Edinburgh Festivals – The Survival Guide

Just because Edinburgh is a small city doesn’t mean it cant handle itself when it comes to an influx of people. Great planning goes into the organisation of such well known worldwide festivals and everything seems to work like clockwork. Although to some Edinburgh residents, it may feel like a strain some days, we embrace the injection of energy and enjoy the perks that it brings. Not only do I love the world-wide talent, exciting shows and food and drink pop ups, I especially love the late night shopping hours and being able to get in a coffee shop after 5pm! Although the city is prepared, YOU should also be prepared! So as an insider, I thought I would give you my survival tips on getting the best out of the festivals and the city.

The bustling Royal Mile

1. I am stating the obvious here but its a very important one. Fail to plan, plan to fail. I always make an itinerary no matter where I go in the world, sometimes I don’t stick to it completely but its great to have a structure in your head so you know where to be to get the most out of your trip. It’s especially important in Edinburgh during the festivals. My first tip if you are coming from another country would be to book your hotels and flights well in advance. The prices of these often go up dramatically near the festival time. Therefore, you could save yourself a lot of money. The recently opened budget hotel, Point A is an affordable choice that has a great location close to the city centre. It’s also good to book any particular restaurants to avoid disappointment and not get ‘hangry’. Most importantly if you are planning to see a lot of shows then grab some tickets, as soon as they are released, and utilise the websites.

Rooms at Point A Hotel

2. It is no secret that Scotland’s weather is rather unpredictable, so you have to be well prepared and wear sensible clothing and footwear. With blue skies in the morning and driving rain in the afternoon, people are often surprised with the constant changes in weather. The best advice is to wear layers as you are able to remove or add throughout the day. If you can, waterproof layers are also advisable. Having an umbrella is okay, however unless you want to do your Mary Poppins impression due to the common surprise gusts of wind, a jacket with a hood should be sufficient.

It is sunny sometimes, I promise!

3. If you ever wanted to work out while walking around, then Edinburgh is the perfect city to get those steps in. Wear comfortable shoes as Edinburgh is built on numerous hills, thus walking from A to B can be like a mini hike. Adding to that is the cobbled streets and uneven pavements (which all add to Edinburghs charm), wearing your Sunday bests, are probably not advisable.

The winding steep streets of Old Town

4. If you are visiting from another country, or even from a different part of the U.K. Be prepared for the Scottish accent and unusual/slang words and phrases. We try our best but often forget to slow down for tourists. Being the capital there are many Scots from around the country and dialects change from town to town. Check out some words and phrases here. It shouldnae be that hard fir ye!

5. As Edinburgh is a small city, getting from one part of the city to the other can be easy, however at busy times (like during the festival) it can take much longer. Luckily we have an amazing bus service called Lothian Buses. The bus journey may feel a tad slower due to the increase in people and the introduction of the 20mph limit within the city but the network is great. Download their app where you can buy tickets, view timetables and get updates on any delays. The buses now accept contactless, so it is now much easier to pay for your journey without searching for change. The Edinburgh Tram system is also a fantastic way of getting to and from the airport or back and forth Princes Street without getting stuck in traffic.

6. This is maybe easier said than done but try and avoid Princes Street, unless of course you are out for a fantastic days shopping. This street is usually packed full of people coming from all directions and at this time of the year, it doesn’t make walking through the city a pleasurable experience. Instead, head to the other side of the road and walk through Princes Street Gardens. It is more open and pleasant, enabling you to see the ever changing architecture of Princes St on one side and the old town and imposing castle on the other… much better for photo opportunities!

Princes Street Gardens

7. Queues! I’m sorry tourists but we like our queues, we are still British after all. Whether it’s buses, banks or ticket lines etc we like to be in straight lines and heaven forbid you should cross it. Don’t be offended if you get a sly look if you skip the queues, it’s just in our blood. 

8. If you cannot come for the entire month, why not try to come at the beginning of the festival or the end. Come at the beginning and you will get the chance to snap up some free or 2 for 1 tickets. Come at the end and you will experience the great closing ceremony with its fireworks against the beautiful castle.

9. On a serious note, it’s now time to talk about pedestrian lights. Red means Stop, so don’t be tempted to cross the roads on a red man. We’ve seen it many times during the festival where tourists walk out in front of buses and cars, causing serious accidents.

10. Although being in the festival is incredibly entertaining, there is still an entire city and country out there to explore or relax in. If you are a little tired, there are plenty areas to go to breathe a sigh of relief. There are pockets of relaxation around Edinburgh and you just need to know where to look, head to my previous blog post for some ideas. 

Dean Village

Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year but at festival time you can see an exciting and unique side to the city. Follow these steps and your guaranteed your time will go smoothly and you will get the best out of the city making you long to come back again and again. Most importantly, just have fun!! Haste Ye Back!

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