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Country Reports

Iceland Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Iceland (population 329,000), which grazes the Arctic Circle and is home to large tracts of essentially untouched land, offers travelers excellent comfort and security conditions.

CRIME

Due to a small population enjoying a high standard of living and a well-trained and educated police, crime rates are low in Iceland. Nonetheless, a sharp increase in tourism throughout the past few years has led to a slight increase in crime. Street crime, physical assaults (including sexual, e.g. rapes), and damages to property persist, especially in Reykjavik and its suburbs. Pickpocketing has also increased in the capital; foreign visitors should take basic precautionary measures to protect themselves, including avoiding walking around with valuable objects and always keeping an eye on belongings.

Alcohol consumption typically increases over the weekend and tensions can arise in and outside of bars.

Cybercrime is on the rise. Private institutions' computer networks were attacked by hackers connected to the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State (IS) early 2015.

POLITICS

In mid-March 2015, the Icelandic government confirmed its decision to end its candidature to become a member of the European Union.

The next presidential elections are set to take place in June 2020.

NATURAL RISKS

Significant seismic activity on the island - which hosts over 100 active volcanoes - poses a serious threat of volcanic eruption, which can have an impact on air travel, especially in the southern half of the country. In spring 2010, the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano and the clouds of ash it released into the atmosphere wreaked havoc on European air traffic for days. On August 31, 2014, air traffic was temporarily halted over Bardarbunga (the most active volcano in the country) three times in one week following an eruption of the sub-glacial volcano. Areas of the volcano still cannot be accessed. Despite having now been silent for 16 years, Hekla Volcano (located in southern Iceland) experienced higher pressure levels in July 2016; geophysicists urged travelers not to venture to the area as the volcano could erupt at any moment. More information on seismic activity and the consequences of volcanic eruptions is available on the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the Icelandic Civil Protection Authority, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, the Institute of Earth Science, and the UK Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre websites.

Additionally, due to the fact that many zones are isolated and that weather conditions can change very quickly, hikers and ATV enthusiasts should be prudent and well prepared. Violent wind storms and flooding are very frequent. For live updates on travel and road conditions in Iceland, please visit the Safe Travel website and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.

During the summer, the island experiences harsh weather conditions (e.g, sharp drops in temperatures, violent gusts, and flash flooding).

TRANSPORTATION

Domestic airlines serve major Icelandic cities daily.

Travelers should be aware that the island does not have a railway system and, outside Reykjavik and a few neighboring towns, there are no city buses. The entire country is, however, served by intercity ferries and intercity buses.

Although a fairly modern highway system connects urban areas, secondary roads are underdeveloped and often not asphalted. Primary sources of concern in secluded areas are the lack of emergency services and the unexpected crossing of wild animals.

Iceland's road network, of which three quarters is not asphalted, is open for use in its entirety only from April to September. Smaller tracks are only open from May/June to the end of the summer; depending on snow cover, they can remain open until August. Such tracks are only passable by ATV; tourist vehicles are prohibited.

Road signs are rare and written in Icelandic; it is advised to prepare for journeys in advance, especially when one is planning on traveling alone. Crossing waterways by car or foot must be done with extra care.

Weather conditions in Iceland can be extreme. Travel into the highland is advised against during the winter (October-April) due to icy and windy road conditions. Off-road capable vehicles are a prerequisite for any travel in secluded areas, and supervision from experienced guides is recommended. Winter tires (not necessarily studded) are mandatory from November to April; exact dates vary from year to year.

HEALTH

Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance plan covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being mandatory in case of a significant or urgent health issue. As is the case in many other countries of Western Europe, there are no particular health risks. The country possesses high quality medical infrastructure, particularly in Reykjavik.

During the summer, little midges largely breed in all the regions where fresh water can be found. They look and behave like mosquitoes and are very aggressive towards humans. When gathered together, they may cause hundreds of stings to unprotected individuals, which may cause a disease called simuliidosis. While the disease is not serious (symptoms include fever, general fatigue, headache, itching), individuals should be aware of its presence.

Climate

Temperatures in the summer are mild and during this time (late may-mid-August), the sun sets very late in the day. At the end of June, the sun sets around midnight and rises at 3:00 am. The Aurora Borealis can be seen beginning in the end of August. In the winter, nights are very long and temperatures cool. November, December, and January are the darkest months of the year. Rain is common throughout the year and weather conditions can change several times within the same day.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +354 Police: 112 Fire Dept.: 112 Ambulance: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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