Iceland reopens to tourists in June: How you can visit using points and miles
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As much of the world remains in some form of lockdown or quarantine, some countries have managed to stop the spread of the virus enough to begin to open up their borders again to tourists. Iceland is one of them.
Since 20 March, foreigners (excluding EU citizens, U.K. citizens, EFTA citizens and people living in the Schengen Area) have been forbidden from entering Iceland, except for essential reasons, according to Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration.
As TPG previously reported, by mid-June these restrictions will start to ease and travellers from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which were in the original exclusion zone, will be allowed to travel to Iceland without an enforced quarantine period. Then, as of 15 June, an expanded group of travellers will be able to visit provided they provide a negative coronavirus test or agree to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
While Iceland has revealed its plans to reopen, it’s important to note that the FCO still advises against non-essential travel for U.K. citizens. TPG doesn’t recommend travelling against government guidance.
However, if you’ve found yourself yearning to travel to Iceland later this year in hopes that the FCO lifts its guidance, here’s how you can get there.
Getting to Iceland
Here’s how to get to Iceland on miles and cash, for when that time rolls around.
Air France, KLM and Lufthansa all do not fly from any of their respective hubs to Iceland. That means that getting to and from Iceland from regional airports in the U.K. on points and miles using Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue or Lufthansa’s Miles and More programmes isn’t possible.
That said, you can get there from the regions via London (LHR) with British Airways using Avios. In normal times, dates in the middle of the summer would likely already have zero redemption availability.
That is not the case this year. Thanks to lower demand for travel caused by the pandemic, there is pretty much wide open availability even in the middle of August. Reward Flight Saver redemptions start as low £0.50 plus 13,000 Avios in economy, one-way from London.
And in Club Europe (business class), a one-way flight can also cost you as little as £0.50 but the amount of Avios will just about double to £23,500 on off-peak dates.
It’s always worth double-checking the cost of paying in cash for the flights to make sure you’re getting the best value. For example, according to TPG U.K.’s latest valuations, BA Avios are valued at 1.1p apiece. So, that makes the cash equivalent of the Avios plus fees and taxes for the one-way in economy from London (LHR) to Reykjavik (KEF) on 11 August come to a total value of £143.50.
For a direct comparison, we’d have to use the slightly more expensive Economy Plus ticket, which includes checked bag like a Reward Flight Saver redemption. For that exact flight, the cash price is £162 at the time of writing — meaning the RFS would only save you just under £20. So, if you haven’t got hundreds of thousands of Avios burning a hole in your online wallet, then you might be better off paying cash and earning the extra Avios and Tier Points for the flight instead.
In this case, the cash price for a Club Europe one-way ticket on the same day is £299 — less than double the cost of economy. If you were to spend 23,500 Avios, which are worth £259 according to our valuations, you would save a total of £40.
While that might seem like a decent saving, you might be better off once again paying cash as the for the return trip you would earn a total of 160 Tier Points, which is over halfway to Bronze status and over a quarter of the way to Silver status in just one trip.
It’s worth noting that prices on different dates are likely to be cheaper or more expensive than those used in the examples above.
From elsewhere in the U.K., you can fly direct to Reykjavik (KEF), Iceland from several regional airports with a variety of mainly low-cost airlines.
EasyJet flies direct to Reykjavik (KEF) from Bristol (BRS), Gatwick (LGW), Luton (LTN) and Manchester (MAN) as well as Edinburgh (EDI), but only during the winter season.
Jet2 operates direct from a total of seven regional airports but only on select dates from October 2020 to April 2021. For example, a trip from 1-5 October 2020 is your only option if you want to visit Iceland from Northern Ireland from Belfast (BFS). Similarly, from Edinburgh, the only bookable dates available this year are from 15-19 October 2020.
More information on flights from Birmingham (BHX), Glasgow (GLA), Leeds (LBA), Newcastle (NCL) and Stansted (STN) is available on the Jet2 website.
And finally, Iceland’s flag carrier Iceland Air operates year-round flights from Reykjavik to Glasgow (GLA), London Gatwick (LGW), London Heathrow (LHR) and Manchester (MAN).
When booking travel in very uncertain times, it’s advisable to pay close attention to your airline’s cancellation and change policy to make sure you’re able to change or cancel your trip should restrictions mean you are unable to travel.
One peace of mind when booking with Avios is that you can cancel up to 24 hours before departure. All of your Avios will be returned to your account, plus the taxes and fees minus a £35 per person charge.
Where to stay
There are only a handful of points hotels in Iceland, but most won’t drain your entire points balance.
Note that both Hilton hotels say they are not accepting guests “for a short period.”
The Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik is located right in the centre of the city, which makes it a great location if you don’t plan to rent a car. One huge plus of this hotel is that breakfast is free to all — no Hilton elite status needed, which is the case for all Canopy properties. This particular perk can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, especially if you’re travelling with family, as food in Iceland is notoriously expensive. I’m seeing rates for July travel starting at 37,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
The Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel is a Curio Collection hotel if you’re looking for something a little more upscale. The hotel was built in the 1900s and was once a department store owned by Consul Thomsen’s family. Today, you’ll find a sauna and whirlpool with exposed original stone walls. Similar to the Canopy, the Konsulat is located in the city centre. I’m seeing some July dates starting at 47,000 points a night.
Several Design hotels have decent availability in August. 101 Hotel and ION Adventure Hotel, both Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy properties, have good availability in August for 60,000 Bonvoy points a night.
The Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel is right in the city centre and close to nightclubs and the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand. This property costs 70,000 Radisson points per night for a standard room (two guests) or 105,000 points a night for a premium room (three guests).
Additional reporting by Vikkie Walker
Featured image by NanoStock/Getty Images