Practical Information

Where is Iceland?

Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe. It lies about 800 km northwest of Scotland and 970 km west of Norway, and its northern coast is just below the Arctic Circle. 

Iceland is the same distance from London as Athens. The distance from New York to Iceland is the same as from New York to Los Angeles. Reykjavík is the world's northernmost capital city.

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  • Driving in Iceland
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Average temperature around noon 2001-2011

Hottest to coldest temperature around noon 2001-2011

The temperature you can expect when visiting Reykjavík is certainly not reflected in the name of the country. Our winters are quite mild and our summers are refreshing and not overly warm.

So this is what you can expect, the normal temperature in Reykjavík and it's highs and lows for the past 10 years.
Now let's see how the average temperature in Reykjavík compares to Oslo.

We'll hide the hot/cold for a bit to simplify things. The summers in Oslo can get quite warm — and the winters can also get quite cold.

Try it for yourself! You can compare Reykjavík's temperature to other cities'. Switch the high/low areas on and off to see how hot and cold it can get in each city."

Source: University of Wyoming Explore this data


Driving in Iceland

Ring Road Nr. 1 around Iceland is 1,332 km (827 mi). The general speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on gravel roads in rural areas, and 90 km/h on asphalt, rural roads. For more information, be sure to visit www.safetravel.is

All mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a loose gravel surface. The surface on the gravel roads is especially loose along the sides of the roads, so one should drive carefully. The mountain roads are quite narrow and are not made for speeding. The same goes for some bridges that only allow one car to pass at a time.

For current information on road conditions, call +354 522-1000, lines open daily from 8:00–16:00. Visit www.road.is for more information.


Tax-Free Shopping

Value Added Tax (VAT) may be refunded to persons resident abroad on goods that they have purchased in this country, subject to the conditions of regulations.

VAT in Iceland is 25,5%, or 7% on special goods. To get a refund you must have a permanent address outside of Iceland. Minimum amount spent on a single receipt in order to be eligible for tax-free shopping is ISK 4.000. Goods must be exported within three months from date of purchase. Maximum refund is 15% of the retail price.

In order to obtain a refund, all of the following conditions must be met:

  1. The buyer will bring the goods out of the country within three months of the purchase.
  2. The purchase price of the goods with VAT is a minimum of ISK 4,000.
  3. The articles along with required documents are produced at departure.

On departure from the country through Keflavik International Airport, the buyer shall produce the articles along with a refund cheque to the refund service provider, who will purchase it subject to the fulfilment of all the conditions of this regulation. The refund provider may not purchase the cheque unless the buyer supplies sufficient proof that s/he is a permanent resident abroad. If the amount of the refund exceeds ISK 5000, the customs authorities shall confirm the export of the goods with a signature on the cheque.

The National Bank of Iceland in Leifur Eiriksson Terminal is responsible for refunding VAT. The bank is located on the second floor after passing through weapons control in Customs.


Climate

If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes. This little pun is often told at the expense of the Icelandic weather. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool, temperate maritime climate; refreshing summers and fairly mild winters. The weather is also affected by the East Greenland polar current curving south-eastwards round the north and east coasts. As a result, sudden weather changes are common and travellers should prepare accordingly. 

For weather info in English call: +354-902-0600 or visit the Met Office website.


Useful Numbers

Emergency number: 112
Police: 444 1000
Meidical assistance: 1770
Dental emergency: 575 0505
Information: 118
Telegrams: 1446
Alchoholics Anonymous:   551 2010

Post Offices

General hours are Mon–Fri 09:00–18:00. See detailed information on www.postur.is/en


Clothing

When travelling in Iceland you should bring along lightweight woollens, a sweater or cardigan, a rainproof (weatherproof) coat and sturdy walking shoes. Travellers who are camping or heading into the interior will need warm underwear and socks, rubber boots and a warm sleeping bag.


Passport and Visa Regulations

Iceland is an associate member of the Schengen Agreement, which exempts travellers from personal border controls between 22 EU countries. Note that for residents of countries outside the Schengen area, a valid pass is required for the duration of your stay. For information on passport and visa requirements, as well as the Schengen area regulations, visit the website of the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration.


Language

Icelandic is the national language. English is spoken by most Icelanders and is the official second language taught in schools. Danish is the official third language taught in schools in Iceland.


Phones and Mobile service in Iceland

The code into Iceland from overseas is 354 plus the seven-digit number. Long-distance calls can be made to Europe and the USA by dialling 00 plus the country code and the telephone number you wish to reach. Four GSM service providers operate in Iceland: Siminn, Vodafone, TAL and Nova. Together they cover most of the Island, including a large proportion of the unpopulated area of the country. All these companies sell pre-paid GSM phone cards and offer GSM / GPRS service. You can also purchase credit refill cards at most gas stations or convenience stores in Iceland.

Facts & figures

Capital City

Reykjavík

Government

Parliamentary constitutional republic.

Language

Icelandic.

English is widely spoken and understood. 

Time Zone

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year. Unlike most states in Europe, Summer (Daylight-Saving) Time is not observed in Iceland.

Religion

Predominantly Christian.

Official Name

Iceland (Ísland)

National Flag

Blue with a red cross outlined in white. 

The colors of the flag are symbolic for Iceland: red is for the volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and glaciers, and blue is for the mountains in the distance.

Population

325,000 (Jan 2014)

Biggest Cities

Reykjavík (120,000)*
Kópavogur (32,000)*
Hafnarfjördur (27,000)*
Akureyri (18,000)
Reykjanesbær (14,000)

*Cities in the capital region

Temperature

January 0,4
March 3,1
May 6,3
June 10,7
July 12,5
August 12,3
October 4,4
December 1,2