Travel tips for Edinburgh
May 12, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to the Edinburgh Festival in August - what is a realistic budget for what it will cost to attend the festival and feed myself, and where am I likely to find the cheapest method to get there?

Luckily my lodging will be paid for during my stay -- but I have no sense of how much the food and admission fees etc are likely to cost? Any help -- and any recommendations of can't-miss things at the festival and in edinburgh are welcome! thank you
posted by chickaboo to Travel & Transportation around Edinburgh, Scotland (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should say I will be traveling from Washington DC
posted by chickaboo at 12:05 PM on May 12, 2008

The basic rule that my wife and I found in the UK was: If it's a dollar here, it's a pound there.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:08 PM on May 12, 2008

All of the ticket prices are available online now for the Festival, and the Fringe tix go on sale in a few weeks, so that shouldn't really be hard to plan. If you just want to be there and aren't going to be crazed about seats, I think ten quid will get you into virtually any event. Or hang out with my husband, who seems to get tickets for absolutely everything Fringe.

The city is walkable and if you're not staying in the city centre, public transport doesn't suck, so that shouldn't be too much.

Food is like it is with almost all tourist places. If you want to eat in restaurants, you're going to spend money. If you're happy to live on falafels for £3.50, you'll be fine. Bakeries, cafes, grocery stores (Tesco, for example) and sandwich shops abound and are good sources of cheaper food, and there are outdoors stalls setup for the festival too and they're very yummy.

There are going to be at least a handful of MeFites, so maybe y'all should do a meetup!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:27 PM on May 12, 2008

I think ten quid will get you into virtually any event.

Top name acts will cost a lot more than that... that's about average for no-name peformances.

There's plenty of cheapish curry and Chinese restaurants dotted around the edge of the city center.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:34 PM on May 12, 2008

If you discover that flights terminating in London are much cheaper than flights terminating in Edinburgh you might want to search for a cheap train at — you need to book as far in advance as possible to get non-obscene prices on UK trains — or a comically cheap long-distance bus. Accommodation is the worst part of a festival trip, so you're in a good position. Assuming you're talking about the Fringe Festival here, it is completely dependent on what you choose to see. At the very bottom end you'll find student theatre companies handing out free tickets to fill seats. (There are also a few bigger events that are free because they're being broadcast on radio/television, etc.) IMHO it is key to a true festival experience to see at least some of those ropey semi-amateur shows — often really appalling, occasionally stunningly good, next-big-thing type stuff — and not just watch the big-name comedians etc.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:51 PM on May 12, 2008

You can spend as much or as little as you want - there's something for every budget. There are always plenty of free concerts in Princes Street Gardens - great if it's sunny, not so much if you encounter a typical Scottish summer - and sometimes in The Meadows. In addition the galleries and the Botanic Garden have some great exhibitions for free and if the weather is good you can enjoy a picnic outside. If that's not your thing, Edinburgh city itself is wonderful and packed full of history - you can lose yourself down some of the closes - so be sure to investigate.

Alternatively, if you want to spend money but don't want to break the bank, you can often get half price tickets for the first weekend of the Fringe - you may discover some real gems.
posted by highrise at 1:07 PM on May 12, 2008

I've been to the festival countless times, the best advice I can give you is to pace yourselves, if you spend every day running around to see 10 shows you will end up tired, broke and you'll forget half of it.

I generally plan for 2 shows a day averaging about £12 each. I wouldn't go overboard on the advance tickets, all the best shows I've seen have been word-of-mouth recommendations booked at the last minute.

It is an international festival so try to see a wide range: Croatian performance artists, choirs from Soweto, Scottish ceilidhs, they will all be there. Late n Live is a good way to see half a dozen comedy acts crammed into one show.

If you are there for a week or more then take a day off from the festival to just explore the city, climb the Scott monument, or go to the beach if it's sunny. (don't count on it though - take a jumper)
posted by Lanark at 2:56 PM on May 12, 2008

Last year tickets for most shows cost between 8 and 14 pounds; this was for comedy and theatre shows at the fringe. Most performances last around an hour, some a bit longer. If you want to "do the festival" then you will probably end up going to around five shows a day. I would suggest that you allow a certain budget for tickets (say 200-300 quid for a few days) and just accept that you are going to see a mixture of things from the dire to the wonderful. If you want to keep your budget down there are some free and cheap things, as variable in quality as the things you pay more for.

In terms of what to see, there are some good websites with reviews written by the public, which are well used, newspaper reviews (in which I include the magazine "the list"), and talking to people on the streets: just walking around you will be accosted by people trying to persuade you to go to see their zombie musical or macbeth-on-a-bouncy-castle (both real examples, btw). There are some good late-night comedy shows where you get to see a variety of performers do a short set each, which can be a good way to see the best of a number of performers.

Most venues are within ready waking distance around the centre of Edinburgh, if you are capable of walking around a decent sized city then you should be able to cope without using buses or taxis.

There are food options for all budgets. We were staying somewhere with a kitchen (useful), so we cooked some meals, and ate out at restaurants and cafes, and bought a lot of food on-the-go from take away ("carry out" to use the local term!) outlets and street stalls. I'd allow around 5-10 pounds for a decent take away meal, and anything from 10-30 pounds for a decent meal in a cafe/restaurant, depending on what you want. But you can live on bread and cheese from a shop for a couple of quid if you want.
posted by Jabberwocky at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2008

You'll have a great time - the festival is brilliant. If you want to get a good buzz of the shows and just want know what's going on, i suggest hanging out in The Pleasance (it's one of the venues) for an hour with a pint -- people will approach you shamelessly and tell you all about their show. I made the mistake of trying to have a casual meeting there once in the summer and we were interrupted every five minutes with a new pitch.

You should be able to walk between most of the venues comfortably, but otherwise Lothian Buses offers a one-week ridacard which means you can hop on and off buses without having to fuss with fares (the fare is £1.10 single or £2.50 for a day ticket). There's a shop just at waverly train station right in the center of town where you can get the pass.

If you want to do some shopping while you're in town, i highly recommend browsing around victoria street and the grassmarket, which are also in the centre of town and will be close to a lot of the Festival venues. There is a brilliant vintage shop in the grassmarket called Armstrongs with all kinds of amazing old outfits, and there's a funky hat shop just up the street called Fabhatrix. The far end of the Grassmarket has the lovely Godiva boutique and Victoria street has Totty Rocks, both great for some funky women's clothing. If you keep walking up the hill when you pass Godiva away from the grassmarket, there's another fantastic vintage store called Herman Miller (i think) with some beautiful clothes.

Have fun!
posted by ukdanae at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2008

I would be darlingbri's aforementioned husband.

Beer's the same price as London, give or take (under three quid a pint in a pub, maybe 3.50 in temporary Fringe venue bars. Food is everywhere but if you're trying to save money, make yourself packed lunches. There are 'city' (read: smaller) versions of Sainsbury's on the west side of St Andrew Square, and a Tesco on Nicolson Street -- which is very close to the majority of the largest 'supervenues'.

You didn't mention where you're staying but no place in the city centre is too far to walk from another.

And a tenner's good for far more than 'no name' Fringe shows. Yes, you can catch (eg) Ricky Gervais doing his drive-by cash-in-on-the-swollen-population one-off show at the end of August for 70 quid. But there are a large number of comics and other shows going for eight or nine pounds a ticket, and that fearfulsymmetry hasn't heard of Zoe Lyons (£8) or Ivan Brackenbury (£8) or a goodly other number of award-winning or -nominated acts, doesn't mean they're unknown. And nothing quite polishes an act so much as doing it thirty days on the trot.

See also:

* Get Up Stand Up (last year's lineup). Piles of well-known acts, three per day, three pounds at the door. And they give you chips for nothing.

* Peter Buckley Hill's Free Fringe. I dunno how he does it ("crankily" wouldn't be entirely unfair) but none of those shows cost a dime, and unlike the "other" Free programme running, PBH actually picks the artists so you've more half a chance of seeing something good.

* Please forgive the relevant self-reference, but do bring a radio and tune it to 87.7 so you can listen to the Scotsman's comedy critic arguing with people whose she likes and doesn't like at lunchtime, and three guests per hour talking about their shows so you can get a feel for whether you like the sound of whatever this person you've never heard of before is doing tonight. Assuming we can drum up the twenty grand required for a fifth time, Festival FM will be on air from the 4th.

* As mentioned above, Late & Live starts at midnight and runs until about 2.30 (then the band comes on and the bar closes at 5) and you'll see four acts for about £15. In the caverns underneath the Underbelly, Spank! does the same thing with different acts. (Spank definitely had the better atmosphere last year.) And try to catch Andrew Maxwell's Fullmooners show one weekend, which is a bit like those but better. All these are about the same price.

Oh, and I nearly forgot:

* Previously on mefi, a discussion about Reggie Watts, who last year was also doing a stunning late-night compilation show at the heavily-connected-to-the-NYC-fringe-scene new venue called the Green Room on the Grassmarket. Hopefully he'll be back, but the venue will certainly have a similar show running even if not. will, it claims, be posting the Fringe programme online in about 4 weeks for you to check.
posted by genghis at 5:06 PM on May 12, 2008

doesn't mean they're unknown.

Well, they're unknown to me... though part of the fun of the festival is taking a punt on something you wouldn't normally see. Some of the best stuff I've seen came from flyers.

It's always worth taking a walk up the Castle end of the Royal Mile as there are usually several buskers / jugglers / dancers etc etc performing for nothing.

There's a load of guided tours of the city... a few years ago I went on a literary one which was great.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:38 AM on May 13, 2008

Response by poster: so excited about all of this thanks to everyone who has replied.
posted by chickaboo at 12:55 PM on May 13, 2008

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