a waterfall on a rocky cliff

Iceland is opening up like a lemonade stand on a hot summer day right now, with new flights added by the minute, and even new hotels opening just in time for summer. It’s wonderful news for travelers, including Americans, who’ve been persona non-grata for what feels like eternity, but not everyone is too happy about it.

And by not everyone, I mean most European countries.

Europe is struggling to vaccinate meaningful numbers and hordes of tourists are expected to enter Iceland from the US, UK and more; on the news that the country is open to vaccinated and recovered travelers.

But before you start thinking of the travel possibilities, Iceland is quickly noting that just because you’re able to enter the European Union’s Schengen Zone via the idyllic nation known for waterfalls and Northern Lights, you won’t be allowed to carry on to the rest, unless you’re a resident.

a body of water with Blue Lagoon in the background

Iceland Warns Travelers About Schengen Access

Iceland is now open once again to vaccinated tourists and/ or those who can prove recovery, almost entirely regardless of passport, and now hopes to draw visitors from all over. Greece, another top European destination favorite, made noise of similarly expected formal announcements.

In previous years, that would mean once in Iceland, a tourist could board a plane to any other ‘Schengen’ area country in Europe without need for further immigration formalities. It allowed for little joys like taking a train from Budapest to Vienna without presenting a personal travel document.

In these hardly precedented times, border free travel isn’t quite ‘the thing’ between many European countries right now, and that makes Iceland’s move to open up travel to non Schengen area visitors an interesting topic. It could, or rather could’ve created a backdoor into Europe.

With the risk of drawing visitors who hoped to use Iceland as a backdoor “in” to the EU, or ire from EU countries for allowing it to happen, Iceland has quickly updated travel guidance for all arrivals in the week.

a waterfall on a rocky cliff

Iceland Updates Travel Notice

As reported by Loyalty Lobby, Iceland quickly released a travel statement via Icelandair letting people know that a ‘backdoor’ move into the heart of Europe won’t be possible for non Schengen residents. Per Icelandair’s email…

Please note: Travel from Iceland to the rest of Europe is currently not permitted for non-Schengen residents.


What’s particularly interesting in the statement is the distinction of “residents” rather than just citizens. Even someone with an EU passport could potentially get caught out if they don’t reside in Schengen Europe, since the distinction was made so specifically.

Long story short: if you don’t live in the Schengen Zone of Europe, the aim in Iceland appears to be to make it impossible for for the country to be used as a backdoor entry system into the EU right now. This means Americans and Brits could still be ineligible for flights from Iceland to the rest of the Schengen Zone while the ban remains, but are still welcome to visit Iceland.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. It’s easy for them to enforce this because they’re an island. It’ll get really interesting tho if Portugal or some EU country with land borders with the bloc also decides to admit tourists…

  2. I think you’re reading way too much into this. If you look at the actual border regulations of almost every EU country you can see that they usually allow “EU citizens or residents” and allow their own citizens entry from anywhere (maybe with quarantine or testing requirement depending on country of arrival). The purpose of this notice on icelandair website is probably to discourage third country nationals from thinking they can enter Iceland and assume they can then travel onward to any schengen country they wish. Savvy travelers know where to find official border guidelines from government websites, not statements on airline websites. In some cases the rules are much more lenient than some report in the media.

    1. What on earth are you talking about? This is a simple warning that Americans won’t be able to use Iceland to access the rest of Europe from which they’re currently banned.

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