People at rainbow street in Reykjavik

Reykjavík ranks as one of world's safest captail, in a country that prides itself of equal rights

Quality of life in Iceland: The Secrets to Know Before Visiting 

Drink pure water – from the tap – on a stroll in Europe's safest city. Here are top tips for travelers to seize on Iceland’s quality of life, some taken for granted by local residents. 

Reykjavik at night

Reykjavík at night is a reality check for avid readers of Icelandic crime novels

Peaceful place, top of the world 

Ever since the publication of the Global Peace Index, Iceland has ranked top as the world's safest country. Entire years have passed with zero homicides taking place and the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world, according to the think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace. 

Walking at night is considered safe everywhere. 

Patrolling officers are a rare sight on pedestrian streets in Reykjavík; stun guns and batons are part of their uniform, while some police vehicles pack a firearm inside a locked box, accessed with an authorized code. The Reykjavík Metro Police has a popular Instagram account that sends friendly vibes. 

According to the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, Iceland is among top LGBTQIA+ safe travel destinations. Also view LBGT+ Travel in Iceland.

(You should still take precautions, for instance against petty theft at popular tourist sights.)

Series of spring waterfalls flowing from under a birch-grown lava into a white-blue colored glacier river

Hraunfossar in Borgarfjörður are springs of subterranean water seeping through the lava. Very pure water indeed

Tap water is as pure as bottled water 

As always, remember to drink plenty of water. But do it straight from the tap. Iceland’s spring water is notably pure, without smell or taste. Don’t be fooled by the big stacks of bottled water at the supermarket. It’s a tourist trap and an environmental waste – essentially tap water in a plastic bottle. 

(Hot water may smell of sulfur, where it is pumped directly from Earth.)   

Swimming pool seen from above on winter

Thanks to hot water, there is always a warm place somewhere

Heating and electricity is cheap 

Iceland can be painfully expensive – island nations with a small population tend to – but there is one thing Icelanders pay less for than other Europeans: hot water and electricity. 

In the capital region, every house has geothermal heating. All this abundance of hot water is the reason for the leisure of soaking in local baths known as sundlaug. The outdoor pools were originally built to teach swimming, but play a much larger cultural role in modern Iceland. Also view Swimming Pool Culture in Iceland.

Dark winters turn on electric lights. Icelanders put up lots of Christmas lights, and many keep them on well beyond the holiday season. 

Nautholsvík beach on a summer day, children are swimming in the ocean, in the background there is a yellow sand beach with groups of people enjoying the sun

Equal opportunity for children is at the heart of political values among Icelanders

Strong economic equality 

According to the Gini coefficient, an economic formula for measuring wealth distribution, Iceland has the lowest inequality among the Nordic countries. Locals are proud of the fact. 

In the OECD, Iceland boasts of one of the highest labor participation among women. Furthermore, some 87 percent of immigrants of working age are active in the labor force.

Much of this equality is achieved with free healthcare and education, along with strong labor unions and a safety net. Parents of a newborn child, for instance, get twelve months of paid maternity leave and heavily subsidized child care until the baby reaches school age. 

Income tax brackets run from 31 percent to 46 percent for the highest earners. Minimum wage are around $17 an hour, plus benefits.

Woman in hiking clothes standing on a hill watching the mountains and the fjord surrounding her. The sun is shining

Some of Europe's largest wilderness areas are in Iceland, such as Hornstrandir Peninsula on the Westfjords

‘The right to roam’ puts few restrictions on walking

Travelers to Iceland sometimes lament other travelers packing popular tourist sights. But it is easy to get away from it all, at an obscure beach or a mountain of lesser fame than Kirkjufell. 

Wherever you go, the ‘right to roam’ allows travelers to walk everywhere without permission, be it public or private land. This is, however, no license for unrestricted behavior: driving can only be done on roads and camping only on campgrounds. 

A tall and rising gray lava-layered seacliff with green grass on top.

When you need to look down to see the birds; at the cliffs of Látrabjarg Peninsula

Wildlife is abundant if you know where to look 

Look up. To the wild side of Iceland. Iceland is home to millions of migratory birds, gathering along the shoreline, wetlands and lakes. Also view Bird-watching in Iceland.

And what do they have to do with quality of life you ask. Well, study suggests being in the environment of many bird species contributes to greater happiness. Tweet, tweet. 

Get inspired

Experience some of Iceland's amazing routes and travel destinations.

Quality of Life in Iceland: The Secrets to Know Before Visiting