Caledonian MacBrayne - Hebridean and Clyde Ferries
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Making a Reservation

Payment and Security

Before Travelling

When You Travel

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Q. Are reservations necessary?

Although reservations are not mandatory, we strongly recommend booking your space if you are travelling on any of our bookable routes. During the summer months our ferries are extremely busy with holiday-makers as well as the regular commercial and business traffic, whilst during the winter, although less busy, most services run at less frequent intervals than during the summer and can therefore become fully booked.

Q. Which routes are reservable?

Reservations can be made on the following routes:

  • Ardrossan – Brodick
  • Ardmhor – Eriskay
  • Oban – Colonsay
  • Oban – Coll
  • Coll – Tiree
  • Oban – Castlebay
  • Mallaig – Armadale
  • Uig – Tarbert
  • Ullapool – Stornoway
  • Kennacraig – Islay (Port Ellen or Port Askaig)
  • Oban – Craignure
  • Oban – Tiree
  • Oban – Lochboisdale
  • Castlebay – Lochboisdale
  • Uig – Lochmaddy
  • Berneray – Leverburgh
  • Oban – Lismore (bookable only by telephone)

Q. What is a Via sailing?

Most of the routes we operate are direct sailings from the mainland port to the island port and back again. However, we also have a few routes where the ferry will call in at two or more islands before returning to the mainland.

If the sailing you select includes a short stop at another island before reaching your chosen destination, this is termed a Via sailing, as the ship is sailing via another island. For your convenience we have indicated which sailings are Via sailings. Please note that if you select a Via sailing, you cannot disembark at the Via port, but must stay on board until you reach your chosen destination.

Q. What type of vehicle can I reserve?

At present, it is possible to book the following:

  • Private car
  • Motorhome
  • Hire/Rental car
  • Motorbike

These vehicles can be towing any of the following:

  • Caravan (8m or less)
  • Baggage trailer (8m or less)
  • Boat trailer (8m or less)

If you plan to travel with one of the vehicles/vehicle combinations listed below, please contact us using one of the methods listed on our contacts page:

  • Car towing a caravan or trailer greater than 8m
  • Motorhome (over 10m)
  • Van (any length and type)
  • Minibus
  • Coach
  • Commercial Vehicle

Q. Can I make a reservation if I'm travelling without my vehicle?

Reservations for foot passengers are not required unless you are travelling as part of a large group. For group reservations please contact us using one of the methods listed on our contacts page. Non-group foot passengers should simply arrive at the port of departure. Latest check-in times before departure are shown at the top of each timetable.

Q. How do I make a reservation?

Making an on-line reservation is easy. Simply follow the instructions on each page and make selections when prompted to do so. You will be asked to enter your journey details, your personal details and your vehicle details. You will then be transferred to a separate secure page where you will enter your credit card details.

Once payment has been made, your booking will be confirmed to you on screen and by e-mail. We strongly recommend that you print this final confirmation page as this is your personal record of your reservation and contains information you may wish to refer to at a later date. It is also important to make a note of your Booking Reference Number as this uniquely identifies your reservation. If you have to contact us to check, amend or cancel your reservation, you will be asked to quote this number.

Q. What is PayPage?

PayPage is a secure area where you can enter your card details, safe in the knowledge that they will be encrypted & handled securely, in accordance with the strict standards set by the Payment Card Industry.

Q. What happens if my payment is declined?

If, for any reason, your card payment is declined (you may simply have made a mistake when typing in your card details, or you may be close to your credit limit on that card), you will be taken back to the previous page and be given another opportunity to enter your card details – either re-keying the same card, or entering a different payment card altogether.

Q. What happens once my payment has been successful?

You will receive an e-mail confirmation from PayPage to confirm that payment has been successfully processed, and your booking will then be confirmed to you on screen as well as by e-mail.

We strongly recommend that you print this final confirmation page as this is your personal record of your reservation and contains information you may wish to refer to at a later date. It is also important to make a note of your Booking Reference Number as this uniquely identifies your reservation. If you have to contact us to check, amend or cancel your reservation, you will be asked to quote this number.

Q. How far in advance can I make a reservation?

Reservations for the forthcoming summer season usually open late December / early January, and winter reservations usually open around late August / early September.

Reservations can be made online up until two hours before the ship departs (depending on availability). Reservations will not be accepted beyond this deadline.

Q. Can I change my reservation once I've made it?

Reservations can be amended or cancelled, however, this cannot be done on-line. Please therefore check through the details displayed on screen before clicking on PROCEED TO PAYMENT.

If you find that you have to amend or cancel a reservation, please contact us, (quoting your Booking Reference Number), using one of the methods listed on our contacts page and a member of our Reservations Team will be happy to change your reservation, and advise you of any change in cost.

Q. Can I see reservations on-line that I have already made?

No, and for this reason we strongly recommend that you print a copy of the final confirmation page. Once you complete the payment process, the confirmation page will be displayed, giving you your unique Booking Reference Number, confirming all your booking details, advising you of the latest check-in times for each of your sailings and confirming the payment and ticketing arrangements.

Q. Can I make a reservation for someone else?

No. For security reasons, we cannot accept bookings from customers wishing to use the credit card of a third party as payment.

If you are a travel agent making a reservations for your customer we recommend that you contact us using one of the methods listed on our contacts page, as reservations made online are non-commissionable.

Q. I'm taking my dog with me. Do I need to book for it?

No. There is no need to reserve for dogs. Accompanied dogs are carried free of charge but (other than support dogs) are restricted to certain areas on board. Dogs may be left in vehicles, but passengers wishing to visit their animals during the crossing must be accompanied by a crew member.

Q. I already hold 5/6/10 Journey tickets. Can I book on-line?

No. At present we can only accept on-line reservations when they are accompanied by a credit card payment. Ticket holders can book by contacting our Reservations Team (see our contacts page).

Q. How and when do I pay?

As part of the booking process, you will enter your payment card details into our secure payment page. Payment will be taken from your card immediately and your booking will then be confirmed to you on screen and by e-mail.

If, for any reason, your card payment is declined (you may simply have made a mistake when typing in your card details, or you may be close to your credit limit on that card), you will be taken back to the previous page and be given another opportunity to enter your card details – either re-keying the same card, or entering a different payment card altogether.

Q. When do I get my tickets?

You will collect your tickets on the day of travel from the first port of departure in your itinerary. Simply check-in by the time shown on your confirmation, and give your name and Booking Reference Number to the check-in clerk.

Q. What happens if I lose or mislay my tickets?

Passengers must be in possession of valid tickets at the time of travel and must be prepared to produce them when required. Caledonian MacBrayne will not replace lost, stolen, or mislaid tickets. In such circumstances passengers must purchase replacement tickets. If the lost tickets are subsequently found and returned to Customer Care at Support Services then a full refund less an administrative charge will be paid. (See Refunds).

Q. Which payment cards are accepted online?

We currently accept American Express, Visa and MasterCard credit cards, and Visa, MasterCard, Visa Electron and Maestro debit cards.

Q. Is it safe for me to enter my details on-line?

Yes. This Web site secures your private information using a VeriSign SSL Certificate. Information exchanged with any address beginning with https is encrypted using SSL before transmission.

Q. Which browsers are compatible with your on-line booking process?

In general, we recommend that you use the latest web browsers, e.g. Explorer (7+), Chrome (4+), Firefox (3+), Safari (5+) or Opera (10+).

Please ensure that JavaScript and cookies are enabled in your browser. JavaScript helps to control the reservation process, and ensures that sailing details are retrieved and displayed correctly. Cookies are used to remember the web address of Step 1 to improve navigation during the reservation process, and can also be used to remember Step 1 settings, which can be retrieved automatically on future reservations.

NB: Please be aware that although our system is fully compliant, some browser/anti-virus software has been known to mis-report errors. This is down to the security settings within the software. You may find that adjusting your settings resolves any errors or issues you may experience.


Caledonian MacBrayne are committed to protecting the privacy of our customers. We will only use information collected about you lawfully, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

We only collect information about you in order to process your reservation. We do not pass customer details on to third parties.

For your security, our web server does not store your credit card details. This means that you will have to re-enter them for each reservation you make.

If you have any queries regarding privacy or security, please contact us using one of the methods listed on our contacts page.

Q. What if my sailing is cancelled?

Sailings may need to be cancelled as a result of severe weather conditions, or other unforeseen circumstances.

If we have to cancel a sailing, you will be entitled to a full refund for any tickets you may have purchased for the affected sailing.

However, Caledonian MacBrayne does not accept any liability for any loss, costs or expenses incurred by passengers in the event of delay, diversion or cancellation of a sailing. Examples of these may include, but are not limited to, accommodation costs or travel by an alternative form of transportation.

Passengers are advised to consider insuring themselves against costs which may be incurred through delays, cancellations etc.

Q. Can I find out about sailing disruptions and cancellations before I travel?

Yes, there are three ways to access service status information: text, online and by telephone.

  • Text: Text messages can be sent to your mobile containing the latest service information. CalMac will not charge you for this service, although your normal service provider rates will apply. If you provide a mobile telephone number when placing your reservation, we will send you a text message should there be a disruption to your booked sailings.
  • One Time: For a one time update on the route of your choice text both the word CALMAC and the route code to 60030 e.g. “CALMAC 05”.
  • Text by Subscription: To subscribe to live updates for a particular route text the words CALMAC and SUBSCRIBE and the route code of your choice to 60030 e.g. “CALMAC SUBSCRIBE 05”. This will automatically subscribe you to ongoing service information* relating to that route for a six month period. You can subscribe to multiple routes by sending an individual subscription message for each route. Subscriptions can be cancelled at any time by texting CALMAC STOP to 60030 e.g. “CALMAC STOP 05” for an individual route or “CALMAC STOP” to cancel all subscriptions. A list of commands is also available by texting “CALMAC HELP” to 60030. *(Remember, text messages for subscribed routes will be despatched to you immediately upon update, at any time of day or night!).
  • Online: the easy to view red, amber, green system gives up-to-date information on all of our routes. Visit our Service Status section on this website. For information on Smartphone Apps for sailing updates and timetables direct to your mobile visit our website.
  • Telephone: call our Service Information line on 0800 066 5000 for an update.

Q. If I need to cancel my reservation, what do I do?

As soon as you know that you will be unable to travel, please contact us on 0800 066 5000. This will enable us to release the space held for you, allowing another customer the opportunity of travelling on these sailings.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to cancel reservations on-line.

Q. What is your policy on refunds?

Consideration will be given to all applications for refund in respect of unused refundable tickets returned to Customer Care at Support Services.

Please note that refunds will not be considered for 5/6/10/30/50 journey tickets, partially used Saver 5 Day Return tickets, Travel Trade tickets, group tickets or other reduced rate tickets which may be available. Refunds on 8 and 15 day Island Rover tickets will not be considered if received after the "vaild from" date. Refunds will not be given on expired tickets.

Refunds on partially used refundable tickets are calculated on the basis of the fare paid minus the number of journeys taken, charged at the full single fare.

A £10 administration charge will be applied to each refund per customer application.

Q. How do I claim my reservation?

Simply arrive at the port on the day of travel by the check-in time shown on your booking confirmation. A member of staff will have a list of reserved customers (a manifest) and will check you off this list and advise you where to park your vehicle.

The check-in clerk will also advise you where to collect your tickets (this varies depending on location). We recommend that you bring a copy of your booking confirmation with you as this shows which sailings you have booked, the latest check-in time for each, and has a note of your Booking Reference Number.

Q. When do I have to check-in at the terminal?

Check-in times can vary depending on the route and time of year. The latest check-in time for your chosen sailing(s) will be displayed on the confirmation page once you have made your reservation. Please pay attention to the time(s) given and ensure that you arrive at the port and check-in no later than the time stated, otherwise your space may be re-allocated.

Q. What happens if I do not check-in on time?

We regret that it will not be possible to accommodate any latecomers.

In order to comply with Safety Regulations, a number of safety procedures must be carried out, gangways have to be removed and car decks closed and secured for voyage before the vessel is permitted to leave port. In order to allow all this to happen before the scheduled departure time of the ship, it is essential that all booked traffic arrives and checks-in before the latest time shown on the confirmation page. Failure to check-in on time will result in your space being reallocated to a vehicle in the un-booked queue.

Q. Do I need a Passenger Registration Card?

Regulations requiring the recording of passenger details came into effect on 1 January 2000 and apply to the following routes in both directions:

  • Ullapool – Stornoway
  • Oban – Lochboisdale
  • Oban - Colonsay
  • Uig – Tarbert
  • Oban – Castlebay
  • Oban – Coll or Tiree
  • Uig – Lochmaddy
  • Lochboisdale – Castlebay
  • Coll – Tiree

Passengers travelling on any of the above routes must register at the port no later than thirty minutes prior to sailing time or by the stated check-in time, whichever is earlier, and be on board no later than ten minutes prior to sailing time.

Q. I have limited mobility. Can I stay in my car during the voyage?

Unfortunately, on our larger vessels, safety regulations prohibit customers remaining in their car while the ship is on passage. Able-bodied passengers must make their way to the passenger accommodation using the nearest staircase. If you have limited mobility, please advise staff when you check-in that you need to use the lift and they will arrange for your car to be loaded as near to the lift entrance as possible. All of our bookable services, with the exception of the Berneray-Leverburgh and Oban-Lismore routes are operated by these larger vessels.

Please note that our smaller vessels have open car decks and customers can stay in their car if desired. These vessels are not fitted with passenger lifts. These small vessels operate the Berneray-Leverburgh and Oban-Lismore services, in addition to our non-bookable routes.

Q. What is my Booking Reference Number for?

Your Booking Reference Number is unique to your reservation. If you have to contact us to check or change your reservation, you will be asked to quote this number. We would recommend that you take a note of your Booking Reference Number and write it in a safe place.

Q. What if I forget my Booking Reference Number?

Don't worry! Although quoting your Booking Reference Number is the most efficient way of locating your reservation, it is by no means the only way. However, if we have to locate your booking by other means, please be patient as our Reservations System has a lot of bookings to search through!

Q. Do you offer a discount for disabled customers?

Yes, we do offer a discount on certain routes, but unfortunately this is not available for bookings made online. If you are eligible for the discount (see below for full details), you can place your reservation with our Reservations Team by phone, fax or letter. (Contact details can be found on our contacts page.)

Disabled Drivers' Vehicles

Road Tax Exempt Vehicles

Discounts are available for road tax exempt vehicles. In order to ensure you receive the discounts you are entitled to, you must have the required documentation with you at the time of travel.

If You Are Travelling By Car Or Motorhome

On certain routes, a discount may be available on certain routes on the normal single vehicle fare only for a car or motorhome which is exempt from road tax through reasons of disability, and which is accompanied by the blue card holder. In order to receive the discount you must have the documentation detailed below with you at the time of travel. Discount is not available on routes where an RET symbol is displayed.

Documentation Required

When making your reservation, copies of your road tax exempt tax disc and blue card will be required in order for tickets to be issued.

Supporting documentation (the blue card, bearing the name and photograph of the card holder) must be carried at time of travel and be presented when requested. Failure to produce the documentation will result in the full fare being charged.

If you do not have a blue card, this can be obtained from your local authority by submitting your Motability Agreement or Certificate of Entitlement issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Alternatively, you can request form DBD 384 from the DWP.

NB The blue card holder must travel with the vehicle.


When practicable, assistance embarking or disembarking the ship will be available wherever requested e.g. through use of hazard warning lights on arrival at the car marshalling area. Elderly or infirm passengers and parents travelling with young children who require assistance to take luggage up and down the gangway, should ask a member of staff for help.

Please advise at the time of booking and when checking in at marshalling areas or terminals, of any special requirements you may have (e.g. use of lifts/wheelchairs). Some ships have facilities for disabled passengers, e.g. a lift, which can be used on request. Space may be limited close to the lifts at busy periods. (See note in each timetable and please check on availability before travelling.)

Assistance may also be available for passengers with audio or visual needs. Please advise us of your requirements at the time of booking, or let the Port Offices know in advance if assistance is required.


Passengers requiring the use of a wheelchair at terminals or on ships are advised to contact the port of departure before travelling. Some ships, particularly the smaller ones, may have limited numbers of wheelchairs available and demand can be high.

Q. I have a question that's not answered here. What should I do?

You can call, fax, email, or write to us with your query and the Reservations Team will get back to you as soon as possible with an answer. Please see our contacts page for contact numbers and addresses.