Can you imagine a place where 50,000+ performances take place within a span of a month; and hundreds of thousands of people from various countries are visiting to witness this? Yes, I am talking about the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.
As per Fringe’s official website, there were 50,000+ performances of 3200+ shows in 290+ venues last year. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
Edinburgh is celebrating Fringe’s 70th anniversary this year and it is happening between 4th to 28th Aug. Fringe is world’s biggest festival and no fest has been able to out rank it till now.
This year again, there are thousands of performers taking the stage to wow their viewers of every taste – be it theatre, comedy, dance, photography, circus, music, kid’s show. You name it and they have it.
And, as many thousands of people fly to Edinburgh this August to be part of this overwhelming show, planning for this fest becomes more difficult.
That’s why I have created this guide which will take some burden off of your shoulder and you can spend less time in planning and more time enjoying the Fringe Festival.
So, to get the idea on when to fly, where to stay, eat, park, must visit shows, what to pack, grab a coffee and continue reading. I have also mentioned some tips on how you can stay and eat for free in Edinburgh.
If you like this article, please do not forget to share it with your friends.
So, let’s talk about flights first and then go to the most important parts like stay and shows.
Flying cheap to Edinburgh for Fringe
Compare prices on all major search engines: This may sound like common sense but many people fail to do this. They visit one search engine which is well known to them and book the tickets without giving a second thought. I myself am guilty of doing this in several occasions.
I was planning a visit to India and searched flights on makemytrip.com, it being India’s well known search engine. Then I searched the flights on skyscanner.com and I could get the same flight £45 cheaper. Why not save some bucks by putting 10 mins extra on your flight search?
Compare the flight tickets on Skyscanner.
Fly on Tuesday: Assuming you have planned your vacation for Fringe and you are flexible to travel on any day, I would recommend to fly on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Generally flights are quite cheap on these days.
Apply for a Travel card: When you sign up for Travel card, you earn free points which you can use for flights, hotels and even redeem those for cash. For example, you get 25,000 mile bonus when your application is approved with Alaska Airlines and 50,000 points when you sign up for Citi Prestige card.
You can compare and apply for your Travel card on moneysupermarket.com as per your eligibility and requirements.
For other options, you can visit www.transportdirect.info to find out all the different ways you can travel to Edinburgh from anywhere in the UK, including fares and timetables.
How many days are sufficient for Fringe Festival?
Before talking about the stay options, it’s better to understand how many days are enough to enjoy Fringe.
One day: If you are staying nearby and can drive to Edinburgh, you can leave very early and go back very late. As Edinburgh becomes very crowded in August, it would be difficult to drive on roads and consider yourself lucky if you find a parking.
Booking your parking much ahead of Fringe is very important. Consider booking it through npc.com
I would not recommend one day of stay as there are thousands of shows running at a time and you might miss the best ones.
Three days: I would say you can cover many shows and enjoy the fest within three days but you would be running around Edinburgh and may get tired.
Even though most of the shows are happening around Princes street and The Royal mile, but there are multiple locations where you would find better shows (like some theatres, small stages, restaurants etc.)
I would recommend visiting Edinburgh for at least seven days and if you want to be part of the full fest, one month is an ideal time.
Recommended Reading: Fell in Love with Edinburgh
Short stay during Fringe (one to seven days)
Staying in Hotels: You are still not late if you reading this blog in June or early July and can get some good deals on Hotels. Obviously, the closer you book towards the Fringe Festival, the harder it would be to get the vacancies and per night stay costs would sky rocket.
I admire Tripadvisor’s service as the site compares the prices on various hotel booking sites and it has un-biased views from actual customers. If you are on vacation mode and want to stay in hotels in Edinburgh, search your hotels here.
Bed and breakfast stay: You can save some cash by staying in bed and breakfast and use that cash to buy more Fringe festival show passes. You anyways will be out and enjoying the fest, then why spend extra bucks on hotels. Visit airbnb.com and search for an apartment.
As you can also cook in bed and breakfast stay, you can buy some groceries locally and make some delicious food. Apart from Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda there are many Indian, Chinese, Japanese, African grocery stores around Edinburgh.
Sharing accommodation in Hostels: If you are ok to share accommodation and meanwhile meet some new people, you can try booking hostels. Hostels in Edinburgh are very clean and well maintained.
Stay for students: During the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh University provides many of their halls for students which are basic but clean and students can take advantage of that. Edinburgh University is around 30 minutes from city centre and there are number of buses running between these places.
Stay for more than a week
Rent an apartment: If you are staying here for more than a week, I would recommend renting an apartment.
It’s a good earning opportunity for Edinburgh residents as they can rent out their houses or rooms during Fringe festival. Obviously, renting an apartment is the cheapest option compared to hotels or BnBs and are also quite comfortable.
Some good websites where you can search for apartments:
Stay for FREE during Fringe
Just visit couchsurfing, where you can stay as a guest with locals, free of cost. But obviously don’t expect big, sometimes you get a room, sometimes a bed and sometimes a couch. But just remember, it’s very difficult to find accommodation during Fringe, so you won’t mind even a couch, right? 🙂
Try searching for house sitting opportunities in the city. You can house sit when owners themselves are out for travel. Check out HeckticTravels.com, nomador.com for house-sitting opportunities. House owners get peace of mind; you get a place to straighten your back, win-win!
Travel within Edinburgh
Rent a car: Obviously renting a car gives more flexibility when you are here and can visit many places around Edinburgh. However, you could face parking issues.
If you still want to rent a car, you can book a parking spot in advance to avoid frustrations.
Take a bus: Travel like an Edinburger. During the Fringe festival by using the city’s amazing and well connected bus and tram facility. If you want to visit many places, I would recommend getting a day pass, which costs £4 and you can buy it from inside the bus. This pass is valid till 1AM.
Also, please carry exact change per your ticket as there is “no change given” 😀
Walk around: Most of the shows are around Princes Street and Royal Mile and both the streets are at a walkable distance (10-15 mins) from each other. There are many tourist attractions on this road which you can visit while you are here.
What to see in Fringe
There are hundreds of shows running parallel during Fringe festival and believe me, you will be spoilt for choices. But planning ahead would make you enjoy the fest to the fullest and also save a few quids while you are at it.
Just to start with you can download your FREE copy the Festival guide. It’s an 82MB file so please do it when you are accessing internet through wifi.
During the early start of the fest, you would find many free shows, for Preview and paid shows are cheap as performers want to attract people and get good reviews.
For buying tickets, go to https://edfringe.com –> Click on Find shows –> Click on Advance search–>Click on Filter result. This way you can search better for particular shows, genre, availability, price etc. For example, you would like to go for free shows, just click on Special pricing and select Free.
I would recommend to book the shows in advance so that you don’t miss any of your favourite. Also, there are many street shows which you can watch for free or support the artist by giving small donations. Many artists come to Edinburgh from all over the world to participate and showcase their talent.
One show which I would say you must visit is The Military Tattoo. It is a military performance of music and display of armed forces in general.
More than 45 countries would be performing in this show this year and you can witness the glory by booking your tickets.
Tickets are more like to get sold out soon so plan accordingly. Last year I couldn’t watch this show as I was late and tickets became very costly.
What to pack
The Scottish weather is quite funny. At once Sun is shining bright and in seconds it starts raining. So, please come prepared for every weather.
Trainers: To enjoy the fest to the fullest, you will have to walk…a lot. So bring your comfortable trainers as there are many uphills in Edinburgh.
Umbrella: Sometimes it rains here during summer( I would say drizzle). So, carrying a small umbrella would help.
Camera: You don’t want to go back home without capturing the moments of this beautiful show. Being a photographer, I can suggest buying this Bridge camera, if not a DSLR.
Cag in a bag: As it’s light weight and you can carry easily, this would really help you to stay dry.
Money: There are so many options for shows, food, shopping and I bet you would tend to spend more than you expected. And as the place is crowded, it would be better not to carry too much cash with you.
Over to you
Edinburgh is the forth beautiful city in the world and it becomes more charming in August when lacks of people come to visit this city during Fringe Festival. I think, it’s one of the best things you can ever experience in your lifetime. So friends! hope to see you in Edinburgh in August.