who is not part of your travelling party.
  • You are allowed to go for walks, but you must keep at least 2-metres between you and other pedestrians. However, you may not stop in common areas of your accommodation nor visit national monuments, museums or other popular tourist destinations and public outdoor areas.
  • You may not go out for supplies, i.e. to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, banks, etc. Accommodations welcoming guests during quarantine periods will supply you with food and other necessities.
  • You may not visit restaurants, bars, swimming pools, theatres, fitness centers, cinemas, shopping malls, or other places where people gather.
  • You may not use public transport such as city buses and domestic flights. The use of taxis, rental cars and private vehicles is permitted as well as the use of airport transport buses after you arrive in the country.
  • If you have a car at your disposal, you are allowed to go on short drives. However, you are not allowed to go to crowded tourist destinations, use public toilets, nor interact with others in close proximity, e.g. at drive-thru restaurants. Driving long distances is not permitted except upon arrival when it may be necessary in order to reach your quarantine location.
A group of puffins nesting on an Icelandic cliffside.
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

Where to get Tested for COVID-19 in Iceland

After you’ve been tested at the border, you can make a scheduled visit to a health clinics for the second test. Appointments are available between 8 AM and 4 PM. Traveo is more than happy to help our customers make an appointment. Here is a list of health clinics that offer COVID-19 tests:

  • Reykjanes Peninsula: HSS, Skólavegur 6, 230 Reykjanesbæ. Phone: 4220500.
  • Selfoss, South-West Iceland: HSU, by Árvegur, 800 Selfoss. Phone: 4322000.
  • Vestmannaeyjar, South Iceland: HSU, Sólhlíð 10, 900 Vestmannaeyjar. Phone: 4322500.
  • Höfn in Hornafjörður, South-East Iceland: HSU, Víkurbraut 26-31, 780 Höfn. Phone: 4708600.
  • Egilsstaðir, East Iceland: HSA, Laugarás 17-19, 700 Egilsstaðir. Phone: 4703000.
  • Akureyri, North Iceland: HSN, Hafnarstræti 99, 600 Akureyri. Phone: 4324600.
  • Ísafjörður, Westfjords: HVEST, Torfnes, 400 Ísafjörður. Phone: 4504500.
  • Borgarnes, West-Iceland: HVE, Borgarbraut 65, 310 Borgarnes. Phone: 4321430.
  • Stykkishólmur, Snæfellsnes Peninsula: HVE, Austurgata 7, 340 Stykkishólmur. Phone: 4321200.
  • Reykjavík: Suðurlandsbraut 34, 108 Reykjavík, ground floor. Open 10 AM – 3 PM Monday-Friday.

Visitors who test positive for the coronavirus will receive a call from the COVID out-patient ward of the National Hospital. They will have to go into isolation at a specialised isolation centre until further tests can be performed.

How to Download the COVID-19 Tracking App

A person taking a photo of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Southeast Iceland
Photo: John Salvino on Unsplash

In addition to tests at Keflavík Airport, travellers to Iceland are encouraged to install the automated tracing app, Rakning C-19, created by the Department of Civil Protection’s Contact Tracing Team. 

The app is available for Android and iOS devices and in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, English, and Polish. The device tracks the user’s GPS location to let them know quickly if they have been in contact with an infected person. 

It is also through this app where visitors will get their results from their COVID-test. Iceland’s strong data protection law makes sure that the information gathered is only available to the Contact Tracing Team with the user’s consent.

Visiting Iceland after May 1st, 2021

On April 6th, 2021, Iceland’s borders will open up to those outside the Schengen area who have been fully vaccinated. On May 1st, a new colour-code system will be implemented for countries within Schengen, based on the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the preceding 14 days.

Sunset over Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Photo: Benjamin Rascoe via Unsplash

Right now, everyone visiting will need to present a negative PCR test and take two COVID-19 tests separated by a 5-6 day quarantine. With the new system, travellers from orange and green countries will be able to skip the quarantine.

Countries will be separated into three categories: red, orange, and green. Those arriving on or after the 1st of May from either green or orange countries can present a negative PCR Covid-test from their home country and then only take a second test at the airport. This means that they can skip the 5-6 days quarantine and go and explore Iceland’s beautiful nature shortly after they arrive.

Katla Ice Cave tour Iceland
Photo: Katla Ice Cave & Private Black Sand Beach | Available All Year Round

Travellers are still urged to uphold the 2-metre rule, wash their hands, wear masks, and download the COVID-19 tracking app.

Countries with new cases under 25 per 100,000 and overall positive cases of 4% or less will receive the colour green. Orange countries are those with new cases of 50/100.000 and over 4% overall or 25-250/100.000 but with percentages under 4%. Countries with a higher rate of cases will be given the colour red. The list of countries and their colour code will be announced closer to the date.

COVID-19 Precautions in Iceland

Visitors are encouraged to follow simple precautionary guidelines when travelling in Iceland. This means frequent hand-washing and social distancing — keeping at least 2 metres (6 ft) between you and other people. That shouldn’t be too hard in one of the least densely populated countries of the world.

Hiking in the Icelandic Highlands
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

Tour companies, museums, shops, and restaurants are offering disinfectant and/or gloves to its customers, and are making sure to clean surfaces thoroughly after each client. Masks are now mandatory in most shops and pharmacies as well as on public transportation.

A ban on social gatherings of over 10 people is in place. 

In the capital area, all bars, pubs, and nightclubs are closed. Restaurants can serve up to 20 people and are allowed to stay open until 10 PM each night.

Geosea geothermal sea baths husavik
Photo: Admission to GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths in Húsavík

Swimming pools are also closed. This includes privately owned spas, such as the Mývatn Nature Baths and The Blue Lagoon. It is unknown when the latter will reopen as there is a volcanic eruption happening nearby (hey, this is the land of fire and ice after all).

Many tour companies and hotels are offering discounts or other deals to alleviate the financial costs caused by COVID-19 restrictions. 

How Iceland is Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic

Helicopter tour over the mountain tops surrounding Reykjavik
Photo: Helicopter tour in Reykjavik to the Summit of Mount Esja

From the very first stages of the outbreak, Iceland looked well equipped to handle COVID-19 domestically. In late January 2020, the Department of Civil Protection declared an uncertainty phase, during which time they began target testing. As such, an entire month of screening went ahead before the first patient was even identified.

In March 2020, the government decided to ban large public gatherings, though restrained from implementing any stricter lockdown procedures. Instead, they remained focused on testing and tracking infections. Those who tested positive and those with whom they had been in contact were quarantined. 

This has been the approach Iceland has had for over a year now; test, trace and isolate. With it, the country has been spared strict lockdown procedures, and periodically, life returns to normal.

Trusting the Science

A scientist with a COVID-19 test
Photo: Mufid Majnun via Unsplash

To combat the spread of the virus, the Directorate of Health enlisted the help of the Reykjavík-based biopharmaceutical company, deCODE genetics. Together, they performed nation-wide testing, providing all who signed up with a COVID test, not just those showing symptoms. 

The result yielded new leads for scientists regarding how the virus behaves, making it easier to track and isolate infected people. 

Trusting science seems to be the key to Iceland’s success. The scientists in Iceland have been the ones making up the rules, not politicians. In an interview with the BBC, Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated:

I think it’s important for a politician to realise what is politics and what needs to be solved by scientific means. It’s my firm belief that we need to listen more to the experts.

Did Iceland Beat COVID-19?

3 hour Glacier hike in Skaftafell
Photo: 3-Hour Glacier Hike in Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Even with thorough testing and tracing, there have been instances where the virus has managed to spread. This is because the borders of Iceland have remained partly open for countries within the Schengen area. Though there have been restrictions at the borders, the virus has, on occasion, found a way inside the country.

In May of 2020, people started to declare Iceland COVID-free. However, this achievement lasted only a short while when, later that summer, two infected tourists broke the rules of their isolation and started another wave of infections. Following that, the Icelandic government implemented stricter border restrictions. 

Arriving passengers at Keflavík International Airptort in Iceland.
Photo: Jeff Hitchcock via Flickr

The restrictions included tests at the border as well as quarantine. Currently, visitors need to present a negative PCR test from their own country and take a test at the borders. Then they need to quarantine themselves for 5 days before taking another test. After that, they are free.

Those who can present a certificate of a previous COVID-19 infection or vaccination can skip all tests and quarantines. 

Though Iceland has had great success when dealing with COVID-19, it has not beaten it. The virus still rears its ugly head on occasion. But the government is quick to implement restrictions when scientists deem it necessary, and Icelanders know by now that these measurements generally only last a few weeks. After that, things return to (relatively) normal, with bars, swimming pools, and gyms open as usual.

Vaccination Rollout

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine,
DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando via U.S. Secretary of Defense on Flickr

Iceland received its first batch of vaccinations on December 28th, with the program being rolled out the day after. The COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge in Iceland and optional to take.

The health authorities administer the vaccine by priority groups, namely frontline health care workers and the elderly.

COVID-19 Cases in Iceland Today

An Ice block at sunset on a black sand beach, communly called Diamond beach
Photo: NordicSoul Iceland

Referring to the below infographic will provide you with up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is currently affecting Iceland. 

Underneath the label Incidence, domestic infections, you can see how many new infections Iceland has per 100,000 people. This index is used by countries so as to easily compare infection rates with one another. This index is used again when referring to Incidence, border screening, though only refers to those entering the country . 

The boxes below indicate in quarantine and in screening quarantine. The first refers to the number of domestic cases quarantining, while the second refers to the number of new arrivals in the 5-day quarantine explained earlier in this article.

In isolation is the number of active COVID-19 infections currently in Iceland, whereas hospitalised, of course, shows the number of people receiving medical care for the virus. New domestic infections refer to new diagnosis of the coronavirus with Icelandic borders, and not those who have recently travelled to the country.

How to get to Iceland in 2021

Those looking to visit Iceland can do so via flight or cruise ships. 

The cruise ship ports with COVID-19 testing stations are in the capital Reykjavík, as well as the northern town of Akureyri, Ísafjörður in the Westjfords, and Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland.

The view from an airplane flying over Iceland
Photo: Michael Chapman

The majority of visitors to Iceland arrive via flight. Below is a list of destinations and airlines flying to and from Keflavík International Airport as of the 24th of March 2021. This plan is subject to change.

  • Air Baltic
    • Riga
  • EasyJet
    • London
  • Icelandair
    • Amsterdam
    • Boston Logan
    • Copenhagen
    • Frankfurt
    • London Heathrow
    • Oslo
    • Paris Charles de Gaulle 
    • Stockholm Arlanda
  • Lufthansa
    • Frankfurt
  • Veling
    • Barcelona
  • Wizz Air
    • Gdansk
    • Riga
    • Warsaw

Furthermore, the domestic airports in Reykjavík and Akureyri also provide international flights between Iceland and Greenland.

If you are already in the country and are showing symptoms of the virus, contact the Red Cross. The Red Cross service number is (+354) 544 4113 or, if you have an Icelandic phone number, 1700. In case of emergencies, call 112.

If you have any further questions about travelling to Iceland, feel free to contact us

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