Nowadays, being connected to the Internet has become an integral part of life for most people. In fact, when it comes to both work and play, there’s pretty much no getting away from it. The same goes for when we take a vacation, as access to Wi-Fi serves to make life on holiday easier and more convenient.
Everything from checking the weather to nailing down the best local restaurant hot spots, and even staying in touch with friends and family requires a reliable digital connection.
There is seemingly no end to the things that you can do with your smartphone. So, what are your options for staying connected to Wi-Fi in Iceland? Is there decent coverage across the country and where are the free hotspots? In this article, we will look at all of these questions and more, touching a bit on the following:
Do you need Wifi in Iceland?
Free wifi in Iceland
Wifi coverage in Iceland
Options for staying connected in Iceland
Working remotely in Iceland
Do you need Wi-Fi in Iceland?
The first question to answer here is, do you need Wi-Fi in Iceland? And if so, how much? Although this is a personal decision, in our hyper-connected age it might be nice to take a digital detox while you are enjoying your time in the Land of Fire and Ice. This full-on ‘cold turkey’ from all devices might sound wonderfully revolutionary to some, but for others, it immediately incites a deep sense of internal dread.
So, the real consideration now is how much you will want or need to use Wi-Fi while you are in Iceland. For some people, a little bit of Wi-Fi will go a long way, as they might be happy logging on to free hotspots when visiting cafés or public places. Another bonus is that when you’re out on the road, many larger gas stations will also provide free access. This can be super handy for checking travel plans on the road.
On the other hand, there will be many travelers that will opt for constant connectivity. Some may simply desire to stay in touch with loved ones back home, or rather their work will require them to answer emails and take meetings. Others will want to use online maps and travel apps, or snap away and upload content to their social media accounts.
If this sounds like you, or a member of your travel group, then you will need to look into other options to stay continuously connected. But don’t worry; there are plenty of solutions out there. We will run through the options with you a little further along in the article.
How good is the Wi-Fi access in Iceland?
Per capita, Iceland is actually one of the biggest Internet consumers worldwide. So, as in most places in the western world, you’ll find plenty of connectivity opportunities in its urban areas. Internet coverage is also great in Iceland’s towns and cities and there will nearly always be somewhere to connect.
However, as you travel around Iceland and head into the more remote areas, keeping your devices active will be a bit trickier. Most areas will have at least some coverage, but you will find that in more mountainous zones the Internet connection will be largely unstable.
Severe storms also impact the level of connection, and since the weather here is quite unpredictable, connections are never guaranteed in poor conditions.
Is there free Wi-Fi in Iceland?
If you’re hitting the cafés in Reykjavík, you’ll almost certainly be served your morning coffee alongside a free Wi-Fi code. As we’ve all become accustomed to in Europe and the US, most hospitality venues will offer free Wi-Fi, posting their username and password clearly for all guests to take note of. Likewise, hotels and public places, such as event venues, libraries, airports and museums will offer free Internet access.
And if you’re hiring a car for a road trip you’ll have other options too. Most campsites, especially in South Iceland, will offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to their guests. These can be a little unreliable at times, but if you grab a spot close to the campsite office, then you should get a good enough signal.
The other spots for finding free Wi-Fi in Iceland while you’re on the road are gas stations. The larger gas stations, especially around the Iceland Ring Road route, offer quite a few facilities such as convenience stores and cafés that all provide decent Wi-Fi for no charge. These full-service gas stations are a welcome sight if you’re running low on supplies.
How to stay connected in Iceland
If these free Wi-Fi hotspots in Iceland are not quite enough for you, there are other ways to stay connected 24/7 on your Icelandic adventure. Below we’ll explore the different options open to you, along with a few pros and cons.
Ask your own provider about roaming
If you get organized before your trip, this is an easy enough way to ensure connection even while abroad. You’ll simply need to call your provider and ask what their roaming fees would be during your trip.
Though convenient, you might find that this is the more expensive route. It can also be awkward to monitor usage and keep track of your potential bill.
Buying a SIM in Iceland
Your next option is to buy a pre-paid SIM upon arrival in Iceland and swap it out for your own. Remember that this only works if you have an unlocked smartphone. You’ll also want to keep tabs on where you store your home SIM so you’ll be ready to swap back when the time comes. Though potentially fiddly, this is a good option for medium Internet usage.
Car rental Wi-Fi Extra
This is by far the best recourse if you require reliable coverage. It also makes perfect sense if you are traveling in a larger group of screen heads. You can add a 4G Wi-Fi extra option when booking your rental car with Cars Iceland. This portable Wi-Fi dongle will let you connect up to ten devices, making it a great hotspot option for you and your crew.
Travel Wi-Fi rental
Hiring a Wi-Fi travel modem is another great option if you need a reliable connection as an individual, or are in a group where everyone is after access. Trawire provide a decent setup where you can rent a portable modem that creates a hotspot. It works on 3G or 4G right across Iceland.
It’s a convenient option as you can just use your own smartphones as is, and there’s no need to swap out SIMS or check your usage. Rental prices start at about $8 (USD) per day, but remember that added extras will take the fee up a little. This company offers an airport pick-up and drop-off service, so the whole process is super streamlined.
Working remotely from Iceland
Let’s face it - digital nomads aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are slowly but surely taking over! With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, we all became a lot more accustomed to working from home. Though many people are headed back to the office these days, there are many more embracing the remote working way of life. Be this from home, or while on the road.
So, is it possible to do your job well even from Iceland? The short answer is yes, it probably is. But the practicalities of actually doing so might make you think again. It really depends on how much you actually need to work.
Most visitors to Iceland will be given a ninety-day visa on arrival, which means they are free to use this time as they wish. However, if they would like to stay longer, then things get trickier. In Iceland, affluent remote workers can stay for up to six months and bring their families, but a minimum salary of $88,000 (USD) is required to do so.
For most people, this won’t be a very viable option, but if you are just interested in visiting Iceland for a month and doing a little work while traveling, there's an opportunity for you. Sending a few emails or sitting down to write a few reports etc. will be perfectly feasible.
However, if you need to be available on a 9-5 basis and host a bunch of Zoom calls, you will likely be better off booking an apartment in Reykjavík. This way, you can get your head down during the week, and really make the most of your weekends.
Using Wi-Fi in Iceland
Whatever your relationship is with the Internet, there is no denying that it is extremely useful to our everyday lives and especially when traveling. As with most things, moderation is probably the key here.
Turning off your alerts and putting your phone out of sight on occasion will definitely be a good thing. But, at the same time, having access to travel planning tools at your fingertips will also be helpful during a stay in Iceland! Ultimately it is up to you to decide how to best use your gadgets, whether at home or out and about.