Iceland adds strict requirements for entry — and US travelers are still not welcome
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest travel information.
Earlier this summer, some countries began to relax travel restrictions put in place from the novel coronavirus. However, with a recent resurgence of cases worldwide, many nations are reconsidering that approach.
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Iceland was one of the first countries to propose ways to welcome tourists this summer. Even then, most foreigners (excluding European Union citizens, U.K. citizens, EFTA citizens and people living in the Schengen Area, and several exempt countries) were still prohibited from entering Iceland.
Only travelers from within these approved areas were able to visit, and they had to either receive a COVID-19 test immediately upon arrival or be put in a 14-day self-quarantine. But now, Iceland is adding even more restrictions to lessen the likelihood of spikes of new cases on the island nation. The worst part? U.S. travelers are still left in the dark and can’t visit despite these new rules.
Updated Iceland entry restrictions
As of Aug. 19, 2020, Iceland will be imposing stricter entry restrictions for those eligible to travel there. This even applies to residents of Iceland, except for children born after 2005.
First, anyone entering will have to get a coronavirus PCR test at the airport upon arrival. Then, four to five days after this initial test, you’ll have to get a second COVID-19 test. During that time frame between tests, you must self-quarantine until the results of both tests come back negative.
To even be eligible for this test, you must be a resident of the aforementioned countries (U.S. residents are not included at this time). This will also discourage any short trips to Iceland as there will be at least five days that you’ll be placed in self-quarantine as you wait for the results of both tests.
As an alternative to the testing requirements, travelers can opt to self-quarantine for a full 14-day period.
While travel from the U.S. might not be possible now, you can start planning for the future — just make sure your bookings can be changed or canceled free of charge. Here’s how you can get to Iceland.
Getting to Iceland
Round-trip deals from cities like Newark (EWR), New York-JFK, Boston (BOS), Washington, D.C. (IAD) and Chicago (ORD) to Reykjavik (KEF) are available for select dates between now and January 2021 for as low as $379 round-trip on Icelandair.
You’ll find the cheapest deals on online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz, but you may avoid potential headaches by booking directly through the airline. Icelandair isn’t a low-cost carrier, so it doesn’t charge for things like carry-ons, checked bags, or seat assignments. Note Icelandair has a fare class called Economy Light, the only difference being that it doesn’t include a checked bag. If you plan to bring a lot of gear, you’ll want to avoid this fare class.
If you want to book an Icelandair flight using points and miles, you are pretty much limited to using Alaska Airline Mileage Plan miles as your only redemption option (unless you have miles in Icelandair’s own Saga Club loyalty program). Round-trip flights from Boston to Iceland are going for 70,000 Alaska miles plus taxes.
Alternately, you could redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for flights through the issuer’s travel portal, or American Express Membership Rewards through Amex Travel. If you find a cheap fare, this can be a solid deal.
Related: The best airline credit cards
Using points and miles
Nonstop flights from the U.S. and their originating cities include:
- Delta: New York-JFK and seasonally from Minneapolis (MSP)
- United: Newark (EWR)
- Icelandair: Anchorage (ANC), Edmonton (YEG), Toronto (YYZ), Montreal (YUL), Boston, New York-JFK, Newark, Philadelphia (PHL), Washington, D.C., Chicago, Minneapolis, Orlando (MCO), Denver (DEN), Portland (PDX), Seattle (SEA) and Vancouver (YVR)
- American Airlines: Philadelphia (PHL)
- Air Canada: Montreal and Toronto
Redeeming miles to get to Iceland isn’t as easy as many other European destinations, especially if you are looking to fly nonstop. That said, there are several options. If you are in New York, Dallas, Montreal or Toronto, you can redeem miles much more easily on a U.S.-based airline (or if you are open to a flight with a layover).
Aeroplan partners with a number of transferable points programs, letting you instantly top up your account when you’re ready to book an award. You can transfer points to Aeroplan at the following ratios:
- American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1
- Capital One miles: 2:1.5
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 (with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred)
United also has solid economy award space from the East Coast as well as West Coast cities like San Francisco (SFO). Round-trip fares on Lufthansa start at 66,000 United MileagePlus miles plus taxes.
Where to stay in Iceland with points
There are only a handful of points hotels in Iceland, but most won’t drain your entire points balance.
Note that both Hilton hotels say they are not accepting guests “for a short period.”
The Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik is located right in the center of the city, which makes it a great location if you don’t plan to rent a car. One huge plus of this hotel is that breakfast is free to all — no Hilton elite status needed, which is the case for all Canopy properties. This particular perk can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, especially if you’re traveling with family, as food in Iceland is notoriously expensive.
The Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel is a Curio Collection hotel if you’re looking for something a little more upscale. The hotel was built in the 1900s and was once a department store owned by Consul Thomsen’s family. Today, you’ll find a sauna and whirlpool with exposed original stone walls. Similar to the Canopy, the Konsulat is located in the city center.
The Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel is right in the city center and close to nightclubs and the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand. This property costs 70,000 Radisson points per night for a standard room (two guests) or 105,000 points a night for a premium room (three guests).
Understand cancellation policies before buying an airline ticket
Before buying any airline ticket in the current realities, understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for the carrier you book. Airlines have been adjusting their policies to be more friendly for future bookings, but what that means can vary from airline to airline, and they may differ depending on whether you used cash or miles.
While you’re now often able to rebook an airline ticket for a future date without a change fee, just remember that you’ll likely still be on the hook for any fare difference from your old ticket to the new one.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured photo by Peerasit Chockmaneenuch/Getty Images
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