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Preface Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

An assignment to Iceland can be a unique and rewarding experience. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world, and for its size, has unique cultural and healthy lifestyle opportunities. Icelanders speak the ancient language of the Vikings, spoken nowhere else, and enjoy the benefits of a modern welfare state comparable to any in the world. They endure almost 3 months of near darkness (November-January) and revel in 3 months of total daylight (May-July). With an average wintertime temperature of 32°F, Iceland’s climate is not as harsh as its name would suggest.

Weather permitting, ample opportunities are available to enjoy winter sports, such as downhill or cross-country skiing and ice skating; or summer activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and trekking over some of Europe’s most beautiful glaciers. Year round, you can swim in Iceland's famous natural hot springs or open-air swimming pools.

Iceland has good air connections to the rest of Europe. As an R&R post, Reykjavik presents an excellent opportunity for personnel to experience a vacation nearly anywhere in Europe.

Most Icelanders speak English, are open and friendly, and eager to share their ancient culture. An assignment to Reykjavik will be remembered and cherished as one of the unique experiences of your Foreign Service career.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Iceland, the second largest island in Europe (39,706 square miles), is slightly smaller than the state of Virginia. Three-quarters of the country is a wilderness of deserts, lava fields, glaciers, and extinct volcanoes. This lunar landscape serve as a training ground for American astronauts preparing for the first moon landings. A distinct beauty is found here in the treeless landscape. The combination of crystal clear air and brilliant sunshine creates vistas that can only be described as breathtaking. This is big sky country, where rivers and waterfalls are abundant. In summer the inhabited coastal area is verdant, its pastures filled with sheep, horses, and cows. In the dark of winter, parts of the same area are windswept, sometimes snow-covered, forbidding, and often inaccessible.

Despite its location close to the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik's climate is similar to that of the northwestern U.S., although cooler and windier. The Gulf Stream helps keep the annual mean temperature at 40°F. Changes between summer and winter are not extreme. It is rarely very cold in winter or warm in summer. Winter temperatures below 20°F are unusual, as are summer temperatures above 60°F. The wind blows year round, however, and a wind chill factor between -15°F and 10°F is common in winter.

Cooler weather lasts from October through April. Snow may fall in Reykjavik as early as September and as late as June, but the normal season is between October or November and March or April. Even in midwinter, rain is as likely as snow. A large accumulation of snow is rare. Average annual rainfall is 31 inches in Reykjavik. During winter and spring, winds in the capital can reach hurricane force. Overall, the winter climate is not as severe as that of New England or the Great Lakes; but on a yearlong basis, Iceland's weather is decidedly on the cool side.

Iceland is so far north that the amount of daylight varies considerably throughout the year. An average daily gain of 6 minutes of daylight follows the winter solstice on December 21, and a daily loss of 6 minutes follows the summer solstice on June 21. December and January days have only about 4 hours of daylight; in February the days rapidly begin to lengthen; and by April they are as long as at midsummer in the U.S. From late May to late July, there is no darkness at all-20 hours of sun (or clouds) and 4 hours of twilight. Following this period of "white nights," the sun slowly retreats, and by October the days begin to shorten as rapidly as they lengthened in the spring.

Earthquakes are common in Iceland, but are rarely felt in Reykjavik. Volcanic activity is infrequent but rather spectacular when an eruption does occur. The underwater volcano that created the new island of Surtsey in the Westmann Islands off the south coast began erupting in November 1963 and remained active through mid-1967. In January 1973, a volcanic eruption on Heimaey Island in the Westmann Islands forced the evacuation of all 5,000 residents and destroyed more than 300 homes and buildings. In the Krafla area, near Lake Myvatn, an eruption took place in December 1975, lasting several days; this area subsequently has seen seven lesser eruptions, and further volcanic activity is expected there. The most famous of Iceland's volcanoes, Mt. Hekla, which had been expected to remain dormant for a 100 years or so after its spectacular 1947 eruption, produced eruptions in August 1980, April 1981, and January 1991. A volcano under the Glacier Vatnajokull erupted in November 1996, melting tons of ice and creating destructive flooding.

Population Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, averaging little more than five persons per square mile. About 60% of Iceland's total population of 270,000 live in and around Reykjavik. The capital's population is 105,500. The second and third largest towns, Kopavogur and Hafnarfjordur, are both suburbs of Reykjavik. Akureyri, on the central northern coast with 15,000 people, is the fourth largest population center. Keflavik is the town nearest the NATO base and 32 miles from Reykjavik. The NATO base has about 3,000 military personnel and 2,400 dependents. Most other Icelanders live in small fishing villages or farming communities around the coast. The center of the country is completely uninhabited.

Excluding the American-staffed NATO base, approximately 700 U.S. citizens reside in Iceland. Of the 355,340 tourists and business representatives who visited the country in 1995, about 30,000 were Americans.

Icelanders are descended from Nordic and Celtic peoples who first arrived in A.D. 874 and rapidly settled the island, previously inhabited only by a few Irish monks who lived as hermits. Most Icelanders are knowledgeable about their family history, some tracing it back to the time of the settlements.

The Icelandic language is of Germanic origin and was introduced from western Norway in the 9th century. It has gone through so few changes since the Viking age that an Icelander of today can read and understand 12th- and 13th-century literature-notably the famous Sagas. Despite the difficulty of the Icelandic language, some Embassy personnel learn to read newspapers and carry on basic conversations. These efforts are greatly appreciated by Icelanders.

Foreigners are often confused by Icelandic family names. Few continuing family names are used. The given name is the primary name, and the surname tells only the given name of the father. Surnames for males are formed by adding "son" to the possessive form of the father's given name. For females, the suffix "dottir" is added to the father's given name. The wife keeps her maiden name. As a result, the Icelandic telephone book is arranged alphabetically by first names. Further differentiation is made on the basis of last name, profession and address.

Iceland's population is about 97% Lutheran. Although Lutheranism is the state religion, Iceland has complete religious freedom. Catholics number nearly 2,520 and have their own church. The population also includes some 3,700 members of other religious denominations.

Icelandic dress, housing, and food are similar to those in other Nordic countries. According to October 1997 statistics, about 4.5% of the population was earning its living from farming; 10.9% from fishing and fish processing; 11.1% from manufacturing; 6.5% from construction; 13.7% from commerce; 7.1% from transport and communications; and the remaining from other service industries. Unemployment is about 4%.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Iceland elects a president every 4 years. The President has largely ceremonial responsibilities. Iceland elected the world's first female head of state in 1980. She served four terms. On August 1996, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson became the President of the Icelandic Republic.

Parliamentary elections take place at 4-year intervals unless the Althing dissolves itself before the end of its normal term. The smallest districts elect five members of parliament (MPs), giving them a disproportionate share of the seats; the largest, Reykjavik, elects 18 MPs based on the share of popular votes for each slate of candidates.

Legislative power rests with the Althing, or Icelandic parliament, which is a unicameral legislature. Executive power is vested in the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Cabinet has always been formed by a coalition of political parties. A written constitution provides for a system of national and local courts to administer justice, and specifically guarantees personal liberties.

Iceland has an independent judiciary. A Supreme Court sits in Reykjavik, and criminal cases are handled by the state prosecuting attorney. The judicial system includes district and town judges, a Maritime Court, and an Arbitration Court for adjudication of labor disputes.

Iceland is divided into 34 districts and 22 towns. Each district and town is administered by a magistrate responsible to an elected council of 7-15 members. Normally, in the larger towns, a coalition of political parties within the council will form a governing majority. The principal responsibilities of magistrates include police administration of state old-age pensions and other social benefits. Historically, the mayor of Reykjavik has been an important political figure. Five post-war prime ministers of Iceland were former mayors of the city.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Icelanders have traditionally had a strong interest in education and the arts. The literacy rate is 99.9%. Reykjavik has a variety of bookstores that also carry English-language books. Book prices and tickets for all cultural performances are high.

Painting, sculpture, theater, and music are enthusiastically supported. Museums and legitimate theaters feature Icelandic creative works as well as foreign productions, including American productions.

The Icelandic Research Council (IRC) operates under the Ministry of Culture, Education and Science. Its mission is to reinforce and underpin the cultural and economic foundation of Icelandic society by promoting vigorous and well-coordinated scientific endeavors, technical development, and innovation. The IRC advises the Government of Iceland, publishes information, and serves as a liaison with research institutes and companies and with agencies and relevant international organizations.

Education is compulsory for children ages 7 to 15. The University of Iceland in Reykjavik had 5,826 students during the 1996-97 academic year. It has departments of law, philosophy, economics, Icelandic language and literature, theology, medicine, dentistry, science, and engineering. The Saga manuscripts, returned from Denmark in 1971, are housed in the university's Manuscript Institute.

The Reykjavik Music Society, the Iceland Opera, and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, among other local musical organizations, offer frequent performances of classical music, and local social clubs sponsor Icelandic and visiting concert artists. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra offers a concert series every other week during the fall, winter, and spring, often featuring internationally famous guest artists. Well-known jazz musicians perform several times a year in Iceland.

The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, in cooperation with the City of Reykjavik, sponsors a Jazz Festival every September. It features classical, rock, jazz, and folk music concerts by well-known performers as well as art exhibits and theater performances. Reykjavik has 10 cinemas featuring mainly U.S. movies, many of which are first run. In addition, university and college film clubs offer classic and foreign films. A Film Festival is sponsored by the City of Reykjavik every other September.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Iceland's 1998 estimated GNP was about $7.5 billion, or roughly $28,500 per capita. The economy is essentially market-based but with significant government intervention. While the cooperative movement historically played an important role in many aspects of the economy, this is changing rapidly under a private-
sector oriented government.

The national and municipal governments, directly and through the banking system and investment funds, control a large share of the financial resources available to Icelandic business firms. Government involvement is widespread in shipbuilding, fish processing, communications, tourist facilities, and electric power generation and distribution. The national government owns and operates one cement and one fertilizer plant.

Iceland depends on imports for many of its needs. Fishery products comprise about 75% of exports. The biggest overseas market for Iceland's marine exports has traditionally been the U.S., but that has changed in recent years, and the U.K. has taken the top spot. The U.S. share of Icelandic fish exports has fallen from 21% in 1986 to about 18% in 1997. About 65% of Iceland's fish exports go to Europe. The U.S. supplied slightly more than 9% of Iceland's imports. Other major trading partners include Japan and Germany.

Iceland's future industrial development is likely to hinge on utilization of its abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power. The government actively encourages foreign investment in energy intensive industry that would make use of these resources. Nevertheless, apart from the fish processing industry, hydroelectric power installations, a diatomite plant, a ferrosilicon plant, and a Swiss-owned aluminum smelter, industry is rather small scale and geared mainly to meet local consumption needs. Ground was broken in 1997 for an American-owned aluminum smelter.


Automobiles Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

If you already have a car that runs well, bring it. If you are interested in exploring the countryside and camping, bring a four-wheel-drive recreational vehicle. Driving is on the right.

Although it is advisable to buy a new car abroad rather than in Iceland because of high prices, Reykjavik has dealers representing most major auto manufacturers, and any popular American-made or foreign car purchased in the U.S. can be serviced locally. Repair service is expensive and facilities limited, with the quality of service ranging from excellent to poor. Repairmen do not guarantee their work. Iceland has about 1,985 miles of paved roads (1996). The poor quality of the remaining road system and harsh climate make it inadvisable to bring an expensive car.

As of July 1, 1992, all vehicles imported into Iceland must have a catalytic converter. Unleaded and diesel fuels are available here. All vehicles must pass a safety and emissions inspection before getting license plates. Older vehicles must be reinspected each year; newer vehicles may not require other inspections (1998: one-time registration fee, Ikr5,800, and license plates, Ikr3,750. Safety inspection: Ikr9,425). Equip all cars with shoulder seat belts in the front seat. Vehicles in Iceland must be driven at all times with their lights on. Automatic systems for turning lights on/off with the engine are mandatory. Required for registering the vehicle are a valid title, vehicle specifications, bill of lading, and a certificate of origin. Additional documentation is required for the importation of a brand new vehicle unless it has been registered in the U.S. before entering the country. To avoid additional paperwork, register a brand new vehicle in the U.S. before bringing it to post.

Jeeps and vans must have mud-flaps. These can be obtained locally, if you do not already have them installed. Use snow tires from November through April 15. Most Embassy personnel use all-weather tires. Some switch to studded tires in the winter, as are used by many Icelanders. Tires can be obtained locally but it is much more economical to have them shipped from the U.S. A limited selection of tires is available at the service station on the NATO base. Spare parts are expensive but are generally in stock. Bring a small stock of spark plugs, fan belts, and oil filters to reduce the high cost of repairs.

All vehicles must carry third-party liability insurance purchased through local insurance firms. You can buy other coverage from Icelandic, U.S., or European firms.

Bring a valid U.S. or other national drivers license with you. Otherwise, it costs between $557 and $922, including the cost of driving lessons, to obtain an Icelandic drivers permit.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Local taxi and bus service is safe and efficient. Monthly bus passes, as well as discounted individual tickets valid for use on all buses in greater Reykjavik, are available at reduced costs. Taxis are metered and zoned. They are widely used and readily available but cost more than in New York or Washington, D.C. Tipping is not customary.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Iceland has no railroads or streetcars. The two-lane highway from Reykjavik to Keflavik is one of the best roads in the country. A ring road circles the island (1,480 km., or 925 miles). Other roads outside Reykjavik are mainly dirt or gravel of good to fair quality. Nearly all inhabited parts of Iceland can be reached by car during summer (early June to mid-September). Use a four-wheel-drive vehicle with high road clearance for trips to the country's interior. Most of the popular tourist locations outside Reykjavik can be reached during summer without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.


Icelandair (Flugleidir) is the only carrier with regularly scheduled service between Iceland and the U.S. Rates are two to three times the cost of U.S.- originating flights. Special bargain fares are available at low travel times. The airline flies daily to New York and Baltimore. It also flies five times a week to Boston, twice a week to Orlando, and four times a week to Minneapolis. A few charter air companies also provide service to Europe.

A car ferry operates with weekly sailings (June through August), between Seydisfjordur, 461 miles to the east of Reykjavik, and the Faroe Islands, Scotland, and Norway.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

State-owned telephone service is available to all parts of Iceland and principal points throughout the world. Connections to the U.S. are reasonably quick and clear. Direct-dial is available. Charges for direct-dial to the U.S. are about 75˘ a minute, slightly more for operator-assisted calls. There is a reduced rate from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. at 56˘ per minute. Quarterly service costs are about $20. AT&T, Sprint, and MCI calling cards and call-back services can be used in Iceland as well.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

International airmail to the U.S. takes 3-10 days, depending on the destination, and costs about 92 cents for the first 20 grams. Mail service is reliable. Embassy personnel are eligible to use the Fleet Post Office (FPO) at the NATO base where U.S. postage rates apply; mail travels by air to New York. FPO mail arrives daily and parcel post about 2 times a week. All parcel post is sent by air from New York. The Embassy picks up mail at the base two times a week. The FPO mailing address is:

American Embassy
PSC 1003, Box 40
FPO AE 09728-0340

The international mailing address is:

American Embassy
Laufasvegur 21
101 Reykjavik, Iceland

Since all packages sent by international mail must be cleared through customs, Embassy personnel generally use FPO for parcel post from the U.S. At 70 pounds and 100 inches in length and girth combined, FPO size and weight limits on packages are more generous than the limits on packages sent by international mail.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The Navy radio station broadcasts 24 hours daily and can be heard in Reykjavik on AM 1530. Icelandic radio operates primarily on FM. Numerous stations, both state and private, have coverage lasting virtually all day. You might want to bring a good shortwave radio, as VOA and BBC program reception is good and is an excellent supplement to Icelandic and U.S. publications.

Numerous TV stations can be received seven days a week. The state TV station broadcasts approximately 24 hours a day and can be received by any set operating on the PAL system. Channel 2 and Syn are private stations also broadcasting in PAL. With the exception of the daily news program and a few other shows, their signals cannot be received without the payment of a monthly subscription fee. Syn plus cable (Discovery, CNN, Sky News, Cartoon Network, TNT, Eurosport, MTV, NBC Europe, BBC Prime) costs about $38 a month. Channel 2 plus cable is about twice as much (about $78 a month). The "cable" stations without Channel 2 or Syn can be ordered at about $18 a month. Icelandic stations broadcast a variety of entertainment, news, cultural, and sports programs.

Many of the entertainment programs are in English with Icelandic subtitles.

TV sets purchased for the U.S. (NSTC) system will not work in Reykjavik, but the Navy Exchange at the NATO base generally has a reasonable selection of multi-system TVs and VCRs, which will work in Iceland and in the U.S.

Video stores for PAL machines abound in Reykjavik. Cassettes are also available for rental at the NATO base, for the American NTSC system. So it is worthwhile to bring your present TV and VCR for operation with a transformer, even if they are American system only.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

American newspapers and magazines, such as the New York Times or Time, arrive approximately one week late via the FPO. The Dutch edition of the International Herald Tribune is usually a day late. Post officers can read up-to-date articles from American newspapers on the Internet.

European editions of Time and Newsweek are sold at local newsstands. If you have a subscription to such periodicals, you will receive faster service if you use the international address of the Embassy (not FPO). You can purchase many English-language magazines at the Keflavik NATO base. Reykjavik has three daily newspapers and one weekly, all in Icelandic.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Reykjavik's medical facilities equal those in comparably sized U.S. cities. The University of Iceland has its own medical school. Many Icelandic doctors and dentists have been trained in the U.S. and/or in Europe. Nurses and other medical staff do not usually study abroad, so they do not necessarily speak fluent English. Reykjavik has three well-equipped and well-staffed hospitals, but they are usually crowded. Iceland has a state-supported medical program, and doctor's fees are reasonable by U.S. standards. Drugs and pharmaceuticals are expensive for foreigners. All medicines are sold only by prescription. Facilities for standard laboratory work are available. Only rarely must tests be sent abroad for more sophisticated evaluation.

An Icelandic physician serves as the post's medical adviser. Neighborhood clinics in Reykjavik provide well-baby check-ups and routine childhood immunizations for reasonable fees. Embassy personnel may use the Keflavik NATO base hospital on a fee-for-service basis, although illnesses or medical conditions requiring specialists are frequently referred to Icelandic physicians.

Embassy personnel have access to base dentists for routine care on a space-available basis. Icelandic dentists are competent and their prices are comparable to those in Washington, D.C. Orthodontia is also available in Reykjavik, generally with American-trained dentists. Eyeglasses and contact lenses are available on the local market and at the NATO base optical shop. Prices in the latter are comparable to those in the U.S.

Obstetric care in Reykjavik is excellent. Child delivery can be done in Reykjavik's National Hospital. Iceland-trained mid-wives deliver babies with a doctor available if there is an emergency. Employees may also use the hospital at the NATO base, where an OB/GYN physician resides. Iceland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

Community Health Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Reykjavik is a remarkably tidy city, with however a sooty black air pollution (especially in the winter), a developing smog problem, and an occasionally strong smell when the fishmeal plants are operating. Iceland has no serious endemic diseases or health hazards. Levels are similar to those in the U.S. and Western Europe. Influenza, whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, and pneumonia are the most common ailments. Many people suffer from the flu each winter.

Light deprivation can be a real problem for some people. Days are drastically shortened in winter. The sun rises after 11 a.m. and sets around 3 p.m. In reality, because the sun is so low in the sky, even a low hill range can block its already weak lighting effect. Street lights, activated by low-light sensors, are often on throughout the "daylight" hours. Many experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)-depression, sleep problems, anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, etc. High intensity lights are issued to each family to help counteract these effects. But the long hours of darkness remain extremely debilitating.

Water throughout Iceland is potable, pollution free, and so tasty it is often called "Icelandic champagne." It is not fluoridated. You can drink water from streams without boiling it. Hot water in homes has a slightly sulfurous smell, and it is completely safe to drink. You must be cautious, as it comes out of the tap at 176řF. Some people react to drinking the hot water. Others experience a dermatological sensitivity (especially during the first few weeks after arrival). Government standards for food inspection are high, and foods bought on the local market can be eaten without special preparation or treatment. Milk is pasteurized and government controlled, although it is not vitamin D fortified. Garbage is collected by the city once a week.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

No special immunizations or therapeutic treatments are required before coming here, but German measles and mumps shots are advisable for infants and young children, as are polio vaccines and the other routine immunizations. Flu shots are available at the base, where 100% of military personnel are required to have them. Qualified pediatricians are readily available. Most children have no special health problems.

Those who suffer from respiratory ailments, rheumatism, or arthritis may find that Iceland's climate can aggravate these conditions. Dryness from the heating system and the constant winds may aggravate sinuses and dry skin.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Employment opportunities within the U.S. Mission are nonexistent. Employment outside the U.S. Mission is possible but difficult to find because most jobs require fluent Icelandic.

Part-time summer employment for teenagers, who have been employed in fish-processing plants, bottling factories, and other local firms, has been possible. The U.S. has a de facto reciprocity work agreement with the Icelandic authorities. All employment of American family members in the local economy depends upon ad hoc approval of work permits by the Foreign Ministry. These are normally granted. Embassy dependents may not work at the NATO base. All other employment of foreigners in the local economy is governed by a work permit system in which the prospective Icelandic employer obtains a permit from the Ministry of Social Affairs. The availability of such permits depends on the fluctuation of need and levels of employment in the Icelandic economy from year to year.

American Embassy - Reykjavik

Post City Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Reykjavik is Iceland's capital and its largest city. Located on the southwest coast, it sits on a peninsula extending northwest into the sea. It lies at 64°N and 22°W.

Reykjavik is a modern, picturesque city. New buildings of reinforced concrete are rapidly replacing older wooden framed and corrugated iron structures similar to those found in northern Norway.

Small detached and semi-detached houses and numerous apartment buildings are found in the city. Houses are well built, comfortable, and modern. All of the city's central heating is supplied by hot springs. Reykjavik is often referred to as the "smokeless city" because of this heating method.

Reykjavik is the seat of government and the focal point of Icelandic cultural activity. It is the site of the University of Iceland, founded in 1911. It has a museum of natural history, a national museum, four art museums, a municipal and a national theater, a symphony orchestra, an opera, a ballet company, art galleries, libraries, seven movie theaters, an outdoor stadium, an indoor arena, and private and state radio and TV stations. The city has thermally heated outdoor swimming pools that are open year round, three small lakes teeming with wild bird life year round, and several parks.

Reykjavik's terrain is essentially barren lava; however, the mountains and natural harbor form a scenic setting for the capital. The harbor, with its extensive shipping and fishing activities, is the lifeline of the city.

Reykjavik enjoys a high living standard. At around $26,300 per capita, income is comparable to that in the U.S.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

In September 1944, about 3 months after Iceland declared its independence from Denmark, the U.S. established a legation in Reykjavik. The U.S. thus became the first country to recognize Iceland's sovereignty. The legation was elevated to Embassy status in October 1955. It became a SEP post in 1995. The Chancery, located at Laufasvegur 21, is the only Foreign Service post in Iceland. The Public Affairs Office is located at Thingholtsstraeti 34, directly behind the Chancery.

Office hours for Embassy personnel are 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Chancery has no restaurant or other eating facilities. A lounge and kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, and coffee machine are available.

The Embassy staff is composed of the Ambassador, DCM, economic/commercial officer, political/consular officer, administrative officer, public affairs officer, one American secretary, communicator, and 14 Foreign Service National employees.

Housing Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Most personnel can expect to move into Embassy housing on arrival. A short hotel stay may, in rare cases, be necessary.

Hotels are good but expensive. Except during the peak summer tourist season, rooms are ordinarily available. All are modern and have good facilities, but rooms are small and not suited for long family stays. All rooms lack cooking

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Most personnel can expect to move into Embassy housing on arrival. A short hotel stay may, in rare cases, be necessary.

Hotels are good but expensive. Except during the peak summer tourist season, rooms are ordinarily available. All are modern and have good facilities, but rooms are small and not suited for long family stays. All rooms lack cooking facilities.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The U.S. Government owns four buildings in Reykjavik-the Ambassador's residence, the Chancery, and the Administrative wing, which are adjoining buildings, and the former Marine Security Guard house where the Public Affairs Office is now located. The units enclose the Embassy garden and form a small compound surrounded by a masonry wall.

The Ambassador's residence is a three-story concrete building with stucco exterior. It faces the street and has no front lawn, but it has a small garden at the rear. The basement has a powder room, an entry area, a large kitchen, sauna, laundry room, servant's bathroom, and guest quarters consisting of a bedroom and sitting room. The first floor has an entrance hall, a small pantry, living room, den with fireplace, dining room, and an enclosed solarium. The second floor has a master bedroom with dressing room, bathroom and study, two other double bedrooms, one single bedroom, and two other full baths. The residence was newly furnished in 1997.

Other American employees are housed in short-term government apartments or houses in accordance with housing standards. A few are within walking distance of the Embassy. But these are limited, and other employees can expect a long walk (or a short drive). Most are located within 4-5 miles of the Embassy.

Furnishings Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

All U.S. Government-owned and -leased residences are fully furnished and include washers, dryers, stoves, microwave ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators. The Embassy has Hospitality Kits for personnel moving into permanent quarters. The kits include linens, cooking utensils, cutlery, plates, glasses, cups, bowls, pots and pans, pillows, and irons. A crib is available for those with babies or toddlers. Other temporary needs can usually be met until household effects arrive.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Electric current is 220v, 50-cycle, single-phase, AC. Motors not wired for 50 cycles will operate on the local current but can overheat and burn up when run continually. Electric appliances equipped for 110v, except clocks and record players, can be operated with a transformer on the local current. U.S. record players must be converted from 60 to 50 cycles to operate properly. Normally, this takes only a small, inexpensive device that is quickly installed. Do this before coming to post. The Embassy provides stepdown transformers for all government-furnished appliances, if needed, plus several additional ones per residence. Step-down transformers may be purchased locally. Wall sockets are usually the European, two-pronged, tubular type, although other types of plugs and sockets are sometimes used in newer construction. In any event, conversion plugs to adapt U.S. plugs to Icelandic wall sockets are available. No special wiring is needed for lamps, but 110v bulbs cannot be used.

The municipality provides geothermally heated water for heating and other purposes to all city housing. You quickly become used to the slight sulfur smell of the hot water. The natural hot water is excellent for washing clothes but will blacken silver not rinsed immediately in cold water, which is nonsulfurous. Bring everyday stainless steel flatware. You can buy 110v hand appliances at the base exchange and use them with transformers.

Food Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Most local food items are quite expensive. Embassy personnel can buy groceries, sundries, and limited department store items at the commissary and Navy exchange at Keflavik. The commissary compares favorably in variety and quality of merchandise to a medium-sized U.S. supermarket. Beef, poultry, and pork are of good quality and are generally available. The commissary also carries a good selection of canned and frozen foods. Fresh produce is shipped to the NATO base weekly and is of varying quality. Availability varies with the seasons. Other commissary and exchange stocks also are limited with some items not always available. Prices are comparable to U.S. supermarket prices. Uncooked meats cannot be imported into the country.

Every neighborhood in Reykjavik has a bakery, fish shop, and dairy store. Bread and cakes are baked and sold fresh daily. Dairy stores feature many types of cheese, yogurt, "skyr" (a type of Icelandic yogurt), cream and a number of milk products not found in the U.S. All Icelandic food items are of good quality and completely safe to eat.

Clothing Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The Ambassador and DCM (when acting as Chargé‚) need formal wear. This includes black tie for men and formal dress for women. You can rent black and white tie outfits locally. All male officers should bring black-tie outfits. Some diplomatic corps functions call for black tie. Female officers will occasionally need long evening gowns.

Bring a good supply of shoes and boots, especially rubber rain and snow boots. All are available on the local market or at the base exchange. But local stores are expensive and styles do not always appeal to American tastes. Strap-
on "cleats" sold in Reykjavik can be useful on windy and icy winter days. Availability of such items at the Navy exchange is erratic.

In general, all family members should have adequate clothing for a cold, wet climate. Iceland produces fine woolen goods, especially sweaters, at quite reasonable prices, but all other clothing is expensive. The Navy exchange carries some basic clothes for everyone, although styles, stocks and sizes are limited. Many people order clothing through U.S. catalog stores. A raincoat with removable lining is quite useful. Hikers should bring thermal underwear and sturdy boots or walking shoes as well as rain gear.

Men Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Men wear wool suits year round, but bring fall- and summer-weight suits for travel outside Iceland and for those warm days of summer when lighter clothing may be more comfortable.

Women Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Long dresses or skirts are sometimes worn, but cocktail-type dresses are suitable for all but the most formal occasions. Wool suits and dresses are useful. Hand-knit Icelandic sweaters are an outstanding value and are worn frequently. Head scarves and plastic rain bonnets are necessary. A long winter-weight raincoat with removable lining, a spring coat, and a summer-weight coat are useful. Bring weather-proof shoes for rain and/or snow.

Icelandic women dress fashionably, buying imported items here at prices three-to-four times higher than in the U.S. Local dressmakers are expensive. Maternity clothing is expensive here and in limited supply at the base.

Children Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Children's clothing is expensive. The Navy exchange has only limited stock, so bring what you need or order clothing from U.S. catalog stores. Children tend to play outdoors year round even in the most inclement weather. Bring good rain gear and boots.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Common toiletries, cosmetics, and household needs are sold at the Navy exchange where they are less expensive than at local stores. Selection is often limited, so bring your favorite brands. The base exchange offers cameras, film, home entertainment equipment, luggage, and watches. Classical records and tape selections are limited. Prices are comparable to U.S. discount prices.

All personnel are issued military identification cards allowing them access to commissary and exchange facilities at the NATO base. Embassy personnel may be required to show a card, provided by the Embassy Administrative Section, to Icelandic customs officials each time they leave the base with merchandise.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco can be purchased from the State Monopoly at duty-free prices or at the NATO base. Personnel may purchase liquor and tobacco directly from NATO base facilities.

Children's toys are expensive in Reykjavik and are in limited supply at the base exchange. Bring some toys for birthday gifts and other special occasions. The exchange also occasionally carries some sporting equipment, but bring to post anything your children will need. Some recreational equipment, such as skiing and camping equipment, may be rented at the base; but supplies are limited and demand high. The NATO base gas station has a selection of auto fuel/oil filters, wash/wax supplies, and other auto goods. It does minor repair work such as tune-ups, brake adjustments, and tires.

Basic Services Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Men's tailoring is fair. Men's suits can be made to order through the Navy exchange or bought from a local tailor.

Laundries and drycleaning are adequate and conveniently located, but there are no laundromats. Local prices for laundry and drycleaning are higher than in New York and Washington, D.C., but base exchange prices are lower.

Reykjavik has several hairdressers and barbershops. Services are expensive but the work is of the highest quality. A hairdresser and a barbershop are also available at the NATO base, where the rates are very reasonable.

Radio and TV repairs are usually reliable but expensive. Parts for American sets are usually not available and must be ordered from home. The base also has repair facilities for TV and stereo equipment, but the quality of the work is less reliable.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Domestic help is extremely difficult to find. Icelanders do not normally employ full-time servants. Some women do housework and help cook and serve at dinners and receptions for about $12-$15 a hour. They normally expect to get paid for a minimum of four hours. The rate includes any taxes that might be owed by the employee.

Babysitters cost $5 or more per hour and are difficult to find on short notice.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Protestant and Catholic services in Reykjavik are generally in Icelandic, but most clergymen speak English. The Catholic Church holds an English Mass on Sunday evenings. You can also participate in religious activities at the base. Services are held in English for Catholics, Protestants, and (occasionally) for Jews. A chaplain from the NATO base conducts a monthly nondenominational service at the University of Iceland chapel (in Reykjavik).


Dependent Education Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The American Embassy School provides an American-style primary education from kindergarten through grade 6. Enrollment consists of Embassy children, Icelanders, and English-speaking children of foreign diplomats. The student population varies considerably from year to year (1996-97: 18 students; 1997-98: 14). Due to the school's size, classes are composed of mixed grades with different ages of children. The school is in three rooms in an apartment building close to the Embassy and the center of Reykjavik. The head teacher/principal is a U.S. citizen, as are some other teachers. Most hold degrees from American universities and all speak both English and Icelandic. The school is well equipped with modern educational materials and supplies. Tuition costs for Embassy children are covered by an educational allowance.

Local nursery school is a problem because schools are few and waiting lists are long. Although preference is given to Icelandic mothers who work, several Embassy children in recent years have attended nursery school here after a long wait. Embassy children may also attend the elementary, junior, and senior high schools at the Keflavik NATO base, 32 miles from Reykjavik. Transportation is authorized by the Office of Overseas schools, but the trip is a solid 45 minutes each way, in often bad weather. Personnel with children who would need to travel to the base during the normal 3-year tour here should consult with the Embassy Administrative Section before bidding on Reykjavik. The base does not have boarding facilities. Tuition costs for local and base schools (grades 7-12) are covered by an education allowance. There is an away-from-post education allowance for grades 7 to 12.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The most popular family sport in Iceland is swimming, done year round in pools filled with natural hot water. Reykjavik has four outdoor and two indoor pools. Charges are nominal and facilities are excellent.

A number of other sports and activities are possible in Reykjavik, even during the long winter months. Interest in track and field is strong, and many joggers run in parks or at the University's 400-meter track. Several private gymnasiums are in town that typically offer exercise and weightlifting equipment, saunas, and aerobics classes. Fees for use of such facilities average Ikr5,000 per month. The city has two bowling alleys and there are two more at the base. The base also has a well-equipped gymnasium and swimming pool. It is possible to play a number of racket sports such as tennis, badminton, and squash on indoor courts in Reykjavik, but prices are high. Other more sedentary activities such as chess and billiards are also popular in Iceland.

Both downhill and cross-country skiing are popular in Iceland. The main ski area for Reykjavik is located in the Blue Mountains, approximately 45 minutes from the city. The facility has two chair lifts 800 and 1,200 meters long, six tow lifts, and two bunny slopes. Two other ski areas are also near Reykjavik. Skiing usually starts in January and continues through April, but you cannot count on having sufficient snow in the Reykjavik area for skiing every year. Skiing conditions are more reliable in the north near Akureyri. Glacier skiing is good throughout the summer. A ski school is on one of the glaciers. Rent skiing equipment in town, at the Blue Mountain resort, or from the base Morale Welfare and Recreation Association. The Recreation Association also organizes reasonably priced ski tours to well-known European ski areas.

Ice skating is another popular winter sport. Reykjavik's skating rink is open from late October through mid-April. Skate rentals are available. During very cold winters, skating is permitted on the pond in downtown Reykjavik.

The Reykjavik area has about six golf courses. Another course is available near the base. Though weather has to be considered, Iceland has many golfing enthusiasts.

Horseback riding is possible on trails and unpaved roads in the Reykjavik area. Icelandic horses are small, powerful, and independent-minded creatures. Rent horses near Reykjavik for approximately $17 an hour or $50 for 3 hours. Summer cross-country trips on horseback are offered by various travel bureaus. This is a sport that both adults and children can enjoy. The usual riding dress is either riding breeches or jeans, knee-length rubber boots, and a weatherproof parka with hood. Rubber boots are used, since riders often ride in the surf or ford small streams. Horse shows, which include racing, are held on summer weekends. No betting is allowed in Iceland.

Bird watching is a popular activity. Iceland is world famous for its variety of birds. Beautiful Lake Myvatn in the north is noted for its waterfowl, including some which are not found anywhere else in Europe.

Fishermen from all over the world are attracted to the outstanding salmon streams in Iceland. Most of the better streams are rented to Icelandic clubs or to individuals, and fishing time must be reserved months in advance. Unless you are lucky enough to be invited as a guest, the average charge per rod a day for salmon fishing is a startling $250-$850, varying according to which rivers you go to and whether your trip is catered. River trout fishing is considerably less expensive at $55-$85 per rod a day. Lake trout fishing is also excellent and much less expensive, averaging $14-$30 per rod a day. And good lake trout fishing can be found within 15 minutes of central Reykjavik. Sea trout and German brown trout are found in streams near Reykjavik. Faxa Bay has good deep sea fishing, especially codfish, halibut, and haddock. A boat may be chartered for fishing parties. Group rates are reasonable.

Extensive and unusual camping opportunities are available during Iceland's short summer. It is easy to find an area affording complete privacy, and once in the countryside you can pitch a tent almost anywhere. Organized campsites with modern facilities are also available. Campers must be hardy, since temperatures during summer range from 35°F to 60°F and rain and wind are common. Rent camping equipment at the base Recreation Association. Bring your own gear if you plan to make frequent camping trips.

Some hunting opportunities exist. The season for geese and ptarmigan varies from 11/2 to 3 months in the fall. Reindeer hunting during the autumn is occasionally permitted, based on the size of the herd, by the government in the eastern part of the country.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Hiking and mountain climbing are interesting and rewarding. You must come equipped with sturdy hiking boots and suitable clothes for these activities.

The countryside is unique and beautiful, and summer sightseeing can be delightful, especially if the weather is good. Many sights, such as Heidmork Park, the Blue Lagoon, and Krisuvik hot springs, are within easy driving distance of Reykjavik. Thingvellir, seat of the ancient Icelandic Parliament, is about 30 miles east and has magnificent mountain views. It is on the north shore of Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake.

Hveragerdi, a small settlement 25 miles east of the capital, has geothermal steam experiments in progress, including large, steam-heated greenhouses in which fruit and flowers are grown. Laugarvatn, 60 miles east of Reykjavik, has a summer hotel and a lake warmed enough by subterranean heat to make swimming possible. At Geysir, a few miles farther east, is the world-famous spouter from which the word "geysir" derives. In the same area is Gullfoss, a magnificent waterfall. The well-known semiactive volcano, Mt. Hekla, is located southeast of Gullfoss.

Embassy personnel enjoy visiting these areas individually or in informal groups by personally owned vehicles. Trips to remote areas are frequently organized by local travel agencies. Camping tours in four-wheel-drive buses are a good way to see remote areas.

The Akureyri area is about 280 miles north of Reykjavik. Vaglaskogur is a lovely park near Akureyri with camping and picnicking sites. Nearby is Godafoss, a beautiful waterfall, and farther east Dettifoss, one of the world's largest waterfalls. Lake Myvatn, with its unique surroundings of lava and hot mud pools, is also in the Akureyri area.

Vestfirdir (the Westfjords) on the northwest peninsula has magnificent scenery. The chief town, Isafjordur, is about 200 miles from Reykjavik and can be reached by car, air, or ship. The roads, like those elsewhere in the countryside, are poor and often impassable in winter.

On the southeast coast of Iceland lies Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in the world outside the Antarctic and Greenland. Located about 185 miles from Reykjavik, the area has some of the country's most spectacular scenery. It takes a full day by car to reach this glacier. Hotel accommodations are scarce in this area, so bring camping gear unless you have made lodging reservations well in advance.

Another site of particular interest is the island of Heimaey in the Westmann Islands. It was here in 1973 that the volcano Eldfjall was created by an eruption in a pasture near the town. The island was evacuated during the eruption, but most of the population has since returned. Quite a contrast exists between the untouched part of town and the desolate part of the town that remains buried under the lava.

Entertainment Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Ten movie theaters in the Reykjavik area show mainly English-language films with Icelandic subtitles. The films are recent releases.

Regular stage performances are first rate but are usually in Icelandic. Occasionally, the National Theater presents operas and musicals. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra presents a regular concert season averaging a concert twice monthly from October through May. Season tickets are available. The Ballet Company at the National Theater also has occasional performances.

Numerous excellent, though somewhat expensive, restaurants (including its own Hard Rock Cafe) are located in Reykjavik. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Domino's (delivery only) are established here and are popular places for those seeking fast food service.

Reykjavik has several nightclubs, including a few at local hotels. All restaurants and nightclubs are expensive.

Embassy staff may use the NATO base recreational facilities, which include a movie theater, bowling alley, swimming pool, gym with weight room, squash and racquetball courts, library, craft hobby shop, auto hobby shop, photo, woodworking, and ceramic shops. The Craftech Center has a large selection of paints, models, and craft supplies. Several clubs and Boy and Girl Scout activities meet here.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM
Due to the American community's small size, social life among Americans is limited. The International Women's Club of Reykjavik offers activities and an opportunity to meet spouses from the Diplomatic Corps, the Base, and growing numbers of Icelanders.

International Contacts Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM
Frequent meetings and social events take place with other members of the small diplomatic community. Home hospitality is valued in Iceland. Embassy families have found coffees, luncheons, buffet dinners, and informal cocktail parties all congenial ways of entertaining Icelandic friends.

Some older school-age children, especially if coming directly from the U.S., may have adjustment problems. They may be heightened if they arrive in summer, long before school begins. Their playmates will be Icelandic children, many of whom may not speak English. Most older school children speak English. An effort needs to be made, but Icelandic and American children will often find common interests, such as sports. Because the school is 32 miles away from Reykjavik, activities with the base children are limited, especially for high school students. School hours are limiting for activities in Reykjavik because most sports programs occur in the early afternoon, though late afternoon ballet and art classes are possible. These problems are likely to be related to the child's age, mobility, and ability to shift for himself or herself.

Official Functions Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Little official entertaining is done by Icelandic Government or business officials. The Icelandic President gives a white tie dinner each year for all chiefs of mission. The chiefs of mission reciprocate his hospitality with an annual black tie dinner in his honor. On New Year's Day, the President of Iceland receives ranking members of the diplomatic missions. He also hosts a Christmas party for children of diplomats and Foreign Ministry personnel. The diplomatic missions have the usual social functions to commemorate anniversaries or national holidays.

Except for these regularly scheduled official functions, entertaining is done by individual invitation.

Apart from the U.S., the following countries have permanent missions in Iceland: Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, People's Republic of China, Sweden, U.K., Russia, and Germany.

Some informal women's groups welcome Embassy wives and female officers. A women's volunteer organization at the NATO base sponsors community charitable activities. The International Women of Reykjavik, composed of Icelandic and diplomatic women, meets once a month. It plans monthly trips to different sites around Reykjavik. The atmosphere at official functions is usually quiet and dignified but not rigid. Many Scandinavian customs are observed. Toasting at dinner follows certain patterns, but while these are neither rigid nor complicated by formality, it is best to wait until you arrive to learn them.

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Little official entertaining is done by Icelandic Government or business officials. The Icelandic President gives a white tie dinner each year for all chiefs of mission. The chiefs of mission reciprocate his hospitality with an annual black tie dinner in his honor. On New Year's Day, the President of Iceland receives ranking members of the diplomatic missions. He also hosts a Christmas party for children of diplomats and Foreign Ministry personnel. The diplomatic missions have the usual social functions to commemorate anniversaries or national holidays.

Except for these regularly scheduled official functions, entertaining is done by individual invitation.

Apart from the U.S., the following countries have permanent missions in Iceland: Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, People's Republic of China, Sweden, U.K., Russia, and Germany.

Some informal women's groups welcome Embassy wives and female officers. A women's volunteer organization at the NATO base sponsors community charitable activities. The International Women of Reykjavik, composed of Icelandic and diplomatic women, meets once a month. It plans monthly trips to different sites around Reykjavik. The atmosphere at official functions is usually quiet and dignified but not rigid. Many Scandinavian customs are observed. Toasting at dinner follows certain patterns, but while these are neither rigid nor complicated by formality, it is best to wait until you arrive to learn them.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The Icelandic community is informal and no hard-and-fast rules for courtesy calls and the use of calling cards exist, except as special circumstances dictate. If you have calling cards available bring them. You may find use for them.

Special Information Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Post Orientation Program

Orientation is informal and is geared to your assignment at the Mission. The Administrative Section will help you get settled and is more than happy to answer questions (before and after your arrival). Reykjavik is a small post, and newcomers can expect a warm welcome from the entire staff.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Notify the Embassy of your travel plans. You will be met at the International Airport at Keflavik and assisted through customs. Travel between the U.S. and Iceland is by air. Icelandair flies 757s daily between Keflavik and New York (a waiver on flying U.S. flag carriers applies). Flying time from New York is about five hours. Icelandair also flies daily to Baltimore, five times a week to Boston, twice a week to Orlando, and four times a week to Minneapolis. Icelandair also flies Luxembourg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Glasgow, and London. All international flights use Keflavik Airport.

A reasonably priced airport bus service takes passengers to the Hotel Loftleidir near downtown Reykjavik.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

All Embassy personnel enjoy duty-free entry privileges for their personal and household effects (HHE), including automobiles, at any time during their tour of duty.

The Icelandic Government imposes no restrictions on color, weight, or origin of your car. The Embassy handles the routine licensing of private vehicles. Bring five passport-size photos for your drivers license and diplomatic and Embassy identity cards.

Airfreight from Washington, D.C. takes about 4 weeks, while surface freight usually takes about 2 months. FPO parcel post is often delivered sooner than airfreight, since it is sent by air from the east coast and does not go through customs.

Passage Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

You may get an Icelandic visa before arriving in the country, but it is not necessary. Americans, whether traveling on regular or diplomatic passports, can enter the country for up to 3 months without a visa. The Embassy can apply for a visa for you after arrival.

Pets Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

Importation of live animals into the country is rigidly controlled by Icelandic law. You must apply to the Ministry for Agriculture for permission to bring a pet into the country. If permission is granted by the state veterinary surgeon, the pet owner must bring with the animal a certificate of health (issued within the week before departure from the U.S.) and a vaccination certificate. These documents must be attached to the permit upon arrival in Iceland. Precautions must be taken to ensure that the animal does not come into contact with other animals en route.

Notification must be made to the head veterinary surgeon at least 48 hours before the arrival of the pet. On arrival the pet will be taken immediately to the quarantine area in Hrisey (an island in the north of Iceland), where it will be examined by the quarantine veterinarian.

Quarantine. The quarantine period is 6 weeks for pets coming directly from the U.K., Norway, and Sweden. Animals coming from elsewhere have an 8-week quarantine. Pit Bulls and Sharpees are banned from Iceland. Special permission must be sought to import a Rottweiler or Doberman.

The cost of quarantining a cat coming from the U.S. is about Ikr70,000-85,000 (1999: $969-$1,176). The cost of quarantining a dog ranges from Ikr80,000-140,000 (1999: about $1,107-$1,937), depending on the size of the animal. Separate charges are made for medication and tests. The pet owner must also pay for the animal's transportation to and from Hrisey. These costs are high, and the Foreign Service transfer allowance is inadequate to cover them.

If these conditions are not met, quarantine not implemented, or the animal becomes sick with a disease unknown in Iceland, the owner is obliged to agree to have the animal put to sleep without compensation. The owner is also responsible for any damage caused by the animal during quarantine. The importation permit can be canceled without notice or cause.

If you plan on bringing a pet, please inform the Administrative Office immediately to request the most recent information on importing a pet. And be aware that once your pet reaches Reykjavik, you will need to pay additional fees to allow it to remain in the city. (1999: about $120 for first year, and about $105 for each following year.)

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The importation of firearms is restricted under Icelandic law. If you are considering importing a firearm, contact the Administrative Section of the Embassy before shipping your firearm.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

The official basic unit of currency is the Icelandic crown (krona, plural kronur-abbreviated Ikr). In December 1999, the official exchange rate was U.S.$1=Ikr 72.27.

Currency exchange facilities are adequate. The Embassy cashier provides daily accommodation exchange for American employees and official visitors for kronur at the day's official rate. The National Bank in Reykjavik and the Merchants National Bank at the NATO base accept personal checks, travelers checks, U.S. Government checks, and other negotiable notes in exchange for Icelandic kronur at the legal rate. It is difficult to change kronur to dollars outside Iceland.

Embassy personnel may import an unlimited number of U.S. dollars in currency, checks, drafts, or other negotiable instruments. Foreign (non-U.S.) currency may be imported from all Scandinavian and other European countries, according to the currency control regulations of the country concerned. The National Bank of Iceland in Reykjavik will accept such currency and exchange it for Icelandic kronur.

Employees are urged to have a checking account at an American bank. You can pay hotel room charges with travelers checks, major credit cards, or U.S. currency. Larger restaurants in Reykjavik may accept both currencies, and nearly all accept credit cards. Most business places (including McDonald's, most small kiosks, and grocery stores) in Reykjavik accept dollars in small denominations, as well as credit cards.

While the English system of weights and measures is familiar to most Icelanders, the official system is the metric system, as in other European countries.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

American personnel do not have to pay personal income tax in Iceland. You are encouraged to import a car. If circumstances warrant, the Chief of Mission may authorize the importation of a second car. Sale of a private vehicle is permitted 2 years after purchase or registry in Iceland, or upon your transfer. An Icelandic buyer pays high customs duties and other charges at the time of purchase, but it is the responsibility of the American employee to see that they are paid. Sale to NATO base personnel on a tax-free basis may also be approved after 2 years or at the end of your tour. American personnel must have permission from the Foreign Ministry before selling an automobile and written approval from the administrative officer to change kronur to dollars at the completion of their tour of duty.

A sales tax is levied on all goods, services, and food items sold in Iceland. On most goods, the rate is 24.5%; for some food items, books and magazines, the rate is 14%. Foreign diplomatic missions and their personnel are liable for these taxes, but are eligible for a rebate on many purchases over Ikr10,000.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

American-Scandinavian Review. American-Scandinavian Foundation. 127 East 73d St., NY 10021. (Articles on Iceland often appear in this review.)

Auden, WH. Letters from Iceland.

Byock, Jesse L. Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power. University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988.

Byock, Jesse L. Feud in the Icelandic Saga. University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1982.

Byock, Jesse L. "Egilsˇ Bones," Scientific American. January 1995, vol. 272 (#1), pp. 63-67.

Gislason, Gylfi Th. and Almenna Bokafelagid. The Problem of Being an Icelander: Past, Present, and Future. Reykjavik, 1973. (Translated by Peter Kidson Karlsson.)

Hjalmarsson, Jon R. History of Iceland: From the Settlement to the Present Day, 1993.

Iceland (Insight Guides). ed. Tony Perrottet. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1995.

Iceland Review. "Iceland: Country and People."

Iceland Review. (This magazine also publishes the daily news on:

Jones, Gwyn. The Vikings. Oxford University Press.

Laxness, Halldor Kiljan. Independent People (1945). Vintage Books (Random House): New York, 1997.

Linklater, Eric. The Ultimate Viking. The Macmillan Company: New York, 1950.

Magnusson, Sigurdur A. Icelandic Crucible: A Modern Artistic Renaissance. Vaka Publishers: Reykjavik, 1985.

Morris, William (introduction by Magnus Magnusson). Icelandic Journals. Mare's Nest Publishing: London, 1996.

Nordal, Johannes, and Kristinsson, Valdimar, eds. Iceland 1996. Central Bank of Iceland: Reykjavik, 1997.

Roberts, Dorothy James, ed. Fire in the Ice. Peter Davis: London, 1961.

Sutton, George M. Iceland Summer. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, 1961.

Tomasson, Richard F. Iceland, The First New Society. University of Minnesota Press, Icelandic Review: Reykjavik, 1980.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/31/1999 6:00 PM

New Year's Day January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. Day 3rd Monday in January
Washington's Birthday 3rd Monday in February
Maundy Thursday Varies
Good Friday Varies
Easter Monday Varies
First Day of Summer 1st Thursday in April
Labor Day (International) May 1
Ascension Day Varies
Memorial Day 4th Monday in May
Whit Monday Varies
Icelandic Independence Day June 17
Independence Day July 4
Icelandic Bank Holiday 1st Monday in August
U.S. Labor Day 1st Monday in September
Columbus Day 2nd Monday in October
Veteran's Day Nov. 11
Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November
Christmas Eve/Day December 24-25
Boxing Day December 26
New Year's Eve December 31

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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