COVID-19 information

Important information for passengers – reviewed @ 10:45hrs 22nd April 2021

All amendments to bookings will be made free of charge. Should you wish to cancel your booking, you will receive a full refund (up to the point of the date of travel; except if you fail to check-in or notify us of your intention not to travel).

To receive a refund, please phone 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).


Until 26th April 2021 travel in Scotland is allowed but restrictions on overnight stays are in place.

When the rest of Scotland moves to Level 3 on 26th April 2021, Orkney and Shetland will also be at Level 3. From that date, non-essential travel between Mainland Scotland and Orkney and Shetland will be permitted.

We appreciate your custom, however all travel must remain within Government Guidelines.


Message from the Scottish Government on 20th April 2021 – Pre-departure coronavirus testing

To reduce the risk of coronavirus being brought into island communities by people who are unaware they are infectious, the Scottish Government is encouraging anyone planning to travel to a Scottish island to test before they do so. You can order rapid lateral flow tests for delivery to your home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24-48 hours. The Scottish Government recommends that you test three days before you plan to travel and then again on the day of departure. If you are positive, this would allow you to self-isolate before you begin your journey.

Please note that if your test result is negative, this is not a guarantee that you do not have coronavirus. You must continue to follow national and local restrictions, including FACTS guidance. If you develop coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate and book a PCR test.

This is a voluntary scheme and you will not need evidence of a negative test to travel to a Scottish island. However, we would encourage you to participate in order to reduce the risk that you inadvertently carry coronavirus into one of our island communities.


Until 26th April, the following applies:

  • Travel within Scotland for outdoor socialising, recreation and exercise will be allowed.
  • Overnight stays away from your local authority area for this purpose are not permitted. This includes any form of informal overnight camping, including wild camping and stays in camper vans and motor homes.
  • Public transport capacity will continue to be limited. People should not be commencing long journeys, where they will be unable to return home that night, including long haul ferry journeys to Scottish Islands.

Please view our convenient refund policy below and contact us should you need to change your travel plans.


For Refunds

The NorthLink Ferries published cancellation and refunds policy can be found on the terms and conditions webpage. However, in practice we’ve always been flexible regarding this arrangement and give customer refunds without penalty up to the point of the date of travel; except where the customer has failed to check in or notify us of their intention not to travel.

To receive a refund, please phone 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).


Booking and onboard services

To allow physical distancing on board there will be limits to the numbers that can sail, so passengers must book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Bookings can be made online or by phoning 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) or +44 (0)1856 885500 (International).

Many on board services have been suspended, passengers must disembark the vessel upon arrival and visitors to Orkney and Shetland must book island accommodation before arriving.


12 Ways to Travel Safely with NorthLink Ferries

We’ve made some changes to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These are to protect both our passengers and crew.

  1. DO NOT travel if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
  2. Please wear a face covering within our ferry terminals and on board.
  3. Be prepared to answer questions about possible symptoms.
  4. If boarding by car, please ensure your bags are ready to grab and go on the car deck.
  5. Be considerate to other passengers, staff and crew.
  6. Car drivers will be issued a number on boarding to aid with disembarkation.
  7. Don’t block stairwells or passageways.
  8. Our ships are professionally cleaned.
  9. Wash your hands regularly and use sanitizer points.
  10. Please maintain physical distancing with other passengers and crew
  11. In the Feast restaurant, a member of staff will guide you through ordering your food.
  12. Be patient when disembarking and maintain physical distancing when collecting luggage.

Thank you for helping us stop the spread of COVID-19.

Video by Stephen Mercer Productions.


The NHS Scotland Test & Protect tracing app

NorthLink Ferries encourage all passengers to download the NHS Scotland Test & Protect tracing app at https://protect.scot.

The app, when downloaded to your phone, will alert you when you have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The app uses minimal data, works in the background using bluetooth and does not store any personal data from you.


Additional important information for users of our services:

  • Our passenger and freight vessel services are currently continuing as per our timetable.
  • In these challenging times our normal service offering has been suspended:
    • Passengers must disembark the vessel upon arrival in Aberdeen and Lerwick, Stromness and Scrabster
    • A reduced food and drink service is available but the on board bars are closed.
    • Alcohol sales have been suspended.
    • The cinema, Magnus’ Lounge, children’s play area and car valet service have been suspended.
    • The car valet service has been suspended.
    • For the Hamnavoe Bed and Breakfast offer, passengers must drive their cars on board the ship themselves, either between 20:00 and 20:30 the evening before sailing, or at 05:45 on the morning.
    • Passengers without cabin accommodation are encouraged to book a sleeping pod or reclining seat as it is not permittable to sleep on the deck or on bench seating on board.
  • There are new physical distancing markings, barriers and signs, as well as extra hand sanitation points in our terminals and on board our ships.
  • We remind our passengers to practice physical distancing on board and please adhere to hand washing guidelines at all times.
  • Face coverings must be worn in the public areas on board the ferry at all times, the only exception to this is whilst in the act of eating or drinking.
  • We are undertaking extra cleaning and sanitation in our terminals and on board our vessels.
  • For your reassurance, our ventilation system is on full fresh air and there is no re-circulation of air through the internal accommodation on board.
  • NorthLink Ferries have been working closely with the Government and National Health Service professionals and are following all guidance issued.
  • We plan for and practice for such events on a regular basis as part of our business continuity regime, current developments however have required us to translate these plans into action and we have been active in managing this risk since late January.
  • We will continue to liaise with our key haulier contacts to ensure we have full visibility on any changing trends or demands for freight both to or from both Shetland and Orkney.
  • Government advice changes according to latest developments and you should ensure you are aware of and adhere to any advice given by the authorities or by the Ships Master or crew whilst on-board any of our ships.

Read visitor information about COVID-19 from www.orkney.com and www.shetland.org