Overview

Ferries are an essential part of Scotland's transport network, providing a vital lifeline to island and rural mainland residents. Concessionary ferry vouchers are provided to those who are eligible to help them take sustainable journeys to the mainland.

If you are eligible for the national concessionary travel bus scheme and are eligible for ferry vouchers, you will receive vouchers for four single (or two return) free ferry trips to the Scottish mainland.

They are valid from 1 April to 31 March the following year for travel as a foot passenger or to help pay for a cabin.

As an island resident, when you apply for your National Entitlement Card (NEC) – which you might also know as your saltirecard or bus pass – you will also automatically receive your ferry vouchers if you are eligible. Many people will receive their paper ferry vouchers in the post.

However, if you live in Orkney and Shetland, you now get digital vouchers that are stored on your new card.

For existing cardholders in Orkney and Shetland, you will receive a letter each year explaining how to add the digital vouchers to your card.

Find out more about digital ferry vouchers.

The Concessionary National Entitlement Card (NEC)

Eligibility

Older and Disabled cardholders

You are eligible for ferry vouchers if:

  • you live on the Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland
  • you can travel for free by bus under the national concessionary travel scheme

If you have a companion entitlement for bus travel then a companion can also travel with you free on the ferry. You need to bring your National Entitlement Card (which you might also know as your saltirecard or bus pass) which displays the C+1 logo when you travel. If you do not have your card with the C+1 logo then ferry staff will charge your companion the normal fare for the trip.

Concessionary Plus National Entitlement Card (NEC)

Young cardholders

You are eligible for ferry vouchers if:

  • you live on the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, plus islands in North Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute and Highland Council areas
  • you are aged 16-18
  • you are aged 19-25 and a full time volunteer

If you have received ferry vouchers because you are aged 16-18, you must be under 19 on the date you travel.

You need to bring your National Entitlement Card (which you might also know as your Young Scot Card, saltirecard or bus pass) with you when you travel. Ferry staff will check you have a valid card and voucher when you travel and will check the date of birth on your card. If your card or voucher is not valid, you will need to pay for the journey.

Young Scot National Entitlement Card (NEC)

Cardholders in Orkney and Shetland

We are modernising the way ferry vouchers are used, bringing your bus pass and ferry vouchers together onto your saltirecard. You might also know this as your bus pass, National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot Card. This means you won’t need to hold onto separate paper vouchers each year.

National Entitlement Card (NEC)

This will make it easier to book journeys in advance because you no longer need to wait for your paper vouchers to arrive through the post before you book and will help to reduce the risk of lost vouchers. It’s part of our journey to make sure our public services are modern and efficient, and will provide better journey information, offering new insight and helping to protect the integrity of the scheme.

From April 2024, this applies to everyone who receives ferry vouchers in Orkney and Shetland.

What is changing?

In April 2024, digital vouchers are being introduced to everyone who gets ferry vouchers in Orkney and Shetland. Letters and information about this are being issued to all cardholders in early 2024.

This means, instead of receiving paper vouchers, your vouchers will be digital and will be stored on your saltirecard, which you might know as your bus pass, National Entitlement Card or Young Scot card. The digital vouchers will provide you with exactly the same as your paper vouchers did.

Read more below about how to get and use digital ferry vouchers.

How do I get my vouchers?

There are a number of different ways to add your ferry vouchers onto your card and also to check how many vouchers you have left. You can do it using a smartphone, or if you’re not a smartphone user there are other options too. Read more about how to do this below.

Option 1 – use the Transport Scot Pass Collect app

You can download the app from the App store or Google Play store and follow the on screen instructions to collect your ferry vouchers. It’s easy to use and only takes a few minutes.

Find out more about the app and watch a video on how to use it

Option 2 – visit a help spot or ask a friend

You can also ask someone who has a smartphone to download and use the app to add your vouchers to your card for you. It is safe and quick to do this and personal information isn’t seen, kept or shared. Find out more about the app and how to use it.

You can also get further support from designated ‘help spots’ in Orkney and Shetland. You can find a list of these in the contact us section below and a list of these will also be included with the letter and leaflet you receive.

Option 3 – get help from ferry staff

Ferry staff from Serco NorthLink and Pentland Ferries can add the vouchers to your card, either in the local office or at the ferry port. They can also do this for you when you check in on the day you travel if you prefer. You can still book your travel before your vouchers have actually been added to your card.

How to check vouchers

If you have digital vouchers, you can check how many vouchers you have left using the same options for getting your vouchers. Alternatively, you can find out by contacting your local council travel team using the contact details below.

How to book travel

Remember to have your card handy and tell the ferry operator you are a concessionary cardholder and with digital vouchers. They do not need a voucher number and if they need any details from your card they will ask you.

And remember, your vouchers don’t need to be on your card before you book!

When you travel, ferry staff will scan your card to redeem a voucher. If you have to add the vouchers to an existing card and don’t get a chance to do this before you travel, you can ask the ferry staff to do this when you check in on the day. Remember to have your card with you when you travel, or you will need to pay for your journey.

Help and support

Frequently asked questions

Your card
Will I need a new card for my ferry vouchers?

All existing cards should work with the digital vouchers. However, if your card is broken you can get a new one by applying online at getyournec.scot or by contacting your local council.

What if I lose my card?

You should contact your local council and they will arrange for a new card to be posted out to you. Until you have your new card you will not be able to use your ferry vouchers for travel. You can still book your travel but you cannot actually make the trip until you have the new card.

Getting your vouchers
I don’t have a mobile phone. How will I get my vouchers?

There is no need to have a mobile phone in order to receive your digital vouchers. You can get them in several ways, just pick the one that is best for you. The options are explained in the section above titled ‘How do I collect my vouchers’.

If someone downloads my vouchers using their phone, will the vouchers then be stored on their phone?

No. Your ferry vouchers will only ever be stored onto your card.

If I use the app to download someone else’s vouchers to their card, will I still be able to download my own vouchers to my own card?

Yes. Don't worry, this won't affect your own vouchers because the app can be used to add vouchers to any number of cards.

Will you notify me each year to remind me I have new vouchers to download?

Yes. We will be in touch by letter to tell you when your vouchers for the next year are available to download to your card. We will also remind you about the different ways you can do this.

Using your vouchers
If my digital voucher is about to expire, can I book a trip into the next year with it and use it then?

No. Just like the paper vouchers, your digital vouchers must be used before they expire. The vouchers are valid for 12 months from 1 April to 31 March.

What happens if there is internet failure or power cut at the ferry terminal?

The system can operate without internet and ferry operators have processes in place which should allow you to continue to travel.

Power cuts should not affect the system as the ticket machines which scan the cards use batteries.

If the ferry is cancelled, how will I get my voucher returned?

Ferry vouchers are not redeemed until you check in. In the unlikely event that your service is cancelled, you will be rebooked onto the next service and your voucher will be valid for your next journey.

Contact us

For further help, you can contact your local council or Transport Scotland using the details below.

Orkney Islands Council

Telephone number: 01856 873535
Email address: ferryvouchers@orkney.gov.uk

Shetland Islands Council

Telephone number: 01595 744868
Email address: transport@shetland.gov.uk

Transport Scotland

Freephone telephone number: 0800 328 5690 and select option 2
Email: concessionarytravel@transport.gov.scot

Bookings

For help with bookings, please contact the relevant ferry operator.

Help spots

You can visit the help spots below for further support getting and checking your digital vouchers.

Age Scotland (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support in Kirkwall and other locations.

Address – 46 Victoria Street, Kirkwall
Email – enquiries@agescotlandorkney.org.uk
Telephone – 01856 872438

Eday Partnership Wellbeing Team (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support using the details below.

Name – Anne Byers
Email – cdo@edaypartnership.org
Telephone – 01857 622269

Orkney Library and Archive (Orkney)

Visit the front reception desk and main library issue desk for support.

Address – 44 Junction Road, Kirkwall
Email – library@orkney.gov.uk
Telephone – 01856 873166

Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre Development Trust (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support in Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre.

Email – nicky@rewdt.org
Telephone – 01856 821229

Shapinsay Development Trust (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support using the details below.

Name – Alison McDougall
Email – wellbeing@shapinsay.org.uk
Telephone – 07867 622814

Stromness Library (Orkney)

Visit the main reception desk for support.

Address – Warehouse Buildings, 2-12 Victoria Street, Stromness
Email – stromnesscs@orkney.gov.uk
Telephone – 01856 850 907

Stronsay Development Trust (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support using the details below.
Name – Anna Bliss-Davis
Email – cdostronsay@gmail.com
Telephone – 07590 543008

THAW (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support in Kirkwall and other locations.

Address – Unit 6, Anchor Buildings, Bridge Street, Kirkwall
Email – info@thaworkney.co.uk
Telephone – 01856 878388

Westray Development Trust (Orkney)

Get in touch to arrange support using the details below.
Name – Erika Pottinger
Email – wellbeing@westraydevelopmenttrust.co.uk
Telephone – 07974 108983

Citizens Advice Bureau (Shetland)

Visit the reception desk for support.
Address – Market House, 14 Market Street, Lerwick
Email – sicab@shetland.org
Telephone – 01595 694696

Royal Voluntary Service (Shetland)

Get in touch to arrange support in Lerwick and other locations.

Email – shetlandsupport@royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk
Telephone – 01595 743914

Shetland Community Connections (Shetland)

Get in touch to arrange support in Lerwick and other locations.

Email – communityconnections@shetland.org
Telephone – 01595 745093

Shetland Library (Shetland)

Visit the reception desk for support.

Address – Lower Hillhead, Lerwick
Email – shetlandlibrary@shetland.gov.uk
Telephone – 01595 743868

Booking and travel

Booking

You can book your ferry travel in person or over the phone.

If you book in person, please show ferry staff your card (and paper voucher, if you use them) and they will take the necessary information from you.

If you book over the phone, please let ferry staff know that you are using either digital or paper concessionary vouchers. Remember to have your card and ferry voucher number (if you use paper vouchers) ready in case they need to take some information from you.

However you book, always remember to bring your card and ferry voucher (if you use paper vouchers) with you when you travel, or you may be charged for your journey.

Cabins

NorthLink Ferries continue to offer a variety of accommodation options at various prices including pod lounges, reclining seats and cabins for those wishing to utilise them, in addition to the free seating around the vessel.

Customers can still use their concessionary ferry voucher for free passenger travel and to partially offset the cost of cabins for sole use. Contact NorthLink for more information.

The difference between shared cabin cost and full cabin cost on a sole occupancy basis should be covered by customers at the time of booking. Customers may also choose to use two vouchers in payment for sole use of a cabin.

Where you can travel

Western Isles residents

Use your ferry voucher to travel on any of these routes:

  • Castlebay (Barra) - Oban
  • Lochmaddy (North Uist) - Uig
  • Lochboisdale (South Uist) - Mallaig
  • Lochboisdale (South Uist) - Oban
  • Stornoway (Lewis) - Ullapool
  • Tarbert (Harris) - Uig

Orkney and Shetland residents

Use your ferry voucher to travel on any of these routes:

  • Lerwick - Aberdeen
  • Kirkwall - Aberdeen
  • Stromness - Scrabster
  • St Margaret's Hope - Gills Bay
  • Lerwick - Kirkwall