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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Iceland

Iceland - Consular Information Sheet
October 24, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Iceland is a highly developed stable democracy with a modern economy.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required, but no visa is needed for tourist or business stays of up to three months. U.S. citizens should be aware, however, that because of Iceland's participation in the Nordic Passport Union, the three-month period begins as soon as they enter the Nordic area (i.e., Denmark, Greenland, Faeroe Islands, Finland, Norway, Sweden or Iceland.) For further information concerning entry requirements for Iceland, contact the Embassy of Iceland at 1156 15th Street N.W., Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20005, tel (202) 265-6653, or the Icelandic Consulate General in New York at 800 Third Avenue, 36th Floor, New York, NY 10022, tel (212) 593-2700. See also the Embassy's web site at http://www.iceland.org.

CRIME INFORMATION: Iceland has a relatively low crime rate, but minor assaults and other street crimes have become more common, especially in the capital city of Reykjavik. Tourists should be aware that downtown Reykjavik can become especially disorderly on weekend evenings. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy at Laufasvegur 21 in Reykjavik, tel. (354) 562-9100. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND INSURANCE: Excellent medical facilities are available. To obtain emergency medical assistance anywhere in the country, dial 112. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Iceland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair to Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good

Less than a third of the country's total road network was paved (2,262 miles of paved road versus 5774 miles of gravel or dirt road). Most of the 900-mile ring road (Highway 1) that encircles the country is paved, but many other roads outside the capital, especially those that run through the center of the country, are dirt or gravel tracks. Even those roads that are paved tend to be narrow and lack a shoulder or margin. Most bridges are only one lane wide, requiring drivers to be cognizant of oncoming traffic.

Extreme care should be taken when driving in rural areas during the winter (October through April), when daylight hours are limited and the weather and road conditions can change quickly. Many routes in the interior of the country are impassible until July due to muddy conditions caused by snowmelt. When driving in the interior, consider traveling with a second vehicle and always inform someone of your travel plans. For information on current road conditions throughout the country, call the Public Roads Administration (Vegagerdin) at 1777 or consult its web site at http://www.vegag.is. For recorded weather information in English, call the Icelandic weather office (Vedurstofa Islands) at 902-0600, ext. 44.

The law requires drivers to keep headlights on at all times. Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit in urban areas is 50 km per hour (31 mph). In rural areas, the speed limit is 80 km per hour (50 mph) on dirt and gravel roads, and 90 km per hour (56 mph) on paved highways. There is no provision for turning right on red in Iceland. Use of seatbelts is mandatory in both the front and rear seats, and children under the age of six must be secured in a special car seat designed for their size and weight. Drivers are held responsible for any passenger under the age of fifteen who is not wearing a seatbelt. No one who is less than 140 cm (approximately 54 inches) tall or weighs less than 40 kilograms (88 lbs.) is allowed to ride in a front seat equipped with an airbag.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offense in Iceland. Drivers can be charged with drunk driving with a blood alcohol level as low as 0.05. The minimum punishment for a first offense is a ISK 30,000 (about $380) fine and the loss of driving privileges for two months.

Hikers and backpackers are well advised to stay on marked trails, travel with someone, let someone else know their travel plans, and check weather reports.

For additional general information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. U.S. citizens staying for less than 90 days can drive in Iceland on their U.S. licenses. For specific information concerning Icelandic driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Iceland National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.iceland.org/oeku.htm.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Iceland's Civil Aviation Authority as Category One -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Icelandic air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1 (800) 322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Icelandic customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York. NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Iceland's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iceland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Extreme care should be exercised when touring Iceland's numerous nature attractions, which include glaciers, volcanic craters, lava fields, ice caves, hot springs, boiling mud pots, geysers, waterfalls and glacial rivers. There are few warning signs or barriers to alert travelers to the potential hazards. For example, several tourists are scalded each year because they get too close to an erupting geyser, or because they fall or step into a hot spring or boiling mud pot. High winds and icy conditions can exacerbate the dangers of visiting these nature areas.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Also be aware that Iceland is occasionally subject to natural disasters in the form of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, and violent storms. Learn how to prepare for and react to such events by consulting the web site of Iceland's National Civil Defense Agency at http://www.avrik.is. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Iceland may register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik and obtain updated information on travel and security within Iceland. The U.S. Embassy is located at Laufasvegur 21, tel (354) 562-9100; fax (354) 562-9118.

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