Iceland is not only one of the safest countries in the world, but it is the safest country in the world and has been every year from 2008 through 2020, according to the Global Peace Index. Petty crime like pickpocketing and robbery is rare, and violent crime is almost non-existent. With a population of about 350,000 people in the whole country, there's a sense that everyone knows everybody. Visitors are often taken aback by the directness of Icelanders and even think of them as rude, but once you get to know the culture, you'll feel welcomed into their tight-knit community.
Even though you don't have to worry much about the people when you're in Iceland, the country does experience extreme weather. Whether you're driving through the rural interior, exploring glaciers, or scuba diving in the frigid waters, be sure to do so safely and following advice from local guides.
- The U.S. Department of State currently recommends that visitors to Iceland "reconsider travel" due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel advisories have been changing frequently so get the most up-to-date information directly from the U.S. State Department.
- Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. State Department advised travelers bound for Iceland to "exercise normal precautions," its lowest-level travel advisory.
Is Iceland Dangerous?
Travelers have little to worry about when visiting Iceland in terms of crime. Even pickpocketing in Iceland is out of the ordinary, and Icelanders typically leave their doors unlocked and windows open—when the weather permits—because the country is so safe. But just because Iceland isn't dangerous doesn't mean that crime doesn't exist. Don't forget common sense and keep an eye on your belongings. You aren't likely to have any problems, but a potential thief can always tell who has their guard down.
What you do need to worry about in Iceland is Mother Nature. Storms can cause flooding, blizzards, landslides, and avalanches, so be wary when you're traveling about the country, especially through the sparsely populated interior. If you're driving, only a third of Iceland's roads are paved and many of them are closed for several months of the year due to icy or muddy conditions. Carry a flashlight with you, keep your headlights turned on at all times (it's the law), and don't go off-road.
Is Iceland Safe for Solo Travelers?
Whether you've traveled solo around the world or it's your first trip alone, Iceland is an ideal destination. The overall safety of the country makes it easy to go out and meet locals without having to worry about the dangers of venturing out alone, especially if you're staying around the capital city of Reykjavik.
If you're traveling alone around the island, it's best to do with a clear itinerary. Share your plans with someone before setting off in case of an emergency, since cellphone coverage can be spotty and response teams may have trouble getting to you. If you haven't done an "outdoors trip" before or it's your first time in Iceland, it may be better to join an organized group instead of attempting to rough it on your own.
Is Iceland Safe for Female Travelers?
Iceland isn't just the safest country in the world, but it also ranks number one in gender equality. Even though there is always room to improve, Iceland has been a pioneer in women's rights for decades, notably in 1980, when Icelanders elected the first female president of any country in history. While past elections and academic rankings may seem irrelevant to females traveling in Iceland, these are just examples of how gender equality is ingrained into the local culture. Women, especially women traveling alone, should take normal precautions when out in Iceland, just as they would at home.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Unsurprisingly, Iceland is also considered one of the most friendly countries in the world to LGBTQ+ individuals. Twenty-nine years after Iceland elected the first female president in the world, the Icelandic legislature selected the first openly LGBTQ+ head of state. The country's national church, the Christian Church of Iceland, allows same-sex weddings in its places of worship. And even though Reykjavik would be considered a small town compared to other capital cities—the population is roughly 130,000 people—it has a thriving gay scene with several bars and cafes that cater to the LGBTQ+ crowd. Outside of Reykjavik, there are virtually no spaces exclusively for LGBTQ+ individuals, but the country as a whole is accepting, even in rural areas.
In cities, it's common for bathrooms to be single-stall and gender-neutral, but if the restrooms are separated by males and females, you are allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with your gender identity.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
In terms of danger, Iceland is just as safe for BIPOC travelers as it is for everyone else and the locals are welcoming to all. However, Iceland is also one of the most insular places on Earth and cultural diversity is a relatively recent development in the country. BIPOC travelers may have to endure stares, comments, or questions that would be considered offensive microaggressions back home, especially when traveling outside of Reykjavik. If that happens, the comments hopefully come from a place of benign curiosity instead of antipathy, but if you feel uncomfortable you should immediately remove yourself from the situation.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Even with a low risk of crime and helpful locals, visitors to Iceland should use common sense and take precautions to prevent problems, especially during the coldest months of the year.
- Road closures may be necessary because of winter weather, wind, and mudslides, so check conditions before getting in the car.
- If you are hiking or planning on being outside, make sure you bring the proper equipment. This includes a compass, phone, GPS, maps, and more.
- If you have an emergency, dial 112 from any phone in Iceland to reach emergency services.
- Read warning signs and follow their instructions. They are there for your protection, so if a sign says to stay on the path, keep away from the ocean, or anything else, there's a reason.
- Storms can appear quickly and with little warning, so frequently check the weather to make sure you aren't caught unaware.
The Institute for Economics and Peace. "Global Peace Index." June 2020.
U.S. Department of State. "Iceland International Travel Information." August 6, 2020.
World Economic Forum. "Global Gender Gap World Report 2020." Retrieved December 31, 2020.
Asher and Lyric Fergusson. "LGBTQ+ Danger Index." November 12, 2019.
Grapevine. "From Iceland- Icelandic People Are Not Racist, but..." February 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2020.