Update November 12, 2023: This post is now a mismash of several volcanic eruptions in Iceland over the last couple of years. None of the information below this first section is relevant anymore, but feel free to browse and see some of the volcanic power the Reykjanes Peninsula has seen recently!
Live From Iceland!
Iceland COVID-19 and Tourism, UPDATED June 10, 2022
Can I visit Iceland? Will I have to take a COVID-19 test? Will I have to quarantine? Do I need to be vaccinated? Can I visit Iceland from the United States or Canada? So many things are changing with Coronavirus in Iceland, but here is the latest and greatest information.
Major update February 24, 2022: Iceland is removing all Covid restrictions effective on February 25, 2022!
Here’s an article about it. That means that arriving in Iceland will be just like it was before Covid was a thing. You won’t have to present a negative Covid test, or proof of vaccination or anything else. (Don’t forget to still bring your passport!)
You may still need to present a negative Covid test to go back home. These rules are not from Iceland, but rather from your home country. But as of June 12, 2022, the US no longer requires a Covid test. Travelers from the US do not need to do anything differently because of Covid. No tests, no proof of vaccination, nothing. But check your country’s rules to see if they require a test to return back home.
We also have a comprehensive post about visiting Iceland from the United States!
[Outdated] Rules for vaccinated travelers visiting Iceland
But starting July 27th 2021, you must present a negative Covid test before boarding your flight to Iceland. This applies to all fully vaccinated travelers, but NOT to children.
Here’s what you need to do to visit Iceland:
- Pre-register at travel.covid.is a day or 2 before your trip
- Bring your vaccination card. You must now be 14 days past your final vaccine dose to be considered fully vaccinated. The most well-known vaccine brand are all acceptable: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (which is sometimes also called Janssen.) See the official rules for proof of vaccination here
Updated January 2022: Effective February 1st, 2022, your most recent shot must have been in the last 9 months (270 days.) If not, you’ll need to get a booster.
- Bring proof of a negative Covid test. This can be a PCR test or a rapid test, but it cannot be self-administered. This is only for adults (travelers born in 2005 or earlier.)
- Figure out if your country of residence requires a Covid test to return home. The Unites States does require this; see our post about Covid rules in Iceland for United States residents for the details.
You not need to test at the border. You don’t need to quarantine. You do currently need to wear a mask in places where social distancing can’t be maintained. (You will still need a mask on the airplane if you’re coming from some countries, including the United States.)
Your unvaccinated children are allowed to travel with you. As long as the parents they are with are all fully vaccinated, children get the same treatment as those vaccinated parents. Actually, even better, since children don’t need to show a negative Covid test upon arrvival. But this only applies for kids born in 2005 or more recently. If you have a 16-year-old born in 2006, they will need to be fully vaccinated!
[Outdated] Rules for unvaccinated travelers visiting Iceland
The rules are much stricter if you are not fully vaccinated. Many unvaccinated travelers from outside of Europe are simply not allowed to enter Iceland at all! You’ll need to look over this very confusing document to figure out if you have an exemption. As of June 24th, 2021, being a resident of the United States now qualifies as an exemption. Canada is also now on the approved list.
Even if you have an exemption, you’ll still need to follow the rules here. That means you need to:
- Pre-resigter as above
- Present a negative PCR test upon arrival. (Not a rapid test!)
- Get tested at the border. I assume this still happens at the airport, but I don’t know. Most travelers won’t be tested at the airport as of July 1st.
- Quarantine for 5 days
- Get tested again
More outdated information below!
Things are changing quickly for tourists visiting Iceland in the age of Covid. Finally, as of early April, it seems like we have a clear set of rules for vaccinated travelers looking to visit Iceland.
The new rules for vaccinated Iceland tourists in April 2021 say:
- Vaccinated individuals visiting Iceland must have a Covid test at the border. You must wait for the results at your first night’s lodging. So you can pick up a car (or take the Flybus), head to your hotel or apartment … and then wait for the results to be sent to your phone.
- New, as of April 6, 2021: vaccinated individuals from ANY country are now allowed to visit!
- People from high-risk countries no longer need to quarantine.
- Children traveling with vaccinated adults must be tested for Covid upon arrival, but then only have to quarantine until the results come back. Iceland usually gets results back to you the same day for morning tests.
- Those unvaccinated children must be born in 2005 or later. Older children MUST be vaccinated; the Pfizer vaccine is approved for anyone 16 and older in the United States.
- I strongly recommend you bring a birth certificate with you for any unvaccinated children. A second set of rules that applies to travelers from the United States says: “Relatives are permitted to travel to Iceland with their children (considered minors) who have not reached the age of 18 on arrival to Iceland. The condition is set that the relative and the child are travelling together and can provide proof of familial relationship.”
The below information is now outdated before it ever took effect!
On March 17, 2021, Iceland announced the biggest change in tourism rules since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Starting March 18th [UPDATE: Delayed until April 1st], If you are vaccinated, you are allowed to visit Iceland with no quarantine rules! Here’s the summary from Visit Iceland:
- From 18 March [now April 1st], everyone who can provide proof of a certified vaccination will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to PCR testing and quarantine.
- Visitors who can provide valid evidence of prior infection are also exempt from border measures.
- This exemption will apply to citizens outside the Schengen area, including the UK and USA.
More details can be found in the official Icelandic government announcement. Unfortunately, it sounds like unvaccinated children would still need to quarantine for 5 days.
If you’re planning to visit Iceland in 2021 or 2022, let us help you plan your Iceland vacation! Or listen to our podcast episode about visiting Iceland in 2021.
Everything below this point is likely outdated information!
The 2 [old] criteria for visiting Iceland
This confuses a lot of people, because you have [had] to go to 2 different sources to understand both criteria. But it’s fairly simple, once you know where to look:
- You have to be a resident of country that Iceland is allowing visitors from
- You have to either get tested in Iceland (twice) or bring proof that you have COVID-19 antibodies
Let’s look at each of these. [Again, this is outdated information!]
You have to be a resident of country that Iceland is allowing visitors from
The latest list can be found here. As of December 20th, 2020, the list of countries that you can visit from are:
- Iceland (duh)
- Any country in the European Union
- Liechtenstein (since it’s in the EEA)
- Norway (since it’s in the EEA)
- Switzerland (since it’s in the EFTA)
- New Zealand
- South Korea
You have to either get tested in Iceland (twice) or bring proof that you have COVID-19 antibodies
There are two options here that exempt you from testing in Iceland:
- Bring proof of COVID-19 antibodies with you. This is NOT a negative COVID-19 test. This is only for people who have either already had Covid-19 (and can prove it) or who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 (and can prove it.)The way to prove you have already had Covid-19 is with a PCR antibody test conducted in an EU or EFTA state (a country in one of the first 5 lines listed above.) Here is information on which certificates will be accepted.
- Bring proof you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccination. Here you need an international vaccine certificate. See the details of what’s accepted here.
If you don’t qualify for one of those 2 exemptions, then you need to do the following once you arrive in Iceland:
- Get a COVID-19 test at the airport. The test is currently free, though that may change after January 31, 2021.
- Quarantine for 5-6 days
- Get a second COVID-19 test at any one of a number of locations around Iceland. I believe that second test is also free.
Some commonly asked (outdated) questions:
Can I visit from the United States or Canada?
No.You need to meet both of these criteria separately. You cannot travel from the United States to Iceland, even if you have been vaccinated. You will be turned away at the border.
When will these rules change?
We are expecting more countries to be added on May 1st. The Iceland tourism folks say: “On May 1 cautious steps will be taken to ease restrictions at the boarders, based on the epidemiological situation at the passenger’s point of departure.”
In other words, if your country is not currently on the list, but your country gets its Covid-19 act together before May 1st, you may be able to visit Iceland over the summer.
Everything below this point is old news, and is likely outdated. Read past this point at your own risk!
Update December 2020: Iceland has just announced new rules that will make visiting Iceland impractical for most tourists. Everyone entering Iceland will need to quarantine for 4-5 days between Covid-19 tests, starting August 19th. This makes most of the information below irrelevant.
And most tourists from outside of Europe are still not allowed to enter Iceland as of December 2020. (See below for the handful of countries outside of Europe that are allowed to still visit, including Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.)
Iceland began re-opening to tourists on June 15th. Many people are asking us really good questions about exactly how the process will work. I haven’t seen good answers all in one place, so this is my attempt to create such a place. Ask us more questions in the comments and we can add answers!
Last update: August 14, 2020.
Iceland re-opened on June 15th
Actually, you were able to visit before June 15th … but you needed to immediately quarantine for 14 days. Not the best choice for a 7 day vacation! Beginning on June 15th, you now have 3 options:
1. Be exempt from testing:
1a: Present proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test EDIT: at first this will NOT be an option. The new document says: “At this time, the Icelandic health authorities cannot accept proof of test results.”
1b: Present older proof of a positive Covid-19 infection. EDIT: at first this will also NOT be an option, unless you were tested in Iceland: “Those with a previously confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in Iceland are exempt from quarantine upon their return from travel abroad.”
1c: Be a child born in the year 2005 or later. Children are exempt from testing.
1d: Have not been in a high-risk country any time during the last 14 days. The definition of high-risk country will change over time; see the latest here. The original list of low-risk countries was shorter: Greenland and the Faroe Islands. But on July 15th, the following countries were added: Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Germany. You’re only exempt for this option if you’ve been in only those countries for the last 14 days.
2. Take a Covid-19 test at the Keflavik airport when you arrive. Lots more on this in a minute.
3. Quarantine for 14 days. This option is still available, but we one again assume no one is going to choose this.
Let’s look closely at options 1 and 2. For our information below, we’re going to stick as closely as we can to the official Epidemiologist’s proposal. It’s in Icelandic, though! This proposal was accepted by the Icelandic Health Minister on June 2nd.
Option 1a for visiting Iceland: Prove you don’t have Covid-19
THIS IS NOT CURRENTLY AN OPTION! See below for how it will work once it is up and running.
If you bring proof with you of a recent negative Covid-19 test, you won’t need to take a test at the airport. Here’s the (translated) language from the order:
“I believe that if individuals can submit an official certificate from their home country of the negative result of a PCR test no older than 4 days old then they should be exempted from further restrictions on arrival here.”
Remember, the language here is the Epidemiologist’s proposal, but it has been accepted by the Health Minister. So you can remove the “I believe” part, and read this as “Individuals can submit an official certificate …”
The test needs to be from the last 4 days, so you’d need to schedule a test for right before your trip. Remember that your overnight flight will use up one of those 4 days! As for what PCR is , this should be the most common type of Covid-19 test. I don’t know if there are any other kinds, but it might be a good idea to check before you are tested at home. “PCR is a well-used tool in the laboratory and medical testing.”
Option 1b for visiting Iceland: Prove you have already had Covid-19
THIS IS NOT CURRENTLY AN OPTION! Unless you tested positive in Iceland. See below for how it will work once it is up and running.
This may not apply to very many people yet. But if you’ve already had Covid-19 and you can prove it, that’s also sufficient to avoid testing when you arrive in Iceland. Here’s the language:
I believe tourists should be given the option of presenting a certificate of prior illness, due to COVID-19, which would exempt them from further restrictions at Icelandic borders. The illness would have to have been confirmed with a PCR test, and the diagnosis would have to have been made at least 14 days prior to arrival. Such certificates would have to be presented upon arrival in the country, stamped and certified by appropriate parties.
I took that translation from Iceland Monitor’s article.
You cannot show an antibody test to prove prior exposure:
However, Þórólfur warns that antibody tests are not as reliable as other forms of testing, so may not be allowed as evidence that a traveller has recovered from the virus.
Option 2 for visiting Iceland: Take a Covid-19 test at the Keflavik airport.
Starting on June 15th, if you don’t choose option 1a or 1b above, most of you will have to take a Covid-19 test at the airport. Unless you want to quarantine for 14 days. Here’s the topic header in the document:
PCR assay [test] for anyone who comes to this country and is unable to present a recent PCR assay, is unable to demonstrate a residual COVID-19 infection and will not quarantine.
Here are answers to the most frequent questions about this option:
Are any countries exempt from the Covid-19 testing?
Yes! Originally, only Greenland and the Faroe Islands were exempt from testing, as these were the only countries that were not considered high-risk. But on July 15, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Germany were also removed from the list of high-risk countries. Travelers coming from these countries, and who have been only in those countries for the past 14 days, do not need to take a test or quarantine.
Will I receive my test results immediately?
No. The test will take approximately 5 hours. Here’s more detail from the working report from Iceland’s National University:
The report of the working group also asserts that test results can be delivered in approximately 5 hours from testing during the day, while the results of tests performed outside of office hours will be ready the following day
And language in the latest document is similar: “Passengers can expect to receive their test results within 24 hours, usually on the same day, or the following day for those arriving later than 5 PM.”
Do I have to stay in the airport until I get my test results back?
No. “Passengers do not need to self-quarantine until they receive their test results, but should take preventive measures to protect themselves and others from infection. Passengers will receive their test results through the app (Rakning C-19), or through text message. Passengers who test positive will receive a phone call notifying them. To ensure they receive their test results, all passengers are required to provide reliable contact information on their pre-registration forms.”
Is the test free?
For the first 2 weeks, Iceland is paying for the tests, so it is free to tourists. As The Reykjavik Grapevine puts it:
In other words, if you think you might have COVID-19, but you can’t get tested, come to Iceland and we’ll test you for free. But hurry! This offer only lasts two weeks.
Beginning July 1st, you will have to pay for the coronavirus test. Speculation was that the cost could be up to 50000 ISK per test, which is $345 US (€320.) That’s per person! But the actual cost is just 11000 ISK, or around $80 US. And if you pay in advance, it’s only 9000 ISK ($66 US.) Given that children born in 2005 or later do not need to be tested, testing will cost much less than we feared.
Do children need to be tested?
The Icelandic Tourism Board says: “Children will be exempt from testing” and the new document confirms this: “Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from these measures.”
Do I need a second test?
New in August: If you stay longer than 10 days, you need a second test. If you are staying longer than 10 days, make sure you download the Iceland Covid-19 app. You’ll receive instructions there about getting you second test. There are options for taking that second test in several cities throughout Iceland.
How many tests can they run per day?
This has gone up and down. At first, Icelandic authorities were able to test up to 2000 people per day. Indeed, they actually tested a record 2118 people on July 13th.
They were only able to get to 2000 tests per day with the help of deCODE Genetics, a private company. For a while they stopped helping with the testing, which meant capacity went down to only at about 500 samples per day.
In order to alleviate the pressure on the hospital’s virology department, deCODE will resume analysis of samples taken at the border just weeks after the company withdrew from the project following a political row.
deCODE has offered its assistance to the virology department until they can improve their testing capacity.
What happens if more than 500 (or 2000) tourists from-high risk countries arrive in a day?
We don’t know. But the quote above implies they will work to make sure fewer than 2000 people arrive each day. That may involve last-minute flight cancellations. Or, more countries may be removed from the high-risk list, which would mean fewer visitors would need to be tested.
We expected more countries will be removed from the high-risk list in August, but a small uptick in cases makes that seem unlikely now.
What happens if I test positive?
You’ll be at the mercy of Icelandic authorities:
If a passenger tests positive, they may be offered to undergo further tests to determine whether or not they have an active infection. In the case of an active infection, the passenger must self-isolate.
It sounds likely that you will be forced to quarantine in Iceland for 14 days.
What does quarantine look like?
“Foreign nationals who are required to self-isolate and do not have access to a suitable location where they can isolate will be given accommodation at a specialised isolation centre at no cost to them. Infected individuals must provide information to the contact tracing team on who they have come in close contact with during two days prior to the onset of their symptoms. Further information on isolation requirements can be found here.
What happens if the person next to me on the airplane tests positive, but I test negative?
I fear you’ll be at the mercy of Icelandic authorities:
“The contact tracing team interviews those who have been in close contact with a confirmed active case during two days prior to the onset of symptoms, e.g. been within 2 meters of an individual for more than 15 minutes, or those who have sat close to an infected individual on an airplane (usually within two seat-row radius). They might be required to self-quarantine for two weeks from the time of last contact. A negative test result does not guarantee that an individual will not later be required to self-quarantine if they have been exposed to infection, e.g. on the flight to Iceland.”
So you may very likely have to quarantine as well.
Can tourists from any country visit Iceland?
Not yet. Iceland was willing to let everyone in starting June 15th:
“The Government has today announced that all passengers arriving in Iceland from 15 June can choose to be tested for COVID-19 (free of charge for an initial two-week period) or quarantine for two weeks.”
But EU rules superseded Iceland’s wishes, and people from outside of the Schengen region will not be allowed in until at least July 1. Here’s a Facebook post from the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs:
Please note that Iceland will continue to implement the travel restrictions imposed for the Schengen Area, which are currently due to remain in place until 15 June 2020. These restrictions may be extended until 1 July, but this remains to be decided by Schengen member states. While these restrictions are in place, foreign nationals, other than EU/EEA, EFTA or UK nationals, are generally not allowed to enter Iceland.
Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir expressed wishes to open Iceland’s borders entirely on July 1st, regardless of whether other countries in the Schengen region do the same. “I’ve sent a letter to the directorship of the EU, to determine the process we could take given our special position as an island, that we could maintain surveillance for the Schengen Area even though we let people in, and that’s what we’re aiming for,” She told RÚV.
But, increases in coronavirus cases around the world forced them to go with a much more limited re-opening. Here’s the current list of countries that can visit Iceland, as of November 6, 2020:
Residents of any EU country
Note that several countries were removed from the list in November from July, including Canada. The United States was never on the list.
The Icelandic government says: “The list of countries exempt from travel restrictions will be reviewed at least every two weeks.”
Iceland’s new Covid-19 form
“Passengers are required to fill out a pre-registration form (on www.covid.is)before arrival, which requires passengers to provide their personal details and contact information, flight information, travel dates and address(es)during their stay in Iceland. The form also includes a declaration of health and passengers are required to provide information on countries they have visited before arrival,whether they have any symptoms of COVID-19, whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 before their arrival,or if they have been in close contact with an infected individual. ”
Iceland’s Covid-19 contract tracing app
If you visit Iceland before June 15th, you needed to quarantine for 14 days. You also needed to download an app on your phone that tracks location data. (You can read more about the app on that link; it sounds like location data is never shared with authorities unless needed.)
Tourists are “encouraged” but not required to download the app. I think you should if you will have a cell phone with data in Iceland. You will get your test results via the app if you have it. (Read about getting your cell phone working in Iceland. You will need to have a access to a phone to receive your rest results.)
An older article from covid.is says “the official tracing app already in use by 40% of the population in Iceland.”
Should you visit Iceland?
We discussed this more in our monthly Iceland update. If you visit Iceland, you’re taking the risk that you test positive and end up in quarantine. Or that you are on a plane with someone who tests positive … and you may also end up in quarantine. If you simply cannot afford to get stuck in Iceland for 2 weeks, I wouldn’t go.
Oh, also Icelandair may or may not be on the verge of bankruptcy? That’s a risk too.
And also it sounds like Icelandair might be offering flights they have no intention of actually flying?
If you’re willing to take those risks, Iceland should be less crowded, cheaper, and almost completely Coronavirus free. Make sure your health insurance will cover you while you’re in Iceland, and have a great trip!
As for us, we’re staying home for now.