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Faroe Islands - Travel and visas
Evidenced by their popularity with different bird varieties, the Faroe Islands are best reached by air © VisitFaroeIslands
The quickest and easiest way to reach the Faroe Islands is by the Faroese national airline, Atlantic Airways, which operates all but one route to the islands. The international airline code for Atlantic Airways is RC and the airport code for the Faroes is FAE. Scandinavian Airlines also operates from Copenhagen to the Faroe Islands, making connections to the Faroes from across its network possible via the Danish capital. The airport is located on the island of Vágar, just outside the town of Sørvágur, and is connected to Tórshavn by bus and taxi. Presently, it contains a café, ATM, tourist information desk and car-hire outlets before security, and a café and duty-free airside. The airport is also used as the departure point for the Atlantic Airways helicopter service, which serves the islands.
From the United Kingdom
Atlantic Airways operates directly from Edinburgh (EDI) to the Faroes twice a week (on Thursdays and Mondays) all year round, although services are reduced during the winter months. Flying time is in the region of 1 hour. When there is no flight from Edinburgh, connections can be made via Copenhagen.
From mainland Europe
An option that suits travellers coming from mainland Europe is to travel via Denmark with either Atlantic or SAS, which both offer daily flights from Copenhagen; connections to the Danish capital are available with most major European airlines. CPH–FAE return fares start at around 1,250 Danish kroner. Book early for the cheapest fares.
From the United States
The best way to reach the Faroes from the USA is to travel via Reykjavík with Icelandair (airline code FI) or via Copenhagen with SAS. Flying with Icelandair, you’ll sometimes need to change airports in Iceland; Icelandair flights arrive at the main international airport, Keflavík (KEF), and onward Atlantic Airways flights to the Faroes (1hr) usually leave from Reykjavík city airport (RKV); both airports are linked by transfer bus.
Icelandair operates from several Canadian gateways (check the Icelandair website for the latest details) to Reykjavík, or pick up a flight to one of Icelandair’s US gateways and transfer there for Iceland and then on to the Faroes. Alternatively, fly with Air Canada to Copenhagen and then up to the Faroes.
From the rest of the world
Getting to the Faroes from the rest of the world naturally involves first reaching either London or Copenhagen, from where connections are available as described above. It’s worth checking online travel websites, such as Kayak or Momondo, for any special deals that might include the final leg with either SAS or Atlantic Airways up to the Faroes.
The Faroese-operated Smyril Line connects the islands with Hirtshals in Denmark (32hrs), and Seyðisfjörður in Iceland (16hrs). Sailing patterns are complicated but essentially the Norröna sails twice weekly to the Faroes from Denmark and once weekly from Iceland between June and late August; once weekly from both destinations at other times of the year. Although there can be no doubt that sailing the North Atlantic to the Faroes in the wake of the Vikings is a wonderfully romantic notion, it’s really only sensible for those who want to take a vehicle with them on holiday – and for those with plenty of time. Smyril Line’s ports are rather remote: Hirtshals is just 50km southwest of Skagen, the northernmost tip of Denmark, while Seyðisfjörður is located on the southeast coast of Iceland, a full 700km from Reykjavík.
The Norröna ferry
Smyril Line introduced the current ferry on its circuit of the North Atlantic in 2003. She was partially refitted in 2007 and, in line with other long-distance ferries, boasts an array of facilities including several restaurants, a swimming pool and even open-air hot tubs at the rear of the vessel filled with heated seawater. The Norröna can carry nearly 1,500 passengers and 800 cars. In winter, when passenger numbers are modest, some onboard facilities are closed.
Travelling between all 17 inhabited constituents of the Faroe Islands is relatively simple © VisitFaroeIslands
Travel around the Faroe Islands is a doddle. All 17 inhabited islands are connected by bus, ferry or helicopter – and in a couple of instances by all three. You’ll often find that if your journey involves changing from bus to ferry or vice versa, departures are timed to correspond perfectly making travel a dream. Remember, though, that it’s rare to find any kind of shelter at bus stops, harbours and heliports so have your rain gear to hand in case the heavens open.
By bus and ferry
The long-distance bus services on the main routes are frequent and reliable. Full timetables are available on the website; long-distance buses are blue in colour. Ferries operate on the following routes: Tórshavn–Tvøroyri (Suðuroy); Tórshavn–Nólsoy; Gamlarætt (Streymoy)–Skopun (Sandoy); Gamlarætt (Streymoy)–Hestur; Sandur (Sandoy)–Skúgvoy; Sørvágur (Vágur)–Mykines; Klaksvík–Syðradalur (Kalsoy) and Hvannasund (Viðoy)–Svínoy and Fugloy. Of the ferries, only the services to Suðuroy, Sandoy and Kalsoy take vehicles. It’s not possible to book a space for a car on a ferry; you simply turn up at the quay in good time and the chances are you’ll get on board. Note, too, that you only pay in one direction for a return journey; either the outbound or return journey is free. Only the ferry journey to and from Mykines is payable in both directions. Pensioners are entitled to halfprice fares on buses and the helicopter, though not on the Travel Card.
The helicopter service, operated by Atlantic Airways, is incredibly good value – short hops between islands can cost as little as 85kr and the single fare from the most northerly islands to the other end of the country is a mere 360kr; government subsidies are responsible and a full list of fares is available on the Atlantic website under the helicopter link. The helicopter operates on Mondays (Vágur to Mykines return only), Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Between June and August the helicopter also operates on Mondays, though not to Mykines. It offers a fantastic way of seeing the islands. It is important to remember though that due to the limited number of seats on board, you are not allowed to book a return journey for the same day – only single tickets on separate days are allowed. Book your tickets online at tyrla.atlantic.fo and be sure to add your mobile number to the booking in case of cancellation.
Getting around by car has become much easier in recent years thanks to a plethora of tunnels which have been bored through the islands, reducing the need to navigate twisting mountain roads. Nearly all roads are sealed and wide enough to allow two lanes of traffic. Tunnels, however, are often single-lane with passing places; priority is always in one direction, making it the responsibility of drivers coming in the opposite direction to pull in and stop until they can safely drive on against the direction of priority. An undersea tunnel connects the islands of Vágar and Streymoy in the west of the country and Eysturoy and Borðoy in the north.
Tolls (100kr) are only payable in the Vágar to Streymoy and Borðoy to Eysturoy directions. Rental cars have an electronic chip on the windscreen which automatically debits tunnel use back to the rental company – and you. Drivers with their own cars should follow the signs and pay at the filling station after exiting the tunnels. The Faroese drive on the right and use the traffic signs for international standards. The speed limit is 80km/h (60km/h for caravans) on country roads and 50km/h in built-up areas. Seatbelts are compulsory and headlights must also be used at all times, even during daylight hours. One of the hazards of driving in the Faroes is sheep – most of which seem to have an innate death wish compelling them to leap out on to the road as you approach. Should you accidentally hit a sheep you should call the police (Tel: 35 14 48) and you will probably be liable to pay the owner compensation for the loss of an animal; in short, slow down and take it easy.