How to travel to
Iceland this summer
Looking to book a much needed holiday? Not sure how complicated it is to travel at the moment? Well some of our team have recently returned from a trip to Iceland and we asked them to sit down and explain the process - and it turns out it's much easier than anticipated!
We'll go into more detail below, so that you can plan your own trip, but overall we have to say the experience was amazing. It might seem like a lot of steps and hassle, but in reality after you do a little bit of booking and planning the rest takes care of itself. You can have all the forms ready to go in your email, and then you're free to just enjoy yourself. A holiday in Iceland right now is a much needed break from the stricter regulations in the UK, but don't just go there for that. Go there because the days are long, there's AMAZING sights to see and the food and people are wonderful.
10/10 would recommend. Okay, on with the nitty gritty.
Planning your trip
This was very much a last minute trip, so in reality there wasn't a lot of planning that went into it. The first step really is working out what current entry requirements there are for visiting Iceland - we did our research and we'll include it below so you don't have to!
If you are double vaccinated then you DO NOT need a pre-departure PCR test - instead you will be tested (for free) on arrival and you must then self-isolate in your accommodation until a negative result is received.
You must complete a pre-registration form before travelling - this will require a mobile number, email address, passport number and your accommodation details.
As we were double vaccinated, here's the different steps we carried out in the days before we were due to fly.
1. Booked insurance as soon as we booked flights
2. One week before we wanted our test to return (we opted to get tested in Iceland) we booked the test on https://travel.covid.is/. They only book a week in advance, so just set yourself a reminder to book this if you are travelling for longer than a week. The test costs 50EUR per person and is done in the outskirts of Reykjavik . You will be sent an email with a barcode - you will need this barcode when you go to test.
Here's what the form is like
3. The day before we flew we completed the Icelandic pre-registration form which can be found here - again you will be emailed a barcode, you will need this when you clear customs in Iceland for your arrival test.
Here's what the form is like
4.We pre-booked our day 2 tests for our return to the UK - we opted to use the airport testing at Heathrow Terminal 2 and booked this for just after our arrival time in the UK to give time to clear the border, we made a note of our booking references as we knew we needed them for the Passenger Locator Form to return to the UK.
5. We checked with our day 1 accommodation that we were able to self-isolate there until we got our negative results.
6. We used the NHS app to email and print our vaccination status - here's a quick video on how to do that.
We flew from Heathrow Terminal 2 - and we chose to use Purple Parking Meet and Greet. The parking process was easy and much the same as in pre-covid time - there are simply perspex screens between you and the parking attendant and you are required to wear a mask.
On the subject of masks - from the moment you arrive at the airport in the UK until the moment you arrive at your hotel in Iceland you will need to be wearing a mask. We found the most comfortable option to be those blue disposable masks, as cloth masks got VERY warm and damp - we were also given a mask on the flight, which we changed into to freshen up. Other airports may be different, but Heathrow was hot and we ended up buying a little hand held fan to try and get a bit of air. Most of the shops and restaurants were open, and there is an app you can download to pre-order food for collection.
We only had carry-on luggage - so we breezed through security (there was no queue, just the usual unprepared travellers fumbling with bags!). We had all our documents printed, and on email but no documents were checked until we went to board. At which point they asked our vaccination status - and we provided the NHS print out. That was all.
On arrival in Iceland there was a short queue at the border (we arrived at a quiet time, we will say the queue looked longer when we came to return) - the border agent asked for your ID and asked if you had completed pre-registration but they didn't need to see anything else.
Then proceeded to bag claim and customs as normal - then when you go to exit the airport after customs this is when you will be stopped to arrange your test. We had expected this at the border or earlier, so don't stress, just keep on moving through the airport and you cannot miss it. We were asked to provide our pre-registration barcode, our vaccination status and our ID - you are then handed a little vial and you go outside the airport into the testing center. The test takes a matter of seconds and then you are free to make your way to your accommodation. You must go straight there (via car hire desk in our case) and you must stay in your room until you receive your results. Ours took about 4 hours, but they say up to 24 hours.
We were worried about how we would eat, but we downloaded an app called aha.is - and on this we ordered delivery to our hotel room. They knocked, left it outside and we had a great dinner (highly recommend Dirty Burger!)
What it's like in Iceland
Once your day 1 (ours in theory was only 4 hours) self-isolation is up - then that's it, you're free to travel wherever you want and the best part is you can say goodbye to the mask until you have to return. Most of the Icelandic population is vaccinated and they dealt with the outbreak well, which means the current restrictions are much more relaxed than those in the UK (you can read about them here). In general we only saw people wearing masks on public transport, or service staff in some places. You can freely walk in and out of shops etc and not have to mask up.
We found most of the country to prefer cashless payments, and in most places you could pay for parking etc via QR code and online. There were often hand sanitizing stations at tourist destinations and we of course advise being a sensible and responsible tourist. But we found the week to be an experience in "normal" life - which came as a nice mental break.
At the moment, Iceland is pretty quiet and this is a great time to visit as you'll get to see all the famous sites without the usual queues or crowds. Though disappointingly one gift shop was closed, we more than made up for it at the next!
We will say there seems to be a lot of roadworks and construction, whether they are making the most of the quiet or whether this is the norm we couldn't say. It didn't impact our trip greatly, apart from a few slower roads.
The process to return began on Thursday for our Saturday flight (mainly because we flew at 7:40 and therefore wanted to ensure we would receive our negative tests in time in case they took the full 24 hours). We had pre-booked our test for 9am, and when we arrived at the testing center in Reykjavik there was a long queue, however this was as the center was just opening and the queue went surprisingly quickly. All we needed was the barcode we had received via email - you are then again given a vial and you move through to testing. In total we spent maybe half an hour from start to finish - and we received our results in around 6 hours.
Iceland is on the Green list - therefore the return process is quite simple. Firstly you must test before you leave Iceland (72 hours before you return) - you can either pre-buy a test to take with you or you can get tested in Iceland.
To return to the UK you will need the negative result from above (print out or email) and a completed Passenger Locator Form. To complete that form you will need a booking reference for your Day 2 test when you are back in the UK.
The day before we flew we completed the UK passenger locator form - you need your passport, flight details, home address and most importantly a booking reference for your day 2 test on return. You are then emailed a completed copy, and we didn't print this out.
The queue at the UK border was much longer than usual, as everyone has to have documents checked. We provided our PLF by email, and this was fine. We will say as we queued a gentleman tried to present a photo of an email of his form, this was very much NOT accepted and he then had to try and arrange someone to forward him the actual email.
As we chose to get tested at the airport we then proceeded to the testing center - this was definitely NOT well signposted. So if you book with Collinsons at Heathrow T2 then you need to leave arrivals and go downstairs via the escalator - the office is down there! Another note on our experience, there were 2 of us travelling - one received their negative results in about 24 hours, however the other posted an inconclusive result which then meant a further test was needed in the form of a return trip to the drive through testing at Gatwick the next day. This was free, however decidedly not stress free. In future we would look to use an at home testing option to save long drives.
At Holiday Extras we're all about hassle-free travel - so we've read all the documents and done all the research so you don't have to.
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