This page covers practical matters for exchange students and important things you should know while planning your trip to Iceland. For more information on studying and living in Iceland, you can also visit www.studyiniceland.is.
We arrange on-campus housing for all exchange students. In the exchange studies application form, please indicate the type of room you would prefer. Most students choose a single room in student apartments (with private bath and shared kitchen), but double rooms are also available for couples. Sharing a room with another exchange student from your home institution is possible so long as you both request this. Your accommodation request will be processed by the Student Housing Authority and will be confirmed a few weeks before your arrival. If you require confirmation of housing to apply for a residence permit, please request a certificate on the exchange studies form.
All rooms include basic furnishings (bed, desk, chair, closet) and have access to a kitchen equipped with pots, dishes, etc. Heating, hot water, electricity, and Internet access are all included in the rent. We can also provide exchange students with bedding on loan from the school. You will be asked to pay the first month's rent the first business day after arrival by bank transfer, cash, or credit card.
Below is the type of room available for exchange students:
17 m² room for one person (private bath, kitchen shared by 6 students)
Bollakot & Vallarkot apartment buildings
For exchange students with children, we also have family apartments (2-room, 3-room and 4-room apartments).
Please contact us with any questions or special housing needs.
The cost of living at Bifröst is somewhat lower than in Reykjavík, as rent in particular is comparatively inexpensive for students at Bifröst. In general, food is relatively expensive in Iceland (especially when eating out), books and alcohol are expensive, and petrol/gasoline costs about the same as in other northern European countries. The cost of living is at least 60.000 ISK per month excluding the rent.
Students at Bifröst do not have to pay for:
For more on the cost of living in Iceland, see the Study in Iceland website.
Bifröst is located in the countryside, 30 km away from the nearest town. With volcanoes, mountains, lava fields, birch forests, a lake and a spectacular waterfall all in walking distance, the surrounding area is a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. The possibilities for outdoor recreational activities are very diverse here. In addition to numerous hiking trails, Bifröst has an on-campus football/soccer field and basketball court, and a golf course is located only minutes away.
For typical big-city pleasures such as theatre, cinema and art exhibitions, one must usually go to Reykjavík. However, it’s hard to be bored at Bifröst! There are many student clubs, and exchange students are welcome to participate. Recent years have seen a chess club, a hiking club, a horse riding club and a fitness club (to name those that are easiest for non-Icelandic speaking students to take part in). Typical of campus universities, students at Bifröst naturally spend a lot of time together and there are endless opportunities for making new friends, as well as frequent lectures, concerts, formal dinners, and informal parties in the school café.
Students are kindly asked to contact the International Office regarding their needs at the time they apply. Bifröst has in effect a non-discrimination policy and will review each case separately and do everything in its power to accommodate special needs students.
The teaching facilities and specially designed apartments in the residential buildings are accessible for persons with disabilities.
Students coming from within the EU/EEA area are covered for health insurance if they bring with them their E111 form or European Health Insurance Card. For detailed information on the Icelandic health care system, consult the Europa website.
Students coming from other parts of the world for a stay of more than 90 days in Iceland will need to buy health insurance from an Icelandic insurance company in order to apply for a residence permit. This insurance is relatively inexpensive by international standards here are links to icelandic insurance companies; TM, VIS, Sjova.
No other insurance is required. Some students may wish to buy accident, theft, damage, or travel insurance. This must be done in their country of origin before arriving in Iceland. In general, we advise students to be careful and think twice before buying extra insurance coverage. Some packages are heavily advertised and marketed but provide little actual benefit.
There is no specific student cafeteria, mensa, or canteen at Bifröst. There is a café which serves full meals at lunch, and hamburgers and hot sandwiches for dinner. However, most students choose to save money and cook their own meals. All apartments and rooms have excellent facilities for cooking. In many apartments students take turns cooking meals, cutting the cost down even more.
There are no medical facilities on campus (except for first aid kits and a trained EMS person). The nearest healthcare centre is in the town of Borgarnes, 30 km from Bifröst. The nearest hospital is in the town of Akranes, approximately 70 km away. In case of a medical emergency, call the national emergency number: 112. Iceland has an excellent standard of medical care.
At Bifröst there is a gym and weight room open to all students, staff and their families. Access is included in the tuition fees, and there are generally regularly organised fitness classes (yoga, spinning, etc.) held over the academic year.
Bifröst has an outdoor football/soccer field and basketball court, and there is a golf course only 5 minutes away. There are also hot-tubs and a sauna for campus residents. There is no indoor sports hall at Bifröst, but students get together twice a week to go to Varmaland (10 min. by car) for a game of football, volleyball or basketball. At Varmaland there is also a larger swimming pool.
By international standards, Bifröst is a very small university. All student affairs matters may be directed to the school administration office. The reception desk is located by the main door of the school. The reception staff will direct enquiries to the appropriate staff member. The office is open weekdays from 09:00-12:00 and 13:00-16.00, and the telephone number is +354 433 3000.
The International Office is dedicated to making exchange students’ stay in Iceland and at Bifrost as enjoyable as possible. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or problems. We are located in the school administration office and open the same hours. You can also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bifröst Student Association, (Nemendafélagið), is an umbrella organisation for all student associations on campus. Membership is free for all students. Other student organisations apply each year to the Student Association for funding. Exchange students have one contact person in the Student Union that they can contact at all times. Students will meet their contact person at the orientation held for exchange students at the beginning of the semester.
Bifröst offers excellent study facilities. Study rooms are open to students 24 hours a day, and students are free to use lecture halls when these are not in use for teaching. The wireless LAN is in operation round the clock and printers and copiers are within easy reach from all over the campus. Teaching/study facilities are accessible for persons with disabilities.
International flights to Iceland land at Keflavík Airport, about 150 km (2 hours’ drive) from Bifröst. After arrival in Keflavík, students should take the flybus to the main bus station in Reykjavík (BSÍ). If arriving late in the day, an overnight in Reykjavík may be necessary because the last bus to Bifröst from Mjodd station is at 5:30pm. In that case, our international coordinator will assist in finding affordable accommodation.
Depending on landing time, students can sometimes jump right on the next bus to Bifröst. However, you might have to wait until the next day to catch a bus from the bus station.
On arriving at Bifröst (often late in the evening), you will get your keys and will be escorted to your room to settle in.
The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK). For current exchange rates, check the Central Bank of Iceland website. Bank notes are in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 ISK. There are coins in denominations of 5, 10, 50, and 100 ISK. Credit and debit cards are widely used and accepted in Iceland.
Iceland enjoys a relatively mild coastal climate, considerably milder than the country’s name implies. During the summer (lasting from early June to mid-September) average temperatures are 12°C, and there are normally a few days in July or August where the daytime high climbs to 25°C. In winter (October to mid-March) temperatures hover around freezing, though one should expect at least a couple of days in January or February when the temperature drops to -8 or -10°C (usually accompanied by bright sunshine).
The Icelandic climate is drier than England or Scotland, and although precipitation (rain or snow) is frequent, it is rarely heavy. Drizzle and snow flurries are more common than downpours and snowstorms. Strong winds are, however, common.
Warm, water- and windproof clothing is a must when packing for Iceland, no matter what time of year you plan to arrive.
Regular banking hours in Iceland are weekdays from 09:15 – 16:00. Banks are generally closed on weekends, but branches in the Kringlan mall in Reykjavík have extended opening hours. Exchange students generally do not need to open a bank account for their stay in Iceland. Credit/debit cards are the dominant method of payment of in Iceland, and most students in Bifröst do all their banking online.
Business hours in Iceland are typically 9:00-17:00 weekdays. There are exceptions to this, in the case of governmental offices, which typically close at 16:00 or even 15:00.
The school administration office at Bifröst is open weekdays from 9:00 – 12:00 and 13:00 – 16:00. The international office is located within the main school office.
Iceland uses 220-volt electricity (like most of Europe) and the plugs are two-pin continental size, as in mainland Europe. Plug adapters and power converters are available in stores in Iceland, but we would advise international students to buy them in their home country before leaving for Iceland.
In Iceland, the vast majority of the population have mobile phones, and there are no phones in student rooms on campus. Foreign exchange students are encouraged to bring their GSM mobile phones with them and then to buy an Icelandic prepaid card which gives them an Icelandic telephone number and a certain amount of starter credit which can then be refilled. The two largest Icelandic GSM carriers are Síminn and Vodafone, and the prepaid cards can be purchased in the arrivals hall at Keflavík Airport (on weekdays, at least) and at the Síminn office in Borgarnes, near Bifröst. Increasingly, though, students are finding Internet-based telephone services like Skype as useful or more useful than a mobile phone card.
All students enrolled at Bifröst will get their own e-mail address, typically something like email@example.com. Exchange students retain their e-mail address for 4 months after their departure from Bifröst. A webmail interface allows students to check their Bifröst e-mail regardless of whether they are on campus or not.
When packing for Iceland, it’s important to keep the weather in mind. Fall and spring term visitors should bring a warm coat, hats, a scarf and gloves and warm leather shoes/boots. In summer, there will be a few days when you will be comfortable in just a T-shirt, but there will also be a few days when the daytime high is around 8-10°C with strong winds. So bring a jacket, hat and gloves, especially if you are planning a hiking trip in the mountains, where the weather can be considerably colder.
Icelanders are fairly casual dressers. For everyday life around campus, just bring whatever you would wear at home. When students go out clubbing or to a school-sponsored dinner they tend to dress up, so it might be a good idea to bring something a little more formal as well.
Exchange students get a comforter (duvet, Bettdecke in German) and pillow on loan from the school. We are also able to loan students a pillow case, comforter cover, and bed sheet. If you prefer to bring your own, note that beds are 90cmx200cm, the standard size of a duvet is 150cmx210cm and the standard size for a pillow is 50cmx60cm.
Please make sure to include towels in your luggage. Towels are not included in your room rental.
Students at Bifröst are expected to have access to a wireless laptop, so don’t forget your laptop if you have one. If necessary, Bifröst can lend you a laptop for the duration of your stay for a modest fee.
A camera and some favourite personal items such as pictures and books will always come in handy. If you are planning to do any travelling while here, bring a sleeping-bag for using in youth hostels – they are much cheaper than staying in hotels.
Orientation for exchange students is generally held on Monday morning in the first week of classes. Students will be introduced to the learning system, facilities, courses and all things necessary for students to excel. Exchange students will be introduced to their personal buddy. The buddy system helps exchange students to integrate into the student community at Bifröst and adapt easily to campus life.
Iceland is very much a country of private cars, but scheduled buses do pass through Bifröst daily.
Because bus service is infrequent and not as convenient as we would like, Bifröst arranges for a car to be at the disposal of its exchange students for trips to the supermarket. The car is free of charge (except for petrol/gas), but if students get in an accident, the driver will be liable for any damage up to the insurance deductible (the point where the insurance company starts to pay). The car will not necessarily seat all exchange students at once, so sharing must be arranged.
To be able to drive a car in Iceland, you have to be at least 17 years of age and hold a valid driving license. Depending on the lease terms, the minimum age for the exchange students’ car may be higher (most likely 20 years).
It is also very common at Bifröst for students and staff to arrange rides to and from Reykjavík or Borgarnes with other students and staff.
Exchange students from the EU/EEA do not need to apply for a visa or Icelandic residence permit. The spring and fall terms at Bifröst last four months and thus do exceed the 90-day period in which EU/EEA citizens are allowed to stay without registering their residency. However, EU/EEA citizens are allowed to stay in Iceland without registering their residency for an extra three months if they are looking for work, and since it is very difficult to determine whether someone is looking for work or not, the Icelandic Directorate of Immigration has not in the past made students from the EU/EEA countries apply for legal domicile in Iceland for a stay of up to six months. So if you are an EU/EEA citizen planning to stay only one term, do not worry about permits. Simply buy your plane ticket and come.
Students from outside the EU/EEA who plan to spend more than 90 days in Iceland need to apply for a residence permit well before their arrival in Iceland.
With the application, you must request that the embassy in your country of residence that handles Icelandic visa matters (generally the Danish embassy) be instructed to issue you a so-called D-visa. Once the residence permit application is approved, the embassy will be notified and you can send your passport to the embassy to receive the D-visa. The D-visa allows you to enter Iceland.
Once entering Iceland, you must register your address with the National Registry (Þjóðskrá) and undergo a very brief medical examination to receive your actual residence permit. The school can help arrange for the medical examination at the clinic in Borgarnes. The initial residence permit is valid for one term and must be renewed if you are staying longer.
There is unfortunately a rather long list of things you will need to do to apply for your student residence permit,and it can take up to 90 days between your application and the approval of your D-visa, which means that you need to start early. See the Directorate of Immigration’s application instructions for the full details. We recommend patience and an early start.
For the most complete and authoritative information on visas and residence permits in Iceland, see the website of Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration(Útlendingastofnun). Some of the information on the site is confusing, but rest assured that the International Office at Bifröst will help all admitted students complete the required paperwork.
Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) year-round and does not observe daylight savings time. The time difference between Iceland and other countries is as follows:
|USA/Canada (East Coast)||-5 hrs||-4 hrs|
|USA/Canada (West Coast)||-8 hrs||-7 hrs|
|UK/Portugal||+1 hrs||0 hrs|
|Denmark/Norway/Sweden||+2 hrs||+1 hrs|
|Finland/Estonia||+3 hrs||+2 hrs|
|Japan||+10 hrs||+9 hrs|
|New Zealand||+13 hrs||+12 hrs|