Everything you need to know about arriving in Iceland

Arriving in Iceland can be a daunting prospect but the airport is small and with a bit of planning it is easy to navigate. Keflavík International Airport offers seamless transfers and convenient hotels near the airport, so you can get started on your explorations right away.

Pick up a hire car and embark on an unforgettable road trip across Iceland’s breathtaking landscapes. Or, relax and recharge at a cosy guesthouse before exploring the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating country.

This guide will help you plan your arrival so your time in Iceland starts efficiently with minimal stress.

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The difference between Keflavík and Reykjavík Airports

It is very easy to get confused when flying into Iceland as to where exactly you are landing. It’s important to note that if you are travelling internationally to Iceland, you will most likely arrive and depart from Keflavík International Airport, 50km southwest of Reykjavík.

Reykjavík Airport, close to Perlan in the city, is primarily used for domestic flights and will be where you fly from if you are flying to some of the smaller airports within Iceland.

Info Keflavík International Airport Reykjavík Airport
Airport Code KEF RVK
Location Keflavík, 50km southwest of Reykjavík Reykjavík city center
Purpose Main international airport for Iceland Domestic and limited international flights
Services and Facilities Multiple terminals, duty-free shops, restaurants, car rentals, extensive amenities Limited facilities, car rental, small cafe and small waiting areas
Air Traffic Handles international flights and customs and immigration facilities Primarily serves domestic flights and some regional international flights
Transportation Well-connected to public transportation options Located in the city centre, convenient for local travel

Do I need a visa to enter Iceland?

Visa requirements for entry into Iceland depend on your nationality and the purpose and duration of your visit. Iceland is a member of the Schengen Agreement, which means that citizens of countries which are part of the agreement can enter Iceland and stay for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. This includes citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member states.

Citizens from elsewhere in Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada can visit for tourism for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. It’s required to have at least three months remaining on your passport after your arrival date. It’s worth noting that time spent here will count towards your 90/180 days allowed in any Schengen country.

If you are a citizen of a non-EU/EFTA country, or those listed above you will likely need a Schengen visa to enter Iceland. This visa allows you to visit Iceland and other Schengen Area countries for tourism, business, or other purposes. To obtain a Schengen visa, you usually need to apply at the embassy or consulate of the country where you will spend the most time or the first Schengen country you plan to enter.

When will my passport and visa be checked at the airport?

When you arrive in Iceland you will be taken to the main terminal building and the first queue will be for passport control. The officers here are always really friendly and will check your documents are in order.

If you are travelling on a Schengen visa or are travelling from a country that has visa-free travel for 90 days, then your passport will be stamped. Make sure it is stamped both on entry and exit even if you are not staying for the full 90 days as a missed stamp can affect your 90-day allowance.

Customs and taxes

There are regulations on how much alcohol and tobacco you can take in and out of Iceland to/from countries outside the EU. You can only bring in 10kg of non-meat or dairy foods with a value of up to 25,000ISK. In addition, there are regulations about plant products, medicines, weapons, and ammunition. You must also declare if you are bringing in more than 10,000EUR

Alcohol and tobacco limits:

  • Less than 200 cigarettes
  • Less than 250 gr of tobacco products
  • 4.5 litres of wine or
  • 1.5 litres of spirits (anything with 22% alcohol by volume) or
  • 18 units (bottles or cans) of beer

There isn’t a clear list of quantities just weird suggested combinations, but the general outline is given above. Full details can be found here.

Shopping and duty-free in Iceland

All non-Iceland residents are tax-free eligible. If you make purchases over the value of 6,000ISK in one transaction you can reclaim the tax. This doesn’t include certain items including food or accommodation.

If you do make ‘gift or souvenir’ purchases make sure you ask the retailer for a receipt that can then be submitted with the tax-free form. There is a small kiosk in the departures hall where you check in to submit the form and receipts.

There are varying time frames for repayment which is anything from 8 weeks to some people never seeing their refund. Find out the full details here.

How long will it take me to get through the airport in Iceland?

Getting into Iceland is a fairly swift process unless you arrive at the same time as a number of other flights. If you are trying to plan your transfer from the airport then I would allow at least a generous hour from when you land.

After landing you will go straight through immigration and then from here, it is a short walk down to baggage reclaim. Don’t feel you have ‘got it wrong’ as you walk through the departure lounge, this is how the terminal is laid out. You will eventually see a blue ‘Welcome to Iceland’ sign at the top of the steps down to baggage reclaim and there is a lift adjacent to the steps.

Next to baggage reclaim is the Duty Free Shop which is open when flights are arriving. It is best to buy any alcohol you may want here as the prices are some of the best you will find.

Once your bags have arrived (which has never been too long in our experience) you are straight through customs and out into the arrivals hall.

What can I do if I arrive early in Iceland?

If you arrive in Iceland early or ahead of friends there are a number of things you can do close to the airport that are not dependent on opening hours.

Some can even be visited with one taxi from the airport to Keflavík town whatever the time of day while others require a long taxi ride or your hire car being available.

  • Walk along the Coastline: Take a leisurely stroll along the beautiful coastline near the airport. Enjoy the refreshing sea breeze, marvel at the vastness of the ocean, and take in the serene views. The area offers scenic walking paths where you can enjoy some tranquillity before your day begins. The easiest place to start a walk is the fishing boat on the waterfront in Keflavík.
  • Explore the Reykjanesviti Lighthouse: Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, near the airport, the Reykjanesviti Lighthouse is an iconic landmark worth visiting. Take a short drive or arrange for a taxi to reach this picturesque spot. Explore the lighthouse grounds, capture stunning photos of the rugged coastline, and soak in the peaceful atmosphere. You will also find the keyboards used in the “Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga” movie on the cliffs.
  • Birdwatching at the Krýsuvíkurbjarg Cliffs: For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Krýsuvíkurbjarg Cliffs is a great option. These cliffs, located within a short drive from the airport, are a nesting ground for various bird species. Take a walk along the cliffs and observe the fascinating birdlife in their natural habitat. The best time to visit bird cliffs is early in the morning so this is perfect for an early summer arrival.

What is there to do at the airport in Iceland?

If you arrive early at the airport, especially in the winter months or during bad weather it is worth noting that there are not many facilities. Most of the cafes, bars, and shops are airside so always make sure you have provisions if you need to wait for any period of time after arrival.

visiting Blue Lagoon on the way to or from the airport

If you want to include Blue Lagoon in your Iceland trip then visiting on the way to or from the airport makes good use of your travel plans as the lagoon is close to the airport.

There is a bus from Reykjavík to the Blue Lagoon and then on to the airport (or the reverse!) making it possible to visit by bus. There is a secure baggage storage area at the Blue Lagoon so taking suitcases is not a problem.

I would suggest booking your entry time to Blue Lagoon for at least 2 hours after your scheduled arrival time. This gives you time for delays without stress. The staff are very understanding and if you are late arriving they can usually find a solution.

Where to stay near Keflavík Airport

As the airport is about an hour from Reykjavík it is always better to stay close if you have an early flight. Lots of flights require a 5 am or 6 am check-in which would mean leaving Reykjavík at around 4 am, definitely not the best way to end your holiday. There are taxis and the FlyBus does have an early bus, but this is an unnecessary stress especially given the weather conditions that may be encountered.

Aurora Hotel

The Aurora Hotel is in the car park of the airport and it is possible to walk to the terminal building. It is not cheap but the rooms are huge and there is an early breakfast.

Berg Hotel

If you want a little bit of luxury then the Berg Hotel in Keflavík is the perfect treat. With. a stunning restaurant and spa overlooking the harbour it is a beautiful start or end to any Iceland trip. The hotel offers transfers to the airport although you will need to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel.

Blue Viking Guesthouse

Located in Keflavík close to the Duus Museum and waterfront the Blue Viking Guesthouse is small and basic but perfect for an overnight stay before an early flight. There are shared bathrooms and a communal kitchen and dining area but all are very well maintained. It is just 10 minutes in a taxi to the airport costing about 3,000ISK and a 5-minute walk to the town centre with restaurants and cafes.

How to get from Keflavík Airport to Reykjavík

Taxis and public transport are right outside the airport and are well-signposted. Private transfers will wait with name signs making them easy to spot as you come out of the customs area. If you have a transfer to your car rental then they will wait in the area as you leave customs with the private transfer drivers.

Bus transfers to hotels in REykjavík

A regular bus service operates between Keflavík Airport and Reykjavík. The journey typically takes around 45 minutes, providing a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation. Bus tickets can be purchased at the airport or online in advance. There are a number of companies running this service but FlyBus has always been reliable for me.

Buses are not permitted into central Reykjavík so FlyBus will take you to the bus station and from here you will be moved to a small minibus that will take you to the bus stop nearest to your hotel. If you aren’t sure of the stop you need, ask your hotel as they will know.

Car rental

If you prefer the flexibility of having your own vehicle, car rental companies are conveniently located either in the arrivals hall or in a separate building accessible via a short shuttle bus ride. Renting a car allows you to explore Iceland at your own pace and access more remote destinations.

When you arrive it is better to pick your vehicle up straight away as there are limited options in Reykjavík for collecting a hire car.

When you return your hire car either check early drop-off arrangements (some companies get you to leave the car in the airport car park with the keys in the glove box). It may be easier and cheaper to return the car the evening before your flight, stay overnight in a hotel close to the airport, and then take a taxi in the morning.

Taxi from the airport

For those seeking a hassle-free transfer, a 24-hour taxi service is available at Keflavík Airport. Taxis provide a convenient option if you have a lot of luggage or prefer a direct and comfortable journey to your accommodation in Reykjavík, however, they are very expensive. The taxi rank is just outside the main arrivals hall or you can book a private transfer in advance.

Leaving Iceland

Whilst arriving in Iceland is the important part, when you leave Iceland there are a few tips that you need to remember to make your journey as stress-free as possible.

  • For all international flights arrive 3 hours before departure
  • If you have an early flight, get to the Keflavík area the night before
  • The queues for Icelandairq flights are usually extensive as all flights are in one giant queue, be prepared for a wait
  • Check-in will only take suitcases, if you have a duffel bag or backpack you will need to take it once checked in and tagged to the oversized baggage area which is tucked in the far corner of the departure area
  • As soon as you have checked your bags in, head through security as this is another pinch point
  • International flights go from Area C usually, so pass through immigration passport control early, giving yourself plenty of time to relax. Once through there are cafes and a few shops.

Accessible travel

You can request free assistance at Keflavík Airport through Isavia’s website 48 hours before you arrive. Some taxis have wheelchair assistance, but most do not, so travelling to your hotel by private transfer may be easier. Just remember to inform them about your needs when booking. More resources for accessible travel in Iceland are available on this website.

Quick checklist for arriving in Iceland

Arriving in Iceland is a breeze, with friendly officials and a well-organized airport. After landing, you’ll head through immigration and baggage claim, where you can pick up any duty-free items you’d like. Once your bags are through, you’re free to head out into the arrivals hall and start your Icelandic adventure!

Here are some key points to remember when arriving in Iceland:

  • You will need your passport and visa (if applicable) to enter Iceland.
  • Passport control is located in the main terminal building.
  • Baggage claim is located after passport control.
  • There is a duty-free shop near baggage claim.
  • Customs is located after baggage claim.
  • The arrivals hall is where you will find transportation options, tourist information, and other services.

Planning a road trip to Iceland? Read all my Iceland Travel Guides

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