Iceland

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 19 September 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Natural disasters, severe weather and climate (extremely high levels of sulphur dioxide have been detected at the eruption site of the Bardarbunga volcano). Australians should closely monitor media and other sources of information on volcanic activity in the southeast and follow all instructions issued by local authorities. We advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Iceland.

Iceland overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • 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 an increase in seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano. Local authorities have evacuated a large area north of the Vatnajökull glacier and closed the area to the public until further notice. Extremely high levels of sulphur dioxide have been detected at the eruption site, which may cause respiratory symptoms. Australians should closely monitor media and other sources of information on volcanic activity in the southeast and follow all instructions issued by local authorities. For further information see under Natural disasters, severe weather and climate.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
click on image to expand

Entry and exit

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

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.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Iceland. Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.

Terrorism

There is an ongoing risk 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 on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

Demonstrations occur on occasion and have the potential to turn violent. You should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and follow the instructions of local authorities.

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.

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. Don’t be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements with trekking companies and other service providers.

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 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.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. Please also refer to our generalair travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Iceland, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

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.

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 www.denmark.embassy.gov.au/ 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.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

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 south eastern Iceland in August 2014

There has been an increase in seismic activity in and around the Bardarbunga volcano. 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 media and other sources of information on volcanic activity in the southeast and follow all instructions issued by 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.

Wildlife

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

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.