a body of water with rocks and smoke with Blue Lagoon in the background

Iceland has been a leader in travel during the age of covid-19, offering free testing to early arrivals and creating comprehensive facilities to keep visitors flowing safely.

But doubts over the efficiency of a singular covid-19 test on arrival have created the need for new arrival protocols, and for leisure travellers aiming for a quick visit to this stunning island, it makes things just about impossible.

Iceland’s New Testing Requirements

Effective August 19th, 2020, Iceland will impose new restrictions on everyone entering the country, with a mandatory quarantine period and two covid-19 tests before unrestricted movement will be allowed. If you were thinking about a short trip, think again.

And yes, everyone means returning residents and visitors alike.

Currently, all travellers must submit to a covid-19 test (at their own expense) upon arrival in Reykjavik, at a cost of 9000 ISK if booked in advanced, which is circa $66, or £50. After testing, arrivals are then allowed to carry on with their trip quarantine free, unless a positive test result is triggered, at which point the traveller would be quarantined.

Under the new rules set to take effect in Iceland on the 19th, travellers must take a covid-19 PCR test on arrival, and will then need to isolate for between 4-5 days, when a second mandatory test will be needed. The second test is complimentary.

a body of water with Blue Lagoon in the background

During the 4-5 day initial isolation period, all arrivals will be required to minimize contact, which makes many activities during short trips almost impossible. Here’s a guide on what you can, and cannot do during the 4-5 day period.

You cannot take mass transit, and must only take a taxi to your place of quarantine. Once there, you’re not allowed out, unless for essential needs. Technically, you’re not supposed to get your own supplies, if possible, and at hotels, you’d be called upon to order delivery to your room, or room service. No visiting the bar, hotel pool or other facilities either.

Once you take your second test, which does require leaving the hotel, you’re then instructed to remain in quarantine at your location, until the second test is confirmed negative.

All arrivals into Iceland must pre-register, or face being left off flights.

If a traveller tests negative on their second test, administered 4-5 days after arrival, they’ll then be permitted to move freely, without additional restrictions in Iceland. For those planning multi week trips, it’s a relatively small price to pay to discover a truly epic destination, but for those hoping for a weekend getaway, it effectively makes travel impossible.

As countries look to add quarantine measures and provide additional layers of safety, many are creating new avenues of travel, including long stay “digital nomad” visas to encourage longer stays. Until better times, plan to make Iceland into a longer trip, if you do go, otherwise you’ll spend most of it holed up in a hotel room.

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. Do you have any source on the quarantine rules? Because the current rules for visitors needing the second test are much looser, while current quarantine rules are way more strict (no groceries, stay in one place).
    AFAIK the official sites don’t have more detailed updates for the new rules, so there is a lot of speculation … Thanks

  2. Sorry, what is that? A truly super destination? On videos, maybe…I was thinking of flying there now…8-12 Degrees Celcius in summer, now, in reality winter that are winter temperatures and conditions, many days with rain…high prices for low level hotels…not very good food anywhere.
    A really primitive country. Nobody needs that kind of experience. Stay at home. watch a video of Iceland, and forget that…if You want something absolutely stunning, visit New Zealand…there its warm…and it has, except some ice, everything Iceland can offer…The new restrictions may make very good sense for them……but encouraged me finally to stay away from Iceland.

  3. Very frustrating for those of us who have paid in full for a 5 day break, and won’t be able to get any of our money back as travel has not been halted. We already have over £1500 of vouchers from an April cancelled trip. Worst of both worlds!

  4. For someone like me who travels in a low-key fashion, this sounds pretty reasonable. I would even be permitted to go out walking as long as I avoided crowded tourist areas? Sign me up. I of course wouldn’t want to spend my whole trip perambulating through parks and walking trails but I could very much handle it for 4-5 days at the start of a multi-week holiday. Perhaps the other Nordic countries will consider adopting similar quarantine regulations for next year. Of course YMMV and this really wouldn’t work for everyone.

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