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Faroe Islands - Travel and visas
The quickest and easiest way to reach the Faroe Islands is by the Faroese national airline, Atlantic Airways (+298 34 10 00; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.atlantic.fo), which operates all routes to the islands exclusively. The international airline code for Atlantic Airways is RC and the airport code for the Faroes is FAE. It is important to note, though, that Atlantic do not have through luggage transfer agreements with other airlines. Annoyingly, you must check-in bags for each individual flight if you are connecting to the Faroes. Even if bags are mistakenly labelled with your final destination (as I found out to my cost), they will not be transferred to or from an Atlantic flight.
From the United Kingdom
Atlantic Airways operate directly from London Gatwick (LGW; south terminal) to the Faroes twice weekly (Monday and Thursday) between early June and mid-September and flying time is in the region of two hours and 15 minutes. When there is no flight from London Gatwick, connections can always be made via Copenhagen. Atlantic are keen to build up their London route and may have special fares on it. Otherwise, regular fares for LGW–FAE start at £247 return.
From mainland Europe
An option which suits travellers coming from mainland Europe is to travel via Denmark. Most usefully, Atlantic flies between Copenhagen (CPH) and the Faroes twice daily and four-times weekly between Billund (BLL) and the Faroes; both routes operate year-round and take about two hours. There are sometimes flights from Aalborg in Denmark and Bergen in Norway, though schedules are prone to change. Flights to Copenhagen, in order to connect with Atlantic Airways, are available with most major European airlines; Billund is less well connected. Atlantic’s CPH–FAE return fares start at 2,088 Danish kroner; BLL–FAE from 2,145 Danish kroner. Once again, 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 (www.icelandair.com; airline code FI) or via Copenhagen with SAS (www.scandinavian.net; airline code SK). Flying with Icelandair, you’ll need to change airports in Iceland; Icelandair flights arrive at the main international airport, Keflavík (KEF), and onward Atlantic Airways flights to the Faroes (1 hour) leave from Reykjavík city airport (RKV); both airports are linked by transfer bus. Icelandair currently fly from Anchorage, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando, Seattle and Washington to Keflavík.
Icelandair operates from Halifax and Toronto 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. SAS fly from New York (Newark), Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington to Copenhagen.
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 remembering, though, that many online travel websites, such as Expedia, do not sell Atlantic Airways tickets. The best place to buy an Atlantic ticket is directly with the airline on their website, www.atlantic.fo.
The Faroese-operated Smyril Line (J Broncksgøta 37, PO Box 370, FO-110 Tórshavn; +298 34 59 00; email@example.com; www.smyrilline.com)connects the islands with Hirtshals in Denmark, and Seyðisfjörður in Iceland.
Timetables and ports have tended to change frequently in recent years and calls to Shetland, Scotland and Norway have now been dropped. Sailing patterns are complicated but essentially the Norröna sails twice weekly to Denmark and once weekly to Iceland from mid-June to August; once weekly to both destinations in April, early to mid-May, September and October, and once weekly to Denmark only at other times. 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, whilst Seyðisfjörður is located on the southeast coast of Iceland, a full 700km from Reykjavík.
The Norröna ferry
In 2003, Smyril Line introduced a new ferry on their circuit of the North Atlantic. The new Norröna is the last word in luxury: shopping arcade, bars, nightclub, sauna and solarium, swimming pool and fitness centre are all on board. Weighing in at a whopping 36,000 tonnes and measuring 164m in length and 30m wide, it can carry nearly 1,500 passengers and 800 cars with a service speed of 21 knots; it underwent a partial refit in October 2007, further improving facilities. The new ship is a far cry from the previous Norröna, which was long overdue for retirement – however, the sheer size of the new vessel (complete with new terminal building in the tiny Tórshavn harbour) has created problems. Manoeuvring it into the harbour when it’s being buffeted by strong cross-winds is no mean feat and occasionally it is forced to divert to nearby Kollafjørður where the approach is much easier. Although the Norröna is stabilised, being caught far out at sea with nothing to break the swells and towering waves sweeping in unopposed from the coast of North America is certainly not to everyone’s liking. In the winter of 2007, for example, the Norröna lost power in heavy seas off Shetland and began to roll violently; 80 cars were damaged on the car deck.
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.
The long-distance bus services (34 30 30; www.ssl.fo) on the main routes are frequent and reliable. There’s no need to take a taxi to or from the airport as buses also link Tórshavn [LINK: Gateway city] with all arriving and departing flights. Full timetables and a map of routes are available on the website; long-distance buses are blue in colour.
The helicopter service, operated by Atlantic Airways (tel: 34 10 60; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.atlantic.fo), 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 Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus on Mondays from June to August, and offers a fantastic way of seeing the islands. It is important to remember though that due to the limited number of seats onboard, you are not allowed to book a return journey for the same day – only single tickets on separate days are allowed.
During the summer months though, Atlantic are reluctant to book tourists in both directions on the helicopter because they prefer to give preference to local residents; you may find you have to return by ferry or bus.
The Faroes Helicopter service is one of the best ways to see many of the more isolated corners of Faroes -- soar above the jagged coastlines for a bird's-eye view of the stunning landscape.© Ólavur Fredriksen, VisitFaroeIslands
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 now connects the islands of Vágar and Streymoy in the west of the country and Eysturoy and Borðoy in the north. Tolls 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 onto 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.