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Travel Security Advice for Iceland

Iceland_National_Flag

iceland_mapIceland_Overview


 

 

 

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Iceland suffered an economic crisis in October 2008.  The banking sector collapsed and the Icelandic Government turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance.  Despite the recent economic crisis, Iceland remains a highly developed country with a stable democracy.  The national language is Icelandic, but English is widely spoken, especially in the capital city of Reykjavik. Tourist facilities in Iceland are well developed and widely available.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Iceland for additional information.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Iceland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

U.S. Embassy Reykjavik

Laufásvegur 21
101 Reykjavik
Telephone:  +354-562-9100
Fax:  +354-562-9110

ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

Iceland is a party to the Schengen agreement.  As such, U.S. citizens may enter Iceland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.  The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.  For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

For the most current visa information, contact the Embassy of Iceland at 2900 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007-1704, tel: 1-202-265-6653.  Information can also be obtained from the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration website (available in English).

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Iceland.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

There have been no terrorist attacks and very few criminal attacks affecting Americans in Iceland.  However, like other countries in the Schengen area, which features freedom of movement between its members, there exists the possibility of suspected terrorists or other criminals entering/exiting the country with anonymity.  Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s extensive tips and advice on traveling safely abroad.

CRIME:

Iceland has a relatively low crime rate, but minor assaults, automobile break-ins, and other street crimes do occur, especially in the capital city of Reykjavik.  Pick-pocketing has increased in the last few years, usually attributed to an organized group looking for easy targets.  Tourists should be aware that downtown Reykjavik can become especially disorderly in the early morning hours on weekends.  Violent crime is rare, but does occur occasionally.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

VICTIMS OF CRIME :

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Iceland maintains a limited crime victim assistance program through the Ministry of Justice.  Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik for further details.  Those suffering psychological trauma or who are victims of rape may receive psychological assistance by contacting the University of Iceland’s Hospital Psychological Trauma Center at +354-543-2000.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Iceland is 112.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

Penalties for possessing, using or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iceland are strict, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Extreme care should be exercised when touring Iceland's numerous natural attractions, which include glaciers, volcanic craters, lava fields, ice caves, hot springs, boiling mud pots, geysers, waterfalls, and glacial rivers.  There are few warning signs or barriers to alert travelers to potential hazards.  Several tourists are scalded each year because they get too close to an erupting geyser or because they fall or step into a hot spring or boiling mud pot.  High winds and icy conditions can exacerbate the dangers of visiting these nature areas.  Hikers and backpackers are well advised to stay on marked trails, travel with someone, notify a third party about their travel plans, and check weather reports, as there are often no means of communication from remote locations.  This is especially important as weather conditions in Iceland are subject to frequent and unexpected changes.  Those planning visits to dangerous or remote locations in Iceland are strongly encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy before beginning their journey and to leave a travel itinerary with local guides/officials if planning to trek through remote parts of the country.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Medical care in Iceland is excellent.  To obtain emergency medical assistance anywhere in the country, dial 112.  To obtain non-emergency medical assistance in the Reykjavik metropolitan area, dial 544-4114 during business hours.  Outside of normal business hours, dial 1770.  The nurse who answers will offer advice on how to handle the problem, suggest that the patient come to an after-hours clinic, or send a physician to make a house call.  For information on after-hours dental care, call 575-0505.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

Most medical services in Iceland, including emergency care, require full payment at the time of service.  Payment to the medical facility must be paid in full before an individual will be allowed to leave the country.  The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Iceland is provided for general reference only, and may not be completely accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Less than one third of Iceland’s total road network is paved (2,262 miles of paved road vs. 5,774 miles of gravel or dirt road).  Most of the 900-mile ring road (Highway 1) that encircles the country is paved but many other roads outside the capital, especially those that run through the center of the country, are dirt or gravel tracks.  Even those roads that are paved tend to be narrow and lack a shoulder or margin.  Most bridges are only one lane wide, requiring drivers to be cognizant of oncoming traffic.  Extreme care should be taken when driving in rural areas during the winter (October through March), when daylight hours are limited and the weather and road conditions can change rapidly.  Many routes in the interior of the country are impassable until July due to muddy conditions caused by snowmelt.  When driving in the interior, consider traveling with a second vehicle and always inform someone of your travel plans.  For information on current road conditions throughout the country, please consult the Public Roads Administration (Vegagerðin) website or call 1777.

For recorded weather information in English, call the Icelandic Weather Office (Veðurstofa Islands):  522-6000 (during regular office hours) or at 902-0600; press 1 for English (pay-per-minute service available 24 hours a day).

Icelandic law requires drivers to keep headlights on at all times.  Talking on cell phones while driving is prohibited and is subject to a fine of 5000 Icelandic Kronur, except when using a hands-free system.  Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas and 30 km/h in residential areas.  In rural areas, the speed limit depends on the type of road.  On dirt and gravel roads, the speed limit is 80 km/h.  On paved highways, the speed limit is 90 km/h.  It is illegal to turn right on a red light.  At four-way intersections, the right of way goes to the driver on the right; in traffic circles, drivers in the inside lane have the right of way.  Many intersections in the capital have automatic cameras to catch traffic violators.

The use of seatbelts is mandatory in both the front and rear seats, and children under the age of six must be secured in a special car seat designed for their size and weight.  Drivers are held responsible for any passenger under the age of 15 who is not wearing a seatbelt.  No one who is less than 140 centimeters tall, weighs less than 40 kilograms, or is under the age of 12 is allowed to ride in a front seat equipped with an airbag.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offense in Iceland.  The threshold blood alcohol test (BAT) level is very low.  Drivers can be charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) with a BAT as low as .05%.  Drivers stopped under suspicion of DUI are usually given a ``balloon’’ or Breathalyzer test.  If the test is positive, a blood test is routinely administered.  Under Icelandic law, a blood test cannot be refused and will be administered by force if necessary.  The minimum punishment for a first offense is a fine of 70,000 Icelandic Kronur and the loss of driving privileges for two months.

U.S. citizens spending less than 90 days in Iceland may drive using their U.S. licenses.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Iceland’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Iceland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Iceland’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA's website.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

This replaces the Country Specific Information for Iceland dated May 22, 2009 without substantive changes.

 


 

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has travel advice pertatining to Iceland HERE.....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens..........

Regards

The SW Team........

 

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