We are well into August, which could mean a few different things:
You are enjoying your 2-week summer holiday somewhere sunny, sipping your 2nd mojito next to a pool, in which case
I hope you are having a lovely timeI hate you,
you took your summer holiday in June or July (me) and now you are sitting in an empty office hating all your mojito-sipping colleagues who will return to work with a tan (me),
you are stuck in traffic, irritated towards everything and everyone because you live in Edinburgh and FRINGE HAS OFFICIALLY STARTED !!!
… or you still hate everything and everyone because there is people EVERYWHERE, but you are also mega excited and happy coz Fringe is the coolest thing ever and there’s nothing like it in the world, but you still hate all the tourists, but are also super helpful and smiley when they ask you a question because it makes you feel good about yourself → my exact feelings throughout the past five Augusts of my life, OMG WHY CAN’T I EVER PICK A SIDE.
Aaaahhh Fringe Festival. The time of the year when Edinburgh’s population doubles due to the millions of tourists who visit Scotland to attend the largest arts festival in the world (wearing the classic kilt + I ♥ Edinburgh t-shirt combo). The period when Edinburgians…Edinburghers… Burgers… (Wtf are people from Edinburgh called?!) avoid the Royal Mile like the plague, and offer a stone-cold stare to anyone attempting to hand them over a flyer. And, of course, one of the best times to visit Edinburgh, although any time is one of the best times to visit Edinburgh. I ♥ this city.
Now, if you are attending a festival of this magnitude, you don’t just show up. Fringe can get expensive and overwhelming as you know what, and if you are not somewhat prepared for it then you may have to, for example, sell your kidney to cover a weekend’s cost. So as an Edinburgh resident, I’m here to help you keep your organs and enjoy the festival without going mad!
Here we go.
Top 10 Tips for surviving the Fringe:
When to visit to avoid the crowds
It doesn’t matter. The festival madness lasts throughout August, so it won’t make a big difference when you show up; you are still going to have to elbow your way through a crowded street, patiently form a queue (= line. You are welcome, Americans) to enter a show, and stand on your tows to get a good look of a performance in the middle of a crowded street (#shortpeopleproblems). Avoiding weekends might help, but don’t expect any miracles; Monday or Saturday, the Fringe is still the Fringe.
Where to stay
Limited budget? You can still enjoy the festival, but you must plan ahead. Let me say that again, PLAN AHEAD! That means if it’s summer and you still haven’t booked where to stay during the Fringe, it’s a bit late, boo; you are going to have to spend some serious cash (unless you casually drop a message to that Facebook friend that lives in Edinburgh, but you haven’t spoken to in 8.5 years asking to stay at theirs. But hey, you sat next to each other during one Biology Lecture at uni, that practically makes you family. I’m sure they ’ll be happy to host you – not). Accommodation prices rise up fast and all the “reasonably” priced options, from hostels to hotels, sell out quicker than a Beyoncé concert. The official Festival accomodation provider, The University of Edinburgh accommodation, Airbnb, and the Edinburgh Festival Campsite are your best options for a cheap stay.
In terms of basic hotels, Travelodge, and Ibis are a good pick, whereas if you are after somewhat of an affordable luxury, then try The Chester Residence, although prices skyrocket fast, or the 23 Mayfield boutique guesthouse. Do you have £1000 per night to spare? Then the historic Balmoral Hotel is a lush option right in the heart of the city and the festival.
How to save money on shows
PLAN AHEAD doesn’t just apply on accommodation, unless you want to lose that kidney we were talking about to afford a last minute Military Tattoo ticket – not worth it worth it. If you show up early in Edinburgh, like a few-days-before-the-Fringe-officially-starts early, you could attend discounted previews of shows. Also, the first Monday and Tuesday of the festival are your friend, as you can snatch 2 for 1 deals on many performances. On that note, weekday shows tend to be a few pounds cheaper than the weekend ones. The free Fringe is another excellent way to enjoy shows that won’t cost much. And I say “won’t cost much”, because, despite the term “free”, it is polite to contribute what you believe the performance was worth. Finally, if you have serious festival stamina then you can practise the dark art of searching for comps; complementary tickets given as a way to get off a show to a good start. Chatting to the performers ahead of the show is a good way to secure comps, although it requires patience; some will not mention the comp ticket, unless they see that you are genuinely interested in attending their show.
Where to eat
If your palate is after a Michelin-starred restaurant, then try The Kitchin or The Number One, or for a more affordable top-range option head over to The Dogs or Tom Kitchin’s gastropub The Scran & Scallie. Alternatively, some of Edinburgh’s best cheap eats are within walking distance of the main festival venues; go to MUMS for delicious comfort food, Palmyra for yummy falafel (and it’s open until 2am), Illegal Jack’s for a kick-ass burrito, and OINK for the best pulled-pork sandwich you ever had – and don’t you dare picking anything but the apple sauce to go with it. It obviously goes without saying that cooking at your accommodation during the festival, if you have the option, will massively help your pocket. With a bit of luck with the weather, you can always enjoy a fun and affordable picnic at the Meadows Park or in George Square facing a giant upside-down purple cow (until it starts raining again – maybe check the weather forecast before you decide to do this).
Bring the right clothes
That means ALL the clothes. Visiting Edinburgh in the summer? Make sure you pack: a raincoat, sun cream, shorts, scarf, sunglasses, boots, sandals and t-shirts. Because, sure it’s sunny NOW, but that doesn’t mean that in 10 minutes all the rain that has ever fallen on Earth won’t pour down Edinburgh. And if you don’t like the rain, just wait another 10 minutes and it will stop again. If you want to enjoy the festival pneumonia-free, invest in a sturdy brolly (= the British way to say umbrella), or, better, ditch the brolly because it’s annoying to carry around anyway, and just wear a jacket with a hood (although when it gets sunny again you will have to carry that jacket around. Basically, you can’t win).
Don’t miss Edinburgh
Remember where you are. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the world, and it would be a shame if you came and only saw the Royal Mile. Plan a break in your day and visit Greyfriars cemetery to see the grave of Bobby, a dog who guarded his owner’s grave every day for 14 years until he passed away himself (if you are not welling up right now, you are made of stone), Edinburgh Castle (although its admission ticket costs as much as a festival ticket or two), or the National Museum of Scotland to spot Dolly, the first cloned mammal to be created from an adult cell. Lover of the outdoors? Climb up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill and enjoy panoramic views of Edinburgh, the Fife and the Firth of Forth.
Budget your time correctly
Unless you can fly or apparate (where my Potterheads at?), getting from the Meadows to the Voodoo Rooms to catch a comedy act within 5 minutes is impossible. So get your hands on a map or, even better, the Fringe app, and plan your festival schedule so that you have enough time to walk from one show to another. And for the love of God, please don’t run to a venue; we are all going to be in a confined space for at least half an hour, and I don’t want to smell anyone’s sweat. Bear in mind that it is advised to show up to a show up at least 10 minutes before it starts, especially due to this year’s stricter security checks.
Don’t exhaust yourself
If you don’t live in Edinburgh, chances are that you have a limited amount of time Fringe-ing. Which means you are most likely going to want to concentrate as many shows as possible in a few days. However, be careful to not overdo it. Hitting 3-5 shows a day is a good target for you to absorb and savour every performance properly, and have some in-between time catching a random street performer or snapping a few pictures of St. Giles cathedral. And at the end of the day, you don’t want to struggle recalling the dozens of shows you attended due to mental exhaustion.
If you are one of THOSE people who randomly start a conversation with the person sitting next to them on the plane, then the Fringe is perfect for you! There’s people from literarily every corner of the Earth, and part of the fun is finding out everyone’s journey and making new friends. Meeting new people is also a great way to get recommendations on what shows to hit or miss, especially if you are making impromptu festival plans.
Enjoy and make the most of the festival!
Ok, this is a given, but I ran out of tips.
Click here for my top Fringe shows picks, both free and paid ones !
Happy Fringe Festival everyone!
Thank you for stopping by terrIFIc wanders.