A few years ago, the word roaming sounded like Chinese (although it’s English); almost nobody knew what it meant. Nowadays, it’s rare to come across someone who enjoys traveling and doesn’t know the ins and outs of this word and everything related to it. Anyway, for the most clueless, we’ll clarify that the term roaming refers to mobile data roaming. That is, it’s the service that allows you to use your mobile phone or other mobile devices while visiting another country. Thanks to the European regulation of June 15, 2017, roaming within Europe is free. Before the law ensuring free roaming, mobile operators imposed special charges for calls, SMS, and data consumed abroad. In fact, if you forgot to deactivate roaming, you could get a good scare just by receiving a call. The cost depended on the country and the rates of each company. Let’s see how roaming works in Iceland.

Mobile phone with data roaming activated and roaming

What is roaming? – Differences

To avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s important to understand the difference between roaming and international calls. You make an international call when you’re in Spain and call a foreign country. Then you’ll be subject to special charges. On the other hand, roaming calls are made when you’re outside Spain and want to use your mobile line. In this case, the cost is the same as your Spanish tariff.

Now that, at least European users, are relieved to have gotten rid of those extra charges, let’s delve a little deeper into how phone companies work in Iceland, how to get a SIM, or which mobile networks are available.

Will My Cellphone Work In Iceland? Is there roaming in Iceland?

Yes, there is. Iceland is in zone 1 of roaming countries, so it offers free data roaming for European users. This way, you can use your phone line just as you would in your home country and of course pay the same for the services. You also won’t pay for calls or SMS while in Iceland.

We know Iceland is not a member of the European Union, but it’s part of the European Economic Area as an associated country. Warning to sailors: Remember that maritime, air, and satellite coverage are never included in your tariff’s roaming, so check with your company for the costs of these services if you intend to use them.

Remember for your trip that you’ll have the same data limit on your mobile phone as you normally do. Therefore, it might be useful to buy an Icelandic SIM card with a data plan. This way you can use Google Maps fearlessly as a navigator, for example, or upload as many photos as you want to your social networks.

Tourist using roaming in Iceland while visiting monuments

How to activate roaming in Iceland?

You don’t have to do anything, it’s that simple. Since the law came into force in 2017, operators are obliged to offer this service for free so when you connect to the Icelandic operator’s telephone network you should be able to use your phone without problems. Sometimes, the company asks you to activate data roaming to be able to use it – it’s usually activated in the mobile or Tablet settings menu. Other companies like Jazztel in Spain although they ensure that roaming comes activated by default with your tariff, they ask you to check by entering the customer area or the APP.

It’s a good idea to make sure you have roaming and data roaming activated before your trip, as you may need to use your mobile phone as soon as you arrive.

Phone companies in Iceland

The main mobile operators in Iceland are Síminn, Vodafone Iceland, and Nova Iceland.

  • Síminn

Síminn is undoubtedly the most popular telephone company in Iceland as it offers the best coverage throughout Iceland and has very competitive prices. They have a prepaid data-only card option (10GB for 2,900 kr or 18€) or for the same price the option of 5GB and 50 minutes.

  • Vodafone

As we’ve already mentioned, if Vodafone is your operator at home, you can continue to use your phone without problems with the same tariff. Vodafone Iceland has a fairly acceptable coverage, in fact it has only a few less users than the leader Síminn. If you want to buy a Vodafone SIM to use data without remorse, you have two options. The first option is the Vodafone Starter kit that includes unlimited minutes and messages and 1GB of data. You can buy it at the Keflavik International Airport or in the stores of Reykjavik, Kópavogur or Akureyri. They are also available at N1 gas stations. Another option is to get a free SIM and recharge it as many times as you need online. These SIM cards are also available in the stores we mentioned.

  • Nova

The Nova Iceland operator is not one of the best known and this is also reflected in its accessibility. Its website is only in Icelandic and there are no physical stores. They have the option of prepaid and monthly top-ups.

Practical tips for using your mobile phone abroad

We’re clear that calling home from time to time to tell about the wonders we’re seeing in Iceland won’t cost us an arm and a leg, which is a relief. But, do you have everything ready for your trip? It’s not a bad idea to remember basic information related to mobile phones and technology before starting your adventure in the land of fire and ice, so you’ll have everything under control.

Firstly, in Iceland we have standard European plugs so you don’t need any type of adapter. However, I recommend bringing a car charger for your mobile. You’ll spend many hours there and it’ll be useful to charge between photo sessions.

Couple using mobile networks in Iceland and taking a photo at a waterfall

The best APPS for traveling around Iceland

Let’s talk about APPs. Whether you bring unlimited data from home or buy a SIM in Iceland, remember that in most hotels, B&Bs, and even some campsites there is free WIFI that will allow you to download the APPs we’re going to talk about. Rakning C-19 is the most important at the moment, as it’s the official application for tracing COVID-19 infections. 112 App is essential, as it allows you to send your location in real time to emergency services, either because you’re in trouble or simply to update their information and prevent. A great APP for checking the weather is the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s: Vedur. If you come in winter, don’t forget to download Aurora Forecast to always have the aurora forecast at hand. If you plan to hike, Wapp is your go-to APP, as it has a lot of information about all the routes in Iceland.

Finally, in case your phone doesn’t have the option to insert two SIM cards, I recommend bringing a second mobile phone or Tablet. This way, if you buy an Icelandic SIM to use data, you can use both devices simultaneously with roaming in Iceland.