Iceland has done an excellent job at controlling the spread of COVID-19, which is why the country is cautiously opening its borders to visitors from the EU and Schengen states, and is also one of the many reasons so many of us are so eager to visit. But they want to make sure that in welcoming tourists everything is being done to keep you, and everybody else in Iceland, safe. If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll be ready for an easy entrance to Iceland.
As visitors to Iceland, our responsibilities started in the days before we travelled. We had been vigilant all Spring to ensure we didn’t catch the virus, and even more so in the days leading up to our flight. If you have a fever, are experiencing cold-like symptoms or feeling unwell in any way, this is not the time to visit Iceland. While nobody wants to postpone a holiday, these days it’s better to be safe than sorry. Thankfully many airlines are being flexible with rebookings!
Arriving in Iceland is always efficient, but with the complexities of Covid-19, it was hard to anticipate what we’d encounter. With help from the Pink Iceland team, and government websites, we found the process was very streamlined and low stress -- something very welcomed after embarking on the travel unknowns.
On advice from Pink Iceland (all detailed below), in the days leading up to our flight we did three easy things that saved us a lot of stress, time, and even a little money when we arrived at Keflavik Airport:
Completed an online pre-registration form. This provided us with a barcode to show when we landed at the airport in Iceland.
As part of that registration form, we opted to test for COVID-19 upon arrival and prepaid for the test (9000 Icelandic Króna when prepaid, 11,000 if you pay when you land in Iceland).
Downloaded Iceland’s Rakning C-19 app (iOS and Android) on our phones.
We highly recommend you do these when you have easy access to a computer/wifi, your passport, flight info and address of your first stay. Trust us, you’ll avoid a throng of people gathered in the KEF airport trying to do the same after arrival. If you can’t do them in advance, there is free wifi in the airport. We chose to print copies of everything so we didn’t have to hand off our phones (COVID habits die hard!), but they did accept electronic versions.
We arrived very early to the airport, happily so. The check-in was a bit longer than usual (and longer physically due to social distancing). It felt like a travel day during the holidays. The Icelandair staff were great and efficient, but many travelers did not know in advance that carry-on luggage with wheels was not allowed (as of early July for Icelandair), and would need to be checked. We were allowed to carry the standard allowance of hand luggage (one passenger was allowed to take on a small wheel bag that would fit under the seat). Since airlines and travel are constantly changing to adapt to ongoing events, we recommend you call your airline to confirm in advance. As a result of the longer check-in, the boarding process was quite efficient, and it was lovely onboard the flight as there was more than ample overhead space!
The flight was easy and felt very typical. Our boarding started with the last rows first. The only change was the in-flight services: flight attendants distributed a small bag with a sandwich and water after take-off, and beyond that, limited their interactions unless someone needed something directly.
Arriving In Reykjavík (Keflavik Airport):
The deplaining was very controlled and efficient, starting with the front rows and moving back. After exiting the plane (still wearing masks, which is now required by most European airlines), since we had pre-paid for testing, we showed them our pre-registration barcode and were directed immediately (around the huge group of passengers who hadn’t done the pre-flight prep) to the COVID-19 testing area. Those who hadn’t paid in advance were directed to self-service kiosks. Please note our guidance above: with a few things prepared in advance, the process getting through testing and Customs was a breeze.
The line at Keflavik airport allows for easy social distancing, and we waited only a few minutes to go to our separate testing “pods” and were greeted by two very nice and efficient testing staff. They ask you to scan your barcode while they sanitize their hands and change into new gloves for each passenger. You can put down your hand luggage and remove your mask. Two tests are done: a throat swab (easy) and a nasal swab (slightly uncomfortable, but done quickly). Our masks went back on, and off to customs! Took maybe two to three minutes tops!
Customs, Baggage and Duty Free!!
After clearing customs as you would normally, we were able to visit the restroom and head towards the baggage area. Of course we wanted to make one last stop before collecting our luggage: Duty Free. The Duty Free store is the least expensive way to buy alcohol and tobacco in Iceland, so if you’re planning to partake while visiting (or taking a gift to someone locally), this is a great place to stock up. The Duty Free store for arriving flights is found downstairs (the upstairs shop is for departures!) at the bottom of the escalator as you exit. You can’t miss it on the way to baggage claim, and you can go before or after retrieving your luggage.
The Duty Free staff are very helpful, and if you prefer not to chat with them, there is a large sign on the left wall when entering that shows various combinations and volumes you are allowed to purchase. Once shopping is done, grab a luggage cart, collect your bags and it’s time to head out.
Leaving Keflavik Airport:
While there are multiple ways to transfer to Reykjavik, we chose a private taxi and current guidance when we traveled was to not use public transit. Pink Iceland arranged a pre-paid taxi for us, which made it so easy. The driver (in a mask) greeted us at the exit with a sign showing our names and walked us to his car. Because we were international arrivals, and couldn’t be assured of our test results yet, he was prohibited from touching our luggage (something that made the very kind Icelander quite apologetic). So you’ll need to handle your luggage (and Duty Free haul) yourself.
All taxis picking up from the airport are required to have a plastic barrier between the driver and the passengers, and are also required to disinfect the car between passengers. It didn’t keep us from chatting with the driver, though, as he proudly explained all of the sights along the way! When you arrive at your lodging, again you’ll need to remove your luggage. As our ride was pre-paid (including gratuity), there was no physical interaction with the driver.
Awaiting Test Results:
After checking into your lodging (still with your mask on during check-in!), it’s time to head to your room and self-isolate until test results come in - great time for a nap. We landed at 06h00 and had our results by 14h00! For arrivals after 17h00, test results will generally be available the next morning. Until you have your results, please follow these helpful guidelines (in multiple languages). It’s important to stay in your room and avoid close contact with other people. We asked the team at Pink Iceland to help us pick up a few basics so we’d have something to eat and drink while waiting out our quarantine and we also packed some snacks with us in our luggage, just in case.
We each got our test results within a few minutes of each other via the Rakning C-19 app also spoken about as the Iceland Covid app. It’s important to have your phone switched on and the app set to allow it to trace you at all times you’re in Iceland. If you don’t receive your results within 24 hours, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they should be able to help you.
Our test results were negative so we were relieved! Hopefully your test result is negative and you’re able to go out and enjoy all that Iceland has to offer. If you’ve come from a region where masks are still regularly worn, Iceland may feel a bit curious during the first days: people don’t generally wear masks, restaurants are open for business as usual and bars are bustling. Life is back to normal in Iceland and it feels amazing! Truly amazing! That said, it’s still important during the first 14 days in Iceland to remain more attentive, since negative test results do not guarantee no infection. If you start to feel ill and symptoms indicate COVID-19, the Rakning C-19 app is very helpful and provides multiple ways for you to review symptoms, contact the health officials via a Live Chat or call a 24/7 clinic to discuss your symptoms, and they will guide you from there. As the country’s guidance could change, please check their resources to best educate yourself and determine the best next steps.
If your test result is positive, you’ll receive a phone call from the COVID outpatient ward of the National Hospital, and you will be invited to a consultation and a blood test. This will provide information as to whether you are infectious and need to stay in isolation for 14 days or whether you are free to continue your travels, with appropriate caution.
Our first week in Iceland has been almost inexplicably one of the most freeing times in memory. Both the generous spirit of the Icelanders and the freedom of enjoying a country that has worked so hard to keep their country in good health and provide a respite for others. It hasn’t been without sacrifices here, which we appreciate so much.
The Pink Iceland team thanks their dear guests for their detailed description of what it is like to travel to Iceland during the Covid-19, we hope this will help other travelers for the smoothest and easiest access to Iceland and we of course hope you choose Pink Iceland for all your travel needs and wedding planning in Iceland :)