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Survival Icelandic Travel Phrase Guide with Pronunciation

by Michele
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Icelandic phrases with pronunciation
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Iceland is a country of incredible landscapes and an equally beautiful language, Icelandic. Converse with the locals with my Icelandic travel phrase guide with pronunciation.

It was only a few years ago that Iceland barely registered on the tourist radar. But since its popularisation through American films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Prometheus and the highly successful HBO TV series, Game of Thrones, visitors from all over the world and flocking to see Iceland’s dramatic landscapes. Heck, even Justin Bieber filmed a video clip here!

This travel phrase guide is one of many I’ve created for the inspired traveller who seeks to do more than just sight-see.

Through my years of travel, I’ve met many wonderful people in all sorts of wonderful situations. One I met on the airport shuttle from Alice Springs, one was a guide on a whale watching trip in Iceland,  and another welcomed me into her circle of friends in a bar in Rome. While English was our common language, it was not their mother-tongue.

Travel, paired with using languages have always interested me. Hence why I created The Intrepid Guide. And while I don’t (currently) speak as many languages as I would like, I’ve started a series of language guides as an ode to my international friends. With their help, I’ve created these short guides (and many more to come!) of essential and most common travel phrases.

My guide to common Icelandic travel phrases with a pronunciation guide couldn’t have been done without the help of my favourite whale expert, Baldur, whom I met whilst spotting Minke Whales in Reykjavik.

I hope you enjoy this post on Icelandic phrases for tourists as much as I enjoyed bringing it together. If you have any requests for other languages, let me know in the comments section!

An Introduction to Icelandic

Iceland is like no place I’ve ever been to. Even just a few miles from its capital, Reykjavík, with a population of just 120,000, Iceland looks and feels like how the world was before humans came along. With mossy rocks as far as the eye can see, crystal blue iceberg lagoons, 130 ominous volcanoes, and towering waterfalls dotted along the coast, Iceland is a country of sharp contrasts and incredible beauty.

This awesome landscape is matched with an equally beautiful language called, Icelandic.

Since there are no Latinate words, for an English mother tongue, learning Icelandic would be a major challenge. But personally, I think it’s a challenge worth accepting if it means enhancing my Icelandic experience.

But, there’s good news for German speakers! There are many elements of Icelandic grammar that will be familiar to you. Both languages retain various conjugations and declensions from Proto-Germanic, which have been lost in other Germanic languages.

Where is Icelandic spoken?

Icelandic is spoken in Iceland. No surprises there!

The vast majority of Icelandic speakers (approximately 320,000) live in Iceland. More than 8,000 Icelandic speakers live in Denmark. Icelandic is also spoken by some 5,000 people in the United States and by more than 1,400 people in Canada.

Related to Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, Icelandic is a North Germanic language and has 320,000 speakers in Iceland (Ísland), 8,000 in Denmark (Danmörk), 1,400 in Canada (Kanada) and 5,000 in the USA (Bandaríki Norður-Ameríku).

Icelandic is the closest of the Northern Germanic languages to Old Norse, making it one of the oldest languages in the world.

The Icelandic used today has changed very little since it was created in the 9th century. This means that Icelandic speakers are able to read the Old Norse sagas in their original form without too much difficulty.

It would be like an English speaker knowing exactly what Shakespeare was on about….without having to study it at school!

A Brief History of Icelandic

In 870 AD Iceland saw its first permanent settlement, established by Vikings from Norway and Celts from the British Isles. The main language of the settlers was Old Norse or the Dǫnsk tunga (Danish tongue). In fact, since I started learning Norwegian, I discovered that over 5,000 Old Norse words entered English. 

A number of great literary works, called sagas, were written by Icelanders during the 12th and 13th centuries. These sagas, many of which were the work of unknown authors, were written in a language very much like Old Norse.

It wasn’t until 1944 that Iceland gained its independence and Icelandic was revived as an official and literary language. Prior to then, Iceland was governed by Norway (1262 until the 15th century) before the Danes took over.
During the periods of Norwegian and Danish rule, Norwegian and Danish were used in Iceland, to some extent.

Now for the tricky stuff!

Pronunciation Tips

In Icelandic, the stress always falls on the first syllable. The only exception is in the word “halló,” which usually has stress on the second syllable.

The Icelandic alphabet is famous for its retention of two old letters which no longer exist in the English alphabet: Þ, þ (þorn, modern English “thorn”) and Ð, ð (, anglicised as “eth” or “edh”), representing the voiceless and voiced “th” sounds (as in English thin and this).

Although Icelandic looks very complex with its strange characters “þ” and “ð” and its numerous accented vowels, once the basic rules have been learned, pronunciation is fairly straightforward.

Since most Icelandic sounds don’t exist in English, the examples of pronunciation I give later are just a guide.


Unlike the other Nordic countries, Icelandic doesn’t have any dialects.

A major reason for the purity of language is the absence of international words for modern ideas and inventions. Much like the French, Icelanders avoid using international words, preferring to use their own purely Icelandic words instead.

For example, “telephone”, in Icelandic is “simi“, which is an old Icelandic word for “thread” or “wire”.

Icelandic’s links with Old English are also reflected in the alphabet, which contains the old runic letters – (eth), the voiced th, and the “t” (thorn), the unvoiced. It also contains the “æ” of Danish and Norwegian. The English word “geyser” and “eider” are of Icelandic origin.

Want to have fun whilst learning Icelandic? Struggling to find decent Icelandic language resources? I recommend getting uTalk. Available as a desktop site and app, uTalk is awesome for learning key words and phrases in Icelandic especially if you want to use it for travel purposes.  It’s great for beginners getting started in a language and invaluable for intermediates looking to fill in gaps in their vocabulary and pronunciation. 

What I love most about uTalk is that you can jump around their extensive library of topics and choose what you want to learn, when you want, and at your own pace.  Because I believe in uTalk so much, I reached out to them and we’ve teamed up to offer you an exclusive 30% OFF reader discount across all of uTalk’s 140 languages! This offer isn’t available anywhere else! Click here to claim your exclusive 30% discount.

The Tale of ‘Please’

It might come as a surprise but Icelandic doesn’t have an equivalent to “please”.

The phrase Gerðu svo vel is used to invite a person into a house, to the table or to begin eating. It also translates to “here you are” when giving something to somebody.

For a polite request such as “please take your shoes off” the word vinsamlegast.

When leaving the table or saying goodbye after a meal or drinks it is customary to thank the host by saying Takk fyrir mig.

Now that you’re sufficiently confused, let’s take a look and some common Icelandic travel phrases and words to use in your travels.

Don’t worry, the pronunciation guide will make things easier.

For your free infographic that you can both Pin or save, scroll down to the bottom of this article. Otherwise, use these quick links to jump to the phrases you’re interested in.

P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the pronunciation column, turn it to landscape mode. For some reason tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!

Basic Icelandic Phrases for Travellers
Basic Icelandic Phrases Guide

Want the infographic to take with you? Scroll to the bottom on the page.

Eating Out
Getting Around

English Icelandic Pronunciation


Hello Halló Hah-loh
Good morning Góðan dag go-han dah
Good evening Gott kvöld goht kvult
Good night Góða nótt go-han not
Goodbye Bless bless
How are you? Hvernig hefur þú það? kver-nik her-wer thoo thahd?
I’m well, and you? Ágætt, en þú? al-gyt, en thoo?
Good, thanks Ágætt, takk al-gyt, tak


Please Vinsamlegast vin-saam-leh-gast
Thank you Takk fyrir tak fi-rir
You’re welcome Ekkert að þakka eh-kehrt ath thah-ka
Yes yaw
No Nei nay
Excuse me (getting attention) Afsakið av-sa-kith
I’m sorry (express regret) Því miður thvee mi-thur
I don’t understand Ég skil ekki yeh skil eh-ki
I’m sorry, (didn’t hear) Ha? hah?
Do you speak English? Talar þú ensku? ta-lar thoo en-sku?


How much does that cost? Hvað kostar það? kvadh kos-tar thadh?
Where is…? Hvar er…? kvar er..?
When? Hvenær…? kven-ighr?
May I please have…? Gæti ég fengið…? gigh-ti ye fen-kidh…?

Eating Out

Beer Bjór byor
Wine Vín veen
Water Vatn vat-re
I don’t eat… Ég borða ekki… ye poor-ah eh-ki
I’m a vegetarian Ég er grænmetisæta ye er gryn-met-is-igh-ter
The bill, please Get ég fengið reikninginn? get ye fen-kidh rayk-ning-yin

Getting Around

Left Vinstri vin-stri
Right Hægri high-kri
Straight ahead Beint áfram bay-nt aw-fram
Turn left Beygja til vinstri bey-jah til vin-stri
Turn right Beygja til hægri bey-jah til high-kri
Bus stop Strætóstoppustöð strigh-toh-stohp
Train station Lestarstöð (there are no trains in Iceland) leh-stah-sturd
Airport Flugvöllur blu-kvojt-lur
Entrance Inngangur inn-gang-gur
Exit Útgangur oot-gang-gur


1 Einn ay-dn
2 Tveir tvay-r
3 Þrír threer
4 Fjórir fee-oh-rir
5 Fimm fim
6 Sex sex
7 Sjö see-uh
8 Átta ow-tah
9 Níu nee-uh
10 Tíu tee-uh
20 Tuttugu tuh-tuh-guh
30 Þrjátíu three-ow-tee-u
40 Fjörutíu fee-uh-ruh-tee-u
50 Fimmtíu fim-tee-u
60 Sextíu sex-tee-u
70 Sjötíu see-uh-tee-u
80 Áttatíu awh-ta-tee-u
90 Nítíu nee-u-tee-u
100 Hundrað hun-tradh


Monday Mánudagur maw-nu-tak-ur
Tuesday Þriðjudagur three-dhyu-tak-ur
Wednesday Miðvikudagur midh-vee-ku-tak-ur
Thursday Fimmtudagur fim-tu-tak-ur
Friday Föstudagur furs-tu-tak-ur
Saturday Laugardagur lur-ee-kar-tak-ur
Sunday Sunnudagur Sun-nu-tak-ur


Help! Hjálp! hya-oolp!
I need a doctor Ég þarf lækni yeh tha-rf lie-kni
I don’t feel well Mér líður ekki vel m-yer lee-thur eh-ki vel
Call the police! Hringið á lögregluna! kring-gith a uk-rek-luna!
Fire! Eldur! el-dur!

Like it? Pin it for later! Icelandic phrases with pronunciation

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Over to you!

Which of these phrases are the most useful? What other languages would you like a travel phrase guide for? Are you planning a trip to Iceland or have already been there?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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