The first question everyone asks is “What is the difference between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the International Festival?”
The difference is The Edinburgh International Festival or EIF is by invite only from the Festival directors and promotes world class opera, music, theatre and dance.
The Fringe, short name for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is open to anyone in the world who wants to put on a show in Edinburgh, providing they pay a fee and find a venue. It has no selection process. This makes it great fun for a visitor as you get to experience the unique genius and craziness of the Festival.
August in Scotland is mad, crazy busy. Accommodation is at a premium as the performers are staying in the city plus camera crews. The Military Tattoo starts in August and did I mention the Book Festival? This tented village caters for over 1000 authors, in over 800 events for all ages. Starts 11-27th Aug 2018.
TICKETS – Let’s start with the Festival Fringe. The first thing you need is a copy of the brochure. It is impossible to scroll through 3000 shows in over 300 venues. It is easier to narrow your search by comedy/music/theatre or childrens shows. The simplest way to get your hands on a brochure is to order one.
- Join the mailing list to get updates and newsletter. http://www.edfringe.com.
- The printed programme is usually launched around June and the ticket booking line is 0131 226 0000.
- You can pre-order a free copy but you will have to pay postage and packaging. There is also a fringe app which will help you to find your venue or you can pick up a written map in any of the main ticket locations or collect a brochure in local book stores and many cafe dotted around the city from June.
Cheap Tickets Prices
Edinburgh has a free Fringe festival and last year offered a record breaking 400 shows. Details for these shows can be found at http://freefestival.co.uk. there is usually a hat passed around at the end of the show for donations. The aim of the free festival is to make the fringe accessible to all and is run by Laughing Horse festivals. I am writing this article in February so the list of venues and performers is not available but you can follow them on Facebook or on twitter, freefringefest.
If you are on a budget here are some other tips to navigate the fringe cheaply.
1.Visiting the preview shows. These are offered at discounted prices usually at the start of August while performers test the water. However, remember that student and OAP are offered concessions on full price tickets only.
2. The Virgin half price hut is a must and can be found at the bottom of the Mound on Princes street. Unsold tickets are available here for same day shows and usually a good selection of shows for the next morning.
3. The fringe has an app which also offers 2 for 1 tickets on selected shows or join the friends of the fringe and you get 2 for 1 deals.
You may think how much to join? However the Canny Scott shares the expense with a friend and you both get to try lots of different shows.
There are free shows daily on the Royal Mile and it is a great place to soak up the festival atmosphere. Many people are confused if they find themselves on the Canongate or High street or Castlehill or the Lawnmarket, these are the sections that make up the Royal Mile. The free shows tend to be on the section of St Giles Cathedral, one block down from Edinburgh Castle.
Navigating the Shows – Timing is everything. Okay on a map you might think, we have plenty of time to get to the Pleasance or the Underbelly. Please, do not under estimate how much longer it takes when there are thousands of people milling through the streets of Edinburgh. It can be over whelming at times and I would urge you not to travel by car in the city centre. Parking is already at a premium and unless you have £3.80 an hour to spare for parking, then walk. The local buses hardly move with the volume of traffic.
Late comers: If you are late you may find that you are denied access until the break which means you miss half the show. Be punctual. Late arrivals are also at the mercy of the comedian…. Why do you think the front row is always empty? You become part of the show..
Show times: The late shows go on until 3am and they can be really good fun if you are a night owl. These events tend to be at the Pleasance which is a fabulous venue, part of the University with outdoor bars, seating areas, food, good atmosphere and plenty of shows on offer.
HOW MANY SHOWS IN A DAY? How big is your wallet? How many people are travelling with you and what are the age groups? Buggies and wheelchairs can be difficult to navigate through the huge crowds especially at the weekends. Children are usually early to rise, just get up and do early shows. Children will not want to spend all day traipsing through huge crowds so you will have to introduce some family ‘run about time’.
I would recommend the swing parks at Inverleith Park next to the Botanical gardens,Saughton Park has an amazing skate park or the Meadows has some brilliant open spaces and swing parks, Princes street gardens has lots of space. For indoor activities try the Museum of Scotland which is free and close to the Royal Mile or take them a hike up Arthurs seat. Big hill next to the Palace of Holyrood at the bottom of the Royal Mile. (see my youtube video for locations at end blog). Photo@shutterstock
Singletons and older people, it really depends on your preferences and fitness levels. Edinburgh is on a steep hill. There is considerable walking up and down hills. Navigating crowds and finding food & drink spots.
Can’t decide on which show? It is a minefield, take the easy option and go see a collection of performers, such as comedians. They have shows called the Best of Irish comedy or the Best Comedy new comers. This way if someone humour does not resonate with you, the next act might. There are usually 3 performers and you are bound to like one of them. If you attend later in August the national papers post daily reviews, which is a big help.
Pace yourself, plan ahead, make a schedule, work out your nearest ticket collection point or just fly by the seat of your pants. Waverley station now has a ticket collection point which is fabulous if you arrive by train. It is easy to find, next to the Balmoral Hotel on Princes street.
I would normally only do 3 shows in a day due to the walking and crowds. Many of the fringe venues are in basements, small rooms and halls, they can get real hot due to lack of air conditioning so take this into consideration. Nights are cooler in some of these venues.
Dress attire/ safety. Wear comfortable clothes, good walking shoes, bring a cagoule, it will rain on and off. Bring a rucksack as you will be inundated with flyers from shows on the royal Mile or any big venue. If taking cameras, zip your bag to protect your wallets etc. Do not put wallets/purses near the top of a rucksack, make sure they are down at the bottom in case of ‘light fingers’ in the crowds. Can you see the mounted place officer is this photo? Thats how busy it gets!
Where to stay? ( This site contains affiliate links below)
Accommodation: Edinburgh is very popular for AIR BB as many families leave the city during the festival and let our their homes. Edinburgh University and others have empty halls of residence that are available to rent. Check out Universityrooms.com, accommodation.ed.ac.uk
Youth hostels are a great cheap option: St Christophers’s Inn or SYHA.ORG.UK or Euro-hostels.co.uk/edinburgh or hostel world.com/hostels/edinburgh. Their are camp sites and caravan sites http://www.caravanclub.co.uk .Cheap hotels: Travelodge, Ibis, Premier Inn, local guest houses and bed/breakfast. Luxury hotels in city centre see below.
Waldorf Astoria, George Hotel,Carlton Highland, Hilton group,G&V Missoni Hotel Witchery Hotel Royal Mile
Transport: A normal journey into Edinburgh will take longer. If going or returning to the airport, consider the tram. It is not affected by roadworks, crowds or traffic accidents. It takes about 30 mins and has many stops throughout the city centre.
I hope this gives you a few starting points and things to consider. It really is a fantastic month. Soak up the atmosphere, try a random show, change your usual comedian, try something completely different.
P.S If you have a favourite restaurant then book at least 3/4 weeks in advance. Watch my youtube video of my favourite places to see in Edinburgh. Half of them are completely free. Click on the photo below.
Best of luck, if you love capturing special moments you can make cash from your film clips. To see my stock footage Click here;
Take care and thanks for reading.