A breakdown of the costs of a campervan trip to Shetland
Having embarked on a fantastic adventure through the breathtaking landscapes of Shetland with my trusty campervan, I have frequently been asked questions regarding the expenses incurred during such a trip.
Bringing a campervan to Shetland is an excellent way to enjoy a holiday in this incredible region as you can save money whilst also gaining flexibility and freedom to explore at your own pace.
Situated a 14-hour ferry ride away from mainland Scotland, Shetland has always been a place I wanted to visit. Before going to Shetland, I was particularly interested in understanding the costs associated with campervan trip essentials like food, fuel, and campsites in this distinctive region.
Drawing from my personal experience on a 5-day and 4-night itinerary, I can provide you with a comprehensive breakdown of the costs I incurred during my memorable time in Shetland. As an avid van traveller, I have always enjoyed the convenience of purchasing groceries and cooking my own meals, allowing me to experience the freedom and flexibility of van life. However, I also like to eat out and Shetland offered a delightful array of traditional delicacies like Shetland bannocks, oatcakes and fish and chips that I simply couldn’t resist.
One aspect worth considering is the financial advantage of bringing your own van and taking the ferry to Shetland. By eliminating hotel expenses and having your own vehicle at your disposal, you not only save money but also gain the freedom to explore the region at your own pace, unencumbered by fixed itineraries or accommodation constraints.
Now, let’s delve into the specific expenses I encountered during my trip to Shetland. By providing a more detailed breakdown, I hope to offer you a clearer picture of what to expect and assist you in planning your own adventure in this region.
1. NorthLink Ferries
NorthLink Ferries offers good value considering the length of the journey to Shetland. Taking 14 hours overnight, the ferry ride provides an opportunity to relax and enjoy the onboard amenities while traversing the scenic route. The distance from Aberdeen to Lerwick is 216 miles – the longest internal ferry route in the UK – and when comparing the prices of this NorthLink Ferries’ journey to other ferry services in the UK, you may find it to be quite reasonable.
When booking a NorthLink Ferries’ ship, you will need to secure passage for both your campervan and yourself. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to stay inside your van on the lower decks, so choosing one of the three sleeping options is necessary. The prices for these options vary, allowing you to select the one that suits your budget and preferences.
*Please note that the prices mentioned below are based on a return trip during peak times for one person in June 2023.
Ferry with campervan: £254
1 x passenger return: £72
In addition, there are three sleeping options available, each with its own price:
Reclining seat: +£7
Cabin (Inner 2-berth): +£186
Reclining seats: £333
Throughout my 5-day and 4-night campervan adventure in the Shetland Islands, I had the opportunity to stay at various campsites scattered across the region. Here is a breakdown of the costs I incurred for campsites accommodating one van with electric hook-up and one person:
Levenwick Community Hall Campsite: £20
Scalloway campsite: £31
Burravoe Caravan Site: £20
Gardiesfauld Youth Hostel: £20
Considering these four prices, the average cost of a campsite on Shetland per night amounted to £22.75. It’s worth noting that all of these campsites provided inclusive shower facilities without the need for additional £1 coins. However, it is advisable to keep some £1 coins handy in your van, as other campsites do require them.
Each of these campsites offered essential amenities such as electric hook-ups, showers, toilets, kitchen facilities, washing-up areas, and waste disposal bins. If you plan to visit these campsites, it is recommended to book in advance whenever possible, ensuring you secure a spot during your stay.
Prior to setting off from Aberdeen, I made sure to fill my fuel tank to its brim. During my time on Shetland, I utilised nearly an entire tank of fuel and subsequently refueled with diesel in Lerwick.
Surprisingly, the price for a litre of diesel on Shetland was £1.39, which turned out to be cheaper than the rate I had paid in Aberdeen. This defied my initial expectation of fuel being more expensive on the island.
In total, I spent £70.31 to refill my fuel tank during my stay on Shetland. This cost turned out to be quite reasonable, considering the distance covered and the exploration opportunities that arose as a result.
4. Activities & Attractions
While Shetland offers an array of free activities, including leisurely walks along pristine beaches and stunning hiking trails, there are certain attractions that are worth the admission fee. Here are the activities I enjoyed during my visit to Shetland, along with their associated costs:
- Sumburgh Lighthouse: £6
- Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement: £7.50
- Mousa Boat: £18
- Seabirds & Seals Boat Trip: £50
- Scalloway Museum: £5
Engaging in these activities allowed me to delve deeper into the rich history and natural beauty of Shetland, providing unique and memorable experiences throughout my journey.
Although these activities involve a cost, they are well worth it, offering insights into the region’s heritage, breathtaking wildlife encounters, and opportunities to explore significant landmarks.
5. Inter-island ferries
Traveling between the islands in Shetland is made convenient with flexible payment options for the regular inter-island ferries. You have the choice to pay on board, where card payments are accepted, or you can opt to book in advance and make a payment online.
During my trip, I purchased a return ticket for the ferry journey from the main island to Unst, which cost me £16.50. It’s important to note that this fare is applicable for vehicles measuring under 5.5 meters in length – larger motorhomes may be subject to slightly higher charges.
6. Food & Eating Out
The expenses related to food and dining can greatly vary depending on individual preferences and the frequency of eating out. During my trip to Shetland, I struck a balance between enjoying a few meals at local eateries and cooking meals inside my campervan, taking advantage of the onboard cooking facilities.
Here is a breakdown of the costs I incurred for food and dining:
- Frankies Fish & Chips (with sauces): £18.50
- Victoria’s Tea Room: £14.90
- Tesco Supermarket Food: £41.60
- Extra Groceries at a local shop: £8.75
- Picnic Press Honesty Box Brownies: £3.50
- Bobby’s Bus Shelter Honest Box Muffins: £3
By opting to cook meals in my campervan and supplementing with a few enjoyable dining experiences at local establishments, I was able to strike a balance between convenience and exploring the local culinary scene.
It’s worth mentioning that there are various options available to suit different tastes and budgets in Shetland, ranging from delightful local cafes to supermarkets. This allows for flexibility in planning meals according to personal preferences and exploring the unique culinary offerings of the region.
After considering all the expenses incurred during my 5-day and 4-night trip to Shetland, the total cost varied depending on the accommodation option chosen aboard NorthLink Ferries. Here is a breakdown of the total costs based on different choices.
*Please note that these prices mentioned below are correct as of June 2023.
Total Cost (Reclining seats): £687.56
Total Cost (Pods): £717.56
Total Cost (Cabin): £866.56
These totals include the expenses for the NorthLink Ferries’ ship, campsites, fuel, activities, inter-island ferries, and food. The variation in costs reflects the different levels of comfort and amenities provided by the selected accommodation option aboard a NorthLink Ferries’ ship.
In my opinion, bringing a campervan to Shetland offers a cost-effective way to enjoy a holiday in this incredible region. With the flexibility to cook your own meals and the convenience of having your accommodation on wheels, you can save on dining and hotel expenses.
Additionally, staying longer in Shetland can significantly reduce the average daily spend. As the initial costs, such as ferry fees, remain the same, extending your trip allows you to spread these expenses over a greater number of days, resulting in a lower average daily expenditure.
By maximising your time on the islands, you not only get to fully immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes, unique cultural heritage, and enjoy a range of experiences that Shetland has to offer, but also optimise the value of your investment. Whether you choose to explore the pristine beaches, hike the beautiful trails, visit historic sites, or indulge in local cuisine, Shetland promises an unforgettable adventure.
Ruth Aisling is a Scottish content creator with a passion for adventure, campervan travel, and the great outdoors. You’ll often find her showcasing unique off-the-beaten-path destinations and inspiring others to explore. Discover more at www.instagram.com/ruthaisling