Horseback riding in Iceland

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Equestrian tours in Iceland

Iceland Mini Guide
    Source: World Travel Guide

Overview

A small dot in the Atlantic between Scandinavia and America, Iceland has built an impressive tourist industry from its abundant natural wonders. Even financial collapse during the global economic crisis failed to hold back "the land of fire and ice" for long, and visitors are once again flocking to its wilderness parks and dramatic landscapes.

The fire in question, of course, comes from Iceland's abundant volcanoes, which burst periodically into life, with sometimes costly consequences for European aviation. Elemental forces bubble just below the surface across the island, heating the water in Iceland's taps and swimming pools, and creating otherworldly landscapes of twisted lava and rainbow-colored mineral sands.

Volcanic tourism is big news, with trips to bubbling fumaroles, live lava flows and perhaps the world's most reliable geyser at Geysir which blows its top every four to eight minutes. Thermal springs surface everywhere, providing hot spots on the nation's beaches and heating the waters of the iconic Blue Lagoon, a surreal open-air swimming pool surrounded by a landscape of tortured black lava.

Ice is Iceland's other big draw (the clue is in the name) - more specifically, the dramatic glaciers which slice down towards the coast, calving icebergs into eerie lagoons. Glacier tours, by snowmobile, on foot, or on the back of a tiny Icelandic horse, are an integral part of the Iceland experience. In places, you can even tick off glacier and volcano on a single trip.

What lures many people back to Iceland a second or third time is the quirky nature of the Icelandic people. Eccentric, creative and fiercely independent, the Icelanders are simply a lot of fun to be around, particularly during the endless days of summer, when the runtur bar crawl rages through the streets of Reykjavik, the island's miniature capital city.

So come trek a lave-field, gaze on a glacier, spot a whale or a puffin, sample one of Europe's strangest national cuisines, and brave the snows in winter to glimpse the northern lights in their full glory, undimmed by light pollution in the least densely populated nation in Europe.

 

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes/1/2

Visa Required?

British

No

Australian

No

Canadian

No

USA

No

Other EU

No

Return Ticket Required?

British

No

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

No

 

Passports

A passport valid for the duration of stay (EU travelers) or three months beyond the length of stay and issued within the past 10 years (non-EU travelers) is required by nationals referred to in the chart above. This does not apply to travelers from: 

1. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, EstoniaFrance, Germany, Greece, HungaryItaly, LatviaLithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, who a can enter Iceland with a national ID card.

2. Denmark, Finland or Sweden, who do not require a passport to enter Iceland if arriving directly from another Nordic country. Remember however that airlines may require a passport before allowing you to board the plane.

Passport Note

Iceland is a signatory to the 1995 Schengen Agreement.

Visas

Not required by all nationals of referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days.

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).

Visa Note

Visit the Directorate of Immigration (www.utl.is) for up-to-date visa and passport information.

Types and Cost

Schengen visa: free for children under 6, £35 for children 6-12, £53 for all other children and adults.


Validity

Certain nationals (not those listed above) require a transit visa; check with the consulate.

 

Money

Currency

Icelandic krona (ISK; symbol kr) = 100 aurar. Notes are in denominations of kr5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, and 10,000. Coins are in denominations of kr100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 and feature Iceland's many native fish species. It is often difficult to get Icelandic money abroad, though not impossible; there are several ATMs and banks at the airport on arrival.

Currency Exchange

Foreign currencies can be exchanged in all major banks. Most hotels also provide their guests with exchange services, which may cost more.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are widely accepted. ATMs are available throughout the country.

Traveller's Cheques

Accepted, although mainly in key urban areas. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.

Currency Restrictions

Restrictions apply.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0915-1600.

Exchange Rate Indicators

Date

April 2018

£1.00=

kr141.51

$1.00=

kr99.63

€1.00=

kr123.33

 

Health

Vaccinations

 

Special Precautions

Diphtheria

No

Hepatitis A

No

Malaria

No

Rabies

No

Tetanus

Yes

Typhoid

No

Yellow Fever

No

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

Health Care

Iceland is a very safe country to visit. There are no serious health conditions associated with the country and no inoculations are required for entry. The emergency number for medical assistance is 112 (24 hours). For European visitors who are taken ill or have an accident, free or reduced-cost treatment is available - in most cases on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC gives access to state-provided medical treatment only. Icelandic healthcare is of a high Western standard. In each town you will find an Apotek (pharmacy) which has a green plus sign outside it.

Other Risks

Weather and risky behaviour in unpredictable terrain is the largest health risk to the traveller in Iceland. Weather changes quickly and the temperatures can be more extreme than elsewhere in the world, so you must be prepared if embarking on hiking trails or extreme pursuits. Bring warm clothing, check weather reports and leave messages with your hotel or hostel about where you are going and when you expect to be back. Remote areas in the Highlands can have no mobile phone coverage and are not regularly visited so you must be prepared.

Safe Travel (www.safetravel.is) allows you to leave travel plans online, suggests equipment lists and has road and weather information. If you plan to pursue extreme sports or outdoors activities in the country, be sure that your insurance covers them. If you have an accident, helicopter transport might be necessary to one of the country’s main hospitals in Reykjavík or Akureyri.

The country is seismically active, but there is little risk to the traveller as long as local information is heeded. Hikers who disregarded warning information from the police about walking routes near active volcanoes in recent years have suffered the consequences. Volcanic activity is monitored closely and warnings are posted so it is very unlikely that you will encounter an entirely unexpected eruption. Be sure to stick to well-marked paths in volcanically active areas of national parks (and even in well-known tourist areas such as those around Geysir) as the unstable ground can be dangerous, and frequent small earthquakes can weaken ground substantially.

Car crashes are the other serious threat to health in the country. Drive safely, obey all traffic laws and do not drink and drive. Be sure that you have read and understood the local traffic laws as many are posted on signs in Icelandic only; take a map with you as GPS can be unpredictable, and let people know where you are going and when you should be expected to arrive.

Iceland’s animals do not present much risk; horses can bite but it is rare. In the summer, some areas including Myvatn in the north can suffer from midges. Cover up and take repellent to solve the problem.

Getting There

Getting There by Air

The national airline, Icelandair (FI) (website: www.icelandair.net), operates direct flights all year round to Reykjavík (Keflavík) from multiple cities in the UK, Europe, and North America. WOW Air (www.wowair.com) also flies direct to Reykjavik from the UK and the USA. Other airlines operating non-stop flights to Iceland from the UK include British Airways (www.ba.com) and easyJet (www.easyjet.com).

There are also some highly seasonal flights from Europe to Akureyi, in the north of Iceland.

Prices and frequency of flights vary considerably depending on the time of the year. Winter (apart from Christmas and New Year) is the cheapest time to go, with the least regular flights. June is the most expensive, with a wider choice of flights.

Approximate Flight Times

From London to Iceland is 3 hours; and from New York is 5 hours 30 minutes.

Main Airports

Keflavík International Airport (KEF) (website: www.keflavikairport.com) is the main international hub, 48km (30 miles) southwest of Reykjavík (journey time – 45 minutes). To/from the airport: Flybus (website: www.re.is) operates after each flight, making trips to all major hotels in Reykjavík, the camping ground, the youth hostel in Laugardalun and the domestic terminal. A taxi service is also available. Facilities: Duty-free shop, banking and exchange facilities, information desk, post office, restaurants, bars and car hire.

Departure Tax

None.

Getting There by Water

Main port: Seyðisfjörður

From Seyðisfjörður, it takes 8-9 hours to reach Reykjavik by bus. There are bus routes from the port to all of Iceland's major towns. Tourist information is available at the ferry port. The Faroe Islands' Smyril Line (website: www.smyril-line.com) operates a weekly passenger- and car-ferry service from Denmark and the Faroe Islands. Passengers can add a three-day stopover in the Faroe Island on the way to Iceland, or a two-day stopover on their return, if they wish. This is the only way to bring your car, caravan, or motorbike to the island and is a comfortable way to travel, with a swimming pool, sauna, children's playground, and restaurants.

Note that while it does daily between November and March, crossings are frequently cancelled due to bad weather, and it is more reliable between April and October. While the journey takes a long time compared with flying, it offers sensational views of the Faroe Islands and Iceland on approach.

 

Climate

Iceland’s climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream. Summers are mild and winters rather cold. The colourful Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) appear from the end of August. From the end of May to the beginning of August, there are nearly 24 hours of perpetual daylight in Reykjavík, while in the northern part of the country the sun barely sets at all. Winds can be strong and gusty at times and there is the occasional dust storm in the interior. Snow is not as common as the name of the country would seem to suggest and, in any case, does not lie for long in Reykjavík; it is only in northern Iceland that skiing conditions are reasonably certain. However, the weather is very changeable at all times of the year, and in Reykjavík there may be rain, sunshine, drizzle and snow in the same day. The air is clean and free of pollution.

Required Clothing

Lightweights in warmer months, with extra woollens for walking and the cooler evenings. Medium- to heavyweights are advised in winter. Waterproofing is recommended throughout the year. Umbrellas are not recommended because rain is very often accompanied by wind.

 

Contacts

Embassy of Iceland in the UK

2A Hans Street, London SW1X 0JE, UK
Tel: (020) 7259 3999.
Website: www.iceland.is/iceland-abroad/uk  
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0930-1630.
There is currently no Icelandic tourist board in the UK, but the embassy can deal with all enquiries

Embassy of Iceland in the USA

#509, 2900 K Street NW, Washington, 20007, USA
Tel: (202) 265 6653.
Website: www.iceland.is/iceland-abroad/us/wdc
Opening times: Mon-Fri: 0900-1600

 

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