Traveling Safely in Iceland (Do this and you’ll be OK)
Iceland is the safest country in the world. Do not take our word for it: the Global Peace Index rated Iceland as the world’s least violent country for 12 years running! The biggest threats to travelers in Iceland come from unpredictable weather patterns and extreme winter conditions. This can make both hiking and driving more dangerous than in non-Scandinavian countries. Not to worry, a little preparation and planning will go a long way. This article will tell you everything you need to know about keeping safe on your trip to Iceland!
Keeping safe on Icelandic Roads
Many travelers chose to hire a car for their trip to Iceland. While this is a great way to explore the country independently, there are some things you should know about driving on Icelandic roads!
Careful with the F Roads
You should be careful about where you drive. There is a main road that goes all the way around the coast, called Road 1. This 2-lane highway is the best-maintained road in Iceland but can be closed in places during the flooding or snowfall of winter months.
Many car hire companies will not insure you to drive on the interior roads of the country, called the F roads. These gravelly, countryside roads are much more suitable for a 4×4 and are often closed between September and May. When these roads are marked as Impassable, you should not attempt to drive on them, even in a 4×4. Also, you must never drive off-road in Iceland. It is illegal and carries a fine because of the long-lasting damage that it can do to the local environment.
Take it Slowly
Icelandic roads are not designed for speed, and the fastest you are ever allowed to drive is 90 km/ph. Take your time, and remember to leave room in your itinerary for difficult road conditions and sharp turns. Remember that 90kmph is not an aim, but a limit! You never know when a sheep is going to wander onto the road in Iceland, or whether the other tourists that are driving have prepared as well as you. Drive defensively and take as much time as you need to get to your destination safely.
Safetravel is a great resource where you can check daily road conditions. You can also leave your travel plans with them and alert them when you are back so they can know whether to set in place procedures to help find you if you are traveling alone.
Icelandic driving conditions are especially harsh during the winter months, but they can be extreme year-round. It is a legal requirement to keep your headlights on whenever you are driving, day or night.
Make sure you bring a high visibility jacket, blankets, warm clothes, food, and water in your car in case you break down. It is also a good idea to bring sunglasses because the sun is often low in the sky during winter months. If possible, you should stay in your car if you have broken down, to protect you from the cold weather and to make it easier for you to be found.
The weather can be so windy in Iceland that car doors are caught in a gust of wind and blown away! Open doors carefully and keep your fingers well away when closing them.
If you get into any trouble, you should call the emergency number 112. You will not automatically be charged for calling someone out to assist you, though if you ignored safety signs and road closures, then you may well be fined.
Consider Public Transport
Buses are cheap and comfortable in Iceland, and the drivers are trained for the local driving conditions. With single fares starting at the equivalent of just USD 3.50 for an adult, you should consider taking public transport throughout your trip. You can find out more about the Icelandic bus system here.
Alternatively, you could consider getting a taxi with the highly respected taxi companies of Hreyfill or BSR. The drivers have plenty of experience in Icelandic conditions and even offer personalized sightseeing tours.
Insider tip: Compared to the rest of Europe, taxis are really expensive in Iceland, and there is no taxi app like Uber available! Prices start at around USD 83 for a taxi from the international airport to Reykjavik hotels. If you would like to get a taxi, you are unable to hail them down in the street, and you must call the taxi company in advance.
Keeping Safe on Icelandic Streets
Like we mentioned before, the crime rates in Iceland are ridiculously low. Nonetheless, you should follow all the usual safety procedures that you would when traveling anywhere else. Use a money belt, don’t leave your valuables out on a restaurant table, and keep your bag well closed.
Racism, sexism, and homophobia are all illegal and treated seriously in Iceland. The Reykjavik Pride is the only gay pride parade in the world that has never been protested!
Solo women travelers and the LGBTQI+ community can rest assured that harassment and bigotry are extremely rare in the Icelandic context. Nonetheless, keep an eye on your drink when clubbing and try to avoid walking alone late at night. Just use your common sense!
Insider Tip: Make sure you book accommodation well in advance. Iceland is a trendy travel destination, and the hotels and guesthouses get fully booked in summer months.
Keeping Safe on Icelandic trails
The breath-taking natural beauty of Iceland brings visitors from all over the world! Make sure you keep safe on the gorgeous trails, by following these simple outdoor safety tips.
Hire a local guide
The best way to keep safe in the Icelandic wilderness is to hire a local guide. This is especially important when approaching glaciers. You should never attempt to get onto the glacier without a seasoned guide unless you have some serious experience on the ice. Make sure you wear sunglasses, sunscreen, and warm clothing when setting out for your glacier trip. Guide companies will normally provide any specialist equipment as part of the package.
Be aware of the conditions
The daylight hours are extremely short outside of the summer months, and dark falls surprisingly quickly. Try to get back safely before it gets dark, and always bring a good head torch with spare batteries. It is also a good idea to wear distinctive, bright clothing in case you get into any trouble, and you can also consider hiring an emergency beacon during your stay.
Do your research
The good news about the outdoors in Iceland, is there are no animals that you need to be afraid of! Icelandic wildlife is famous for being non-toxic to human beings. We don’t even have mosquitos!
However, cliff edges, hot springs, and active volcanoes could pose a risk to visitors that don’t know the area. Volcanoes are rarely marked once you get off the beaten track, so talk to a local or do some research when planning a more adventurous route. Wild hot springs can be a safety risk. To avoid the risk of severe burns, you should be sure that a hot spring is safe before entering, and certainly test with your fingers before jumping in.
Medical Advice for Iceland
You don’t need any special vaccinations to enter Iceland, but you should take out medical insurance. Icelandic medical care is very expensive if you are not insured. All doctors will speak good English, so you don’t have to worry about being understood. For any minor problems, you can go to the pharmacy (Apotek) for free advice. Pharmacists are also able to dispense many medications. Be aware that Iceland’s small population means that health services are not always close by, and the response times of the emergency services can be slowed down by this.
See you soon!
Iceland is a wonderful destination for global travelers and the safest country in the world. If you do get into any emergencies, do not forget to call 112. We look forward to welcoming you!