Iceland adds strict requirements for entry — and US travelers are still not welcome

Aug 16, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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.

Blue Lagoon Iceland
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland. (Photo by Liz Hund/The Points Guy.)

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

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.

Related: Flight review: Icelandair (767-300ER) economy from Reykjavik to New York

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.

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

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

Related: How to get to Iceland using points and miles

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:

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.

There’s also availability using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but the flights are on Oneworld partner British Airways with extremely high fuel surcharges.

Related: Iceland trip-planning from A to Z: Glaciers, geothermal spas and lava caves

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.

Related: How to use points for lodging in Iceland


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.


There are several Design hotels, notably the 101 Hotel and ION Adventure Hotel, both Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy properties.


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.

Related: How to avoid change and cancellation fees

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

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.