There are a lot of single-track roads in Shetland, so consider hiring a compact economy or standard vehicle, which are both popular choices to explore the islands. If you’re travelling as a group, or as a larger family, we recommend choosing a 4x4 vehicle, which has additional space for passengers and luggage. For the biggest choice of car hire companies, we recommend hiring a car in Lerwick, where you can also find a ferry port where a lot of people arrive in Shetland. If you are arriving from Sumburgh Airport (LSI), you can also hire a car close by to the airport.
In Shetland they drive on the left side of the road, like mainland Scotland. It’s compulsory for all passengers and the driver to wear their seat belt in the hire car at all times. It’s also illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving, you are allowed to use your mobile device hands-free, however, we recommend always pulling over to use your mobile phone, when it’s safe to do so. If you’re travelling with young children, it’s a legal requirement for them to use a car seat if they are under 12, or under 135 cm. These can be added to your booking easily with your chosen car hire company in Shetland.
Although you may be able to arrange this in-person, you cannot hire a car from the Shetland Islands and take it to mainland Scotland when booking online in advance. If you want to travel beyond the Shetland Islands to other UK locations, you’ll need to take a ferry, which is why we do not recommend taking your hire car with you. The best option is to return your hire vehicle before you leave the islands, and hire a new vehicle after your ferry journey, this will also save you money.
Book your rental car in Shetland at least 5 weeks before your trip in order to get a below-average price
Mini rental cars in Shetland are around 19% cheaper than other car types, on average
FAQs about hiring a car in Shetland
Hiring a car is the best way to explore Shetland at your own pace. Whilst there are some bus services on the islands, you’ll be limited by the timetables and may have to make multiple changes in order to visit popular attractions. It’s easier than you think to drive around the Shetlands, with 500 miles of roads, no traffic jams, or traffic lights, plus many of the islands are connected with road bridges. We recommend using your hire car to explore Lerwick, Northmavine, Unst, Yell, South Mainland, Central Mainland and West Mainland.
Driving in Shetland is a great experience as there is beautiful scenery all across the islands; however, it’s important to watch your speed at all times. There are lots of single-track roads throughout the island, as well as farm animals or wildlife on some rural roads. There are passing places along the roads that are only wide enough for one car, and they are usually clearly signposted, so as long as you drive slowly, you’ll not encounter any issues. If the passing place is on the other side of the road, always stop opposite it so the other cars can pass, rather than crossing into the wrong side of the road. If you are driving slowly and taking in the scenery and there is a faster car behind you, it’s common courtesy on the islands to pull into a passing place to let them pass.
Although you can technically hire a car from 21 years and older in the UK, you may find age restrictions in the Shetlands to be slightly higher. If you are under the age of 25, it’s always worth checking beforehand. Leading brands, like Europcar and Avis, require you to be 22 years old and 23 years old respectively to hire a car on the Shetland Islands. You also will have had to have held your driving licence for at least a year before the hire date and it must be valid for the full hire period.
Mini (Kia Picanto or similar) is the most frequently booked car hire type in Shetland.