If you plan on drinking alcohol while you’re visiting Iceland, you’re going to want to read this article first!
We will tell you where to buy alcohol in Iceland and how much it’s going to cost. Plus, we will give the low down on drinking culture and alcohol laws, so you don’t turn up to an empty nightclub or end up with a massive fine.
We hope you find the information helpful!
Where To Buy Alcohol In Iceland
First off, you should know where to buy alcohol in Iceland. You can’t just walk into the supermarket and pick up a bottle of wine as you can in most countries. Except for low-alcohol beer, you have to go to special shops called Vinbudin to buy alcohol.
The state runs these liquor stores, and they are typically open from 11 am to 6 pm. But they are not open on a Sunday! You will find Vinbudin in large villages and towns, and they’ll have a selection of beers and wines, as well as spirits.
Bars and Restaurants
Of course, you can also buy alcohol from bars and restaurants, but you will consume this alcohol on the property. You can’t go in and get a load of beers to take out with you. (And you wouldn’t want to, it would be really expensive!)
A beer will cost the equivalent of $10 in most bars, and a bottle of wine would typically start from around $50 in a restaurant. If you want to cut down the costs of your night out, it’s a good idea to check out the happy hour of the bar you had in mind.
If you know that you’ll want to have a few drinks at your accommodation, it’s a good idea to grab some alcohol at the airport. You can buy it much cheaper here as products are exempt from certain taxes and duties at the duty-free.
Just bear in mind that there are some limits on how much alcohol you can buy here. (It’s currently six units per person and one carton of cigarettes). Careful though! What the duty-free refers to as units is not the same in every country. If you need help working out exactly what six units are in this context, you can check out the official Duty-Free website.
The Price Of Alcohol In Iceland
Iceland has a bit of a reputation for expensive alcohol. The reason it costs so much is because of the very high taxes put on alcoholic beverages. (More than 80% of the price of a bottle of vodka is just tax!)
While it’s true that most Scandanavian countries have high alcohol taxes, Iceland is even famous amongst its neighbors for the whopping alcohol duties. And it doesn’t seem like those taxes will be reduced any time soon.
The duty you pay on alcohol means that a bottle of spirits can easily cost more than twice in Iceland as it would in the US. Cigarettes are also more expensive in Iceland than in most countries, but the price difference isn’t as dramatic as you’d find with alcohol.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Icelanders don’t drink as much as many of its neighbors. Only 20% of Icelanders drink once a week or more, and binge drinking is also statistically low in Iceland. (Source). Of course, some Icelanders still like to party hard, and the nightclubs will be heaving on a Saturday night.
Drinking Culture In Iceland
Overall drinking rates are relatively low in Iceland, partly because of the prohibitive price of alcohol.
Before going on a night out, most people will “predrink” or “pregame” in Iceland. Predrinking means drinking at home with friends before going out to the main venue. Locals don’t even start heading out to clubs until the early hours of the morning!
Drinking at home helps to save money, and it’s also a great way to catch up with your friends before the music is so loud you can’t hear what anyone is saying.
At the weekend, bars and clubs don’t get busy until two or three in the morning, and most people will quite happily stay out until 6 am. So if you go out at midnight and wonder why the bars are all dead, you’re not running on Icelandic time yet! (During the week, people do tend to go home earlier, at around 1 am)
Home Brewing In Iceland
It’s not unusual for people to brew their own beer in Iceland, even though it’s technically illegal to make alcohol more potent than 2.5% at home. Despite the brewing rules, it’s easy to buy brewing equipment in the country,, and the government debates whether or not to change the home brewing laws on a semi-regular basis.
Alcohol Age Restrictions In Iceland
The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20. This is significantly higher than most European countries, and it’s to do with the historical voting age. The Icelandic voting age has come down to 18 now, but the drinking age stayed at 20.
Some bars have specific age restrictions to get in, so don’t be surprised if a venue has a minimum age restriction of 25. You’ll be able to get into most places when you’re 21.
Drink Driving In Iceland
The drink driving rules in Iceland are super strict, so be careful!
You can not have 0.02% or more alcohol present in your blood. That’s four times less than you can legally have in many states of the USA or England. So if you’ve had a drink in the evening, you probably don’t want to drive the following day at all.
The minimum fine for having too much alcohol present in your blood is the equivalent of nearly $550, so you don’t want to take any chances here. (Of course, your safety is even more important than your wallet!)
We hope you found this information useful, but please don’t hesitate to ask about anything we didn’t cover. You’ll find loads of more helpful information about traveling in Iceland on the Play Iceland site, as well as some spectacular hand-picked tours to help make your travel plans a reality.