Frequently asked questions

A guide to using our ferries - queries answered

Click on the links below for advice.

Before I travel?

Do I need to Book?

On services to Fair Isle, Papa Stour and Skerries booking is essential. There are some timetabled sailings on these routes that only sail if a booking exists.

You should book for both foot and vehicle travel.

No bookings are taken for the Bressay Service – just turn up and go.

All other routes (with the exception of late nights and early mornings) operate regardless of bookings – However, as these routes are often very busy, we strongly recommend that you book your vehicle travel.

Passengers, Car/Van (<5.5m), Trailer and Caravan bookings for Bluemull, Yell and Whalsay can be made at Online Bookings or through the booking office on 01595 745804.

Vehicles over 5.5m in length or passengers not wanting to register for an account should book through the booking office.

Do I need photo ID?


How do I complain, make a suggestion or provide feedback?

Feedback forms are placed on all our vessels for you to pass on your comments. You can also use the contact pages on our website.

Can I get up-to-date information on your services?

Each ferry route has a dedicated Voicebank. These voicebanks are updated by Masters on the route with the latest sailing information. You can also subscribe to SMS/Email alerts.

Find details of the Voicebanks and Service Alerts


How to pay

When do I pay?

We collect fares onboard the ferry – during the crossing. Drivers should remain with their vehicles until their fare has been collected.

How do I pay?

You can either pay with cash, contactless, chip and pin, cheque or account card.

Can I pay by Credit Card onboard the ferry?


Is there any kind of Island Rover Ticket?

No therre is currently no kind of Island Rover Ticket available

Why are some routes “return” only fares while others are “single” only fares?

The following routes have return fares: Yell, Whalsay, Bressay, Papa Stour and Skerries. Fares are collected going from Mainland Shetland to the isles. No fares are collected leaving the islands.

The following route has single fares:  Fair Isle. Fares are collected in both directions. The reason for single fares on these routes is that these islands are also served by scheduled inter-island air services.

Are push-bikes carried free of charge?

Yes, all you pay is the appropriate passenger fare. Although they may be considered as “cargo” on the Fair Isle route.

Is VAT charged on fares?

VAT is only charged on cargo/parcels, commercial vehicles and buses and coaches with no passengers onboard.

Can I buy tickets online?

Tickets are not available online


Booking and timetables

What can I do if I cannot understand the timetable?

The Booking Staff are always happy to help you with your queries and assist you in you making your travel plans call the Booking Office

Alternatively, email ferries@shetland.gov.uk

What does “Day Vessel” and “Shift Vessel” on the timetable mean?

On some routes we have vessels of differing sizes operating at the same time. These are known as the “Day Vessel” (usually operating for 12 hours per day) and the “Shift Vessel” (usually operating 18 to 24 hours per day)

Haulage, Civil Engineering and Contractors use this information to know which vessel/sailing to book in order to get their larger vehicles, cranes, pieces of equipment and plant on and off the islands.

For customers travelling on foot or with cars, caravans, these terms are not important.

Can I change a booking?

Yes Bookings can be changed through the booking office.


Arriving at the terminal

I am a vehicle driver or passenger, what do I do when I arrive at the terminal?

All our Terminals are unmanned. The car marshalling areas are marked for ‘Booked’ and ‘Unbooked’ traffic. Take a little time to ensure that you enter the correct lane.

Our terminals have waiting facilities for foot passengers.

Which Lane do I use?

All our terminals are different. But there will be a ‘Booked’ and ’Unbooked’ Lane. Take a little time to familiarise yourself and use the appropriate one. If in doubt, ask a member of the crew for advice once the ferry arrives.

Some terminals also have lanes for booked and unbooked commercial traffic.

The Bressay Service has no bookings, so you can queue in any lane.

Vehicles using the Bluemull Service need to pay particular attention, as there are lanes at Gutcher and Belmont for booked and unbooked traffic to two different islands. If in doubt, you should approach a member of the ferry crew to get advice on which lane to use.

Is there any form of check in?

No, all our terminals are unmanned and vehicles have to queue in the appropriate lane.

The crew will load vehicles at approximately five minutes to sailing time.

For foot passenegrs only: If a ferry is berthed and the gate is open, you are free to board, if instructed to do so by a member of the crew. (Vehicle drivers must wait with their vehicles in the appropriate Lane until instructed to board the ferry.)



What is the maximum weight and length of vehicle that we can carry?

All our routes, with the exception of Papa Stour and Fair Isle can handle a 44 tonne full-articulated unit. Skerries can handle a 34 tonne full-articulated unit.

The Papa Stour service cannot handle vehicles beyond 15 metres and 17 tonnes, while the Fair Isle service can only carry two cars or vans.

We can carry larger and longer loads on all routes by special arrangement. For more details and information, please contact the Booking Office

Are there any height restrictions on your vessels?

Most of our vessels are limited to around 4.5 to 4.8 metres. We can work around height restrictions depending on circumstances. For details and information, please contact the Booking Office

Why do vehicles not always get boarded in the order in which they are queued?

On most routes, vehicles may be boarded out of sequence in order to make best use of the limited deck space we have.

We also have to load commercial vehicles in order to keep the vessels properly trimmed and stable.

On the Yell Route, onward traffic to Bluemull Sound may be loaded prior to other traffic.

Why are vehicles not loaded before 5 minutes?

Because not all traffic is booked, we wait until five minutes to sailing time, in case any large or heavy unbooked vehicles need loading and stowed on deck in accordance with stability criteria.

In addition, people who are booked do not want to spend an excessive amount of time waiting to be loaded. If we load the ferry with more than five minutes to sailing time, then booked vehicles have to turn up all the earlier to ensure they are carried.

On Yell Sound, loading with more than five minutes creates problems for onward traffic to Bluemull Sound.

What happens if I arrive after 5 minutes to the sailing time and loading has commenced?

If this occurs, you should join the back of the appropriate queue. Depending on the amount of booked and unbooked vehicles you may or may not be boarded.

Once vehicles have left their queue to commence boarding, or have boarded, they will not be removed from the vessel.

It is important that you are in the queue by five minutes to the sailing time.

It is important to us and to you that the vessel leaves on time

Can I remain in my vehicle on passage?

You may stay in your vehicle during the passage, so long as that passage does not normally exceed 30 minutes in duration.

In practice, this means that you cannot stay in your vehicle on the Skerries or Fair Isle route.


What if I need assistance?

I am disabled or have reduced mobility, where can I get information or advice?

For further information, please contact the Booking Office to discuss your requirements. We will be happy to do what we can to help.

How should I advise the crew that I need assistance?

Our general advice is to flash your hazard warning lights when the Loading Officer starts to load the vessel. We can then ensure that where lifts are fitted, we can place you close by.

If you or a member of your party would rather inform a member of the crew face-to-face, please feel free to do so.


General and route specific information

Can all the ferries carry cars?

All our ferries carry cars, but the Fair Isle ferry is not ro-ro. She can only carry two cars and these have to be craned onboard.

Other routes are roll on/roll off and can carry between 6 and 32 cars per sailing.

Why does the Whalsay service operate from two terminals?

The Whalsay service usually sails from Laxo (Mainland) to Symbister (Whalsay). However, this route is relatively exposed from eastern through southerly winds and swells. As such, during periods where strong winds occur from a easterly through southerly direction, then the service will divert and sail from Vidlin (Mainland) to Symbister (Whalsay).

How do I know whether to use the Laxo or Vidlin Terminals for the Whalsay Service?

In inclement weather, the service is most likely to be operating from Vidlin. It takes about 5 minutes to drive the extra distance from Laxo to Vidlin, with the sea crossing taking 10 to 15 miuntes longer. Details of which terminal is in use is displayed on electronic message boards at the Laxo terminal entrance and at the three Whalsay route terminals. Voicebank updates reagrding route information are available, 24 hours a day, Voicebanks.

Can I take photographs on board?

Yes, snap away!

Are there toilets available?

All our vessels have toilets. Not all our ferries have disabled toilets.

Are there baby changing facilities on board?

Our newer ferries, Daggri, Dagalien, Filla and Linga all have baby changing facilities. The older vessels do not.

Are there showers on board?


Are there cabins on board?


If I leave my car on the vehicle deck should I put it in gear?

Yes, and handbrake on!

Are any refreshments available on board?

Most of our vessels have tea, coffee and soft drink vending machines, some have snack machines.

Can I use a mobile phone on board?

You may use your mobile in Passenger Saloon and on outer decks.

You must not use your mobile whilst on the car deck.

Please note that the police may consider the deck of a ferry as an extension of the road and may charge anyone at the wheel of a car on a ferry and using a phone.

How long does it take to drive from Ulsta to Gutcher?

Around 25 minutes.

What can I see and do while on my visit to the islands?

See destination guides

Please also take time to look at the tourist information onboard. The Booking Offices will also be pleased to help out with any queries that you may have.

Can I travel with pets?

Yes, but If not kept within a vehicle, or on the car deck, domestic animals and pets may only be kept on car deck level passenger accommodation, except for guide dogs.

Do any bus services link to ferry departures or arrivals?

Bus timetables can be found at below link:

Is food and drink available onboard?

Most of our vessels have tea, coffee and soft drink vending machines, some have snack machines.

Are there waiting rooms for foot passengers?

The majority of our terminals have waiting facilities.

Ulsta (Yell Sound/South Yell) has a bus shelter and toilets. All others have waiting rooms.

There is also a privately run café at Gutcher (Bluemull Sound/North Yell)

What facilities do they have?

Most of our onshore facilities are 1970’s prefab accommodation, consisting of a small waiting room and toilets. They are small and functional.

Vidlin, West Burrafirth, Fetlar and Papa Stour have small modern waiting facilities and toilets.

None of our terminals are manned or have any provision for serving food or refreshments.

Lerwick Terminal is in the town centre.

Bressay is 5 minutes walk from Maryfield House Hotel.

Grutness is close to the airport for food and refreshments.

Vidlin and Symbister are both 5 minutes walk from a shop.

Skerries has a shop within a minutes walk.

All others have no services close to hand.

Can I leave luggage?

We have no facility at this time to leave luggage

Is there any accommodation on the island?

Most Islands have accommodation.

The Booking Staff will be happy to impart their local knowledge to assist you.



Where is smoking permitted?

Smoking is not permitted onboard at any time. You may smoke within the terminal area, but not within any building.

Where can I find out about safety procedures?

Upon departure, a brief audio safety message will play. This will state what to do in the event of an emergency. This is supplemented on some vessels with a video.

We also have aircraft style safety cards and numerous notices throughout the vessel.

You should take time during the voyage to familiarise yourself with these.

How do I know the ships are safe? (MCA Certificates)

Our ships are operated and maintained to the highest standards. Our crews are highly trained and experienced. We conduct an array of drills and exercises to ensure that we can be as prepared as possible in the event on an incident.

Our vessels, crews and operation are audited annually by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. This is to ensure we maintain our standards and that our service complies with international safety management standards.

Certification of this can be viewed in Passenger Saloons.

Can I carry Dangerous Goods such as a gas bottle on my motorhome?

Yes, providing these are for personal use and not business use. However, all items, such as gas bottles must be declared to the Loading Officer.

Further guidance on Dangerous Goods can be found in our Terms and Conditions of carriage..


Terms and Conditions of Carriage

Where can I find out more regarding your Terms and Conditions of Carriage?

View our Terms and Conditions of Carriage

Do I need travel insurance and breakdown cover?

We advise all passengers to indemnify themselves by way of suitable travel or vehicle insurance.