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Bundles of 1000 ISK banknotes.
Photo: Bundles of 1000 ISK banknotes..

A Traveller’s Guide to Icelandic Money

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Since 1885, Iceland has had its own currency, called the Icelandic króna (ISK). It‘s had its ups and downs and is heavily debated at times, with some people rallying to swap it out for the Euro and others singing the praises of it. Nothing much has come from these wrangles, though, so for the foreseeable future, the Icelandic króna is here to stay. This is your guide to everything you need to know about it.

Are other currencies accepted in Iceland?

Other currencies than the Icelandic króna are not accepted in the country, so if you plan on paying in cash, you need to get some krónas. At the time of writing, currency exchange is not possible at Keflavík Airport, although the currency exchange service Change Group is preparing to open there soon. If you want to exchange your currency, you will have to do so in a bank outside the airport. Alternatively, you can opt to withdraw cash from an ATM. 

Icelandic banknotes and coins

There are five banknotes you might come across: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10,000. A 10,000 króna banknote [$73, €67] is quite a large sum in the context of day-to-day things. For example, you could buy almost 15 croissants in an artisan bakery for that amount. In combination with the fact that relatively few locals pay with cash, this means that some businesses might not have enough change in their cash registers if you pay with a 10,000 króna banknote. It is, therefore, best to carry a variety of banknotes in your wallet. The Icelandic coins are five as well: 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100. 

Paying with cards in Iceland

Carrying cash is not a necessity in Iceland. Not accepting card or contactless payments, no matter how small the purchase, is an anomaly amongst Icelandic businesses. The biggest exception to this is the Reykjavík city bus system, where you need to pay with cash, have prepurchased tickets from one of these vendors or use the Klappið app. Other than that, it‘s highly unlikely that you‘ll run into trouble if you have a MasterCard or Visa. As elsewhere in the world, American Express cards are not accepted everywhere, but they can usually be used in hotels, popular restaurants, and supermarkets.

 

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