As the internet is becoming bigger and bigger part of our every day live it is difficult to leave it behind when traveling abroad. Especially to remote country like Iceland. In this article we will go through what the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland offer.
Today people talk less and less in their phones and communicate through social media more and more. They use their phones for navigation, looking for information and so on, the possibilities are endless. However the telecommunication industry has not evolved to support this evolution for people that travel abroad. The only offer fair rates for cellular usage in their own countries/areas. Thats why it is normally very expensive to use your domestic cell phone carrier in other countries.
Big step in the right direction was made by the European Union of summer 2017 when implementing new rules “Roam as Home”. This means that all people with mobile phone plans in the EU pay the same price in all countries in Europe including Iceland. For further Q&A visit European Union website.
But what option does the rest of the world have?
One option that travelers have is to use hotel or restaurant WiFi or other hot spots but can be quite arbitrary. Many people do not stay in hotels or motels but travel on their own and camp on their own. In Iceland its as well very popular to rent a car that you can sleep in as well.
The best option for traveler is to get a local prepaid SIM card from one of the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland.
Note that some people can not use other cell phone carriers due to phone lock from their provider so check it out before you plan your trip. If your phone is locked you have two option:
- Check what deals your carrier provider offers for travelers, they might have some international travel plans but they are still more expensive compared with local ones.
- Get mobile hotspot device and use the SIM card from the Icelandic provider in that device.
Some people would say, ok now people can’t reach my as I don´t answer my regular phone. Well you just let your most important people know how to reach you through social media, Skype or FaceTime. In emergency people can call you directly using +354-xxx-xxx and you can call back as well.
The three major cell phone carriers in Iceland
There are three major cell phone carrier available in Iceland that cover all the country. They are Siminn, Vodafone and Nova. Their GSM services cover most Iceland, there are though some blind spot in all the system, especially around big mountain rigs and fjords.
Internet connection (3G and 4G) is not covered well in remote areas but is normally very good in all towns and villages in Iceland.
Siminn and Vodafone have good web sites in english and Vodafone has web site in Deutsch as well. Nova website is not in english so it is tough for non Icelandic speaking people to figure things out there.
But look at what each carrier provider has to offer.
The most important thing for travelers going around Iceland is to lock at coverage that the carriers provide and how it will support your traveling around Iceland. In fact it can be more important than their prices.
3G/4G coverage for each carrier difference a lot around the country as they run their own distribution system but regular GSM coverage (very slow internet connection) is almost the same for them all. 4G is only available in very small areas at the moment. Mainly around Reykjavik.
So lets look at the 3G coverage, thats the most important one.
As we can see on the maps the best 3G coverage is offered by Siminn (it is the oldest phone company in Iceland). It has the best coverage for all the country. If you are mainly traveling around Reykjavik you can go with any of the providers. The big difference is when you travel to the highlands and around the cost of Iceland away from Reykjavik.
Options and prices
The three major cell phone carriers in Iceland have couple of options when it comes to cell phone plans.
Siminn offers two prepaid plans for voice and data starting at 2000 ISK (15$) and one for data only (for tablets and computers). We recommend to go with the Siminn Prepaid deluxe package. It includes both voice and data and is better when using the data more than voice. On Siminn home page is where to buy section. If you are traveling with Icelandair you can buy your SIM card onboard.
For usage rate and more details on the carrier providers check their web sites as the rates changes over time (healthy competition)
Mobile Apps for refill and usage monitoring
All of the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland have mobile apps for top up on prepaid SIM cards, usage monitoring along with many other features. They all have apps available for android and iOS. Vodafone is the only one that offers app for Windows. Here are links to the mobile apps for all the providers.
The mobile hotspot option
If you prefer to have your SIM card in your mobile phone and you also want to have only one SIM card you can go with mobile hotspot device. The main advantage are that you only need one SIM card and you can connect all your mobile phones to it through WiFi.
The other advantage is that you are not as dependant on poor mobile signal in different rooms in your accommodation (especially out in the country site). You only need to locate the mobile hotspot device for the best mobile signal and you will have all mobile connected to the internet through its WiFi.
At a glance
The three cell phone carriers in Iceland all proved good services. Their cellular coverage have all their strengths and weaknesses but you are in good hands with all of them.
One tip that you can use when you are traveling more than one together. Purchase one SIM card from Siminn and other from Vodafone (or Nova) if it is really important to be connected. You will be more likely to have 3G connection that way and even GSM connection. The coverage between all the carriers is bit different. You can have good signal on one system and no on the other.
If you are traveling around Iceland alone INLHQ team recommends that you go with Siminn. Their all around coverage is still the best.
To get even better connection we recommend to use mobile hotspot. You can locate it in different places in your accommodation depending on the best mobile signal and have all phones connected to the hotspot through WiFi
Now that you have your cell phone covered, take a look at three essential apps for your stay in Iceland.
About the author
The INLHQ team are native Icelanders living in the east fjords of Iceland. We have more than 15 years experience as volunteers in ISCAR (Icelandic association for Search and Rescue). We are outdoors and snowmobile enthusiast that have compared the Icelandic cell phone carriers extensively through the years in your adeventures.