Covid-19 has changed all of our travel arrangements for the near future. Living in the UK, we can only travel to certain places without facing a 14 day quarantine on the way back; and this list changes weekly so nothing is safe!
My partner and I decided to travel to Iceland long before Covid was even around. In November 2019, we saw an offer for half price camper van hire with KuKu Campers and booked 10 days hire for the following September.
Whether this was still going ahead was touch and go for a while, and a few of our other holidays were cancelled in the run up to this one, but we are finally here and have been through the rigorous Covid-19 entry requirements!
I spent so long looking for information on what the entry process looks like in Iceland and found a few reports but nothing with a detailed account of going through it. From 15th June 2020, Iceland began allowing tourists from around the world, with those from certain countries required to complete a Covid-19 test on arrival. Test results would come back within 24 hours and if clear, you’d be free to roam the country. While you were waiting for results, you were able to visit attractions in the area. We had researched how this process worked and felt confident so kept our booking however, everything changed on 19th August.
The new and current rules stated a quarantine was now mandatory. If you pay to be tested, you are tested on arrival and quarantine for 5-6 days, then you are released from quarantine on the negative of a second test; otherwise you quarantine without being tested for 14 days.
The only information we could get about this was from the Icelandic government, which to be fair, was comprehensive, but no first hand accounts of actually having to do this. This was quite daunting for me, as a person that thoroughly researches anything before doing it!
For those of you like me, I’ve documented the process below in as much detail as possible so you know exactly what to expect when arriving in Iceland and how the quarantine worked for us as a bunch of Brits.
For either choice, make sure you have accommodation for the duration of your chosen time. For the shorter quarantine, I would suggest 5-6 nights to ensure you are released with time to spare, as it can take a while to get test results. You must not have any contact with anyone else during this time so make sure wherever you go is suitable to the Icelandic guidelines. As of writing, you need to be in a self-contained area with it’s own washing and toilet facilities, so camper vans are not suitable. We found a place on AirBnB that was specifically advertising that it was suitable for quarantine, and we messaged beforehand asking about internet speeds and other requirements we would need. I would advise letting the hotel/host know the intention of your stay is to quarantine so they can assist with any arrangements.
72 hours before arriving in Iceland, you must complete the visitors form.
This form asks if you’ve had any contact with anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 or symptoms yourself. If you have any symptoms, or have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case of Covid-19, do not travel anywhere.
To fill in the form, you will need the address of your quarantine location along with your email address and mobile for contact. Here you will choose your quarantine length and, if you’re getting a test, select to pay now or later. Paying now costs around 9,000 ISK (approx £51 at time of writing). Paying later costs around 11,000 ISK (approx £61). We chose to pay now and walked past a queue in the airport waiting to pay for their test so if you have the means, it will make it go smoother at the airport.
When you’ve finished filling in the form, you’ll be sent a barcode which must be available on your mobile device or printed off. This barcode is linked to you and is required to print the info that gets stuck to your test sample, so make sure it’s correct! If you fill in anything wrong, it is not possible to correct it once you’ve submitted the form, so you must fill in the form again. However, you can request a refund for the first one and have that processed within a week. Just make sure you delete the old barcode from your device to ensure you’re using the correct one. My partner did this and the refund was processed during our quarantine.
Finally, before arriving, you should arrange for some food to be at your accommodation. Being in an AirBnB, we had an equipped kitchen and cooking facilities. If you’re in a hotel, they may have delivery services that can be provided for you or you may have to sort something else out. Either way, make sure you have the means to be able to eat during your quarantine, as rules state you are not allowed to enter any shop or tourist area, or even a drive through.
We used a service called aha.is which can deliver groceries as well as being a fast food delivery service like Deliveroo or UberEats. We could pre-order a delivery 6 days in advance and for a certain time slot so we knew we would be at the property in time to receive it.
Arriving in Iceland
When you arrive in Iceland, they will likely be taking extra precautions with getting everyone off the plane a row at a time. We flew with Icelandair, but I don’t think this is exclusive to them. When we came off the plane, we went through the airport with our mandatory mask still on and through passport control as normal. We got through the the airport terminal and were greeted with airport staff who asked to see our barcodes. You were not allowed to pass this area until you could show the barcode. If you don’t have one here, you are required to fill out the form before passing through.
We had to keep our barcode out and visible to all staff we passed until we got through to baggage claim. We chose to quarantine for 5 days and be tested so this account will be about the details of that.
The testing booths were lined up like a passport control line. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures or videos. You are allocated a line and asked to step forward when the booth is clear and the worker has replaced their PPE. When I went in, the very kind lady explained I should scan my barcode to print the labels. Then she was going to take a swab from my throat and the dreaded up the nose swab we’ve all seen in social media. (for those worried about that, it’s a little unpleasant but it’s over very quickly but not as bad as is being portrayed! We found we had a runny nose after this test so take the tissue you’re offered!)
Once we’d had our tests, we were sent through to another border control point where we were given a booklet with information on what we were and weren’t allowed to do during quarantine, and that was it! We were out to pick up our bags from baggage claim.
Now we were allowed out into the world, we were not permitted to take any public transport to our quarantine pad. We were restricted to taxis and rental cars. We decided to take a taxi, which was quite expensive to Reykjavik. We’ve done some research and you can prebook taxi’s but Iceland is an expensive place so it wasn’t much more than we paid.
While we were chatting with the taxi driver, he told us tourism is really low in Iceland at the moment. He had been at the airport since 6am waiting for a flight to come in – we were the first he picked up at 3:30pm. So if you’re looking for a quiet time, and you’re sure you’re safe to travel, now is a good time to be in Iceland.
When we arrived at our AirBnB with a contact free check in, we were ready for a chill out. We picked a rural location north of Reykjavik so that we could take our short daily walks in the open country. We had booked for our food shopping arrive around 8pm, and waited for our test result.
Our negative test results came around 12:30 the following day. So this was within the 24 hour waiting period, but only just! We were starting to worry a little by this point! With this result came an appointment time and date for the second test 5 days after arriving. i.e. we landed on the Sunday and the next test was Friday morning.
As we both went through different testing booths, our results came at different times, as did our second appointment. But after an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, we had it confirmed that we were able to both attend one of the allocated times. I would recommend asking rather than just turning up but I believe it is just an allocated time rather than an appointment.
The next few days went by quite quickly and before we knew it, the barcode for the second test came the night before, as promised. We had booked a taxi for the morning of the test with Hreyfill. We called them the day before and when it came to that time, the taxi was outside our house dead on 8:55am. We were unsure of how long the testing process would take so we didn’t book a taxi back.
Because we’d mentioned the testing centre, the taxi driver came fully prepared with a dividing screen and a mask on. He advised that when we booked the taxi back, we mention that we’ve just been tested so that the returning taxi is just as prepared!
When we got to the Reykjavik testing centre (Suderlandsbraut 34, 108), there was a very large queue outside, but we were surprised to see it went quite quickly! As Brits, we were prepared for a long queue! When we got to the front of the outdoor line, there was someone checking barcodes. She directed us to the correct place and we went inside.
The queue continued in there, moving just as fast. We got to the reception desk where they were scanning the barcodes and printing off our test labels. They asked to see a passport, so make sure you take that, but it was only used to check that the names matched, rather than facial ID. They handed us our test vile and we got put into the line for testing.
There were 6 people doing the tests and they were very efficient. We both agreed that this test was much better than the first! Once we’d had the test done, we were directed back out of the building. The whole process took us maybe 15 minutes, though I would plan in a little extra time, just in case.
I called for a return taxi, it arrived in around 5 minutes and collected us from just outside the front doors of the centre, so we were very happy about that. Now we just had to wait for the results. Thankfully, we had work to distract us from the waiting.
Our negative test results arrived at different times again, even though we went in at the same time so don’t stress if someones comes through before yours. Our test was at 9:15am and we had both results by 4pm.
Now that we have had these results, that’s the end of our quarantine!
The whole process of quarantine and testing was incredibly smooth. There was not a single moment that we didn’t know what we needed to do. Which is really impressive when you’re in a country that you don’t speak the native language. Though it was a bit stressful waiting for results, they are coming as fast as they possibly can and the quarantine restrictions aren’t that bad. I think it makes tourism in Iceland seem a lot safer than tourism in countries where they aren’t testing.
I hope this helps you with your journey to Iceland. Let me know in the comments what your experience was like!