Staying Happy in Iceland during Covid-19 outbreakPublished: 16. March 2020
EDIT: This article was written in early June, 2020. Please see latest COVID-19 updates on our front page.
We are getting lots of questions from Happy campers these days, mostly about whether it's safe to travel to Iceland or if people should cancel their bookings. Considering the seriousness of the pandemic, we think it's a good question that deserves a good answer. So here we go.
Should I cancel my trip?
The short answer is "probably not" and I'll explain why in a moment. But first, let me give you some peace of mind by mentioning our cancellation policy.
Coronavirus gives you plenty to worry about but thankfully, your Happy Campers booking is not one of them. With our new 24-hour cancellation policy, you can cancel for free and get a 100% refund. Just let us know 24 hours in advance (or more if you can) via firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, before you cancel your preexisting booking, we highly recommend taking advantage of our FREE and unlimited rescheduling if you possibly can. There are several reasons why rescheduling is a better option right now as you can see below. If you haven't booked yet and are wondering if it's a good idea, these reasons also apply to you:
1. FREE & Unlimited Rescheduling
We can move your booking as often and as far back as you want for no additional cost or penalty. But even if you know that you need to change your dates, chances are that you don't know your new dates yet. If that's the case, simply let us know and we'll "freeze" your booking. This will guarantee your booking for the foreseeable future and we will change your dates as soon as you provide us with your new travel dates. We are here to work with you and make sure that your trip to Iceland becomes a reality.
2. Don't Worry, Be Happy Deal.
By moving your booking instead of cancelling, we'll give you an additional 30% off + free Gravel Insurance. We're calling this our Don't Worry, Be Happy deal. This deal can be combined with other deals, such as any off-season discounts which will make your trip even more affordable.
3. Iceland is Still Safe
Iceland has always been safe for travelers and now is no different. The way the government has handled the pandemic has been fantastic and received praise and coverage in the media all over the world. For several days now, there have been no new cases of COVID-19 and looking at the latest statistics, it is clear that Iceland is on the right side of the pandemic curve. The graph below is a bit out of date but it is actually looking even better today.
4. Iceland is Still Open
If you are traveling to Iceland after June 15th, Iceland will welcome you. After a strictly enforced lock-down, Iceland is now easing its travel restrictions and welcoming travelers again. Starting June 15th, travelers can visit Iceland without having to quarantine. You will simply be required to take a simple COVID-19 test at the airport and if you are virus-free, you get the green light. So as long as you've checked with your local guidelines, you will be completely free to travel to Iceland. See the latest news article about that here.
5. Your Own Iceland
If you reschedule your trip to later this year (or decide to keep your original dates if they are later than June 15th), you will experience Iceland like never before. With such fewer travelers around, you will experience Iceland's amazing attractions without the usual crowds of tourists. We have personally experienced this during the lock-down period and it is hard to put into words how much it adds to the experience. Take advantage of the low tourist traffic before things get completely back to normal. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
6. We are trustworthy
Happy Campers is in a very strong position and well equipped to deal with this emergency. In fact, we are the only camper rental that has received CreditInfo's Award of "Strongest in Iceland" for our excellent operations 3 years in a row now. Only Iceland's top 2% of businesses are given this award from CreditInfo, which is a company that specializes in monitoring business finances and risk assessment in Iceland.
So we're happy to say that we'll stand strong through this crisis and be here to assist you, whether it will be today, next month, or next year.
7. Airlines will be working with you
Just like us, many airlines are working with people to reschedule their flights. This will most likely apply to you, so when you are able to reschedule your flight with your carrier, simply contact us with your new dates and we will reschedule your camper van dates. Simple as that.
8. Take advantage of exchange rates
The Krona is weakening rapidly and that's great news for you and other travelers. This means that your foreign currency can buy more while in Iceland. The dollar can now buy 10% more Icelandic kronas than it did 2 weeks ago, for example. If you reschedule your booking, chances are that exchange rates will be even more favorable for you during your tip.
9. This WILL blow over
We are not healthcare professionals, but most of them agree that it's not a matter of IF we recover from the pandemic, but WHEN. Life will return to normal and travel restrictions will be lifted. Whether it will be in 3 weeks, 3 months, or 6 months is the main uncertainty. Why not have something to look forward to when this all blows over? It won't hurt that the trip will be much cheaper than originally budgeted.
Should I cancel my trip? - summary
We highly recommend that you ask us about rescheduling or "freezing" your booking before you cancel. This will give you great option of traveling to Iceland at a later date but at a significantly lower price. If things don't work out it's not a problem anyway, as you can always use our 24-hour cancellation policy for a 100% refund.
If you haven't booked yet and are on the fence about whether it's safe to do so, we completely understand. However, hopefully points 3 and 4 help to reassure you that you can start planning your trip now.
Is it safe to travel to Iceland?
The simple answer is yes, traveling to Iceland is relatively safe compared to the rest of the world. As of today, Iceland is not categorized as a "high-risk" area by the Directorate of Health in Iceland. As we mentioned above, Iceland hasn't experienced a new COVID-19 case in several days and is clearly on the right side of the pandemic curve. Even for those who had contracted the virus, the fatality rate has been one of the lowest in the world at an impressive 0.3%. Iceland's healthcare system has worked really well to take care of all COVID-19 patients. So overall, the risk of contracting Covid-19 while in Iceland are relatively very low and much lower than in many other countries. Iceland is a modern society that is well equipped to deal with emergencies like this one. You can read more about the Icelandic government's action plan here.
How to stay safe while in Iceland
Having said that, it's important to take this outbreak seriously and the point of this post is not to make light of it. This outbreak will affect your trip in many ways even though it might not cancel it. First of all, you need to stay sanitary. Check out these guidelines from the Icelandic government and make sure you follow these instructions, no matter where you are. Using common sense, such as washing hands often, avoiding contact with others, etc. also never hurts in general.
The second aspect of staying safe is avoiding unsanitary places in Iceland. You might want to spend less time bar-hopping in Reykjavik and more time exploring remote nature during your trip, for example. You might also have to adhere some temporary sanitary rules, such as keeping a 4 meter distance from other campers on all campsites. If you are an introvert, this could actually be a good thing!
Also, make sure that all of the travel companies you are doing business with have good and clear procedures in place to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.
What Happy Campers is doing
Happy Campers is taking the following precautions to maximize cleanliness of employees and travelers as well as guaranteeing that the office will follow normal business hours:
Office & Campers
This is how Happy Campers maximizes cleanliness at the office and for every van that is rented.
- Adjust shifts so there is no contact between employees on separate shifts.
- Have 3 employees work from home (self-quarantined) that can come in if others need to self-quarantine
- Disinfect main surfaces around the office 2x day
- Door knobs
- Coffee maker and area
- Free Zone
- Information Corner mouse & keyboard
- Service desk area, including:
- Mouse & keyboards
- POS system
- All bathrooms, including
- Flush handle
- Doors and knobs
- Shuttle buses, including
- Steering wheel
- Gear shift
- All handles, including doors and welcome sign
- Other areas that employees notice being touched during the day
- Disinfection of the camper vans, including:
- All surfaces are cleaned thoroughly with virus-killing soap (Mastercleaner)
- Main surfaces, including steering wheel, sink, handles, etc. are also disinfected with rubbing alcohol
- All cookware and silverware is cleaned thoroughly and disinfected between each rental
Employees & Travelers
This is how Happy Campers maximizes cleanliness of its employees and travelers.
- Employees wash hands after each customer
- Employees use antiviral sanitizer when:
- They arrive in the morning
- Any time the use the employee kitchen
- After lunch and break time
- Before leaving home
- Employees are instructed to avoid touching faces and following general guidelines from the Directorate of Health
- Employees are instructed to create distance from all others when they need to sneeze or cough
- Employees are strongly encouraged to avoid social gatherings when not at work and asked to disclose it if they do
- Cleaning crew and auto garage employees use disposable gloves throughout the entire day
- Each traveler is guaranteed the peace of mind that surfaces and employees have been sanitized before they are helped
- Employees welcome customers with a smile instead of a handshake
- If a customer comes from a high-risk area, employees will use a glove and mask while helping them
- Antiviral lotion will be available in abundance at the office
What is healthcare like in Iceland?
In the very unlikely event that you contract COVID-19 and would need medical assistance in Iceland, here is what you need to know.
As of today, the hospitals in Iceland are still well equipped to handle all COVID-19 cases and have all the equipment they need for even the most severe cases. If you suspect that you might have caught the virus, you should call 1770 (+354 544 4113) immediately. Do not go to the hospital or any other healthcare center. Quarantine yourself, such as staying in your campervan, until professionals go over the next steps with you. During testing and waiting for results, you will most likely be placed in a medical hotel in Reykjavik.
Before traveling anywhere, it's useful to review your healthcare policy. Is your local primary provider covering you for illness or accidents abroad? We strongly suggest looking into this before traveling to Iceland or any other country. If your home country is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and you have health insurance there, you will automatically have the rights to all healthcare benefits in Iceland. You are also very likely to have the costs covered by your local policy. If your country is a non-EEA member, you will most likely have to have a travel insurance and again, we strongly encourage you to look into this with your current provider.
If you have insurance, the costs will be low. An emergency room visit, for example, will cost you roughly $50. But without insurance, it could be closer to $400. A doctor's appointment will cost you approx. $10 with insurance but $65 without. If you have travel insurance as a citizen of a non-EEA country, you will most likely have to pay the full cost of your services and then get reimbursed from your provider later.
The good news is that Iceland has a universal healthcare system and has one of the best ranked system in Europe. So regardless of your insurance situation, you will be taken good care of. In the unlikely event that you catch the virus, you will receive treatment at one of Iceland's main hospitals in Reykjavik.
So should I travel to Iceland or not?
The answer to this question will be very subjective as it depends on your personal preferences, nationality, risk aversion, and feelings. Coronavirus has created a lot of uncomfortable uncertainty that we're all dealing with the best we can. But looking at the facts, this is what we know:
- Iceland is not a high-risk area
- Iceland has no travel restrictions after June 15th
- Icelandic government and businesses are taking effective action to minimize risk for travelers
- Iceland has a good healthcare system that will take care of you in the worst case scenario
With that in mind, there is technically nothing stopping you from exploring Iceland this summer provided that your own country has no restrictions on returning from your trip. With the proper precautions, you can stay safe during your travels and in all likelihood won't catch the virus.
But having said that, I understand that it's a personal choice. Also keep in mind that we at Happy Campers are not healthcare professionals. Do you live with or spend a lot of time with elderly persons? Then you would want to be more cautious, for example. Or do you live by yourself or with people with strong immune systems? Then you might be OK with taking some minor risks. Quarantining yourself in your house will, of course, be a safer choice in all situations. Not only will you be safer from the risk of Coronavirus, but also car accidents, the flu, and most other risks that we take every day, knowingly or not. That's why we strongly encourage you to read through all the available information, consult healthcare professionals if possible, and make an informed decision for yourself.
We might be exceptionally optimistic but if you are as well, then you can also check out our latest blog post about why traveling around Iceland might actually be a good idea.