The ongoing coronavirus pandemic across the UK means there are still restrictions and safety measures in place in Shetland to prevent the spread of the virus. If you are travelling to Shetland, please take the time to read the following guidance.

Updated 10th November 2020

FAQs on travelling to Shetland in winter 2020

  • Is Shetland open for tourism?

    While Shetland hasn’t had many confirmed cases of COVID-19, the threat of the virus is still very real. We must continue to follow the Scottish Government's advice to stay safe, protect others and save lives.

    Shetland has a long history of welcoming visitors from all over the world to our island home and tourism is an important part of our economy. We love meeting people! But, for the time being at least, we've had to make a few changes.

    Social distancing restrictions mean that many shops, restaurants, cafes and attractions simply can't return to business as usual. We must also be mindful of our elderly and vulnerable population and this means putting restrictions in place about where people travel and how.

    Please don’t think badly of us when we ask you to think carefully when planning your trip. The last thing we want is for you to be disappointed when you get here. With this in mind, we’ve put together this list of FAQs to answer your queries.

    And remember, this guidance could change depending on the latest COVID-19 situation in the rest of the country. Please keep an eye on our website and social media for the latest updates.

  • Can I travel to Shetland?

    We look forward to warmly welcoming you to Shetland but we don't want you to be disappointed. At present, nobody should travel to Shetland from a Level 3 or Level 4 local authority area in Scotland, unless it's for essential purposes.

    England, Wales and Northern Ireland are subject to their own restrictions, so please ensure you follow the advice relevant to your area. It is essential, however, that you please adhere to the latest Scottish Government guidance, which given the state of the pandemic across the UK, recommends that people avoid any unnecessary travel between Scotland and England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

    This applies to people who live in Scotland and to people who live elsewhere in the UK who are thinking of coming to Scotland and/or Shetland.

    If you’re in an area where travel is permitted (currently Levels 0, 1 and 2 in Scotland) and are thinking of visiting us in the coming weeks and months, please read all of the latest official Scottish Government and NHS Scotland guidelines before deciding to travel.

    If you do have to make a journey to Shetland, please see the NorthLinkand Loganair websites for the latest ferry and air travel updates.

    If you are planning to visit Shetland by yacht or small boat, please see the latest guidance from Shetland Islands Council.

  • What happens if I get coronavirus symptoms while staying in Shetland?

    Should you, a family member or someone in your travel party feel unwell and display any of the common coronavirus symptoms, please don’t ignore the situation. It’s really important that you self-isolate immediately. Contact your accommodation provider and NHS Shetland to request a test. Please note that the testing system in Shetland is different, so please do not use the national website to request a test.

    If your symptoms worsen and you’re unsure what to do, contact NHS24 on 111 for advice. Or, if you think it’s an emergency, do not hesitate: call 999 and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.

    Please also be aware that if you are contact traced while visiting Shetland, you will be asked to remain in Shetland and self-isolate for 14 days. Find out more about contact tracing on the NHS Inform website.

  • Can I travel around freely when I get to Shetland?

    If you plan on visiting any of the outlying Shetland islands you will need to pre-book your journeys. Details can be found on the Shetland Island Council’s Ferry Services website. You will also need to pre-pay for your ferry journeys in advance by applying for an Account Card. This applies to both car and foot passengers. Again, all the information to do this is on the Ferry Services website.

    Public buses run to and from various locations across Shetland and you can visit the ZetTrans website for the latest timetables. There’s also the option to hire cars and bikes.

    While we don’t want to actively discourage people from travelling around, we again ask you to be mindful of the people in our rural and island communities. Avoid travelling completely if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. If you do travel, ensure you wear face masks on public transport at all times (ferries, buses, flights and taxies) and respect social distancing guidelines.

  • Will anything be open?

    Even though lockdown restrictions have eased, not all accommodation, shops, pubs, restaurants, tour operators and visitor attractions are open for business as usual. Like other tourist destinations across Scotland, some businesses have taken the decision to remain closed for 2020 or for the time being at least, while others are operating to limited opening hours. To avoid disappointment, check before your travel if the shops and attractions you are planning to visit will be open and book ahead where possible. You can do this by checking their dedicated websites or social media.

  • We are staying in self-catering accommodation. What is the best way to shop for groceries?

    Lots of our smaller independent shops adapted quickly to the COVID-19 situation, offering social distancing measures in-store and/or delivery services. They also tend to stock a good range of local produce, such as meat, fish, seafood and dairy, meaning you can get a real taste of Shetland during your stay. Supporting local retailers while you can will ensure that your money stays within the Shetland economy, which is really important during these challenging economic times. Check the Taste of Shetland website for more information on our island produce. Of course, if you do need your supermarket fix, we have those too! Just remember that it’s compulsory to wear a face mask in all shops across Shetland, as per the Scottish Government guidelines.

  • Can I enjoy Shetland’s natural environment?

    Yes, of course. Our beaches, coastline and viewpoints are free and open to everyone. While our natural beauty spots are much quieter than other places in the UK, there will still be people around, so be respectful of others and maintain social distancing.

    We’re also encouraging everyone who is out and about enjoying Shetland’s coast and countryside to be considerate. These are challenging and anxious times for everyone, so it’s more important than ever to be respectful of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and avoid acting dangerously or irresponsibly.

    A few things to be mindful of:

    • Enjoy walks and cycle routes but please be respectful of private property and stick to designated routes and footpaths.
    • If you have to use gates or stiles, use gloves or hand sanitiser.
    • Use a gate where one has been provided and leave it as you find it. This means if it's closed when you find it, make sure it's closed again when you leave it. This is really important as it can prevent livestock from escaping.
    • Do not light fires or BBQs on farmland or open moorland.
    • Dog owners must keep their dogs on leads at all times.
    • Remember to take all your litter home with you.
  • Should I visit Shetland now or postpone my trip?

    It’s entirely up to you! Our borders are open to those in areas of the country where travel is permitted and that means you are welcome. Local businesses and services have worked extremely hard to prepare for visitors and please rest assured that when you get here, we’ll keep you as safe and healthy as possible. We want you to enjoy every minute of your Shetland experience.

    But, if you’d prefer to wait a while and see how the COVID-19 situation develops in the coming weeks, then that’s perfectly understandable too. Shetland is open all year round.

    If you have any further questions, please do get in touch via our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages, or drop us an email to info@shetland.org