UNDERSTANDING ICELAND’S CURRENT COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Last updated: 27th of June, 2021

Things are changing rapidly in Iceland and around the world. It’s hard to make sense of it all. New quarantine measures, border testing and social distancing rules are being tweaked almost daily. So planning your dream trip to Iceland just got a whole lot harder. Thankfully, it also got arguably safer too. This blog post is here to explain how Hidden Iceland can help you understand COVID-19 regulations while planning your trip. In fact, Hidden Iceland can plan out the entire trip for you from start to finish for your own peace of mind.

If you would like to talk to one of our trip planning team to help you get a better understanding of the restrictions while planning your dream trip you can jump to our Private & Package Trips page or simply send us a quick email to info@hiddeniceland.is. We’re happy to help.

What are the current regulations?

DOMESTIC RESTRICTIONS UPDATE: As of 27th of June 2021 all domestic restrictions have been lifted within the borders of Iceland.

BORDER UPDATE: As of the 29th of April 2021 the Icelandic government have made the decision to allow anyone (worldwide) to enter Iceland depending on whether you can provide a valid certificate of double vaccination or antibodies.

If you are fully vaccinated or have antibodies:

  1. You still need to pre-register before arrival and are asked to download the Rakning C-19 App to help with tracing in country.

  2. From the 1st of July 2021 you will not need to take a PCR test on arrival.

  3. You can read the full details on the government website here.

If you are not fully vaccinated and don’t have antibodies:

For those not vaccinated or with antibodies, Iceland still has quite a stringent border screening process. Bear in mind that if you are from a high risk country (and not vaccinated) you will need to stay at the quarantine hotel during quarantine. See the list here. Below are the steps needed for entering Iceland:

  1. 72 hours before arrival you must take your first PCR test.

  2. You must also download the Rakning App and fill out a pre-registration form.

  3. Upon arrival you must do another PCR test at the airport. This is the same if you have children born in 2005 or later.

  4. Then you have to hard quarantine for the first 5 days of your time in Iceland.

  5. Then take a final PCR test. You should receive your results in the evening of day 5 or on day 6.

After you complete all border requirements:

After this, you are free to travel Iceland without restriction.

Leaving Iceland:

There are no restriction leaving Iceland from an Icelandic Authorities stand point. However, many airlines and countries require you to test 72 hours before leaving Iceland and returning home too. Please carefully check in with your airline and authorities at your country of origin to find out if this applies to you. You can book this test one week in advance here. At time of writing this is 7000 ISK per person. A cheaper and quicker option (15-45 minute turnaround) for some countries is the newly added Antigen test that is 4000 ISK and provides. You can choose your location and test type on the covid.is page. 

Falljökull glacier | Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 Day Tour | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Denny Mcgee

Are the new COVID-19 regulations likely to change before I travel? 

In a word, maybe.

It obviously depends how far in the future you are planning to travel. Iceland’s authorities have been very reactive and have shown strong leadership throughout the pandemic. This means that when things get worse COVID-19 regulations will be strengthened. However, when things improve the restrictions will be reduced quickly too.

As of the 19th of November, you will no longer have to pay for border testing upon arrival (normally between 9,000 and 11,000 ISK).

Have the COVID-19 regulations hurt travel? 

The many different COVID-19 regulations sound debilitating and a little scary, but they have been brought in to protect and reduce the incidence of infection in Iceland. Yes, this hurt our immediate booking numbers. That’s for sure. But what it also has done is keep Iceland safe. This has allowed Iceland to make the balanced decision to let in anyone with a double dose of vaccine or antibodies.

During the summer of 2020, after having opened the border (with testing on arrival) and relaxing social distancing rules, Iceland saw a minor spike in cases. Though when I say minor, I mean minor. We went from mostly zero cases per day to around 8 or 9. Not a significant spike compared to other countries but certainly enough for the Icelandic Authorities to jump into action. A second wave was also experienced between September and November 2020 and in early April 2021.

However, at the time of writing, daily cases have been down to single figures or zero and trending downwards. Despite the previous waves, the borders remained open (to those within the EU, EFTA, EEA and Schengen Zone) with testing on arrival throughout, confirming that Iceland thus far are able to control any new spikes in cases without resorting to full border closure.

At Hidden Iceland we want the COVID-19 cases to remain low, no matter what. The COVID-19 regulations at the border, strong leadership and the increase in people being vaccinated appears to allow us to keep our cases low and still let people travel, although in much smaller numbers.

We understand and support the need for and measurements brought in to protect the health of all Icelanders. We are sure when the time is right that the restrictions will be eased further. For now, we are following the guidance of the Icelandic Authorities every step of the way.

Iceland Northern Lights and Starry Sky | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Brendan Bannister

Are people travelling to Iceland now?

Yes, especially if you are double vaccinated or have antibodies.

Summer 2021 is expected to remain quiet (compared to previous years) but there will certainly be people travelling around Iceland. Since the start of the pandemic there has been an 80-90% drop in tourist numbers. With very little domestic tourism to speak of this has left Iceland looking rather empty. Most travellers last summer came from Germany, Denmark and Norway but also the UK, France and some other countries in Europe. This is a starkly different demographic considering the US, Canada, UK and China previously took the lion’s share.

With the domestic restrictions being removed, we expect the number of travellers to start to increase again. Albeit at a greatly reduced number from pre-covid. Still, travel is becoming more and more possible. Especially for those with a double vaccine or antibodies.

In fact, the COVID-19 border regulations were put in place to allow travel to continue safely, not stop it altogether. Without vaccination or antibodies, the restrictions are quite stringent. You have to quarantine for the first 5 days with 3 tests overall. One before you travel and two in Iceland. All of this can really affect your holiday. However, in our opinion it is a welcome price to pay if it means you are entering a country with very few COVID-19 cases. In fact, over the Northern Lights season there were many travellers more than happy to quarantine in a secluded guest house in the middle of nowhere since they were here to see the Northern Lights. There aren’t many better social distancing activities than hunting the Northern Lights in the dark alone.

People will still travel.

The real question you have to ask yourself is, is it worth it for you? If you are staying for 10-14 days then I suspect the answer is yes. Especially if you can find a great hotel or guest house who will accommodate you during the first 5 days. Any less time in the country and I’d say it’s perhaps better to wait a little longer, or until you are vaccinated.

Why would I travel to Iceland during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

First of all, Hidden Iceland does not recommend anyone to travel anywhere during a global pandemic without careful consideration and understanding the risks involved. For any guests who get in touch directly will be advised in detail about what travel to Iceland is like right now.

If you do intend to travel and have weighed up the pros and cons and still want to come to our isolated island we are here to help. My view is that if you are definitely going to travel at some point before the pandemic is completely over then Iceland is arguably one of the safest places to do so.

Maybe you have decided travel isn’t for you right now. That is fair. But planning for the future should definitely be considered. Especially with the discounts and flexible booking policies that are currently being offered by airlines and agencies alike.

With the stringent border testing and low case numbers, Iceland is an ideal location during the pandemic. These safety measures will likely protect Iceland from any resurgences around the world. So if you are planning your trip now, for next year, Iceland will still be ready and waiting for you when the time comes.

Westman Islands | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Lucas Peters

Social distance activities? 

Well, Iceland’s main attractions are not busy theme parks, crowded high streets or queued monuments. The main attractions are out in nature! Perfect for social distancing and avoiding the crowds. Some of our favourites are below:

  • Hunting the Northern Lights.

  • Chasing the midnight sun.

  • Discovering ice caves.

  • Hiking on glaciers.

  • Walking to the top of a still warm volcano.

  • Seeking out puffins.

  • Bathing in natural hot springs.

  • Strolling along secluded black sand beaches.

  • Oh, and tasting unique local cuisine in tiny villages around the island (we recommend the Arctic Char and the geothermally grown tomatoes).

These are just some of the natural activities you can get up to while in Iceland.

In short, Iceland is made for isolation. In fact, around 15% of the entire country is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A great deal more is protected as National Parks, Nature Reserves and restricted development.

Iceland’s population also provides a helping hand. In a country 5 times the size of Hawaii it only holds around one quarter of the inhabitants (around 356,000 people). Once you escape the capital city of Reykjavik you will scarcely find a town numbering more than 5000 in the rest of the country.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic it’s fair to say that Iceland was never described as empty. These days it’s not far off from being true.

Secret Lagoon | Hidden Iceland | Photo by Kat Craats | Feature

How can Hidden Iceland help me understand COVID-19 regulations?

We are still firmly committed to running trips that are personalised, immersive and above all else, safe. This means that if we don’t think now is the right time to come, we’ll tell you just that.

However, at the time of writing we know people still want to travel. The new rules seem to reassure rather than dissuade our future guests. They are very confusing though, that’s for sure. We keep as up to date as anyone in the country and constantly monitor new press releases and announcements. If anyone is a safe bet to answer niggling questions about travel it’s us.

We can help you understand what will happen with the first PCR test on the border. With our key insights we can go into detail about what you can and can’t do while in your 5 day quarantine. We will help you plan your second PCR test if needed. And after all that, we will then help you plan the perfect holiday too.

Hidden Iceland’s full service during COVID-19

So instead of contacting Hidden Iceland and asking us to plan the perfect tour itinerary, many of our future guests are asking us for a full service, from airport arrival to airport departure. This will of course include all of our most popular scheduled tours and private trips depending on budget, but will also include our recommendations for the best hotel/ guest house to do your quarantine in.

Really delving deep into what you can and can’t do on each day of your holiday. Whatever your thoughts are, we can answer them and make sure that if you do intend to come to Iceland this year it’ll be in the safest and most efficient way possible.

It’s also important to note that although these rules are in place now, when you are planning your trip to Iceland, they may well change before you arrive. That means flexibility is key. Hidden Iceland works very closely with local operators, hotels and restaurants so we can be quite reactive when plans change.

Blue Diamond Ice Cave 2020 | Local Guide + Hidden Iceland | Photo by Elliot J Simpson

Contact Hidden Iceland to help you plan your trip

The best way to start this process is to drop us an email at info@hiddeniceland.is. Or even better, fill in our contact form or private tour form. That way we can really understand your desires right from the get go. We look forward to welcoming you into our little country when the time is right.

Ryan Connolly | Marketing Manager, Guide, Co - Owner | Hidden Iceland

Hi, I am Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.

I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. My passion for the outdoors, science, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about Iceland. I have been interviewed in ForbesConde Nast Traveller and Travel Pulse on various subjects.

Hidden Iceland Logo | Hidden Iceland

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.