lysuholslaug showers

Traveling in Iceland during Covid-19 pandemic

Iceland and Covid-19

Covid-19 pandemic has been definitely very specific, interesting and uncomfortable period in our history to travel. But the reward for that was clear – much much fewer tourists. Of course, we had to wear masks at the airports and in the aircraft. Also, since we are from Slovakia, as of 1st of August, Iceland was considered as a “green country” thus we didn’t have to quarantine ourselves after returning back (which would probably be a deal-breaker for us, if the opposite was the case).

However, Iceland had stricter rules for incoming travellers at the time – we could enter the country only with a negative Covid test carried out at the airport. This caused us slight discomfort due to waiting time for it at the airport (around 30-60 minutes), actual testing (not very pleasant, but bearable) and compulsory social distancing while waiting for results.

reykjavik phallological museum

Reykjavik phallological museum, during Covid-19 pandemic

Moreover, 2 days before our arrival in Iceland, the government imposed even stricter restrictions, the biggest of them being – the requirement of taking 2 Covid tests for everyone staying longer than 10 days. Also, gatherings of more than 10 people were forbidden, with a requirement of adhering to 2-meter social distancing.

We were not very happy to adjust our itinerary to include time for second testing (which could be done only at specific places and specific times), but we did. In reality what really influenced our trip was not the second test (which actually took us only 5 minutes, kudos to Icelandic medical staff), but the restriction on gatherings.

lysuholslaug changing room

Lýsuhólslaug hot springs, changing room, during Covid-19 pandemic

Our experience with Iceland handling the pandemic

Our flight landed at 15:30, we got tested for the first time at around 16:15 and we received negative results both in the app and via SMS early in the next morning. Easy. For the second test, instructions had said we should make an appointment with any of 10 listed health centres around the country between day 4 and 6 of our trip. I didn’t want this 2nd test to spoil our plans, and yes, we thought for a while what would happen if we didn’t go for the 2nd testing, but finally, we did go.

Anyways, on 6th day in the morning, we happened to wake up in Egilsstadir which was listed as a Covid testing place. I called the health centre the day before and asked a (well English speaking) staff whether we can come the next day 8 AM so that our plans are not spoiled. The staff had replied positively, hence we came for testing the next day. Testing has been performed in the exterior of the backyard of the health centre. It lasted 1 minute and we waited for it for 3-4 minutes. Everything was automatized with bar code, which we received already for the 1st testing. Overalls, very quick and smooth process. Again – kudos to Icelandic authorities for this.

drangsnes hot pots covid-19

Drangsnes Hot Pots during Covid-19 pandemic

What, however, influenced our trip more than we had first thought, was the restriction on gatherings and compulsory social distancing. Apart from awkward looks which some other tourists gave us in camps or supermarkets if we approached them closer than 2 meters, this, unfortunately, meant many restrictions in camps and some attractions.

For example, the first campsite which we visited decided to limit the number of its visitors. We had arrived at 8 pm and they told us that we are the last car they can accept. I wonder where the other cars after us (which didn’t know about this) went? Another campsite decided to close its kitchen because they couldn’t guarantee the 2 meters distancing. Another campsite even closed their showers because of the social distancing.

Paradoxically, some other campsites were fully open without any restrictions, apart from pictures on the wall saying that you should practice social distancing. I guess this last change of rules by Icelandic government as of 30th of July caused a real mess for all service providers and everyone adjusted the rules little bit according to himself. Unfortunately, even some hot springs were closed because of this (for example famous hot tubes in Drangsnes).

Luckily, at the end of the day, we were able to survive even under these new rules. Worst things which happened were just e.g. once we were not able to take a shower because of the closed bathroom and in Egilstaddir we arrived at the campsite which had already full capacities so we had to drive another 10 minutes for the next campsite. I guess out of all these I miss the Drangsnes pools the most, but we compensated this for ourselves with some other cool pools.

Posted by Igor

Igor has spent months exploring every inch of Iceland over several years. He specializes in the Highlands, F-roads, hiking, hot springs, and less touristy places. He loves Iceland and keeps coming back.

Leave a Reply