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Though known as a safe and peaceful destination with very little crime, there are still some things to be aware of when traveling in Iceland. Find out about drug laws, petty crime, and safety for solo travelers.

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An aerial view of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city. Photo © Getty Images / Travelpix Ltd

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. With a small, tightly knit population and high standard of living, travelers can feel secure on a journey to this stunning destination.

Crime in Iceland

Since 2008, Iceland has ranked as the most peaceful country in the world in the Global Peace Index, a position it retained in the 2021 report. Crime in Iceland isn’t a big problem, and people have a high level of trust in the country’s police force. After all, this is the country where babies are left alone outside in their prams.

But, with an increasing number of tourists in Iceland, petty crime is on the rise, although these numbers are still very low compared to the US and Europe. Travelers should still pay attention to their belongings at all major travel hubs, and watch out for pickpockets in busy crowds. Always lock your car and keep any valuables out of sight.

Violent crimes are few and far between in Iceland – the country averages one murder per year – and events that shock the nation get widespread news coverage. Assaults can happen, but they’re mainly confined to downtown Reykjavik or Akureyri when people are drinking on the weekend.

Are there scams in Iceland?

Icelanders are honest and straightforward people, and there aren’t any scams to be wary of while traveling the country.

Drug laws and alcohol in Iceland

A growing opioid crisis in Iceland has led to an increase in the number of overdoses. This is a side of Iceland rarely seen by visitors.

Under current laws, possessing illegal drugs in Iceland can result in heavy fines and jail time. Hash and marijuana are the most-seized drugs by police officers, followed by amphetamines, with only small amounts of ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin seized.

There can be some violence thanks to alcohol abuse, although it mainly occurs on the weekend in either downtown Reykjavik or Akureyri. Aside from these rare occurrences, Reykjavik’s nightlife scene is both safe and a lot of fun.

A bigger problem is drink-driving, and police monitor it aggressively. There’s a very low blood-alcohol limit allowed (0.05 percent), and police conduct breathalyzer and blood tests. If caught, fines start from 70,000 ISK (US $570).

Safety for solo travelers and women travelers in Iceland

With a low amount of crime, scams, and violence, Iceland is a fantastic place for solo travelers. Most Icelanders speak good English, and there’s great mobile reception around the country, even in remote areas.

Iceland also attracts a great mix of adventurous travelers, making it easy to socialize with like-minded people. Hostels and campsites around the country are filled with hikers, photographers etc, and it’s always easy to make friends or join someone for a meal or a hike.

Women solo travelers will find Iceland a wonderful destination. Women are respected in the community, and Iceland remains at the top of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Catcalling and harassment are almost non-existent in Iceland. In general, female travelers will be perfectly safe, although that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take the regular precautions that come with traveling solo.

Getting lost or stranded

As you travel around the country, many travelers might worry about getting lost or stranded. Thanks to the Ring Road encircling the country, Iceland is dead-easy to navigate by road. And when it comes to hiking, most areas have great maps to consult before setting out, and well-kept trails maintained by volunteers.

Your main concern is a sudden change in weather, or on very rare occasions, a volcanic eruption or glacial flood. Travelers should always submit a travel plan with the Icelandic Search and Rescue so it can react if something goes wrong. Most of the countryside is private land, so there’s always a farm nearby if you need help.

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