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.