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Healthcare, Education and Safety in Iceland

Settling down in Iceland, a nation with a particularly high standard of living, can be an amazing expat experience, despite the high prices. Read the InterNations guide to Iceland to learn about finding accommodation, healthcare, education, and safety.
The excellent public healthcare system is partly to be credited for the high life expectancy of people in Iceland.

Icelanders are among the healthiest people in the world, reflected in the low infant mortality rate and high life expectancy. It is not only the low pollution that’s to thank for this but also the well-organized healthcare system. In Iceland, the number of medical staff per person is higher than anywhere else in the world.

Public Healthcare

Iceland does not have a private healthcare sector, instead healthcare services are controlled and funded by the state. Citizens and residents of Iceland contribute through taxes, and everybody is entitled to healthcare coverage. In order to automatically receive coverage, expats need to register and have lived in Iceland for at least six months. You cannot opt out of the public healthcare system.

With state health insurance, you may receive hospital treatment, medical prescriptions, emergency care, dental treatment, maternity care, and more. This also includes sickness benefits in case of an illness or injury that leaves you temporarily unable to work. For medication to treat serious illnesses, around 75% of the cost will be reimbursed, while antibiotics and painkillers must be paid for by the patient.

Iceland is divided into seven different healthcare districts which each run their own healthcare centers called heilsugaeslustod. Every citizen and resident has to register with a GP in their area. While it may be easy to find a doctor in towns and cities, it may be harder for expats in rural areas. Still, in each area there is usually a doctor who is on call 24 hours a day, and you can also visit the emergency ward (Slysadeild) of a hospital if needed.


Ever since the end of the 18th century, Iceland has had a universal literacy rate and a high quality of education. Today, school is mandatory for children aged 6 to 16. Education in Iceland is divided into four different stages, of which only the first two are compulsory. This includes primary and lower secondary education and is open to all children with no tuition fees.

Although upper secondary education is not compulsory, there are still no tuition fees for these schools. Students who attend upper secondary education are usually between the ages of 16 and 20 and earn a degree which allows them to attend a university. There are very few private and international schools in Iceland, though you will find the International School of Iceland in Reykjavik. Menntaskólinn vid Hamrahlíd, on the other hand, is an Icelandic school which offers IB studies.

Crime and Safety

The crime rate in Iceland is very low, with the majority of incidents involving theft and pick pocketing. These mostly occur in Reykjavik near major tourist attractions where visitors are perceived as easy targets. Violent crimes, on the other hand, are quite rare. Outside of Reykjavik, emergency services and police are understaffed but supported by civilian volunteers. Iceland’s laws concerning drink driving, as well as possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are very strict; those breaking the law face not only hefty fines but also long jail sentences.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Fjodor Andersen

"Finding other expats interested in playing squash in Reykjavik seemed difficult. But with InterNations I found them easily."

Michelle Guillemont

"Iceland is not the expat country number one. But I met truly global minds with InterNations. It really works."

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