Is Iceland a Safe Travel Destination? Iceland’s Crime Rate Revealed

Discover why Iceland stands as one of the safest countries globally and uncover the intriguing factors that contribute to its low crime statistics.

Iceland’s Crime Rate

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

For most travelers, (and their travel insurance) safety is a top priority. That is why it’s no surprise that we often get questions regarding Iceland’s crime rate. You’ll be glad to know that Iceland has claimed the top spot as the safest country in the world (again), which makes it the ideal destination, especially when it comes to solo travel. But that doesn’t mean that we are completely crime-free.

In this article, we dive into the crime rate in Iceland, why Iceland is so safe, and also give some helpful safety tips and advice. After reading this article, we are confident that you will have the peace of mind to start planning that trip to Iceland.

Is Iceland Safe to Live?

As we already mentioned, Iceland has reclaimed the prestigious title of the world’s safest country. The country has held the title of the Global Peace Index for the past 14 years. So, yes, Iceland is extremely safe, and this is true whether you permanently live in Iceland or whether you’re just a visitor. 

Iceland crime rate

Why is Iceland the Safest Country in the World?

For those wondering why Iceland is so safe, there are a few factors contributing to Iceland being the safest country in the world:

Iceland is an Island

The old saying says, “You can run, but you can’t hide”. In Iceland, you can run and there are plenty of places to hide, but it’s mostly in the wilderness and unless you’re comfortable being the next Bear Grylls on a permanent basis, you’ll probably end up handing yourself over very quickly. There are also very limited and extremely controlled ways off the island, so the odds of you being able to do an international “runner” after committing a crime is pretty slim.

Iceland is Small

There may be plenty of caves, forests, etc. here in the wild that you can try to hide, but the island really isn’t that big. If authorities put some elbow grease into it, you won’t stay hidden for long.

Iceland location

Iceland is All About Community

Perhaps it’s our nature or the fact that the island is so small, but here in Iceland we really have a strong sense of what’s right and wrong and community. This means that you’ll usually be able to find at least one person who knows something about what happened, and we’ll happily snitch if you’ve done something that brings harm to the community.

We’re Just Not the Criminal Type

This may seem like a strange notion, but as we already mentioned, Icelanders have a great sense of what’s right and wrong, a great sense of responsibility, and we’re always willing to lend someone a helping hand. This is not the type of personality that would rob a bank, and definitely not one that would sleep soundly afterward.

Our Justice System is Not to Be Trifled With

If you nearly have to remortgage your house for a traffic violation, can you even imagine what the consequences of more serious transgressions are? Trust us, you do not want to end up on the wrong side of the law here. Whether deterring criminality or avoiding unnecessary accidents, Iceland is on top of its game, and there will be consequences if you do not adhere to our rules and laws. 

Iceland justice system

Most People are Too Busy Working to Spend Their Time Scheming

Iceland has an unemployment rate of just 3%, and compensation here is pretty high. So, most people don’t need to revert to crime to make an extra buck or survive. 

What is the Crime Rate in Iceland?

Iceland’s crime rate in 2023 is 22.26%. This rate is calculated by adding together the rates of various other crimes such as murder, theft, corruption, drug dealing, bribery, etc. This is extremely low, especially when taking into account that the majority of the crime rates used to calculate this total are petty crimes. 

In fact, Iceland’s main contributor to its crime rate is traffic offenses. To put this into even more perspective, one can check out Iceland’s crime rate vs. the US crime rate. The US crime rate currently stands at 47.70% and includes shocking rates such as 370 victims of extreme violent crimes per 100,000 people. 

Crime rate in Iceland

Crime Rates in Specific Areas of Iceland

If you come from a country such as the US, you will be used to having “bad” and “good” neighborhoods. That’s why we are used to visitors asking us about crime rates in specific areas (mostly where they will be staying). But our situation here in Iceland, as the safest country in the world, is a bit different, and we don’t really have these types of “crime hot spots”. 

Of course, all crime will drastically increase when in our more remote regions such as the Highlands, and the Wesfjords. But even Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, has landed the 33rd place as a city with the lowest crime rate in the world (and keep in mind, this was against 453 other major cities!). 

Crime Rates Among Different Demographics in Iceland

Most of the crime here in Iceland is committed by adults (not surprising since one can only get a license here at the age of 21). Juvenile defenders average somewhere under 400 each year, and adult offenders are in the region of 6000 each year. Most offenders, whether juvenile or adult, are also male, with women generally making up for less than 20 guilty parties each year.

Iceland demographics

Why is Iceland’s Crime Rate so Low?

Although we’ve already discussed the factors contributing to the low crime rate in Iceland, it’s important to note that crime in Iceland is essentially dictated by a combination of things:

  • A culture of nonviolence amongst its population (yes, hard to believe we’re the Viking nation, isn’t it?).
  • We have a fairly homogenous population (in other words, not a lot of friction due to the majority having the same ideology and social background.
  • Some unique features (as we’ve already dove into), many of which have to do with our location.

How to Stay Safe in Iceland

Since the majority of our crime is traffic offenses, it’s not too difficult to stay safe in Iceland as long as you follow the rules. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will keep you out of harm’s way:

  • Keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast. Riding or hiking out into a blizzard is not recommended.
  • Always check the Iceland road conditions. Ice and snow can make driving extremely challenging.
  • Always park in designated parking spots. Not only is stopping next to the road, etc. illegal here in Iceland, but it’s also very dangerous.
  • When you go out here on the island, ensure that you stay well within the legal drinking limit if you plan on driving. And if you’re not driving, drinking responsibly will also keep you out of unnecessary trouble such as bar fights.
  • When going out do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • Whether going out, hiking, or taking a drive, always let someone know where you are going (this could be your accommodation or a family member/friend back home).

Iceland safety

Resources for Victims of Crime in Iceland

There are quite a few resources to use, depending on the situation. If it’s road accident related, you’ll need to reach out to your rental company as well as your insurance company (this is the type you take out via the rental company and not your travel insurance). 

To report the accident, especially if someone’s been hurt, contact our national emergency hotline at 112 which is a direct link to police as well as medical care. 112 will also be the number you dial when a crime has been committed, or you find yourself in danger. If you’ve been the victim of a crime such as theft or vandalism, you’ll need to report it to the local authorities to get a case number, and then report it to your travel insurance in order to make a claim. 

We also have a Victim Compensation Program you can look into. Depending on the crime, you might have to reach out to your embassy as well, but this is only in extreme cases (which we’ve already established is practically non-existent here in Iceland).

Iceland safety resources

The Icelandic Criminal Justice System

Iceland’s criminal justice system is divided into two groups: the District Courts and the Supreme Court, with the Supreme Court consisting of a panel of 3-5 judges. These courts deal with both civil as well as criminal matters. You’re not very likely to see the inside of any of these for a traffic violation (unless you don’t pay your fine) but do not trifle with our laws, rules, and regulations. Iceland is not a country that looks kindly on those who do not respect the law.

The Impact of Crime on Icelandic Society

The fact that Iceland is so strict with rule breaking and the consequences can be so severe has led to very low levels of defiance in the Icelandic population and high levels of conformity. And although the crime rate is incredibly low, there is a general fear of crime, like some benevolent creature just waiting outside of the city walls. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown or rather the fear of the consequences they know such acts will follow all forms part of the debate.

Crime on Icelandic society

The Future of Crime Prevention in Iceland

Iceland has the Icelandic Prevention Model (IPM) that focuses on the well-being, and education of children. Since children grow up to be juvenile or adult offenders, prevention is the main focus here. Iceland believes that providing children with a life that includes healthy interaction with their peers, healthy hobbies/activities they can do in their free time, a good education, and a healthy family life with loving parents is the key to keeping crime rates down. 

Your Iceland Crime Rate Questions Answered

We hope that this article has answered your questions of whether it’s true that Iceland is the safest country in the world, and whether there’s anything you should be concerned about or aware of when visiting our beautiful country. We’re pretty sure you’re not planning on committing a felony during your travels, but please keep those traffic laws in mind when you rent a car in Reykjavik. You don’t want your entire holiday budget going towards fines.

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