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Get the most for less money (and hassle) at the Edinburgh Festivals

Some readers may know that the Office Watch head honcho, Peter Deegan, is a theatre junkie and goes to the famous Edinburgh Festivals each year.  Here’s some tips from Festival veteran.

What I’m looking forward to at this year’s Edinburgh Festivals

Get some Excelf-esteem in Edinburgh this August

More than one Festival

Edinburgh has many festivals in August, not just one. 

The Fringe Festival is what most people think of when talking about Edinburgh in August. Fringe this year has over 3,300 shows and most of the comedy, stand-up and other small productions.

That’s just the tip of the Festival-berg.

Edinburgh Fringe tends to suck up all the attention and give the impression that their site and app covers everything happening in August but that’s far from true.

In August 2023 alone there’s also the International Festival (which started it all), Free Fringe, Film Festival, Book Festival, Art Festival, Foodies Festival and even a Truck Festival

If that wasn’t enough, there’s the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which is excellent and well worth seeing. It’s not as long and tedious as it once was.  Certainly there’s few, if any, events like it anywhere.

Some shows and concerts operated during August but not part of any festival programming.  Most important of these is the BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals (apply for free tickets)

More than one booking site

Annoyingly, each of these festivals have their own booking site. There’s no one site to book everything which makes planning more difficult. Some venues have their own booking systems that overlap with the Fringe site.

Either a spreadsheet or online calendar is essential for managing bookings.

Two free Fringe lists

The Edinburgh Fringe has some free shows (and a filter to show them in the site or app) but that list does NOT include the separate Free Fringe events.

Paperless!

All the festivals now have paperless ticketing – hooray!

Online events

Can’t make it to Edinburgh? Fringe Festival has some online shows, use their site with a filter to find them.

Confusing Venues

VERY carefully check the location of any show because the same overall name like ‘Pleasance‘, ‘Gilded Balloon‘ or ‘Underbelly‘ has multiple addresses around Edinburgh.

UNDERBELLY is spread across four different venues.

PLEASANCE is across two locations: Dome and Courtyard with many venues at both places. Gripe: Pleasance Courtyard continues to be the worst signposted venue not just in Edinburgh but perhaps the entire Western Hemisphere. There are THREE street entrances to Courtyard, two for most shows but a separate entrance down the hill for some other shows. Once inside the main courtyard area, it’s a classic Gruen Transfer which could be deliberate (to sell more drinks) or not.

Finally, check the actual name of the theatre or room at that venue.

For example, GILDED BALLOON has three locations, their central ‘Teviot’ building has NINE different venues inside it.

ASK – happily, there are usually staff on hand at the front to guide you, don’t be afraid to politely ask for help.

Getting around Edinburgh

The festivals use venues spread across central Edinburgh.  Leave enough time to get between shows, there’s a lot of traffic (road and pedestrian) so it can take longer than you’d expect to travel even a short distance. In Central Edinburgh it’s often faster to walk than take a bus on the congested streets.

Most people will only use Lothian buses which use contactless cards to pay with daily and weekly caps.  Edinburgh Trams have separate ticketing but the NetworkDAY ticket works on both.  The Tram now goes from the Airport, through the city and down to the sea at Lothian and Newhaven.

Shows might start and end later than advertised.  There’s not a lot of time between gigs in the same room so any delay has knock-on effect for following shows in the same room.

Bring a book, Kindle, earphones etc to fill in the time waiting in queues.

Tech Essentials

Tech Essentials for any visit to Edinburgh are:

  • Spreadsheet to plan your days.
  • Google Maps (or similar) to find your way between the venues.
  • Messaging app (WhatsApp or Signal) to keep in touch with others in your group. Make sure everyone in your group knows about Location sharing in the app, it’s very useful.
  • The Edfringe app is very useful, especially the find near me option. Keep in mind that there are many shows beyond the Fringe (no historical reference intended), like the Free Fringe.
  • Battery and charging cable – to keep your smartphone alive.

Non-tech essentials

Layered clothing.  Edinburgh weather in August is quite variable and there’s the inevitable rain.

Yes, RAIN. It’s Scotland so rain comes and goes unexpectedly. Bring a foldup umbrella or a rain-proof outer jacket.

Many venues get hot and stuffy so having layers lets you adjust accordingly indoors and outdoors.

Water bottle.

Concessions

There are many concession prices available but they vary between shows.

  • under the age of 18
  • registered students 
  • registered for unemployment
  • disabled patrons
  • over the age of 60 or 65 (varies)

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