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Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

Time for me to share my first solo travel mistake. As most of my readers already know, I’m a late bloomer in the world of solo travel. I didn’t jet off alone until I was a seasoned 26 years old. Better late than never, I guess. But you’d think I’d research more than a spirited and eager kid who’s immediately out of high school.

Hahaha, yeah right.

I booked my plane ticket, Haggis tour, and hostels quickly. I didn’t want to lose my nerve.

So what was my mistake? I reserved my Scottish trip for late July and early August, but I’d no idea August was Scotland’s biggest festival month!

“Say what? How the heck do you not know THAT?!” you’re probably wondering. “The Military Tattoo is incredibly well known!”

Hey, I was a complete rookie traveler and didn’t even conduct a simple Google search. Now, that I’m not as scared of solo travel, I take my time and plan my dates better. Don’t be tootoo harsh on me.

Edinburgh's Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

In addition to the Military Tattoo, another one of Edinburgh’s most famous August festivals is The Fringe.

The Fringe attracts thousands of performers and artists from all over the world. To give you statistics from the festival’s official website: “In 2015 there were 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues, making it the largest ever arts festival in the world.”

And I didn’t know my visit in Edinburgh coincided with it. Impressive mistake, huh?

Thankfully I love festivals so I was eager to go to a couple shows, but nothing could’ve prepared me for Edinburgh’s sheer energy at the height of The Fringe.

Here are a few tips I learned on the ground. Overall, I’d highly recommend a trip to Edinburgh when The Fringe is roaring in town, but only if you’re more prepared than I was.

Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

Crowds, crowds, and more crowds!

Uh, if you hate crowds, then don’t visit Edinburgh in August. People. Are. Everywhere. I’m used to Philadelphia and New York City, but Edinburgh’s small packed streets got my blood pumping. Be ready.

Accommodation costs sky rocket.

Scotland’s expensive for Americans (and others) anyway. British pound and all. Prices soar even higher in honor of The Fringe. It’s a great festival so accommodation is in demand. Fridays and Saturdays are especially pricy. Need an example? I paid over 100 pounds for a dorm bed. I don’t know 2013’s exchange rate, but my wallet wasn’t too happy.

Unless you’re lucky and score a fantastic couchsurfing host, you’ll need to save some extra money to cover your costs in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh's Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

Figure out what type of shows you wanna see.

Want slapstick comedy? Cabernet? Alternative music? Dance? Circus performers? The Fringe has everything, believe me. All artistic tastes and flavors are represented throughout these three weeks, but alas, you can’t see it all. You need to create a plan if you have certain types of shows you wanna see. Go to the official website for further information.

Not all shows are created equally.

Erm. In addition to knowing what type of shows you’re most interested in watching, you should also keep in mind not all the shows are great or even good. One smart tip is to attend shows that have been performed at previous Fringe festivals. Return viewers speaks to the show’s quality.

Want to add more festivals to your bucket list? Check out this post!

Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

Leave enough time.

Make sure you leave enough time in between your chosen shows to actually explore Edinburgh. Furthermore, there’s nothing fun about running from one show to the next without giving yourself a moment to eat lunch or re-charge your mental batteries. Pace yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. You only have a few days to enjoy the festival, right? Then don’t try and go to everything. You’ll regret it.

Don’t fret over people handing you a million cards.

You’re gonna have a lot of performers handing you business cards. Don’t get annoyed. I just smiled, took them all, and dumped them into my purse. Most of the performers were pretty nice (aka not pushy), and I completely understood they wanted their shows to stand out in a packed crowed. Of course they needed business cards.

edinburgh's fringe: a survival guide

Pack your patience.

Take a deep breath. The Fringe is meant to be super fun! So, if someone bumps into you or another performer urges you to attend her show, smile and move on.

Take a break if you need to.

Sometimes your patience runs out. I hear you. If you’re finding the festival’s “too much,” then leave the main streets and find a quiet place to relaaaaaax. Perhaps take an early hike to Arthur’s Seat or do what I did, and go on a meandering tour of Holyrood Palace.

Do you want to attend The Fringe? How about some of Scotland’s other amazing summer festivals? Share in the comments! And check out my other Scottish posts on The Isle of Skye and Orkney Islands.

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4 Responses to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival: A Survival Guide

  1. Mary @ Green Global Travel June 9, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    The Fringe Festival certainly looks like a fun event but one that is best enjoyed when you prepare properly. That’s a great statue of the dog.

    • Rachel Elizabeth June 10, 2016 at 5:13 am #

      Mary —

      I agree! The Grey Friars Bobby statue is so adorable. Makes me wish I still had a dog!

  2. Rashaad June 9, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    When I lived in Japan, I remember of a bunch of Japanese studying English were reading an article about the Fringe Festival as study material. Anyway, did you attend any other festivals in Scotland?

    • Rachel Elizabeth June 10, 2016 at 5:14 am #

      Rashaad —

      That’s so interesting! Thanks for sharing. And I didn’t attend any other festivals, no! There’s always next time.

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