The medical facilities in Iceland are good and available free to European Union citizens with a valid EHIC form or its replacement ID card. Scandinavian citizens must show valid passport and medical insurance to be treated.

Infectious diseases aren't a problem in Iceland. Inoculations aren't required except if you are arriving from countries that suffer from infectious diseases like cholera.

The biggest threat to your health is likely to be accidental injury or bad weather. Always make sure you have more than adequately warm and waterproof clothing. Selection of appropriate clothing is especially important in Iceland and can even be a matter of life and death. Exercise extra caution in geothermal areas: What may appear to be solid ground can sometimes not be so solid, breaking from underneath your feet with you falling into potentially deadly boiling water.

The water quality in Iceland is excellent and tap water is always drinkable.

The hygiene in public kitchens is very good, and food poisoning rarely happens to tourists.


The official language of Iceland is Icelandic íslenska, which remains very similar to, although not quite the same as 13th-century Norse. Icelandic writing uses the Latin alphabet, but with two characters long ago lost from English: eth Ð, ð, pronounced like the voiced th of "them", and thorn Þ, þ, pronounced like the unvoiced th of "thick". Materials in English often substitute "dh" and "th" respectively, so eg. Fjörður is written Fjordhur and þingvellir is written Thingvellir. Loanwords are shunned, and new words are regularly made for concepts like computers, known as tölva "number-prophetess". Icelandic is related to the other Scandinavian languages Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Faroese, and while it is hardly mutually intelligible with them in spoken form, this is not as much the case in written form.

Most Icelanders also speak English and Danish, as both languages are compulsory in schools, and because of their Danish knowledge also understand Swedish and Norwegian. Icelandic college students choose a "fourth language" to study, usually Spanish, German, French, or Italian, but proficiency is most often nonexistent. Even though the majority of Icelanders are competent in English, attempts at speaking Icelandic are always appreciated, and learning some basic greetings and phrases in Icelandic will make your trip much smoother.

Icelanders use the comma instead of the decimal sign for integers, i.e. 12,000 means 12, not twelve thousand, whereas 12 000 or 12.000 means twelve thousand. Icelanders use both the 24 and 12 hour system, speaking the 12 hour system and using the 24 hour system for writing. Icelanders do not use PM/AM to indicate morning and afternoon. In Icelandic, "half ten" "hálf tíu" means half past nine 9:30. When speaking to a person not fluent in English it is best not use this form to avoid misunderstanding. Dates can be seen abbreviated in a number of ways, but the order is always DAY-MONTH-YEAR; 12.7.08, 120708, or 12/07/08 is equivalent to July 12, 2008. Icelandic calendars also indicate the number of the week 1 through 52.

Iceland uses the metric system only. There is limited knowledge of Imperial or US measurements.

In Iceland there is no concept of a ground floor as in the UK. Instead, the entrance level of a building is called the first floor "jarðhæð", like in the US. Levels are then counted 1, 2, 3 etc.

Foreign television programmes and films are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Icelandic.

Consult the Icelandic phrasebook for more information.


The Icelandic Narcotics Police has a very strict policy on drugs; minimum fine for possession of under 1 gram 3/100 of an oz. of any illegal substance can result in a fine of over 30000 ISK $373/€237/£188 in June 2008.