Iceland is the country of ice. And fire. It is referred to as The Land of Fire and Ice. The ice part does not have to be explained, but Iceland has many active volcanoes. What can you do in Iceland?
Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, is a popular stopover hub for those flying with Icelandair over the Atlantic for relatively affordable prices. THe city itself has many museums, churches, and bars. The Thingvellir National Park has the Öxarárfoss waterfall, which is majestic, and you can find whales and puffins in Húsavík.
You probably want to share your Iceland experiences online, which you should! However, what is the most affordable way of doing so? Roaming with your provider in Iceland can be expensive, so that is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, like an Icelandic one.
Mobile data in Iceland is expensive for European standards. Luckily, Iceland is in the EU, which means those with an EU SIM card can roam for free in Iceland. Those with an non-EU SIM card should still consider getting an Icelandic SIM card, as it will most likely be cheaper than roaming in Iceland.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Iceland. Let's get started, shall we?
Telecom Providers in Iceland
Iceland has 3 telecom providers:
- Vodafone Iceland
All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
Which of these Icelandic operators have the best prepaid SIM cards and prepaid offerings?
If you want to buy a SIM card in Iceland, then Síminn has the best prepaid offering. They have the best coverage and the fastest speeds.
However, Síminn is the most expensive operator in Iceland. Vodafone Iceland’s coverage is almost as good as the one of Síminn, and they are cheaper than Síminn.
The cheapest option in Iceland is Nova, which offers data packages with, sometimes, 10 times more data than their competitors. However, their coverage is limited compared to Síminn and Vodafone. As a result, Nova should be considered when staying in cities or large towns.
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Like many countries in Northern Europe, the Nordic countries, and Europe in general, you do not have to register yourself when buying a SIM card in the Faroe Islands.
Iceland is part of the European Union (EU). As of June 2017, a new regulation has been enforced, which is known as roam like at home, meaning that those with a European Union (or EEA) SIM card should be allowed to use (some) of their data allowance in other EU/EEA countries without a surcharge.
Vodafone Iceland and Nova offer free EU roaming allowances with their packages. Síminn does not and sells a roaming package for 500 ISK a day for 500 MB.
With that being said, let’s see what Iceland has to offer to us.
Síminn is the largest operator in Iceland. They have the best coverage and the fastest speeds. Síminn is, however, the most expensive operator in the country, but you do pay for the high quality of service.
Síminn SIM cards, both the Prepaid Starter Pack (voice & data) and Síminn Prepaid Data (data-only), are sold for 2900 ISK ($21.15) in Síminn stores, gas stations, on Icelandair flights, and Keflavík airport. The SIM cards can also be delivered to your hotel when ordered online without additional charges.
The Prepaid Starter Pack comes with 5 GB and 50 minutes/50 SMS. The Síminn Prepaid Data SIM card comes with 10 GB.
If you need more data, the following options are available for both the voice & data SIM card and the data-only SIM card, which are all valid for 31 days and can be activated online:
- 800 ISK: 500 MB
- 1700 ISK: 1 GB
- 2700 ISK: 5 GB
- 3700 ISK: 10 GB
- 5700 ISK: 50 GB
Síminn does not offer free EU/EEA roaming with their unregistered prepaid SIM cards. Instead, you can buy a roaming package called Frelsi í útlöndum for 500 ISK a day, and you will get 500 MB roaming data for within the EU/EEA.
Vodafone Iceland, just Vodafone, is the second-largest operator in Vodafone. Their coverage is great and, in some places, better than Síminn, but overall lacks behind the one of Síminn. Moreover, Vodafone is cheaper than Síminn.
Vodafone SIM cards, both the Frelsi SIM card (standard) and 4G net (data-only) SIM card, are sold for 2000 ISK in Vodafone stores, gas stations, and at Keflavik airport. Furthermore, tourist information centers and several hotels also sell Vodafone SIM cards.
The Vodafone Frelsi SIM card comes with 1 GB and unlimited local calls for 30 days. The 4G Net SIM card comes with 3 GB for 30 days. Do note that this SIM card can mainly be found in Vodafone stores.
Additionally, there is the Vodafone Premium Starter SIM card, which is Vodafone’s tourist SIM card, that is sold on Icelandair flights. The Vodafone Premium Starter SIM card (package) is valid for 30 days. It comes with a data package of choice, unlimited local calls and SMS, and 50 international minutes to the following 33 destinations:
- Czech Republic
- Faroe Islands
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Finally, Vodafone claims that Arion, a local bank, hands out Vodafone SIM cards for free, which come with a data package of choice, unlimited local calls and SMS, and 100 international minutes (assumed to the destinations listed above). Not much more is unknown about this SIM card.
Vodafone Frelsi has 2 combo packs, which are valid for 30 days:
- 2190 ISK: 5 GB, 5 GB EU roaming, and unlimited local minutes and SMS
- 3190 ISK: 25 GB, 10 GB EU roaming, and unlimited local minutes and SMS
These packages can be purchased online or on the Vodafone app.
Vodafone 4G Net
Vodafone 4G Net has 6 data packages, which are valid for 30 days:
- 2190 ISK: 1 GB and 1 GB EU roaming
- 3190 ISK: 10 GB and 5 GB EU roaming
- 5190 ISK: 25 GB and 15 GB EU roaming
- 6190 ISK: 50 GB and 20 GB EU roaming
- 8190 ISK: 150 GB and 30 GB EU roaming
- 10 190 ISK: Unlimited data and 35 GB EU roaming
These packages can be purchased online or on the Vodafone app.
Nova is the smallest operator in Iceland. Their coverage is good, although it can be patchy in remote Iceland. Nova can be a good option if you are sticking to the cities and large towns. They are the cheapest operator in Iceland and give up to 10 times more data for the same price compared to Síminn and Vodafone.
A Nova prepaid SIM card is called Frelsi and is available for 1990 ISK in Nova stores and a few other stores. You used to be able to get them on WOW Air flights before the airline went bankrupt.
There are 2 types of Frelsi packages: monthly refills (mánaðarlegar áfyllingar) and one-time top-ups (netáfyllingar). If you are staying in Iceland for a while, the monthly refills may be appealing because they have better perks. Otherwise, stick to the one-time top-ups.
Nova Mánaðarlegar Áfyllingar (Monthly Refill Packages)
There are 4 monthly (30 days) refill packages, which all come with unlimited calls and SMS when in Iceland or in the EU:
- 2190 ISK: 10 GB and 5 GB EU roaming
- 3190 ISK: 60 GB and 6 GB EU roaming
- 5190 ISK: 100 GB and 9 GB EU roaming
- 7190 ISK: Unlimited data and 12 GB EU roaming
Nova Netáfyllingar (One-Off Packages)
There are 6 prepaid packages, which all come with unlimited calls and SMS when in Iceland or in the EU and are all valid for 30 days:
- 2290 ISK: 2 GB and 2 GB EU roaming
- 3290 ISK: 10 GB and 6 GB EU roaming
- 4490 ISK: 25 GB and 8 GB EU roaming
- 6190 ISK: 50 GB and 11 GB EU roaming
- 8190 ISK: 150 GB and 14 GB EU roaming
- 9990 ISK: Unlimited data and 17 GB EU roaming
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Iceland
I have discussed the relevant providers in Iceland in this article because using an Icelandic SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Iceland. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Iceland.
Roaming in Iceland with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is ALBtelecom from Albania, then you would be roaming with ALBtelecom in Iceland.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Iceland, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Iceland and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Iceland.
Using an International SIM Card in Iceland
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Iceland. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Some countries in Europe require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Iceland
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Iceland
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Iceland which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of Iceland, you will find many hotspots in the capital.
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now!
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Iceland
Getting a SIM card from Síminn and Vodafone would do you well when considering an Icelandic SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Scandinavia or the Nordic Countries? Check out my Scandinavia and Nordics SIM card buying guide covering the other Scandinavian and Nordic destinations, such as Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden.
What about other places in Europe? My Europe SIM card buying guide covers all destinations in Europe, including those not part of the European Union/EEA, such as Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Iceland
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Iceland. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Iceland drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Iceland
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Iceland. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in an Icelandic hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Iceland
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Iceland, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!