Iceland update: start planning, but maybe not flying just yet
Iceland update: start planning, but maybe not flying just yet
Since my last message, there have been a number of developments in Iceland. Many positive and some that require reconsideration. Therefore, I devoted this month’s blog article to adding additional information and making any changes. The question asked 1 month ago was: “Now is the right time to come to Iceland?” My answer to this question has not changed;
It would seem, with careful planning, flexibility and working with the locals, that it might be time to start considering Iceland as your next big trip.
This statement remains as true today as it was last month. However, there are a number of things to consider before jumping on a plane on June 15. I will develop below.
My personal thoughts
First of all, before continuing reading, I would like to present my personal opinion.
Iceland is safe! Really safe actually. But also think about the repercussions of returning to your country. Does your country still have a 2 week quarantine procedure? If you don’t get a chance to catch COVID-19 while traveling, can you afford to work remotely in quarantine? When you return, will you have to interact with vulnerable people? If the answer to any of these questions is negative or just “don’t know”, consider visiting Iceland later, perhaps in winter rather than summer. It’s just as magical, especially when you add northern lights and ice caves.
Where to find specific information
I would caution against this message by stating that all of the information at the time of writing is up to date. However, since last month, things have changed rapidly. Therefore, I implore you to read this article in conjunction with the Icelandic government website and the COVID-19 dedicated website in Iceland for the latest information.
Iceland has had only 8 new cases since early May
That’s an incredibly low number, especially with only one of these cases in June to date (as of June 13, 2020). Zero people are hospitalized and only 3 are isolated throughout the country. With widespread testing and world class health service, I am confident these numbers will stay low. 40% of the population also uses the Covid-19 Trace application. So if a flurry of new cases emerges, the hope is that the Icelandic government will be able to stop it in its tracks.
Local services are already open
Schools, swimming pools, bars, restaurants and clubs are all open. Any tourist attraction you have thought of will be fully operational when you arrive in Iceland, including the famous Blue Lagoon. A social distance rule of 2 meters is always recommended, but not mandatory. All common areas must provide 2 meters, but it’s up to you to maintain this distance. Nor is it stipulated that you should wear a mask, although hand washing and surface disinfection are a priority. Indeed, once in Iceland, you will feel as usual. Except that there will be many, many fewer people than usual.
Anyone in the EU and Schengen can fly from June 15
My previous post suggested that it would be worldwide. This is because that is what the official announcement said. Unfortunately, the EU and the Schengen area have extended their travel ban until July 1 for all non-EU and Schengen countries. And although Iceland may choose not to follow this extension, at the time of writing, it looks like they will.
So, if you come from one of the EU and Schengen countries, you can jump on a plane from the 15th, assuming that your country offers direct flights to Iceland. If you are from the United States and other non-EU countries, you must wait an additional 2 weeks.
July 1 is expected to be the final date for all countries, but there is always a small chance that will change. If so, be sure to book tours and flights with companies that offer refunds or travel vouchers. Icelandair has been great in offering alternatives during all of this. Oh, and get good travel insurance. This should be obvious at this point.
IcelandAir and other airlines expand their service
During the shutdown, Icelandair rarely flew to Boston, Stockholm and London. From June 15, it is likely that they will also increase the frequency of flights and destinations, Paris, London, Oslo and Zurich being among the first to take the plane. There will also be 6 other airlines serving Iceland at the same time, including; SAS, WizzAir and Lufthansa. It appears that new routes will open quickly as demand increases again.
Tests on arrival will be free for the first 2 weeks then $ 113
This should be watched as the details have already changed a few times. For now, the official position is that you cannot use tests in your own country to ignore border tests. The good news, however, is that border testing will be streamlined and affordable. The test procedure will only take an hour and you will be free to go to your hotel and walk the streets of Reykjavik with appropriate caution. The test results will then be communicated to you within a few hours, or the next day at the latest. If you were born in 2005 or later, you are exempt from testing. Great news for families with children!
You must quarantine if your test is positive on arrival
This is an important point for sure. If you are flying to Iceland and your test is positive, you will have to stay in the country for 2 weeks in your hotel or in a free hotel covered by the government. To minimize this risk, you can test in your own country before coming. But keep in mind that this is to reassure you that you do not have it rather than taking the tests on arrival.
If you are near someone on the plane, you may also need to quarantine
It’s a big problem. Even if you don’t test positive, if someone else is near you on the plane, you may still be asked to quarantine for 2 weeks. But, considering that Icelandair requires you to wear a face mask at all times, and will appropriately space the seats on the plane, this risk is relatively low. But a risk nonetheless.
Check your country’s rules to return quarantine regulations
The rest of the world does not mean that Iceland is open. When you return to your home country, make sure you know what procedures you need to follow. If you have to automatically quarantine, like in the UK, will you still be able to do your work from home without affecting your livelihood? Will you be interacting with your loved ones soon after your return? If so, the risk may be too high for you.
You can skip the tests if you come from high risk countries
This seems like a good rule of thumb to reduce testing and minimize the risk of quarantine. However, at the time of writing, Iceland does not consider Greeland and the Faroe Islands to be of high risk. Keep an eye on this list over the weeks and months. Once your country is considered low risk, you do not need to be tested. Then, in addition to filling out a precautionary form and downloading a tracking app, you should be free to enjoy Iceland as planned.
Iceland is empty! Start planning – don’t fly
So to finish. Iceland seems to be a great place to visit. And, with so few cases remaining, with the resumption of all public services, a trip here seems perfect. But, with all the other things to consider first, don’t rush to book this dream trip right away. Get in touch with the locals who know best and start planning – not stealing. If you are used to summer vacations, so much the better! But maybe this year is the time to broaden your horizon and watch the fantastic winter vacations too.
Glacier hikes, the northern lights, snowy landscapes and ice caves make Iceland an incredible choice for winter. Take away 90% of the number of tourists from last year and you will have the impression of having this unique little island for yourself. It seems that Iceland in autumn and winter is worth saving for a little longer. But I’m a little biased as a glacier guide.
See you soon!
Ryan Connolly is co-founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specializes in private travel, taking you to some of Iceland’s hidden gems with a passionate and experienced guide.