Iceland was the first country in Europe to reopen its borders to Americans, welcoming back vaccinated travelers way back in mid-March. But as alarm grows about the fast-spreading Delta variant, it's about to get a bit harder to get into Iceland.
Starting next Tuesday, July 27, all arriving visitors must have a recent negative COVID-19 test result before their flight to Iceland – and that includes fully vaccinated travelers, according to a new announcement from the Icelandic government. Both PCR and rapid antigen tests will be accepted, but tests must be taken no more than 72 hours before boarding the flight to Reykjavik (KEF).
If you're due to take off for Iceland before July 27, you're in the clear. Children born in 2005 or later are exempt from this additional testing requirement. Unvaccinated travelers will still be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, get a test upon arrival, quarantine for five days, and leave only after testing negative a third time.
This new policy is a change of heart for Iceland: Just earlier this month, the country dropped its requirement that all travelers be tested upon arrival. Making those tests mandatory before travel is a step even further. And it means that anyone aiming to visit Iceland in the near future will need to be tested at least twice: Once before departure and again before flying back home, as the U.S. still requires a negative COVID-19 test for international travelers.
Fortunately, Iceland has done a great job streamlining these requirements in the travel experience. There are testing sites scattered across the country, including an easy-to-access site in Reykjavik. But soon, you'll need to get a test before making way for Iceland.
Read more: What's it Like to Travel to Iceland in 2021?
It's another reminder that international travel restrictions are bound to change again and again as the fight against the pandemic continues. Iceland's recent move could be a preview of what's in store as countries around the globe try to slow the spread of COVID-19 fueled by a fast-moving Delta variant.
Heading somewhere else in Europe? Check out our guide to European travel restrictions for Americans!
Months after many reopened their borders to travelers, several countries across Europe including the U.K., France, and the Netherlands have seen an explosion in cases in recent weeks. And while Iceland is among the first to put stronger entry requirements in place for travelers after relaxing them, it's not the first move.
France has begun requiring proof of vaccination for anyone entering museums, cinemas, and other similar venues – and that will apply to bars, cafes, and restaurants starting next month. In Israel, government officials have steadily pushed back its timeline to resume travel, citing outbreaks across the world and the Delta variant.
After crushing COVID-19 cases this winter and spring through a rapid vaccination campaign, cases are on the rise in the U.S. again, too. And the U.S. has been more cautious than many countries: It still bans nearly all foreign arrivals. Despite pressure to resume travel, President Joe Biden's administration has kept that ban in place.
Iceland is about to make it harder to get in with a new pre-travel COVID-19 testing requirement for all travelers – vaccinated or not. That new requirement for a negative COVID-19 test takes effect for departures starting next week: Tuesday, July 27.
But this could be a sign of what's to come elsewhere across Europe and other tourist destinations that have relaxed travel restrictions in recent months. While countries may not shut down travel altogether, they could add more hoops to jump through.
What does this mean for children who cannot be vaccinated yet for traveling to Iceland and the UK? Will they just need a negative test or will they need to quarantine as well?