I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to my smart phone. I use it for everything and what has surprised me the most is how much I love the camera on it. I used to have a little point and shoot in my purse at all times to seize the moment, if one would arise, but it has been replaced completely by my Samsung Galaxy Sii. I love how easy it is to upload photos and even videos to different social media networks and with my busy schedule, being able to reply to e-mails and tweets on the go is essential. I think it’s pretty clear that I’ll never go back to buying cheap-ass phones.
Having a good phone is only one side of the connection coin, having an actual connection is the other. I know that many phone companies charge obscene amount of money for data roaming when travelling abroad, which is why many people decide to leave their phones at home or only use it on a WiFi connection. However, if you don’t have a locked phone and you want to stay connected while traveling in Iceland – you might want to look into buying an Icelandic SIM card to use while you are here.
There are three big phone companies in Iceland: Siminn, Vodafone and Nova. I sent them all an e-mail to see what they have to offer for people like me who like to be connected at all times.
Síminn is the biggest and oldest phone company around in Iceland and according to the rep who answered my e-mail, they also have the biggest 3G network coverage in Iceland. I use their services and I can confirm that I haven’t encountered many places where I’ve been out of reach.
You can buy a Pay-as-you-go SIM card from Síminn at Keflavík Airport both at Elko and 10/11 and at the tourist information, on board Icelandair flights or at the nearest Síminn shop. The price for the prepaid package is 2000 ISK which includes credit for the same amount. They have all the information you need available in English and you can top up your credit online or buy prepaid cards at most gas stations and grocery stores around the country.
With prepaid cards you can use the internet for the rate of 39 ISK per 5 MB and you only pay it if you use the internet that day. Since that’s not a particularly good deal for daily users, they also offer different monthly packages where you can buy everything from 300MB to 9GB for relatively small amounts.
Síminn also offers USB 3G modems for laptops where you pay 6990 ISK for the gadget itself and then 1990 ISK for 4GB and 3990 ISK for 8GB. More information about Síminn’s mobile broadband here.
The Síminn staff answered all my questions thoroughly and even added some extra information they thought might come in handy.
Vodafone is second biggest and although I’ve never used their services, the boyfriend does and is pretty happy with them. Judging by a map on their website their coverage is not as good as Síminn though.
You can buy the starter pack from Vodafone on board Iceland Express flights, at the duty free in the arrival hall in Keflavík Airport or at the nearest Vodafone store. Their website doesn’t tell you how much it costs but it does include 1000 ISK credit. You can top up pretty much the same way as with Síminn and I assume the process is all available in English even though it doesn’t say so on the website.
The Vodafone day data packages are slightly more expensive that at Síminn or 90 ISK per 5MB and the monthly data packages are similar to Síminn’s. However, it’s much more expensive to go over the limit with the Vodafone data packages so maybe that’s something to consider.
Vodafone also offers mobile USB internet for 8990 ISK which includes the dongle, as they call it, and 1GB of data transfer credit.
The Vodafone staff didn’t actually answer my questions but sent me to a English version of their site with most of the information I was looking for. They did offer to answer if I had any more questions but it would have been great if they could just have answered the questions I sent them in the first place.
Nova is the third largest phone company in Iceland and has won awards for their awesome marketing efforts. They’re website is not in English, neither is any other service they offer, and their staff didn’t bother answering the questions I sent so I assume they don’t want the business of visitors passing by. They are popular with exchange students in Iceland because they have a contract with ESN Reykjavík and they offer free calls to all other Nova numbers free with their services.
Based on this little study I’d say that if you are going to travel around Iceland a lot, Síminn is probably your best bet based on the network coverage. If you intend to mostly stay in Reykjavík Vodafone is fine, albeit slightly more expensive. I wouldn’t recommend Nova solely based on the fact that I don’t know what they have to offer and neither will you since they only seem to cater to people who understand Icelandic.