I’ve lived in this city for four years now, so am officially declaring myself a stalwart of Edinburgh culture – a large chunk of which is defined by the annual frenzy that descends on the capital come August. That’s right readers, Fringe season is almost upon us.
I absolutely love the festival. I love the way Edinburgh comes alive with weird and wonderful people, acts, shows and events for a whole 3 weeks.
Trying to get anywhere in a hurry during that time though? Nat so much.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a survival guide for any new Edinburghers experiencing their first Festival living in the city. Here are my 9 snippets of humble Fringe wisdom.
1. Do not take the bus anywhere.
Seriously. During the Fringe the population of Edinburgh doubles – as a result, some aspects of our travel infrastructure are affected. Basically, get on a bus in central Edinburgh in August and expect to be there for a loooong time. Pigeons overtake you (seen with my own eyes). My suggestion would be to walk and soak up the atmosphere. Granted, power walking isn’t likely to be effective with the amount of dawdlers around, but the bus is the same or worse, and you end up in a bad mood. Best avoided.
2. Be organised (but not too organised.)
It’s easy to be complacent when you live here, but there are too many good shows I’ve missed from thinking I’ll get round to booking it – cue, the festival ends and I’ve seen nothing. The half price hut, normally located outside the Scottish National Gallery, is a good compromise for last minute Larrys, and the app is worth downloading to keep track of it all too. But the festival is also all about spontaneity too, so don’t go too hard on the old organised fun.
3. Have at least one big night out.
The festival license means places stay open at least two hours longer than usual (so 5am in some cases), and a lot more cool venues are available to check out, so make the most of it!
4. Be prepared to queue. Everywhere.
That’s all I’ve got to say about that one really. Maybe don’t turn up to a show with minutes to spare?
5. Take an umbrella.
Even if it starts off sunny, remember: we are in Scotland. And there isn’t anything much more miserable than standing in said queues in the pouring rain. It happened to me circa 2007 and I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered.
6. And a hoodie.
You spend a lot of time outdoors during the festival and while it’s summer, again, we are in Scotland and once that sun goes down, the temperature takes a nose dive. So take something warm if you know you’re going to be sitting in one of the festival’s many outdoor areas!
7. Cash up.
Although a lot of the shows are free, it’s courtesy to leave a fiver in their tips collection at the end. Also some food and drink stalls don’t take card – and you cannot festival without beer and street food. Catching ubers can also be pretty extortionate (and slow – see point 1), so in case you need to grab an old-school cab, best to have a non-plastic form of payment on you.
8. Do NOT get over-excited when you see a celebrity.
After one too many drinks in the Gilded Balloon, I came face to face with a well-known comedian. And, er, told him who he was. He looked at me scathingly, muttered “fir fuck sake” and turned his back on me. Three years later, I still cringe every time I think of this. Stay cool out there, people.
9. Explore outside the city.
If it all gets too much, remember Edinburgh ain’t the only Fringe in town. North Berwick hosts Fringe By the Sea every year, which has music, food and drink, can be a welcome break from the assault of the Royal Mile. It’s a really arty community there and has a pretty chilled out vibe for days when you still wanna soak up some culture but cba with being in the city.