Iceland

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 11 March 2015.   This advice has been thoroughly reviewed and updated. It contains new information, including seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano (see additional information). The overall level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Iceland.

Iceland overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Iceland. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • You should exercise caution when visiting volcanic craters, glaciers, hotsprings and other natural attractions. There are few barriers or warning signs at these natural attractions.
  • There has been continuous seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano since August 2014. Local authorities have evacuated a large area north of the Vatnajökull glacier and closed the area to the public until further notice. Australians should closely monitor local media and other sources of information on volcanic activity and follow the advice of local authorities. For further information see Additional information.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Iceland is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows Australians to enter Iceland without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for further information.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Iceland for the most up to date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Crime

Petty theft and anti-social behaviour occurs, particularly around bars where people gather late at night in downtown Reykjavik. Take sensible precautions and avoid leaving valuables lying around.

Civil unrest/political tension

Peaceful demonstrations occur on occasion. You should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Terrorism

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

You should exercise caution when visiting volcanic craters, glaciers, hotsprings and other natural attractions. There are few barriers or warning signs at these locations.

If you plan to participate in trekking activities, you should seek local advice before setting out and ensure that you use the services of an experienced and reputable trekking company.

Hotels in Iceland are often fully booked in the summer period. Plan your visit well in advance by making bookings with accommodation providers.

Distances between towns can be great, roads are narrow and winding, and speed limits are low. Driving takes longer than you think. Take particular care on gravel and loose surfaces. Driving conditions may be hazardous and roads impassable, especially in winter. Winter (but not studded) tyres are mandatory from around 1 November to 14 April; exact dates can vary from year to year. Keep dipped headlights on at all times. Fines for exceeding the speed limit are high.

Many highland tracks are only open for a short part of the summer. If you intend to drive to the highland, or the more remote regions of the country, check with the Icelandic Road Administration (Vegagerdin) - telephone +354 522 1000 - before you leave. Vegagerdin provides up to date information on all roads in the country and will also advise you on weather conditions and off-road driving, which is strictly controlled. Beware of rapidly changing weather patterns, including river levels, which can change dramatically even within the same day.

Drink/drive laws are strictly enforced. Strict alcohol limits are in place. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are severe.
For further advice, see our road travel page.

Keep a safe distance from seals and follow the advice of rangers when visiting wilderness areas.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Iceland.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Iceland, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Committing a crime, however minor, may attract fines and jail sentences. If found guilty, even minor offences could lead to deportation and a ban from future travel within the European Union.

Penalties for drink driving and speeding may include heavy fines and possible prison sentences.

Penalties for drug offences, even in small amounts, are severe and include heavy fines and/or imprisonment and/or immediate deportation.

You should carry personal identification at all times, for example either a passport or drivers licence.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of health facilities and care throughout Iceland is high. English is widely spoken. There is no reciprocal health care agreement with Iceland. Costs are comparable with or more expensive than private treatment in Australia. While emergency hospital treatment is generally free, the patient is responsible for follow-up costs.

Following recent seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano, extremely high levels of sulphur dioxide have been detected at the eruption site, which may cause respiratory symptoms. The Icelandic Directorate of Health provides information on the possible health effects of the eruption.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency number in Iceland is 112.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Iceland. You can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Copenhagen

Dampfaergevej 26,
2nd floor,
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Telephone +45 7026 3676
Facsimile +45 7026 3686
Email: genenq.cpgn@dfat.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Iceland, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the above Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

The climate can be unpredictable. You should monitor weather reports closely. For recorded weather information from the Icelandic Meteorological Office, dial (+354) 522-6000 or (+354) 902-0600. Information is available in English, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Volcanoes

Iceland is volcanically and seismically active. Volcanic eruptions in the past have caused widespread disruption to aviation services in Iceland and elsewhere. Information on the impact of volcanic ash is available on the website of the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre .

Volcanic activity in eastern Iceland since August 2014

There has been continuous seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano since August 2014. Local authorities have evacuated a large area north of the Vatnajökull glacier and closed the area to the public until further notice.

Updates on the current seismic activity and air quality around Bardarbunga and Holuhraun is available on the Civic Protection and Emergency Management website

Australians should closely monitor local media for information on volcanic activity and follow the advice of local authorities.

For updated information on road closures and other disruptions, see the websites of the Safe Travel Iceland and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.

You can also see the Civil Protection in Iceland and Icelandic Met Office websites for information on emergency management and weather reports.

Volcanic eruptions have in the past disrupted aviation services. You should also check with your airline for any flight changes due to ash releases.

Tsunamis: All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Additional resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the DFAT country information web page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.