Buying a SIM Card and Using Your Phone in Iceland

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere and many people are planning their overseas vacations.

We have compiled a guide for those who are considering going all the way to Iceland to enjoy its natural beauty.

I recently travelled to Iceland to complete the famous ring road. Following my usual travel routine, I checked into the hostel and did some research about the local mobile providers before heading to the store to buy my SIM card.

Have you purchased travel insurance for Iceland? You can get travel insurance for Iceland that covers everything, including medical emergencies, cancelled flights, lost luggage, theft, and other sticky situations. We have been using World Nomads for more than a decade.

Companies

  • We recommend Siminn for most travellers

For being a large volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic with a population of only 330,000 people, Iceland is a very well connected place.Siminn, Vodafone Iceland and Nova are the main providers. 

All three providers work on the old-fashioned GSM900/1800/2100 network. Your unlocked quad-band phone should be fine.

Siminn is the incumbent provider with the most subscribers and has the best coverage. This is who I selected for my prepaid provider, it’s obvious.

How to buy a SIM card

You’ll likely be in Reykjavik upon arrival. I headed into the big mall of Iceland known as Kringlan, where Siminn has its own boutique.

They were extremely friendly and didn’t ask me to show my passport. I was done in about 10 minutes, and my phone was connected to their network when I left the office. Your starter package can be purchased at any Simmin store, as well as at many kiosks and gas stations.

Do you prefer to travel and not buy SIM cards? To stay connected in Iceland or across Europe, you should order one in advance

The Orange SIM comes with 20GB of data and 1000 international texts. It also includes two hours of international calling. It’s available for two weeks in 30 European nations and includes US delivery. Get 20% off your order by using the code SIMOFF20 during checkout

There are other options for those who travel longer or need a hotspot to make calls, send texts and receive data. Affordable eSIMs are also available for iPhones with supported operating systems. You’ll be connected quickly and easily, no matter what you do.

Prepaid SIM costs

Siminn’s prepaid offering is called Frelsi, or Freedom. The standard packages, named 50, 100, and 300, provide 50, 100 and 300 minutes, SMS and MBs respectively. That’s pretty straightforward, but if you’re like me, you’re heavy on the data and pretty light on the voice and SMS usage on your phone.

The “i Frelsi” plan is more data-oriented. To purchase credit of 990 ISK ($8.05 US), which you will use to place calls or SMSes, and then add one of these data plans.

  • 300MB – 590 ISK (or 4.80)
  • 1GB – 1190 ISK ($9.69).
  • 5GB – 2190 ISK (17.82)

I chose the i Frelsi, which comes with 5GB of data.

Safety

You won’t have many options to charge your phone if you spend a lot of time in rural areas. You should bring an inverter, a charging station and extra batteries.

Although coverage is good in cities, ring roads, and tourist attractions, it can be spotty in highlands and valleys.

Your phone will use more power to try to connect to nearby cell towers. This can drain your battery faster.

Make sure you have enough credit to call. You can also read the pamphlet to learn how to add credit on-the-go if you need it.

Safety is a top priority in Iceland. When driving or hiking in these dramatic landscapes, with their rapidly changing weather conditions, it’s easy for an accident to occur.

To help rescue workers in an emergency, the government developed an app for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android called “112 Iceland”.

You can check-in every now and again on your trip if you are ok with digital breadcrumbs being shared with emergency authorities. It will send an SMS with your GPS coordinates, user ID and to authorities. This information can be used in case you are missing.

You can also use the emergency button to send an SMS with GPS coordinates, then dial 112.

Coverage and data speeds

There were very few places where I found myself without coverage, and speeds were generally good. I found HSPA+(3.5G) in Reykjavik, and HSPA(3G) and WCDMA(3G) in small towns and much of the ring road.

Because the airspace isn’t too congested, I was still able to make a long phone call to my parents using VoIP over 3G while sitting in this cabin across the fjord from a small village.

Only in rural areas would I use GPRS(2G) GPRS isn’t fast enough to break speed records. It averages 40-80Kbps on good days, but it’s sufficient to send emails and tweets.

Although I was able to roam on Vodafone’s network in Northeast Iceland once, Siminn is generally available everywhere. We only had a passenger car so I couldn’t get up to the highlands. However, that is usually where service is most poor.

EU Roaming

Iceland is part of the European Economic Area, so EU roaming regulations apply. These “roam like at home” rules ended roaming charges across much of Europe in 2017, letting you use a SIM card from any EU country across all the others at no extra charge.

However, there are exceptions and limitations, especially for large data packages. Double-check all details before you make a purchase.

 

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