Experience as much of the festival bustle as you can, but don’t pressure yourself – remember, it’s all about having a good time!
Your first time at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an unforgettable experience – a non-stop whirlwind of performances, sightseeing and pub visits that can quickly overwhelm the unprepared.
To help you make the most of your Fringe adventure, we’ve compiled our top five tips for first-time festival-goers – read on to learn how to navigate the Edinburgh Fringe like a pro.
Plan ahead – but don’t overplan
There are literally thousands of shows on offer during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – do a little research ahead of time and get an idea of what you’d like to see so you don’t lose time choosing. Plan some alternatives in case your chosen shows sell out, and book tickets in advance for particularly popular shows, such as those featuring big-name comedians and celebrities.
That being said, leave room in your schedule for spontaneous activities, too – half the fun of the Edinburgh Festival is walking the streets and soaking up the atmosphere, and often you’ll uncover hidden gems of shows simply by reading daily reviews and talking to fellow festival-goers. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on an unproven show – it’s all part of the experience!
Take Edinburgh’s geography into account
The Edinburgh Fringe incorporates hundreds of venues scattered all over the city, so it’s wise to get your bearings early on. Many of the chief venues are central enough that walking is the most efficient means of transport, but the local bus services offer a good-value day pass, ideal for unlimited travel to more far-flung locations. Remember you need to allow sufficient time to travel between venues before booking back-to-back shows, taking into account festival crowds and traffic, not to mention the fact that Edinburgh is a hilly city with lots of narrow winding streets and cobblestones.
Pick up some cheap Fringe tickets
Although most shows at the Fringe are reasonably priced, if you’re seeing a lot it can quickly add up. For the first few days of the festival, take advantage of preview nights when tickets are cheaper (and shows are less likely to have already sold out). If you hang around some of the bigger venues, you may even be invited to see a show for free – many performers are eager to get word-of-mouth publicity by any means. There are 2 for 1 ticket days early in the festival, too, plus similar deals for “Friends of the Fringe” on an ongoing basis.
The official Half-Price Ticket Booth located beside the National Gallery at the foot of the Mound is also a great source for inexpensive seats – the selection of shows changes daily, so check the booth’s screens, online, or on the official Edinburgh Fringe app on iPhone or Android to find out what’s on offer. If your budget is nearly gone, you can always catch some of the many excellent free shows at the Fringe, too.
Edinburgh’s unpredictable weather can change quickly – it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in a single day. That deceptively bright sunshine you see from your hotel window may be accompanied by a chilly breeze, so check the forecast before you head out and be prepared. Experienced festival-goers wear layers (so you can strip down in a stuffy venue, or bundle up as the evening chill sets in) and carry a waterproof jacket or umbrella at all times. Remember, too, that you’ll likely do lots of walking (often on uneven streets, stairs and cobbles), so wear practical, comfy footwear that is already broken-in.
It’s easy to forget that the Edinburgh Fringe isn’t a race – there’s no prize for the most shows attended, or the most miles covered. Take the time to slow down and appreciate the moment – watch a street performer, browse the shops and markets, stop for a pint, or simply find a quiet space to relax. Don’t forget to eat regularly, and feel free to skip the odd evening out in favour of an early night – you’ll enjoy the next day all the more. Experience as much of the festival bustle as you can, but don’t pressure yourself – remember, it’s all about having a good time!
Stay at the Thistle Edinburgh, The King James to be conveniently close to the centre of Edinburgh’s festival action, but removed enough that you’ll still get a peaceful night’s sleep.