There are 2 major differences when comparing power outlets in Iceland vs. those in the United States. First and most obvious is that the outlets are shaped differently. Second, in Iceland, the power that comes out of an outlet is 220 Volts, as it is in most of Europe. In the United States and Canada, it is 120 Volts.
To solve the first issue, you just need to use a power adapter to change the shape of the plug. If you also need to change the voltage, you need a power converter.
Power Adapters for traveling to Iceland
A power adapter just changes the shape of the plug, allowing you to plug in your device. BUT—and this is really important—you need to make sure the device you are using is capable of handling the higher voltage. You don’t want to send 220V into a device that is expecting 120V.
Now for the good news. In my experience (which includes nothing that makes me qualified to answer this question definitively,) any device with a battery that charges will be fine; the “wall wart” AC adapter functions as a converter to make sure your device gets the right voltage. Take a look at the fine print on your cell phone or laptop charger now. I have yet to find one which does not also work at 220 V.
But, PLEASE check your device. Don’t assume that your cell phone, laptop, tablet, camera, etc. will be fine just because it has a battery. Read that fine print!
Power Converters for Iceland
Devices that use power directly may not work if you give them 220 Volts. And there are some things you might take with you that fit into this category. Examples: direct plug shavers and hair dryers.
For example, my (corded) Wahl beard trimmer says: “120 VAC 60HZ 12W.” This needs 120 Volts, period. Do not plug it into an adapter and send it 220 Volts. You will need a voltage converter. Some plug-in devices have built-in converters; see the picture to the right. Turn the little white circle with a screwdriver, or maybe a small coin, and then don’t forget to turn it back when you return home. 250 V is close enough to 220 V, at least for tis hair dryer!!
Many high voltage appliances cannot be used with a power converter; the converter just can’t handle it. A typical disclaimer will say: “Please don’t use this power converter to charge your hair dryer, hair straightener, and curling iron.” Yes, hair care products tend to use a lot of power! CPAP machines too.
What to buy for your power needs
So now you know whether you will need just an adapter, or a converter too. Adapters are very cheap. You are looking for a Type F. Some may say they are for Germany in the description, but this will be a standard Type F adapter that will work in Iceland too. The grounding pins are at the top and the bottom; see the image on the previous page. Your adapter can be plugged in either direction; that is, up and down doesn’t matter.
Here’s our recommended power adapters for people from the United States or Canada who are visiting Iceland: Ceptics 3-pack type E/F adapter. Be sure to select “E/F” as the type. That 3 pack costs about $10; that’s cheaper than a single adapter will cost you in Iceland!
You can also buy 2 prong, ungrounded adapters. They will just use the middle two holes, and not have anything touching the outer grounding connections. These are Type C adapters. They look almost the same, and still fit just fine in the grounded outlet. Why get the 2 prong instead of the 3 prong? The 2 prong adapter is more widely used, and is likely to work in many other countries. But unless you’re looking to travel to other countries besides Iceland that only use type C, just go ahead and get the type F listed above.
Here’s a 3-pack of Type-C adapters. These are nice because each one has a second 2-prong US / Canada input.
Converters are significantly more complicated, and significantly more expensive. We recommend this wordwide power converter.
Note that it’s totally fine to use a voltage converter with devices that just require an adapter. If the device knows how to handle either 120 V or 220 V, it doesn’t matter which you give it. So if you have some devices that need a voltage converter, you may want to invest a high quality converter.