Surviving the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Hints for visitors and tourists from a Scottish person

Photo by Luis Mayoral on Unsplash

Today, I brave the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Pray for me.

Even for Scottish folks well-accustomed to the Fringe, it can still be a surreal, psychedelic and testing experience.

Especially if you are used to living in places with higher population densities of squirrels and sheep than people.

Even crossing the road in Edinburgh can even be like that time Ace Ventura tried to grunt n’ squeeze his way out of the fake Rhino’s asshole.

It is a fun, gloriously horrifying, unholy, eclectic, convoluted mess.

Take some advice from a sort-of-local (most of the people in Scotland live an hour away from Edinburgh) on how to navigate our tiny capital that doubles in size in August each year.

DON’T stay in the city!

Why you ask — I wan’t to be close to the action! I wan’t the fringe on my doorstep dammit!

You can, if you wan’t to get robbed by every hotel, hostel and AirBnb within 10 miles of the iconic castle.

The price hike in Edinburgh (and suburbs) in August is nuts. Even if you think you are getting a great deal, chances are that same property is substantially cheaper, literally any other time of year.

Even booking a year in advance, the prices are brutally expensive in even the scummiest back-street establishments.

Even with our mediocre-at-best rail system, staying in nearby Linlithgow (25–30 minutes) or Livingston (20 minutes) away would give you a short journey to the main station and sweet relief from rip-off prices.

Or you could just stay in Glasgow. Better city anyway (I can feel the abuse coming) and only an hour away by train.

Not all entertainment needs a ticket

Many of my Scottish and English friends don’t bother to book any tickets in advance. There are over 2 million tickets to be had but there are also a fuck-tonne of freebies.

If you wan’t to do the Fringe on a shoestring, push through the crowds to the ‘Royal Mile’. It’s heavily touristed but is a great starting point to find some free entertainment.

Look for the castle on the rock and simply follow the rain downhill from there.

Like La Rambla in Barcelona or Hollywood Blvd. in L.A, there are a tonne of street performers vying for your attention. Also your cash.

During the festival they are hopefully of a higher quality than the fat-middle aged men in hand-knitted SpiderMan costumes you see elsewhere, or the 18,000 bagpipers that line the damp cobblestone streets for most of the year.

Say in a Gerard Butler voice, “THIS IS SCOTLAND!” Not America.

Remember — if someone really does suck, you don’t have to tip them or give them money just because you made eye contact for a nanosecond on the high street.

Best thing I ever saw on the mile, was a guy produce a melon from his top hat. I still can’t work out how he did it.

Oh, there are also some cool free indoor shows should you foolishly arrive unprepared for our rainy season.

That is every season, by the way.

Bring an umbrella, don’t wear white…

Speaking of seasons, it would appear our summer happens in May, for about a week. Close your eyes and you might just miss it.

Every year I see tourists in various states of unhappy dampness. People who wore white T-Shirts and now bitterly regret their life choices, as a million people can now see their secret nipple piercings and belly fat.

Our weather is great for three things: making Whisky, avoiding water shortages and depriving you of your fair share of Vitamin D.

Don’t be foolish enough to come to the City for a full day’s frivolities and forget to bring a jacket or an umbrella. Street vendors will charge you a lot of money for those on the day.

Embrace our weather as the changeable, fickle mistress that she is. Be prepared.

Fighting the crowds can suck at times but the Fringe is packed with an insane amount of variety — after all, it’s the biggest arts festival in the world.

Make sure you visit sometime. Then enjoy your train home to your hotel. In Glasgow…

Scottish Teacher and MSc student at Edinburgh Uni. All about Whisky, Beer, Board Gaming and Dogs. Getting back into writing after a long thesis grind.

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