Traveling to Iceland during a global pandemic!

Traveling to Iceland during a global pandemic for fun! What you should know before going!

I've always had a fascination with geology, and the earth sciences were a briefly considered career path but I had not found a route to get there. For as long as I can recall I've had a dream to see lava. I'll tell you about that in another blog post which eventually I'll write and link to here.

Dan, you know we're in a pandemic right? WTF are you doing travelling for leisure? 

I am fully vaccinated, and took precautions and considerations. Risk vs reward, etc.. Only you can decide what is best for you. Despite being fully vaccinated, I took a Covid test 2 days before leaving just in case for peace of mind. Knowing I'd get another upon arrival. 

So you're thinking about taking a trip to Iceland yourself? Awesome, here is how it all goes down. I'd guess things will change and evolve, so I can only speak to how it is/was in early May. 

Step one, get vaccinated. It will make your life much easier, and everyone around you benefits from it. My experience and details here are from the perspective of a fully vaccinated American. There are resources for other situations on some of the links I'll provide. 

Step two, 72 hours prior to arrival you must fill out the details on the Iceland Covid site here. Don't skip this step, you're gonna have a bad time. It will then direct you to download an app for contact tracing and test notifications, more on that in a bit. This is essentially registering with the Iceland government informing them you are coming so they can keep tabs on you. If you aren't down with that, then wait until this pandemic is over someday. Small price to pay IMO, and made me feel even safer knowing they are taking this thing crazy seriously. 

The output of this will be an email with a barcode, this barcode is essentially your pass and you'll need it more than once. Print it, take a photo of it on your phone, etc..


I flew from BTV to JFK first via JetBlue. The airport here is quite small, and never feels that busy. I'd say it basically felt like normal here, everyone masked up and keeping distance when possible. Arrival in Terminal 5.  

(from car to gate in 10 minutes, thanks to TSA PreCheck. Best money spent ever.)

The plane experience was fine, everything was clean, they made updated announcements and everyone behaved as it relates to masking and what not. 

Since I booked the tickets from BTV to JFK and JFK to KEF separately I built in a full day in NYC. I had 12 hours until I needed to be back in the airport so I took the airtrain to the subway, and went into the city. I was impressed on the subways that most folks also were masked and distanced to the extent possible in a city as dense as NYC. 

I never felt unsafe or discouraged by behaviors during the whole day in NYC. Beautiful day, many people out and about, and everywhere I went people did the right thing in my opinion. 

Back to JFK by subway and airtrain to Terminal 4 for Delta. I arrived 3 hours early as is customary for international flights. Due to the pandemic procedures you cannot check in online and must see a gate agent. Prepare accordingly, have your vaccine card available. You will also need the barcode I mentioned back in step one. 

  • To recap:  make sure you have your passport, vaccine card, and barcode prior to seeing an agent to check in.
Then you get your boarding pass, and go through security just as normal. When you board your flight to Iceland they'll once again check your documents as above. 

Easy 5 hour flight, Delta is doing good things here. Shout out to Tammy who was on anyone quickly who wasn't masking properly. Don't let her see your nose!!! Meal service and drinks all normal, take your mask off, put it back on after. 

I got lucky and had a full row to myself, so I got a couple hours of sleep on the overnight. Left 10:15 EST arrived  7:45 Icelandic time. 

Arrival in Iceland:

Have your documents ready, you'll go through a few steps here. The barcode is KEY.  You are handed a glossy one sheet of what is to come, and I've included a photo of that. You will go through passport check first, they'll scan that barcode and stamp your passport.  

Immediately after this queue, you go into a similar looking line where they take quickly and efficiently give you a Covid PCR test. This is a requirement. They scan your barcode, and then take the deep brain swab through your nose, and then a throat one for good measure. Then they send you on your way. Just when you think you are free, you get one more passport booth stop. 

They give you a yellow post it with an additional stamp, scan your deets, and tell you you are free to leave the airport but to wait for test results before interacting with folks. The results come through the application, or via text. They say 5 hours or so, mine didn't come back until 4pm. Or about 9 hours. 

As you are about to exit the airport to get your rental car or taxi they check the yellow post it and send you on your way. 

I was going for a weekend only, and so this test was also going to be my pass to get back OUT of Iceland since it was within 72 hours which is a requirement of America to return. More on that in a moment...

Staying in Iceland:

I felt so safe here throughout, there is no question why they experience low case volume in comparison to many. They take it seriously, hand sanitizer everywhere, everyone is masked where they need to be, and people generally take it seriously. What a feeling to also know that basically everyone around you had been tested and vaccinated, just a good overall feeling. 

My hotel in Keflavik didn't take down my passport details or scan my barcode but I'm told some are doing that. Remember, the quarantine is largely just you being smart until those results hit your phone, but you aren't under obligation to stay put for days or anything unless you were somehow allowed in without a vaccination or proof that you recovered from Covid.

I'll write more about being in Iceland and the Volcano in another post.

Leaving Iceland and returning to the states:

Near disaster here. Technical limitation. In the above photo that says I do not have Covid, you'll notice this doesn't say my name, the date of the test, or otherwise have any information that would make it obvious it is me. Delta did not accept this as a form of test proof.

As you can imagine. PANIC. Hysterical call home to wife, etc.. thought I was stuck and would need to get a new test and figure all that out. 

And you will if you are in Iceland like most people are for more than 3 days lol. So you'll want to plan on getting a free test or paid test, I saw many sites throughout the area. One was very convenient drive through in Keflavik. 

Back to my panic, I'll spare you the details of how it all went down but thanks to that barcode and tracking they have on you I was able to get a copy of the negative test result after some amazing race style taxi rides and phone calls at the hospital in Keflavik just 10 minutes from the airport. 

I can't guarantee you will be lucky like I was in finding sympathetic folks in Iceland to help, so if indeed you are counting on that initial test result to get you back out find a way to get a printed copy first thing. The application does not have that nor did I get an email with one. Just the text and app notification which is enough to get you in, but not enough to get you out!

I got back to the airport with the documents with time to spare, but it was stressful AF. Avoid that. When you get your test make sure you get a printed or electronic copy with all of your details.  The date taken, your birth date and full name matching your passport details or in Delta or whomever you fly home with will not let you even get as far as a boarding pass. Photo example above.

Arrival back in USA:

Exactly the same as any other international arrival, I didn't have to show any documentation beyond my passport. I was expecting to have to show the negative test again but nobody asked for it. 

Departing thoughts:

Overall there are more steps, and potential areas for stress as I outlined in my own experience but it was completely worth it. I felt safe everywhere, and from end to end steps were taken at all areas to prevent the spread of Covid or people taking advantage of the system, etc.. I would not hesitate to travel to Iceland again during the pandemic, and applaud them and Delta Airlines in particular for doing such a good job to keep folks safe on both ends. 

Be well, be safe, and enjoy the trip.

it felt great to travel again, it had been 14 months since I'd been on a plane
and I'm glad things are moving towards some normalcy again


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