The only way to travel on Lofoten islands (if you don't have a car) is the bus. I have visited the Lofoten islands in the off peak season (September) and the only way to travel on the islands was by taking the bus that started at 9 o'clock from Å i Lofoten. Schedules change so I am not sure if my Lofoten bus still has the same schedule, but surely they start from Å i Lofoten and then go through all the islands for about 7-8 hours.
I have arrived to Lofoten islands by taking a ferry from Bodø. Due to the fact I didn't have a car, I considered this option very cheap, as I only paid about 10-15 Euros for the trip (one-way). There are several connections but the best I have found was to take the 15.00 ferry from Bodø that arrived at 19.00 in Moskenes.
I went to the Lofoten in late May and did not rent a car but depended completely on buses.
In one way it was great---there were many options and I was able to get to almost everywhere I wanted to go. In addition, it was much cheaper than renting a car.
BUT there were a few drawbacks. I thought late May was summer season, but it wasn't (that begins in June). Consequently, where I was staying (in A), there were no restaurants open! On the other hand, most places where you stay do have kitchens, and I found that even the smallest towns had very good (and very wekk stocked) small supermarkets.
Then again, in low season the markets might not be open all day (some hours were 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., for example), so if I had intended to go for an all-day hike I would not have been able to go to the shop then. (You could possibly get around this by buying several days' food at one time and keeping it in the refrigerator). Another idea is to buy your food before setting out on the bus to your destinations. (By the way, I was staying in A, whose restaurant was not yet open for the season. The restaurants and Reine and Sorvagan were open, but only for the evening meal. It was possible to get to these places by bus, but I would have had to take the bus at 5 p.m. and the earliest return bus was about 9 p.m., so that would have been quite a wait.). I was amazed that in Reine there wasn't even a coffee shop to sit down and enjoy a break. They did have a great convenience store, but I had to sit on its steps to wait for my bus.
Another thing---although the buses were great, you often had to do some planning to fit the bus timetables. I spent maybe a bit more time waiting for buses than I had planned for, but it worked out OK because it was very restful just being in the Lofoten, and I sort of felt like I was living there.
So, yes, it is quite possible to get around by bus; you just need to plan carefully where you want to go and check the schedules.
I found Leknes an delightful place, much better than Svolvaer. It had lots of shops, restaurants, and coffee shops (plus supermarkets), and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Of course I also loved A, Reine, Ramberg, and the other villages.
Hope this helps.
P.S. I used the website the other VT poster mentioned. In addition to the features you see on the table, you can click on the destination names and get a map showing the exact spots where the buses stop. By the way, the numbers at the head of each column indicate what days of the week they run, with 1 being Monday (etc.) and S schooldays. The row of dots (...) indicates the bus does not stop, but the vertical bar means the bus stops but only if someone wants to get on or off, at no fixed time.
Because of the very rare schedule of the buses, I was obliged to try the classic hitchhiking way. Although not a very big fan of it, I have enjoyed it on Lofoten, as other tourists or locals were kind to drive me between the villages (even for 20-25 miles).
Also nobody wanted to take any kind of cash from me either.
You can reach the Lofoten by car from Narvik (there is a bridge connecting to the mainland) or by boat from several cities in Norway, like Bødo.
You can easily drive around with your own car because roads are in good condition. The connexion between the islands is assured by bridges or ferries. In the latter case, you should check the departure times and try to be early, because there are often long lines.
Buses don't run very often in the Lofoten Islands, so my best tip for
getting from one place to another is to rent a car. It'll also enable you
to go to all the places you can't reach by bus, so I really recommend it.
It doesn't have to be that expensive either, there is an agency that
provides used cars for rent, definitely worth checking out!
If you want to reach the Lofoten by ferry, choose your route carefully. The fare for the ferry Skutvik -Svolvaer was (in 2003) NOK 214 for a car + driver, and NOK 62 for each extra adult, which makes it NOK 276 for two persons + a small car.
If, however, you choose to get there by the ferry Bodo - Moskenes, you may soon come to regret your choice. There you pay NOK 458 for a car + driver, and NOK 127 for your adult passenger. NOK 585 altogether! That , unfortunately was the way we travelled back to the mainland. Although the fare was exorbitant, there was definitely something wrong with our boat: it shook so much you couldn't take any photos or even stay on deck, and the engine made a dreadful noise unlike that on any ferries we had travelled on. And you couldn't blame the shaking on the weather: the sea was perfectly calm. We did land up safely but I couldn't call that journey the trip of my life. However, the Norwegian Ruffen, who uses that ferry frequently, says it's a new ferry that they are all proud of, so perhaps it was simply overloaded that day.
When you arrive by car to the Lofoten, you must take a ferry from Melbu to Fiskebol and from that point you are officially on the Lofoten. From the ferry you can have a first idea about the Lofoten and its landscape.
In 2009 will open a road that it will connect the island of Vestvagoy with the Vesteralen and so you haven't need to take the ferry.
Take a look on the link, it is also in english, here you can find all the boats and ferrys that OVDS have, all over Lofoten and Bodø, for short trips or long ones also Hurtigruta.
Photo is also from OVDS home page
It's possible to fly or get the bus to the lofoten islands or to tromso, but somehow I was not in the hurry to get there... so from Trondheim iIfirst took the postal boat, the hurtigruten, to the lofoten islands (1 day and 1 night), and then from the Lofoten Islands to Tromso I took another hurtigruten boat (1 night and half aday). It was quite pleasant and relaxing... nice scenery around... and wonderful fjords... but when we encountered fogit was the dullest thing I've ever done in my life. Still, being woken up in the middle of the night to go out and see the Arctic Circle "crossing-sign" was something I really enjoyed. Not far later... the Lofoten wall... the Lofoten islands
If you take the ferry from Bodø, it will deposit you at Moskenes. There's a cafe and a small tourist information office, and if you are on foot (as I was), you can catch one of the regular buses that will either take you south to Å or northwards to Reine) - or eventually all the way up to Svolvaer.
Many people arrive to Lofoten as a part of their cruise along the Norwegian shore with the Coastal steamer (Hurtigruten)
In addition to being touristic and most comfortable cruise ships the "Hurtigruten" also plays an important role as everyday transportation, connecting the
places along the shore for the local people.
So it is possible to go by Hurtigruten for just a single distance as well, in this case from the mainland (Bodø) to Lofoten, where the ships visits the harbours Stamsund and Svolvær. The voyage Bodø-Stamsund takes a little less than 4 hours.
The ships which are in traffic now are all new and luxurious, and have place for 50 cars on their car-deck. It's wise to order in advance during high-season to be sure they have place for your car.
A bicycle holiday through Lofoten is a recommendable way to explore the beauty of the landscape and the contrasts between the different islands. All the islands now are connected by bridges (except the more distant isles Værøy and Røst)
The bus connections are good to get around.