Held in August each year, the world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe attracts thousands of visitors to the Scottish capital in anticipation of a month of top notch events. With more than 40,000 performances spread across the city and the raucous atmosphere of a never-ending street party, it’s one of the biggest and most significant dates on the cultural calendar.
Getting to the Edinburgh Fringe
Edinburgh airport is served by the usual budget airlines, so finding a cheap deal in advance shouldn’t be too difficult. When it gets closer to August, however, these can be few and far between – the best way to travel on a budget is to book the cheapest ticket into the UK and travel by coach to Edinburgh itself. Coach journeys can be long, but they’re the most cost effective way to get around in Britain!
Where to Get Tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe
There’s just so much going on that it can be helpful to pick up a programme in advance, which will come with handy map and venue guide. It’s free from Edinburgh, although you can also order a copy from the Fringe Box Office after June for the price of postage.
Some of the most popular shows sell out quick, so it can be a good idea to book early if there’s a certain act you’re desperate to see. You can purchase tickets directly at the venue (your programme will come in handy here) or online at the Edinburgh Fringe website. It’s often worth going direct, though, as the Box Office only sell about 25% of the tickets.
Don’t go overboard on the booking, though – you might end up clashing with that must-see night or fantastic deal. Keep your ear to the ground for the buzz and the lowdown on the best shows and take a chance on someone new!
If you’re looking for a last-minute bargain, head to the Half Price Hut. It’s located at the Mound Precinct where there is a ticket booth which offers 2 for 1 on shows that haven’t sold out on the day of the performance. It’s also worth hanging around outside venue when a show is about to start – the acts would rather have a crowd than an empty hall, so sellers can offer cut-price seats at the last second.
There’s also the Five Pound Fringe where preview tickets will be sold for a standard fiver. (You can book these online or via the Fringe Box Office)
Even cheaper is the free fringe. There are two groups organising in the free events: Laughing Horse Comedy’s Free Fringe hosts a bit of everything including comedy, cabaret, theatre, music gigs, exhibitions and operas while PBH’s Free Fringe primarily features comedy.
Top Tips for Planning Your Edinburgh Fringe
• Arrive early!
The quietest period of the fringe is at the start: from the opening weekend through to the middle of the second week, you’re much more likely to get hot deals or a last second bargain as organisers try to fill venues whilst the press are in.
• Be prepared…
It may be August, but summer weather in Edinburgh (and Scotland) is notoriously unpredictable. Remember to bring some waterproof and warm clothing, as well as suitable footwear for all the walking around and getting from show to show.
• Get your bearings when your arrive.
Take a short tour of the main areas of the city (using your Fringe programme…), such as the Royal Mile and Princes Street – typically regarded as Edinburgh’s “high streets” with their large concentration of shops and pubs. Having an idea of how the city fits together (and where your staying in relation to the main streets) can be a big help once the hordes descend on the city, especially late at night!
• Skip the bus.
Edinburgh is a compact city and, once you’ve you got your bearings, it’s easy to get around on foot and save the price of a cab or bus fare.
Backpackers at the Fringe: Top Budget Tips
Although you can find yourself eating into your budget at the Fringe, it’s actually quite easy to avoid spending a fortune on tickets. Look out for great deals at the last minute such as the Half Price Hut and Five Pound Fringe, but also remember that there are a whole range of free events included in the programme!
You can also enjoy plenty of free entertainment on the streets – with bars open till 5am every night and thousands of visitors wandering around, performers gather at the Royal Mile and National Galleries to play to the crowds.
Aside from the Fringe, there are also a whole range of Edinburgh Festivals for Free, from parades to poetry readings.
Alternatively, if you’re really tight on cash, you can even find a way to make money instead of spending it… Throughout the Fringe, restaurants and pubs are so busy that they will hire extra staff for the festival to cope with the crowds.
They’re often keen to hire visitors who understand the temporary nature of the job, so it’s easy to find a week or two’s work whilst you’re staying in Edinburgh. And with the late openings and constant buzz in the city, working behind the bar or waiting tables can be an entertaining way to experience to Fringe in itself!
Backpackers’ Accommodation for the Edinburgh Fringe
There’s plenty of cheap accommodation in the Scottish capital, from affordable apartments, cheap hotels to bargain beds at an Edinburgh hostel. Usually, the best accommodation does fill up fast so it’s a good idea to book in advance to find the best deals.
However, you should find that a few Edinburgh hostels have late availability if you make a last minute decision to hit the Fringe.
Royal Mile Backpackers is recommended for a younger crowd, espcecially those traveling solo. During the Fringe they’ll be hosting a number of ‘fiestas’, including a kick-off pub crawl on the first weekend culminating in a show and competitions and games to win complimentary tickets to other performances.
Doing the festival alone this year? Small, friendly Bus Station Backpackers is one of the most sociable hostels in the city and highly recommended.
Couples looking for a cheap stay should try Castle Rock Hostel – also top rated, it has reasonable private rooms as well as dorm beds and an excellent romantic view of the Edinburgh castle!
Edinburgh Fringe for Families: Top Tips
The Fringe may attract huge numbers of backpackers in Scotland every summer, but it can also make a fantastic alternative summer break with the whole family during school holidays!
There are a wide range of performances created specifically for children, including a few children’s classics such as Railway Children and Roald Dahl’s The Twits – check the programme for details of times and venues. They’ll enjoy the eccentric street performers and unusual shows like The Chinese State Circus (at Ocean Terminal) too.
The best way to survive the Edinburgh Fringe with a family is not to try to fit too much in – two shows a day would be plenty, and then supplement this by enjoying some shopping or one of the city’s many museums and attractions, such as the Dynamic Earth, a centre of scientific discovery and Camera Obscura which offers a unique view of Edinburgh.
Family Accommodation for the Fringe
A number of hostels in Edinburgh cater to families during the Fringe, with some conveniently offering self-catering facilities and ensuites for family rooms.
Located right in the city center (no pesky long journeys with the kids), Edinburgh Metro is a university hall that opens as a hostel during the festival. All rooms are private, with a bathroom and kitchen for each small flat – ideal for family groups.
Where to Eat during Edinburgh Fringe
To help save a few pounds, carry a bottle of water, a few snacks and a packed lunch with you during the day – not only will keep this busy during long queues, it’ll also help you avoid paying the premium prices at cafes and sandwich shops in the city centre.
On Saturdays, the Edinburgh Farmers Market is also a fantastic place to pick up budget-friendly food. Held between 9am and 2pm at Castle Terrace, it has a range of stalls offering hot takeaway food, such as venison burgers and a hog roast!
Another great option for a cheap meal is the Mosque Kitchen (officially called The Lunch Box) where you can pick up huge portions of halal curries for just a few pounds.
Finally, you can’t beat pub grub for a taste of Scotland – look out for lunchtime meal offers that are often cheaper than dinner and you could bag a 2 for 1 bargain with your pint.