Travel Information

Before your holiday, you are likely to have lots of questions. Preparing for your holiday involves checking lots of basic facts and having many questions answered. In addition, it is good to be aware of basic rules, such as the Country Code.

Preparing For Your Holiday

Doing Your Homework - There are many aspects which you will want to consider when planning your holiday to Shetland. This site is packed full of information to help plan your holiday to Shetland. In addition, there are various printed materials which you can request for free from the local Visitor Information Centre.

  • Accommodation - Choose from an extensive list of accommodation available in locations all across Shetland.
  • Travel to Shetland - With options by sea or by air, and with connections from all major Scottish cities, access could not be easier.
  • Travel within Shetland - Thanks to excellent roads, reliable and economical ferry services, and good public transport, getting around Shetland is straightforward, however you choose to travel.
  • Eating and Drinking - The Shetland larder is well-stocked with delicious things, so whether you choose to eat out or self-cater, you can eat very well.
  • Activities and Entertainment - You won’t be short of things to do when you’re in Shetland. With several festivals each year and a host of other events in the calendar, there’s something to appeal to everyone.
  • Tours and Trips - You can see Shetland under your own steam, of course, but taking one of the tours and trips that are available can help you get even more out of your holiday, especially when it comes to seeing wildlife.
  • Crafts, Gifts and Souvenirs - Some beautiful craft work is produced in Shetland. You may want to visit some of the craft workers featured in the popular Craft Trail. Local shops stock a good range of gifts and souvenirs.
  • Equipment and Clothing - Some special interests and activities may need specialist equipment and clothing. Contact us to find out which shops can cater for your needs.

View the Shetland Vistor Online

Before you travel you might be interested in viewing the Shetland Visitor online, alternatively you can pick up the free printed brochure when you arrive.

The guide introduces the various islands and mainland areas, and gives some practical details as well as information on the history, people, wildlife and culture.

A-Z

  • Banking - Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday from 0900-1700. Automatic Teller Machines are situated outside all banks, at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, the Sound Service Station and the Tesco supermarket in Lerwick.
  • Bureau de Change - Bureau de Change facilities are available at the Visitor Information Centre, the Post Office on Commercial Street in Lerwick, banks and some hotels.
  • Credit Cards - Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept major credit cards.
  • Currency - British currency is the pound sterling (£), divided into 100 pence (p). Banknotes issued in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland are all legal tender in the UK.
  • Customs and Duty Free - For information regarding customs and duty free allowances, please contact HM Customs and Excise. Shetland, along with the rest of the UK, is within the European Union.
  • Driving in the UK - Driving is on the left hand side of the road. To drive in the UK, you must have a current driving licence. If you are driving your own car, please check you are properly insured prior to travel.
  • Emergency Services - For Police, Fire Brigade, Ambulance or Coastguard, dial 999. The operator will ask you which service you require and will put you through. These calls are free.
  • Health Care - EU citizens are entitled to free or reduced cost medical treatment at National Health Service hospitals. With the exception of accident and emergency treatment, all non-EU members will be charged for medical treatment and must have adequate health insurance when travelling.
  • Local Radio - BBC Radio Shetland broadcasts on 92.7 FM, Monday to Friday at 1730-1800, and the local commercial station, SIBC, broadcasts on 96.2 FM around the clock. We also run a 60 North Radio.
  • Pets - It is possible to take pets with you to Shetland. Both NorthLink Ferries and Loganair can cater for pets; however, certain regulations must be met. Find out more about Loganair's conditions here and NorthLink's here. Before travelling to Shetland, you should make sure that your pet will be welcome at your chosen accommodation. It should also be noted that pets are generally not allowed on local buses (unless in an emergency, but operators should be contacted directly) or taxis. Should you wish to leave your dog while you explore Shetland, there are kennel facilities in Tingwall, Central Mainland. Please contact Gwen Robertson on 01595 840 330.
  • Postal Services - Most post offices are open Monday to Friday 0900-1700 and Saturday 0900-1230 with stamps available from most stationery shops and Visitor Information Centres.
  • Telephone Services - Most public telephones accept coins (10p, 20p, 50p, £1) but do not give change. You can purchase BT phonecards in denominations of £2, £3, £5, £10 and £20. Many phones also accept credit cards.
  • There is mobile phone coverage in most of Shetland, but coverage does vary by operator. Vodafone and O2 have the most extensive networks. Other operators' services are more limited.
  • Travel Insurance - It is strongly recommended that visitors to the UK arrange travel insurance to cover travel disruption, the loss of possessions and money as well as health and dental treatment.
  • Visitor Information Centres - The main Visitor Information Centre is situated in Lerwick town centre at the Market Cross. There is an additional centre at Sumburgh airport and several Information Points located across Shetland.

Local Information

Remember to take advantage of our network of Visitor Information Points located all around Shetland.

Information points are based in existing visitor facilities. As well as supplying a range of printed information, they are staffed by local people who have a wealth of knowledge about their area who will be happy to provide information and advice. Visitor Information Points' services are available May - September (most will be open in October by prior appointment).

Unst
Unst Heritage Centre, Haroldswick, Unst, Tel: 01957 711 528
1 May - 30 September. Open: Mon-Sun, 11am-5pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01957 755 244).

Yell
Old Haa Museum, Burravoe, Yell, Tel: 01957 722 339
1 May - 30 September. Open: Tues-Thurs & Sat, 10am-4pm; Sun, 2pm-5pm.

Fetlar
Fetlar Interpretive Centre, Beach of Houbie, Fetlar, Tel: 01957 733 206
1 May - 30 September. Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-4pm; Sat & Sun, 12.30pm-4pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01957 733 369).

Whalsay
Whalsay Heritage Centre, Symbister, Whalsay, Tel: 01806 566 397
1 May - 30 September. Open: Wed & Fri-Sun, 2pm-5pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01806 566 422, 01806 566 465 or 01806 566 523).

Northmavine
Tangwick Haa Museum, Tangwick, Eshaness, Tel: 01806 503 389
17 April - 30 September. Open: Mon-Sun, 11am-5pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01806 503 347).

Delting, Lunnasting & Nesting
The Cabin Museum, Vidlin, Tel: 01806 577 243
1 May - 30 September. Open: Tues, Thurs, Sat & Sun, 1pm-5pm.

Central Mainland
Scalloway Museum, Castle Street, Scalloway, Tel: 01595 880 512
1 May - 30 September. Open: Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm; Sun 2pm-4pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01595 880 512).

Shetland Jewellery, Soundside, Weisdale, Tel: 01595 830 275
1 May - 30 September. Open: Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm; Fri 9am-4pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 2pm-5pm (only open weekends in June-August).

Bressay
Bressay Heritage Centre, Leiraness, Bressay, Tel: 01595 820 750
1 May - 30 September. Open: Tues, Wed, Fri & Sat, 10am-4pm; Sun, 11am-5pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01595 820 368 or 01595 820 362).

South Mainland
Hoswick Visitor Centre, Hoswick, Sandwick, Tel: 01950 431 406
1 May - 30 September. Open: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun 11am-5pm. Open in October by appointment (tel: 01950 431 284).

Quendale Water Mill, Quendale, Dunrossness, Tel: 01950 460 969
16 April - 14 October. Open: Mon-Sun, 10am-5pm. Open in late October by appointment (tel: 01950 460 550).

Fair Isle
Fair Isle Bird Observatory, Fair Isle, Tel: 01595 760 258
1 May - 31 October. Open: Mon-Sun, 9am-5pm.

FAQs

Do I need a passport? If you are coming from the UK mainland, you will not need a passport. If you are arriving from outwith the UK (for example, flying from Norway) you will need one.

You will need photographic ID in order to check in for your Loganair flight to or from Sumburgh airport, but you do not require it in order to board the NorthLink ferry at Aberdeen or Kirkwall (or at Lerwick on your return journey).

What currency do I need? British pounds sterling.

What's the weather like? Weather in Shetland can be changeable. Conditions can alter quickly so if you are out walking it is as well to carry warm and waterproof clothing. For detailed information on Shetland's weather click here.

What are shop opening hours? Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday 0900 to 1700. Some close on Wednesdays. Several shops stay open later for special occasions and cruise ship visits.

Do you need permission to go walking? No - but adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

When can I see puffins? From mid April to mid August.

Where can I see Shetland ponies? Ponies can be seen grazing by the road at many locations in Shetland such as Gulberwick (just south of Lerwick), Tingwall (just north of Lerwick), the South Mainland, West Mainland and the island of Unst. Get more information on Shetland Ponies.

Where can I hear traditional music in Shetland? Visit one of the award winning Simmer n' Sessions, summer exhibition or one of the annual music festivals.

Where can I eat Shetland produce? Most of the eateries around Shetland use Shetland produce in their meals and especially during the Food Festival there is more emphasis on serving Shetland produce. Find out more about Shetland food.

When can I see the 'Northern Lights'? We have detailed advice about seeing the 'Northern Lights' (or aurora borealis) here. The best time is in late autumn and winter it's much easier to see them if you're away from brightly-lit areas such as Lerwick, Scalloway or Brae.

​Useful international dialling codes:

  • Australia 0061
  • Austria 0043
  • Brazil 0055
  • Czech Republic 00420
  • Denmark 0045
  • Egypt 0020
  • Faroe Islands 00298
  • Finland 00358
  • France 0033
  • Germany 0049
  • Gibraltar 00350
  • Greece 0030
  • Greenland 00290
  • Hong Kong 00852
  • Iceland 00354
  • Italy 0039
  • Japan 0081
  • Mexico 0052
  • The Netherlands 0031
  • Norway 0047
  • Spain 0034
  • Sweden 0046
  • USA 001

Can I bring my dog? Yes, but your dog is not allowed on the National Nature Reserves and certain beaches. All other areas are at the landowner's discretion.

Can my dog go on the bus? Generally dogs are not allowed on local buses but exceptions may be made in an emergency. Please contact service operators direct.

Do midges present a problem in Shetland? Not very often.

Who can drive a vehicle in Shetland? You must be 17 to drive on a public highway in Britain. If you do not have a British driving licence, a current International Driving Permit may be used. In Britain - and in Shetland - driving is on the left hand side of the road. Shetland has many single track roads, so the 'passing places' in rural areas must be used to allow approaching drivers to pass. Furthermore, it is advisable to pull into one of the many passing places to let other drivers overtake - particularly if you wish to take your time and take in the scenery.

What are the vehicle speed limits? The speed limits are usually: 30 miles per hour in built up areas. 60 miles per hour on all other roads.

Nowhere in Shetland does the speed limit exceed 60 mph. There are some areas where there are limits of 40mph or 50mph. You will also find 20mph speed limits in some housing estates.

Near schools, the speed limit is reduced to 20mph at school opening and closing times, and this is indicated by signs and flashing lights. Elsewhere, remember that children may be at play: our children run wild and free with a sense of adventure, so please take care.

How much can I drink before I drive? In Britain there are severe penalties for people who drink and drive. The current legal limit is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The most suitable advice is if you're going to drive, you simply DO NOT drink.

Do I require insurance to drive? All drivers must have at least third party insurance. Holidaymakers are strongly advised to take out adequate medical insurance before travelling to Britain.

When are the public holidays in Shetland?

  • New Year's Day - Thursday 1st January 2015
  • Bank Holiday - Friday 2nd January 2015
  • Day after Up Helly Aa - 29th January 2015 ***NOTE - This is not an official public holiday but many local businesses are closed
  • Good Friday - Friday 17th April 2015
  • Easter Monday - Monday 20st April 2015
  • May Day Bank Holiday - Monday 4th May 2015
  • Spring Bank Holiday - Monday 25th May 2015
  • Summer Bank Holiday - Monday 24th August 2015
  • Christmas Day - Friday 25th December 2015
  • Boxing Day - Saturday 26th December 2015
  • The Visitor Information Centres in Lerwick and Sumburgh Airport do not close for public holidays, other than Christmas and New Year.

Who should I contact in an emergency? If you need the service of the police, ambulance, fire brigade, or coastguard - use any telephone and dial 999. The call will be free. It is important that you obtain the names and addresses of anyone involved and any witnesses. Never leave the scene of an accident, whether you were involved or not. You must contact the police if any injury or harm has been done to another party. It is advisable to contact the police should you have any doubt over cause or blame for the accident.

What are the electricity supply specifications? You should ensure that any electrical equipment you bring with you, e.g. travelling irons, hairdryers, shavers, etc, can be used on British voltage. The standard voltage is 230V AC, 50Hz.

Voltage converters are available to buy in various shops in Shetland.

Should I tip? There are no fixed rules about how much to tip - if you feel you have received good service, you may wish to express your appreciation accordingly. It is usually customary to leave 10% of the bill, if a service charge has not been included.

Are there any public telephones in Shetland? Shetland has many public telephones. The minimum charge per call is 20p, or 1 unit on a phone card. Phone cards are available from the Lerwick Visitor Information Centre and Post Office, Commercial Street, Lerwick.

If having difficulty finding a telephone number dial 118 888 to speak to directory enquiries, (this will incur a charge). If you have access to the internet, you can also search for a telephone number online, for which there is no charge.

How do I make an international call? International calls in Britain are a lot cheaper than in many other countries. There is also the added convenience of direct dialling, i.e. you do not need to use the operator. To make international calls simply add the destination country code before the telephone number. For international directory enquiries, call 118 899 (there will be a charge for this service).

Is there free WiFi in Shetland? The Shetland Islands Council provide many free public connections throughout the isles which you can find at all SIC buildings including:

  • SIC Inter Island Ferry Terminals
  • Shetland Museum & Archives
  • Sumburgh Airport
  • Most Visitor Centres
  • Northlink Ferries and Terminals

If you do not have your own laptop or mobile device you visit the Shetland Library and enquire for free internet use during your visit or try the Internet Cafe, 11 Market Street, Lerwick +44 (0)1595 695026.

Almost all visitor accommodation includes free WiFi (check when booking) and you will also find free access at most cafes and restaurants throughout the isles.

What banks have branches in Shetland? Five banks, including the major Scottish ones, have branches in Shetland, i.e. Halifax Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank, TSB and Santander. All of these have external 24-hour cash dispensers (auto-tellers).

There is a free cash dispenser at the Tesco supermarket in Lerwick. You can also find cash dispensers (charges will apply) at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre, Lerwick; Sound Service Station, Lerwick; and Sumburgh Airport, Sumburgh.

How can I cash a cheque? A cheque can be cashed in any bank provided it is covered by a cheque card or appropriate credit card. However, the banks charge different fees for this service.

Are credit cards accepted at many places? All five banks accept all forms of Mastercard cards, Visa cards, Switch cards and most Eurocards.Credit cards are widely accepted at shops, restaurants, hotels and other outlets.

Where can I use travellers cheques? All the banks offer a similar service. Any amount of travellers cheques may be cashed and any foreign currency exchanged for sterling. Most banks keep a stock of commonly used currency, however if you require more than they stock they can order more and it can be with you in a few days.

Small amounts of foreign currency and travellers cheques may be exchanged at the Lerwick Visitor Information Centre, Market Cross, Lerwick. In addition, some shops in Lerwick do accept foreign currency as payment for goods.

Country Code - Shetland is famed for its natural beauty and wildlife. Please help us keep it that way and ensure your own safety by following these simple guidelines.

  • Use stiles and gates to cross fences and walls. Fasten all gates you have opened.
  • Ask permission to enter crofting and agricultural land.
  • Keep to paths across crofting and agricultural land. Take particular care not to walk through fields of cultivated grass as this is a very important crop in Shetland.
  • Avoid disturbing the livestock, especially at lambing time. Obey any notices forbidding dogs.
  • Do not leave litter and guard against all risk of fire.
  • Be careful not to pollute water supplies.
  • Do not disturb nesting birds, especially those which nest on the ground.
  • Respect wildlife and refrain from picking wild flowers.
  • Drive carefully, particularly on single-track roads.
  • Exercise consideration when parking on country roads and be careful not to obstruct access roads.
  • Take care when walking along cliff tops as the edges can be crumbly and dangerous.
  • Walkers should always take warm clothes. Wind and waterproof clothing and wear strong shoes or boots.
  • Let someone know where you are walking.
  • Respect the life of the countryside.
Add to
My Shetland
collection
Back to Plan Your Trip