What kind of gun laws exist in Iceland?


Q: Since the recent tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, carried out with a handgun clearly designed to kill people and not to hunt with, gun control is again being discussed widely in the US. What kind of gun laws exist in Iceland?

Ron, Maryland, USA


A: According to a colleague of mine who is an enthusiastic hunter and is well informed on the Icelandic gun laws, all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and most handguns are banned for public use in Iceland.

People who hold a gun license can buy semi-automatic shotguns, bolt-action rifles, single-shot rifles and double-barrel rifles to hunt with but all rifles over 8 millimeters in caliber are banned in Iceland, although with a special permit to hunt large animals abroad, such as elephants or African cape buffalos.

It is also possible to obtain a special collector’s license for handguns and sports associations practicing marksmanship can apply for a license to use small indoor 22 caliber handguns as used in the Olympics.

To obtain a gun license people must attend a course and pass a test at the police station. They also have to pass a medical examination where they are specifically asked about their mental health. The gun license is issued by the respective District Commissioner.

There is no limitation on the number of guns each person can own, although legislation is pending, but everyone who owns more than three guns has to have a legal gun cabinet.

My colleague said the vast majority of hunters own fewer than ten guns; two or three is the average.

Icelandic police officers do not carry any guns, only the Special Forces, which are known as the Viking Squad in Iceland. The Coast Guard is also armed, carrying handguns and automatic rifles.

Read more about Iceland’s Gun Culture.

How long does it take to drive around the perimeter road of Iceland?

Q: How long does it take to drive around the perimeter road of Iceland in August? And how much to rent a car? I am headed that way for my family reunion this August.

Bernhard Smith, Prineville, Oregon, USA


A: The Ring Road which encircles the island is approximately 1,333 kilometers. Assuming that it takes around one hour to complete 100 kilometers, you can drive around Iceland in 12-13 hours. But I wouldn’t recommend driving non-stop.

In August (however depending on whether you’re traveling early or late in the month) you usually don’t have to worry about slippery conditions on mountain passes, but it’s better to be prepared for everything.

To be able to enjoy the journey, I wouldn’t estimate any less than one week for a Ring Road journey. Our photographer, Páll Stefánsson would disagree with me, but he is a keen driver.

I’d rather make many stops along the way to go sightseeing and explore parts of each region on foot, by bike or, better yet, on horseback.

My advice is to plan your journey thoroughly beforehand, especially if your time is limited, and decide where to spend each night. But don’t make a very strict plan and allow some time for surprise happenings or being spontaneous.

As for how much a rental car costs… I’ve heard it’s expensive but the price differs between car rental companies and seasons. You can compare the prices of car rentals here.

How can I buy a cheap second-hand car in Iceland?

Q: Does buying a car require much in the way of paperwork/getting it registered/examined by a mechanic?

I plan on buying one and selling it when I leave (a month or so later), as that’ll be way cheaper than hiring one.

But will this require a huge amount of time and money? Also, is there a good site for browsing for used cars?

Caspian, Western Australia


A: At the Hekla dealership in Reykjavík, I was told that it will hardly be worth the time and money to buy a used car for such a short period of time. Very few of the used cars they sell cost less than ISK 1 million (USD 7,800, EUR 5,800).

In addition to the price of the car, you have to pay insurances and an automobile tax. It is also questionable that you would be able to sell it again before you leave. With all the used cars currently on the market, that could take time.

If you buy a car in Iceland to use it here, but not just take it out of the country, you have to have a kennitala, an Icelandic ID number, which I believe is only issued to those who live in the country. You can contact the National Registry if you want to check whether there are any exceptions.

If you want to take a look at the used cars currently available at Hekla, they are listed on this website. It is in Icelandic but the information is pretty standard: tegund means “model,” ár refers to the year the car was made, ekinn states how far the car has been driven in kilometers, verð means “price” and tilboðsverð “discount price.” If you click on the make of the car you can see a picture of it.

But the website bilasolur.is is probably the best place to look. It has information about sales agencies and available cars in English. You should contact difference agencies and compare terms and prices.

Which is the nearest glacier to Reykjavík that can be visited in a normal family car?

Q: Can you tell me, which is the nearest glacier to Reykjavík that can be visited in a normal family car (not a jeep)?

Liam, Manchester, England


A: That is the Sólheimajökull glacial tongue of Mýrdalsjökull glacier in south Iceland. It takes approximately one hour and forty minutes to drive there from Reykjavík. Our photographer, Páll Stefánsson, says it is the only glacier in Iceland that you can touch from a Yaris (the road is bumpy, though).

You can get close to other glaciers in a family car, including Langjökull by Húsafell and Snaefellsjökull by Arnarstapi in the west, which are a two to two-and-a-half hour distance from Reykjavík. But to actually get to the feet of the glaciers you either require a jeep or have to do some hiking.

You can also opt for a longer drive (around four hours) to the southeastern corner of Iceland and experience Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier, from Skaftafell National Park or by cruising on the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.