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Iceland to re-open to tourists on 15th June with airport testing

To say I’m excited by this news would be a bit of an understatement. Especially since my livelihood relies on people coming to Iceland. But, I am cautious as to what this will actually mean for travellers who do decide to make the journey to Iceland this year. So I’ve put together a short list of what travel will mean for people coming to Iceland after the 15th of June, and if it’s a good idea. Is COVID-19 still in Iceland? Since the beginning of May, Iceland has only reported a handful of new cases. This is despite widespread testing. The locals in Iceland are settling into normal life again. A new normal with social distancing in place, but normal none the less. Will opening the borders risk a resurgence of COVID-19 in Iceland? The government are still fleshing out the specifics, but the expectation is that this will not create a new surge because of the precautions they are taking. To enter Iceland you must: a. have a certificate confirming a recent COVID-18 test being negative. b. OR take a test upon arrival with results expected within 24 hours. c. if you refuse, or the test comes back positive, then you must quarantine for 2 weeks. d. download a COVID-19 tracer App to monitor the spread in the country. What will Iceland be like in a post COVID-19 world? In short, the crowds have DISAPPEARED! And the discounts will be EVERYWHERE! All the natural sights are just as beautiful as always, and just as accessible. Hotels will be more likely to be available in the busier months (summer). And with the exchange rate being very favourable for USD, EUR and GBP that expensive dinner won’t feel so expensive anymore. Is everything open in Iceland? Thankfully, the things that make Iceland so special don’t have opening times. That’s the beauty of nature. Long hikes, tranquil walks, natural hot pools and glacier hikes are all open air. A great example is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with its building sized icebergs floating by. Without many other tourist getting in the way you can walk the shores of the lagoon in peace and harmony. If you decide to come in the summer you will be treated to the migration period for puffins and whales. If decide to wait until winter, then ice caves and Northern Lights appear. Should I join a tour? Definitely. Despite social distancing measures, the rule for tour groups is that you must be 2 rows away from your driver and have empty seats between non family members. So all that social distancing will mean for you when joining these tours is that you will have more space in the vehicle. Then, with your expert guide leading the way you can aim to avoid any bottleneck effects with other travellers and learn about everything Iceland has to offer. Further to this, if you are worried about mixing with other people then you can always opt for a private tour instead. With the exchange rate being where it is, and big discounts from operators, private travel has never been cheaper. What does social distancing mean for travellers? Travellers are considered low risk. This is due to the fact that they are unlikely to come in contact with vulnerable people. When you are at any popular attraction, you need to maintain the 2 metre social distancing rule, but that actually helps when it comes to getting a picture without other tourists in it. Should I wait, or come to Iceland now? Once you are in Iceland, you are safe. As safe as you can be during all this anyway. With virtually no new cases being reported in Iceland you can breath easily upon arrival. However, it really depends on whether or not the country you are coming from allows international travel, and if you have to quarantine right away after too. So if you are still worried about physically getting here then perhaps look to the winter for travel instead. Iceland has plenty of great attractions in winter. From the Northern Lights to ice cave exploration to a winter wonderland aesthetic. The great thing is that many small operators are offering very flexible tickets right now. If you book a tour for the future and decide the time isn’t quite right then you can change the date free of charge. The same goes for many airlines, including Icelandair. However, if you do decide to come in summer make sure to enjoy the rich flora and fauna that is only available at this time of year. The entire south coast of Iceland turns purple with the Alaskan Lupine flourishing at that time of year. What will prices be like because of COVID-19? Amazingly, a lot cheaper. So many operators and trip planners are providing big discounts right now to encourage people to start travelling again. Couple that with an impressive exchange rate and Iceland has never been cheaper. What about the crowds? I hear Iceland is overcrowded? Well, I would have argued that this wasn’t true before COVID-19 hit. In fact, 2019 saw a marked downturn in tourist numbers anyway. After the effects of COVID-19 have been taken into account many are expecting a maximum of 30-40% of the tourist numbers. It would seem, with careful planning, a degree of flexibility and working with the locals it might be time to start looking at Iceland as your next big trip. Hopefully see you sooner, rather than later. Ryan Connolly is Co-Founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specialises in private trips, taking you to some of the hidden gems of Iceland with a passionate and experienced guide. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Ryan Connolly

Ryan Connolly is the Marketing Manager and Co-Founder for Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland is a carbon neutral travel company that specialises in private or small group tours that take you across the whole of Iceland. Hunting for the Northern Lights, discovering ice caves, hiking on glaciers and walking to the tops of volcanoes are some of the more adventurous activities Hidden Iceland take part in. But many of their customers also enjoy relaxing in natural hot pools, enjoying local cuisine and chance encounters with the wildlife too. Ryan has guided in many different countries and is proud to have stepped foot on all seven continents in his pursuit of new terrain. He is a qualified Glacier Guide, Wilderness First Responder and permanent resident of Iceland.

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  1. Oh wow, I didn’t know this! I don’t know what travel from the UK will be like this year but it sounds like Iceland has got a stable plan in place for receiving visitors, especially with testing at the airport. What happens in the 24 hours while waiting for the results, do they have to stay in an area of the airport? Admittedly I’d be too apprehensive to travel for the next couple of months but I really do like the idea of the place being quieter, not to mention the discounts potentially on offer. It also seems like the tourism industry has thought of all the different aspects involved in holidaying to make sure measures are suitable, like with social distancing for tour groups. If only the UK were this well prepared for, well, anything! Good to know Iceland will be re-opening safely soon and I really do hope the businesses can ride out the storm until things get closer to normal.

    1. Thanks Wendy,

      The government are still fleshing out the specifics but at the moment it looks like with the Tracing App in place you can go about your normal business until the results come through. Then once you get the all clear you get the reassurance that you don’t have it. If you test positive you would then need to Quarantine for 2 weeks in Iceland.

      I hope that the UK and other countries continue to improve so that when people are able to travel from their own countries Iceland can welcome them with open arms.

      You are doing the right thing by waiting. If you are not sure that travel is a good idea now then wait until the time is right.

      Fingers crossed everything continues to improve world wide.

  2. Can someone here transport me to Iceland right now? I really miss travelling and we all know we cannot travel anytime soon due to the pandemic we are all dreading. Iceland looks like a safe haven and looking at the pictures now makes me think that it came out of a painting, really wonderful. But I wonder how safe this would be even without a working vaccine yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m buzzing. Even hearing news of JUST ONE destination being open to tourists is making me giddy. It’s been a hard blow to the travel industry and even if this is just baby steps for now, I believe it will bounce back strong again in the future.

    1. You are right to be cautious. Even with 100% testing on arrival there is still a chance that something will slip through the cracks. I agree, Iceland opening their borders on the 15th of June is just the start of the reemergence of travel. Hopefully, by autumn or winter things will be improved more so than now. We can only hope.

  3. I have always been worried about any country opening its borders to tourists and business travelers. It’s hard to imagine how the ports of entry will look like when this happens. Will there be a flood of people waiting at the airports? Where will they stay to avoid contact with possible positive Covid-19 cases? I applaud Iceland for having a preliminary procedure in place and having testing capabilities for their airport. I would guess this would be really hard to implement in busy tourist destinations, say, Paris. However, I think there would be fewer people traveling what with their own nations having travel restrictions in place. But I say, it’s good to know that some borders are beginning to open, which is an all-around good sign for the travel and tourism industry.

    1. Hi Rafael,

      Great insight. I agree that most countries wouldn’t be able to implement such restrictions without creating a flood of people and new cases.

      Thankfully, Iceland only has one major international airport and the expectation is that the amount of flights (and therefore tourists) allowed into the country will be matched by the testing levels on site. Initially they expect to only be allowed 500-1000 people per day. This means only 2 to 5 flights in total per day. The tests will be administered at the airport and results given 5 hours later. During that time you would be allowed to leave the airport and go to your hotel (while social distancing) to wait for the results.

      If Iceland, in its smaller scale, can do it, hopefully it will give the rest of the world a good case study to follow too.

  4. First of all “have a certificate confirming a recent COVID-18 test being negative” is not true. Iceland authorities do not recognise certificates made outside Iceland and this is part of the rules. Secondary “A negative test result does not guarantee that an individual will not later be required to self-quarantine if they have been exposed to infection, e.g. on the flight to Iceland. The contact tracing team interviews those who have been in close contact with a confirmed active case during two days prior to the onset of symptoms”
    Because of the above rules we (5 people) actually can not travel to Iceland, even if we make a test 2 days before our trip to confirm for ourselves that we are Covid-19 free….In fact at any moment while you are enjoying the country somebody can call you and say “hey, the man or woman, who you don’t know, sitting behind you on the plane tested positive, so please you and your party stay for 2 weeks isolated here in Iceland”…most probably you understand that this is not acceptable :) Most probably I am not the only one, who read the rules very strictly, so I am pretty sure many people will forget about Iceland till the compulsory testing is lifted.

    1. Hi Pavel,

      You are indeed 100% correct. This blog post was written before the rules changed. At time of writing it was announced that being tested prior to entering the country would be allowed. This was sadly overturned. Now only testing upon arrival for those born after 2005 will stop 2 week quarantine.

      Again, there is a chance that if you were in close proximity to someone who later tests positive on the plane that you can also be told to self-isolate. For most travellers that will mean that Iceland, and indeed most countries, will be out of the question in the short term.

      I think as testing begins in a few days the government will be met with many challenges and hopefully some of the rules will be adapted to make it safer and more travel friendly.

      Either way, travelling right now is a risk. A risk that is being managed. Some may choose to take that risk and some may not.

      I hope when the time is right for you we will see you in Iceland one day.

  5. Just looked this up and saw that they are sticking to that date. I hope everything works out this week and in the near future for travelers going there. This seems like an important step for the rest of the world. Best of luck!

    1. It would seem so, Lauren. EU & Schengen for the first two weeks then the rest of the world on the 1st of July.

      I can report that after the first few days things have gone as smoothly as they can. Hopefully things will continue to improve over the coming weeks and months.

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