Iceland – Health and Safety
The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those traveling to Iceland.
The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot
They also suggest be vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.
Availability and cost of healthcare
The standard of health care is very high, and English is widely spoken by doctors and medical-clinic staff. Note, however, that there are limited services outside larger urban areas.
For minor ailments, pharmacists can dispense valuable advice and over-the-counter medication; pharmacies can be identified by the sign apótek. Pharmacists can also advise as to when more specialized help is required.
Medical care can be obtained by visiting a primary health-care centre, called heilsugæslustöð. Find details of centres in greater Reykjavík at http://www.heilsugaeslan.is; in regional areas, ask at a tourist office or your accommodation for advice on the closest health-care centre.
Citizens of Nordic countries need only present their passport to access health care. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) are covered for emergency medical treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Citizens from other countries can obtain medical assistance but must pay in full (and later be reimbursed by their insurance provider, if they have one). A standard consultation costs around 10,000kr.
Hypothermia and frost bite
The main health risks are caused by exposure to extreme climates; proper preparation will reduce the risks. Even on a warm day in the mountains, the weather can change rapidly – carry waterproof outer gear and warm layers, and inform others of your route.
Iceland has some of the cleanest water in the world and tap water is completely safe to drink. Locals find it amusing to see travellers buying bottled water when the same quality of water is available from the tap.
Here is a link to the US State Department Travel Advisory for Iceland for the latest information on travelling to Iceland. It is a very safe country to visit. Most of the dangers come from the weather, geological risks (earthquakes & volcanoes) and wildlife & livestock wandering onto the roads.
Iceland is volcanically and seismically active. You should monitor the Icelandic Met Office website for the latest updates and follow the advice of the local authorities. In case of an emergency, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in Iceland will send out text messages to anyone located in the vicinity.
Weather conditions can also be severe and change rapidly. In order to receive the latest updates and alerts, you should monitor the Safe Travel website, Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website and Icelandic Met Office reports.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 112.