With all things scenic and beautiful, there's always a downside, right? Well, not here – Iceland is one of the world's safest places to travel, with a welcoming, helpful local community and a very low crime rate, and scams are almost unheard of. The main parts of Iceland have surprisingly great phone reception and access to wi-fi networks, so you can stay connected in case you do find yourself in any trouble. If you crave a sense of isolation and unique travel, Iceland provides all of that, plus the comfort of knowing that the locals have got your back.
Obviously, Iceland isn't perfect, and there are still a couple of things to look out for when travelling around the country. It's important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings and consider your personal safety options should anything happen.
Environmental and weather safety
Not surpringly, one of the more dangerous factors in Iceland is its natural environment. With a vast range of landscapes and at times volatile weather, it can be unpredictable for even the most prepared travellers.
When dealing with the elements in Iceland, it all comes down to common sense. Don't go climbing and running over glaciers in the Jokulsarlon Lagoon if you want to stay out of the freezing (and sometimes deadly) waters. Be wary if you're strolling along the black-sand beaches of Reynisfjara so you don't get caught in a freak wave or undercurrents. And when you're in a geothermal area, stay on the marked trails and don't walk too close to the geysers. Read the signs and follow them, and if you're doing something that may be a bit risky, have an expert local guide by your side to keep you safe.
Iceland's weather can change from a calm sunny day to sleeting rain with gale-force winds in a matter of minutes. Ensure that you are prepared for any situation, especially if you're driving outside of the more populated areas of Iceland. Plan accordingly by checking the weather conditions via the Iceland Met Office and the road conditions at road.is, and be sure you have a backup plan, extra water, snacks and blankets, and a connected mobile phone. If you don't feel comfortable with the driving conditions, it's best not to drive in areas you're not familiar with if the weather is uncertain.
The amount of daylight can also be an issue for travellers visiting at different times of the year. In the depths of winter, you may only get three or four hours of sunlight throughout the day, with the rest of the time in twilight or full darkness. This, in itself, poses quite a few safety issues. Slipping hazards are a major problem, especially for tourists who do not have the right footwear, so make sure your walking shoes have got good tread and are sturdy. Also, when driving during this time, watch out for hazards like 'black ice' – wet ice on roads, which is hard to see, very slippery, and extremely dangerous for drivers. It's especially hard to notice when driving in the dark, so if you're not confident driving in these conditions either plan ahead so you avoid tricky roads, arrive back at your accommodation before the sun goes down, or leave the driving to the experts.
In case of emergency, download the 112 App – this is the local emergency number to call in Iceland. Before and during your trip, learn about minimising your risks at Safetravel – an initiative of the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR).
What you wear in Iceland is also very important to keep you safe and healthy, especially in winter. Pack waterproof and windproof jackets and pants, thermal gear, warm clothing, and sturdy walking boots for any weather.
Safety as a solo or female traveller
Visiting any country by yourself or as a female traveller can pose certain risks, regardless of where you are in the world. However, as one of the world's most peaceful countries, Iceland poses little to no threats in terms of public safety.
Travelling as a female in Iceland is considered very safe and as long as travellers stay alert, there shouldn't be any issues. Crime rates are low and the extent of unrest you might see in the country is protests against the government near the parliament on Austurvollur Square in Reykjavik. The main cities in Iceland are also considered fine to explore at night – busy nightlife may be a little intimidating for a solo female traveller, but streets and venues are full of people so there's always someone to call on should you need to. If you ever do feel threatened in a bar or nightclub, approach the staff at the venue.
Iceland is the ideal destination to take some time out on your own or in a small group, and many travellers embrace solo time in the country after an Intrepid adventure. There is safety in numbers, but after getting the low-down from a local leader and with new-found insight into the Icelandic way of life, you might like to continue your travels by yourself. If you do, ensure that someone knows where you are every day and you have the means to contact the local authorities or a loved one if you need to. That doesn't mean you can't get out in the depths of Iceland's nature, just have a contingency plan and keep in communication.
Read more about why Iceland is the dream destination for solo travel.
Tips for staying safe in Iceland
- Check the weather and the road conditions regularly
- Know the daily sunrise and sunset times
- Get a local SIM card or have a way to stay contactable at all times
- Download the 112 Emergency App
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
- Follow trails and signs and use common sense around natural sites
- Only drive if you're confident of dealing with adverse road conditions
Our tours in Iceland