Woman walking on Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland

3 minute read

Health & Safety

Whether you’re exploring modern cities or wild nature in Iceland, safety should be your top priority. Ensure your trip goes smoothly with these local tips. Plus, learn what to do in the event of a volcanic eruption or earthquake.

Emergency services

In all emergency situations, call 112 to reach the police, fire department, or rescue services.

Hospitals and finding a doctor

When it comes to health, Iceland’s infrastructure makes it one of the safest places you could visit.

You’ll find a healthcare center with a doctor on call in every major town or city. Walk-in hours vary, so ask the reception desk at your accommodation for advice if you’re having any medical issues.

If you are experiencing an urgent, life-threatening medical emergency, call 112 or go to an emergency room. In Iceland, these are called bráðamóttaka. Below you’ll find the addresses of the main hospital in each major town or city:

  • Landspítali University Hospital, Fossvogur, 108 Reykjavík
  • Hospital of Akureyri, Fjórðungssjúkrahúsið Eyrarlandsvegi, 600 Akureyri
  • Medical Centre of East Iceland, Lagarás 17-19, 700 Egilsstaðir
  • Medical Centre of South Iceland, Árvegur, 800 Selfoss
  • Medical Centre of Westfjords, Torfnes, 400 Ísafjörður

When exploring the countryside, you’ll find that the distance to your closest hospital might be longer. This is because the population of rural Iceland is very low. You can always call 112 for emergency assistance if you’re far away from a town or city.

We strongly encourage you to buy travel insurance before you arrive in Iceland. Travel or health insurance is not available through Iceland Tours. If you’re not covered, you’ll be charged the full cost of any healthcare received while in the country.

Finding a pharmacy

Pharmacies are called apótek, or lyfjaverslun, in Icelandic, and are generally open between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, with shorter hours on Saturdays. They’re usually closed on Sundays.

You’ll find all the country’s pharmacies, including their locations and opening hours, listed here.

Keep in mind that the over-the-counter medication sold in these pharmacies might be different from what you’re used to back home. If you take any prescription medication, make sure to bring enough supplies to last for your whole trip.

First aid

Before you set off for Iceland, it’s a great idea to pack a small first aid kit that you can take with you on your adventures each day. Include useful items like antiseptic wipes and band-aids for minor scrapes and cuts. 

In Reykjavík and Akureryi, you’ll find first-aid supplies in pharmacies, opticians, hospitals, and homeware stores. You’ll also find outdoor gear shops where you can stock up on extra protective gear, such as gloves, waterproof layers, and hiking boots.

  • Check out this handy packing list for your trip to Iceland.

Safety tips for Reykjavík

Reykjavík is one of the world’s safest cities. The crime rate is very low, making it the perfect choice for families, solo travelers, or anyone looking for a relaxing city break.

That said, it’s a good idea to still take normal precautions, just like you would at home. Keep an eye on your valuables, and make sure to lock your rental car if you’ve got one.

The Laugavegur street in downtown Reykjavík on a summer day

Safety tips for rural Iceland

The best way to stay safe in Iceland’s countryside is to have a good travel plan. The island has a small population that’s concentrated in a few towns or cities. When you’re traveling between them, be aware of where you are and how far you have to go.

You’ll be discovering rugged, unspoiled nature, with breathtaking volcanic features and dramatic frozen landscapes. At each stop, pay attention to all safety signs, weather warnings, or info given by your guides.

The roads here can sometimes be challenging, especially when the weather changes suddenly. Check out this page on driving in Iceland for useful tips about hitting the road.

The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) created Safetravel.is, a useful hub of safety info for all visitors to Iceland. Here are our top safety tips for exploring rural Iceland, based on their recommendations:

  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast throughout the day – it can change quickly. You’ll find up-to-date reports in English on the Icelandic Met Office website.
  • Don’t get too close to the sea, as strong waves can appear suddenly.
  • Never climb on chunks of ice or icebergs, as they can be unstable.
  • Admire Iceland’s many glaciers, but don’t walk on or inside them unless you’re with a professional guide.
  • Stay behind the fences when visiting hot springs and mud pots – they can generate some serious heat!
  • Be mindful of cliff edges, and keep your distance, especially when it’s windy.
  • Park only in safe places and designated parking lots. Never stop in the middle of roads or on the shoulders of highways.

ICE-SAR has also created a GPS smartphone app called ‘112 Iceland’. If you’re planning a road trip, or wanting to go hiking, we highly recommend downloading this app. You can use it to report emergencies like car accidents or getting lost.


Iceland’s incredible location is what makes it so awe-inspiring. The country straddles the North American and the European tectonic plates, which are slowly drifting apart. The constant movement of these 2 continents causes fairly regular earthquakes. 

Though common, they’re rarely dangerous. You might not even notice them happening. Some historic earthquakes in Iceland reached 7 on the Richter scale, but most are below 5.

Natural disasters in Iceland, like earthquakes, are really unlikely to pose any danger to you. All Icelandic buildings are built to strict safety standards and are designed to withstand even strong shaking.

In the event of a strong earthquake, follow these safety tips:

  • Stay indoors, or move there if you can
  • Duck into the corner of a room, an open doorway, or under a table
  • Cover your head with your arms
  • Hold on to something sturdy, like a wall, doorway, or table leg
  • Wait until the quake has stopped before you move again

After the shaking ends, be careful of loose objects or debris that might continue to fall for a few minutes afterward. You can read more about earthquake safety on the Icelandic Civil Protection website.


The movement of these tectonic plates also means that Iceland is dotted with volcanoes. This is how the country got its nickname – the Land of Fire and Ice!

Though many volcanoes in Iceland are extinct or dormant, some are active. Eruptions are fairly common and rarely affect the day-to-day life of locals or visitors. To learn more about these fiery features, check out this guide to Iceland’s volcanoes.

Most volcanoes are located far from Iceland’s towns and cities. They’re concentrated in specific areas, like the Reykjanes peninsula and the central highlands. Plus, they’re far away from the most popular traveling routes, such as the Golden Circle.

In the event of a volcanic eruption while you’re in Iceland, the safest and simplest thing to do is to stay far away from the eruption site. Then, check our volcanic activity page and the Icelandic Civil Protection website for all the latest updates.

The Fagradalsfjall volcano erupting in Iceland

Black sand beaches

The landscapes and features created by volcanic activity make up some of the country’s most spectacular attractions. On your trip, you might take a dip in a geothermally-heated hot spring, drive past rolling lava fields, or stroll along a black sand beach.

Did you know that there’s nothing between the south coast of Iceland and Antarctica? This means that the waves washing up on some of these beaches, like Reynisfjara, are extremely strong.

It’s important to keep a safe distance from the shoreline at all times when visiting the beach, as powerful ‘sneaker waves’ are common. They rise up quickly from the deep ocean and hit Iceland’s coast with a lot of force.

With these essential safety tips under your belt, you’re ready for your adventure in Iceland. Check out our range of Iceland vacation packages to secure your trip now.