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Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in Iceland

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Thinking about a trip to Iceland? Great decision. It’s an incredible place, and it’s not a stretch to say there’s nowhere else quite like it in the world.

Given how desolate and remote some parts of the country are, having a working phone is even more important in Iceland than elsewhere. Still, even if you’re only wanting to Instagram a photo of you at the famous Blue Lagoon, staying connected is a straightforward process.

I somewhat recently made my way to Iceland to take a lap around the famous ring road. Whether you’re doing the same or staying closer to Reykjavik on this trip, here’s what you need to know about buying a local SIM card or travel eSIM in Iceland.

Companies

  • I recommend Síminn for most travelers who want a physical SIM
  • An eSIM from Nomad is the best option if you only need data

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. There are essentially three main providers: Síminn, Vodafone Iceland, and Nova.

All three providers have widespread LTE coverage, and have started rolling out 5G as well, although not necessarily to prepaid customers. The old 2G and 3G networks still exist, although not for much longer: they’ll both be gone by the end of 2025.

Siminn, being the largest provider with the most subscribers, has the most extensive coverage on the island. Given where I was planning to go, it’s no surprise that this is the company I went with.

Vodafone has reasonable coverage as well, but Nova is really only good in and around Reykjavik. It’s cheaper, though, so if you know you’ll only be sticking around the capital, it’s not a bad option.

Travel eSIM for Iceland

Local phone service in Iceland isn’t particularly cheap, so if I was going back again, I’d probably just get a travel eSIM instead from Nomad instead. It costs less than buying a SIM card from Síminn, and I’m ready to go as soon as I get off the plane.

Of the companies I’d consider using, Nomad is the one I’d recommend for Iceland. It has better prices on the kind of larger data bundles that I tend to buy, and as I talk about below, has better coverage as well.

Like most travel eSIMs, it’s data-only: you don’t get a local number. I use apps for everything from communication to transport these days, so the lack of a local number very rarely matters to me, but you might have different needs.

Note, though, that this does mean you won’t be able to use the 112 app I talk about below, since it relies on sending SMS messages. Whether that concerns you is another question, of course.

One thing worth noting: if you’re planning to travel to several European countries within a few weeks, it might be worth looking at some of the regional eSIM packages on offer.

There are too many to list each one separately (and they change all the time), but as a starting point, these are the Europe eSIM options from companies I’d actually consider using:

If you’re new to eSIMs, they offer big benefits to travelers in terms of how quickly, easily, and (often) cheaply you can get connected when you arrive in a new country. Most recent phones support them, and you can read all about them here.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Iceland

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.

The staff were very nice, and I didn’t have to show my passport. It took all of about 10 minutes and I walked out the door with my phone on their network. You can buy your starter package at a Simmin outlet or many kiosks, gas stations, and grocery stores.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs

Siminn’s prepaid offering is called Frelsi, or Freedom. The bundle you’re mostly likely to be offered, at least initially, is the Starter pack, which provides 10GB of data, 50 minutes of international calls, and 50 texts for 3000 ISK ($22).

It’s not a terrible deal by Icelandic standards, although others are available that may suit you better. If you only need a very small amount of data, for instance, the “Internet Freedom – 1GB” costs 1800 ISK without calls or texts.

Given the amount of data I expected to use, it made the most sense for me to just get the Starter pack. If I was doing it again, though, I’d just go for one of the travel eSIMs below instead.

Nomad

As I mentioned up top, Nomad is the better option when it comes to travel eSIMs in Iceland. Not only does it usually have the lowest prices for larger data packs, but it can also use the widespread Síminn network while the others are stuck with Nova.

Still, if you’re only going to be in or around Reykjavik for a few days, you’ll still get good coverage with aloSIM or Airalo, and probably save a bit of money if you won’t use much data.

I’ve used all three companies in the past, and have no problem recommending any of them. The latest pricing and data bundles are in the table below.

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $4.50

  • $7.50

  • $10.00

  • $14.00

  • $23.00

  • $36.00

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $4.50

  • $7.50

  • $10

  • $14

  • $23

  • $36

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $6

  • $8

  • $14

  • $19

  • $33

Safety

While coverage is generally good along ring road, cities and popular tourist destinations, it gets spotty in the highlands and rural valleys.

Your phone will work extra hard by turning up the transmitter power as it tries to connect to nearby cell towers, draining your battery quicker.

Make sure your rental car will have good USB charging built in and that you’ve got the right cable to use it, or pack your own to be sure. They don’t cost much.

Lastly, if you’re using a local SIM, make sure you have enough credit to make a call or send a text, and know how to top up your credit on the go if necessary.

Iceland is pretty serious about safety. It’s easy to have an accident when hiking or driving in such dramatic landscapes with such quickly-changing weather.

That’s why the government created an app for Android and iOS called 112 Iceland to help aid rescue workers if you have a problem. As long as your phone can send SMS messages, you can use it even if you’re unable to make a phone call.

If you’re ok with leaving digital breadcrumbs with emergency authorities, you can ‘check-in’ every so often on your journey. It updates the system with your GPS coordinates and user ID, and will be used in the event you go missing.

There’s also an emergency button which sends an SMS with your current GPS coordinates, and then dials the emergency number 112.

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Coverage and Data Speeds

There were few places where I found myself without coverage, and speeds were good, often with download speeds of 100Mbps+. I had fast LTE service in Reykjavik, small towns, and much of the ring road. You can find Síminn’s coverage map here.

I was able to make an hour-long phone call (using Google Voice) over data to my parents’ house back in the United States while sitting in this cabin across a fjord from a small town.

Small cabin in a grassy area in Iceland, with mountains in the background and a car parked alongside.

It was only in very rural areas that I’d flick back to 2G or lose access entirely. I didn’t make my way up to the highlands as we only had a regular passenger car, but that’s where service is worst.

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. 

You can generally roam with your Icelandic SIM without issue, although there are some limits with large data packages. Double-check the details at time of purchase, or just use a regional Europe eSIM as mentioned above.

Check out our guides to SIM cards and eSIMs in 65+ other countries here.

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar Josh @ I Ran So Far Away says:

    I’m leaving for Iceland in 9 days and was planning on spending part of the morning researching my options for cell phones. Glad I checked my news feed instead. Thanks for saving me some time!

    1. Avatar Anthony Secco says:

      Glad I could help!

  2. This is awesome! Planning a trip a year from now, so I definitely bookmarked this for safe-keeping. I know this isn’t necessarily the place for it, but I’d love to hear/see where you stayed, what you thought about car rentals, etc.

    JL

    1. Avatar Anthony Secco says:

      Hi Jeff. Sure thing! Here some of my stories from Iceland:

  3. I’m spending most of the summer in Iceland, and this was EXACTLY the phone service information I was looking for. I’ll have to head to Kringlan when I’m killing time recovering from jetlag. Thanks so much for the helpful post! 🙂

  4. Very useful article, this is exactly what I was looking for. I’m heading off to Iceland for two weeks and I was already trembling at the extortionate rates of my mobile provider.
    I’ll go on and read also your other articles on Iceland.
    cheers!
    rick

  5. Avatar chris Andrews says:

    Thanks for the information, Anthony; it’s made my phone research for Iceland easy.

  6. This was perfect. Going in week for a two week tour of the Ring Rd.

    How are texts priced with this plan?

  7. Using my European (I am an EU citizen) iphone roaming SIM I sent various texts in UK, Norway and Iceland (Siminn) and was horrified to find that I was charged Offshore mobile charges for my Iceland texts although sent from central Reykjavik. Everywhere else I was charged EEA rates. Iceland is in the EEA and so it is a disgrace that Siminn charges offshore rates at 12 times as much as EEA rates. My local mobile provider corrected my bills and refunded the difference but, hey, I shouldn’t have to complain before my billing is corrected. Siminn claims to provide an Icelandic (EEA) 3G service as well as Offshore (Onshore) mobile services but they should organise themselves to comply with EU mobile telecommunications law.

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      Not overly relevant to this article, since we’re talking about picking up local prepaid SIM cards rather than roaming, but thanks for the info.

  8. Hi thanks very much for your info! I’ll be heading to Iceland in a month’s time during winter in early February 16. Plan to do a self drive trip. Can I ask if I should buy the Siminn prepaid card on icelandair flight? Or should i buy in Keflavik airport? I only want to use data roam for google maps navigation and won’t be calling anybody since I don’t know anybody there. I also want to buy a 5gb data. Which one is better Choice?

  9. I was alerted today to an alternative for those who would prefer to get their SIM ahead of time, or at least without walking around town to buy it. A local tour operator sells Siminn SIMs at a markup, and will send them overseas or provide them on arrival if you’re on one of their tours. Sure, you’ll pay more for the convenience – shipping costs are surprisingly high – but it’s also less hassle if time is tight. More info here.

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