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Visit Scotland | Alba

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  • Scotland attracts visitors from close to home and from around the globe. Visitors to Scotland can travel to and around our country in many different ways; including air, road, rail, and sea.
  • In recent years, our trends work has identified that travel can form part of the visitor experience. People are also considering their method of transport as they review their carbon footprint.
  • On this page, you will find results from the Scotland Visitor Survey 2023. We explore how visitors travelled to Scotland, how they booked their travel and their mode of travel when here. We also provide signposting to our trends work.

1. Travel connections to and around Scotland

Scotland has five international airports that are served by flights from a growing number of European and long haul destinations. We also have a number of smaller airports that operate domestic connections or seasonal flights to Europe.

Direct ferry services run between Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as connecting Scotland's mainland with numerous Scottish isles. Many visitors also travel from a number of European countries to seaports in England, before travelling to Scotland.

A list of direct flights into Scotland (where they go to and which airline), as well as ferry connections, rail and coach services are kept up to date on our consumer facing website.

Browse transportation connections on

2. Scotland Visitor Survey 2023

In 2023, we commissioned the Scotland Visitor Survey to gather insight on visitor attitudes and behaviours. The scope of the survey was leisure overnight visitors only. Information on the background, methodology, and key highlights are available on our main visitor survey page.

Browse the Scotland Visitor Survey 2023.

Scotland Visitor Survey 2023 - transport

Published June 2024

Key insights on travel

Source: Scotland Visitor Survey, 2023

Travel to Scotland

Travel to Scotland continued to be dominated by car travel for UK visitors and by air travel for international visitors.

Edinburgh and Glasgow were the main gateway cities for those arriving by air, with a smaller proportion arriving at Inverness or Aberdeen airports.  For UK visitors, there were some differences regionally. Those from Greater London and the South East also used plane and train connections to Scotland.

7 in 10 European visitors travelled by air and the majority of these came on a direct flight into Edinburgh. Dutch visitors, however, were more likely than other markets to be travelling by car and ferry to Scotland.

For long haul visitors, 8 in 10 visitors travelled to Scotland by air, with more travelling on an indirect flight (48%) than directly (35%).

Travel within Scotland

Car travel still dominated travel around Scotland. 69% of all visitors used a car on their trip in Scotland in 2023.

However, there was also a significant proportion who are using public transport. Almost half of visitors in Scotland claimed to use some form of public transport on their trip within Scotland (49%). This rose to 66% for European and long haul visitors.

This was also higher for those travelling within an urban location (or as part of touring around Scotland) compared with those staying more in rural or coastal locations.

There were also differences by lifestage. Pre-nesters were more likely to travel by public transport driven by environmental concerns, cost, and not having access to a car.

In 2023, the majority of visitors who were using a car were using a petrol or diesel vehicle (84%). Although 12% were using hybrid vehicles, only 2% were driving pure electric vehicles for travelling around Scotland.

Train travel may also be seen as part of the trip experience. 27% of visitors stated that they chose public transport as they felt it would enhance their holiday.


Satisfaction with public transport was high. Visitors were generally very satisfied with their experience. In particular, the reliability of public transport and the ability to reach their destination were rated in the top two boxes by the majority, while no aspects were rated as dissatisfactory.

Ratings provided by European visitors tended to be lower than for UK and long haul visitors, particularly value for money.

Reasons for choosing public transport included that it was:

  • easier to get to places
  • more cost-effective
  • more environmentally friendly

Reasons given for not choosing public transport included:

  • lack of flexibility
  • that it was difficult and inconvenient for some to use i.e., due to luggage or impractical with the people in the travel party

Mentions were also made around the infrequency of services and length of time it would take. Overseas visitors were more likely to mention "not being practical with luggage" as a barrier.

The small minority of people who drove an electric car during their trip were generally moderately satisfied with the charging infrastructure. On average, the availability and reliability of charging points in Scotland was scored just less than 7 out of 10.

Hear what our visitors are saying about travel

3. Travel trends: the conscious traveller

There is a growing awareness over climate change and more awareness on what can be done to protect our environment. Some visitors are looking at ways they may reduce their carbon footprint when travelling to Scotland and when on holiday here.

Our trends work has explored the emerging conscious traveller. Our publication, A Decade of Tourism Trends looked at the rise in interest in train travel as an alternative to short haul flights.

Explore a decade of consumer trends.

Our research in 2021 studied how Scottish residents feel about climate change. We explored the sustainable behaviours they may adopt when on holiday in the future.

The research showed a willingness to change around some areas of responsible tourism, particularly using public transport once at a destination and opting for car-free days.

Browse Scotland residents views on responsible tourism.

4. Additional research resources

Related links