Traveling to Iceland from the U.S. During Covid-19

by - Monday, October 25, 2021

Before I left for Iceland, I had a million questions about what the process would be like with all the protocols in place because of Covid-19. Luckily I knew a few people who had traveled and kindly shared what their experience was. But since regulations are changing constantly, and I've gotten questions from people too, I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit about what the process was like. 

One important thing to note: Because the guidelines are continuing to evolve and change, you should definitely check with the Icelandic authorities about the latest requirements if you are planning your own trip. I can only document what we experienced at one point in time. But if you're the average adult, traveling to Iceland for tourism purposes, you'll likely experience a similar process. 


Iceland has been really good at handling covid-19. A large portion of their population is vaccinated and case counts were low enough when we traveled that a lot of the masking requirements were gone. 

In order to keep the case counts low, Iceland had pretty strict protocols to be able to enter their country. 

Prior to Departure

Almost everyone traveling to Iceland, regardless of vaccination status, had to have a negative covid (PCR or antigen) test within 72 hours of your departure. 

You also were required to fill out a health declaration pre-registration form online 72 hours before departure. After you submitted the form, you received a barcode over email or text that would need to be scanned at the airport. 

We were able to easily make an appointment for a rapid test at local CVS for the day before our travel. We had our results emailed to us with 25 minutes, and we had to show the certificate to the gate agent when we checked in at the airport. 

At the Airport

When we got to the airport, we had to go the ticket counter to complete the check-in process. In addition to our passports, we had to show the proof of our negative covid test, the barcode from the pre-registration form and our vaccination cards. 

It was a lot to keep track of especially because the vaccination card and passport where physical forms and the test results and barcode were stored digitally on our phones. 

We got to the ticket desk about an hour before boarding started and we were the only people in line, so that part went incredibly smooth.

Security also went super fast because the airport wasn't crowded and because we both have TSA precheck.

Other than needing to wear a mask the whole time and having some additional paperwork to show at check-in, the airport wasn't too different from normal times. 

Arrival in Iceland

Once we arrived in Iceland, the process was also really smooth. A few friends had warned me that they had to wait in some really long lines, but they traveled earlier than I did and by the time I got there, the Icelandic authorities really kept everything moving. 

We cleared customs in about five minutes. This part was exactly the same as previous times I've been to Iceland where you get a nice stamp in your passport. The only documentation we had to show at this stop was our passport. 

After making it to baggage claim, there was one more stop where you had to show the barcode on your phone to prove that you'd filled out the preregistration form. There was no line here either. We just showed our phones and we were allowed to pass through. 

The final point for document check was right by the airport exit where you can get your transportation. Here we had to show all of our documentation -- passport, vaccine card, negative covid test and barcode. Other than the fact that we had to juggle lots of different documents, this couldn't have been easier. 

We were through and on our way in no time. 

Traveling Back to the U.S. from Iceland

The last part of our trip that required extra logistics because of covid-19 was getting back home. Almost all travelers coming into the U.S. must have a negative covid-19 test within 3 days of travel, regardless of vaccination status. (Note: I know this is could be changing for some people as of Nov. 8 based on a new policy on travel into the U.S, but when we traveled the negative test was the only policy, so that's all I'm covering here).

Iceland makes it super easy to find a free covid test. There are multiple locations in Reykjavik and also a location really close to the airport. Since the U.S. accepted rapid tests when we traveled, we made an appointment for the day before we were supposed to leave at a testing site about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. 

Because our plans changed last minute once we were in Iceland, I had to call to cancel that appointment from our hotel and rebook us the next day -- Tuesday, the day of our departure. 

We checked in to the testing site easily enough, got our noses swabbed. The tests in Iceland definitely probe deeper than the ones in the U.S., but it's only done in one nostril, so there's that at least. 

The only tricky part was finding WiFi in the city without going back to our hotel to get our results. We stopped at a cafe for some caffeine, logged on and had negative tests were waiting in my inbox. 

Armed with all our documentation, we headed to the airport check-in counter. We showed our passports and negative tests. No need to show our vaccination cards this time around. The gate agent also had to sign an attestation form for us confirming our negative tests. But that was it. She printed us our tickets and we were on our way. 

Customs in the U.S. were exactly the same as pre-covid except there was no line. I got my picture taken by the machine, handed my print out to the CBP agent and was on my way.

So overall, yes there are definitely some extra steps and some extra documentation you need to travel to and from Iceland because of covid, but it's all manageable, and it shouldn't be the thing that stops you from booking a trip!

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