How to Survive Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 on a Budget
It’s almost time for Scotland's biggest festival to kick off (Friday 2 Aug 2019 – Monday 26 Aug 2019). Hosted in the heart of Edinburgh, the Fringe Festival is the world’s largest art festival with over 50,000 different performances each year. Not only is it the largest arts festival on the planet but it also hosts a huge variety of shows from comedy, theatre, musicals, dance, circus, exhibitions, children’s shows and even a Gin masterclass. So something for everyone.
Never been to Fringe before and don’t know what to expect? Then fear not, we are providing you with the essential Fringe festival survival guide with information such as where to stay, what events you need to get tickets for and the cheapest way of getting through this Scottish festival!
Where to stay?
Need an affordable, fun place to stay? Check out our St Christopher’s Inns hostel located in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town (where the majority of Fringe venues are). Located within walking distance from all of Edinburgh’s main sites, the High Street and The Royal Mile, it’s easy to get anywhere, plus the train station is right on the doorstep.
Dorm room in St Christopher's
The hostel is just a 30 minute drive from Edinburgh Airport for those travelling from England, Europe and beyond.
Offering free breakfast, an epic bar where guests get daily drink deals AND a choice of private or dorm rooms, this is a great affordable option with clean, modern dorms. It’s also bang in the middle of the bustle and bustle of the Old Town's bars, pubs and nightlife.
Private room in St Christopher's
How it works?
The Fringe isn’t your usual festival. Running over 3 weeks with hundreds of different events taking place, you choose which shows you want to go to and when. For many of the events you need to purchase tickets so it’s good to be clued up on what you want to see before you go. Some events are free. There are a HUGE number of venues involved around Edinburgh so every show may be in a different place.
Where to buy tickets?
Very valuable information. You can’t see a show without tickets. For buying on the go, tickets can be bought from the Fringe Box Office at 180 High Street on The Royal Mile. This is based just under the shop where Fringe merchandise is sold. Or book your tickets online in advance here.
What's on: Our top 5 picks
So how do you go about choosing the right show? There are SO many different shows, it’s hard to narrow down what you’re going to buy tickets for. To help you out, we advise downloading the full programme and subscribing to the Fringe mailing list for updates, and lastly follow them on social media for even more suggestions.
You want to see a variety of things to really make the most of your experience of Fringe. Shows that are unique, with a mix of genres you love, as well something different from what you’d usually see...
Or take our picks:
1) Street acts on the High Street and the Mound
This one costs nothing at all, just be in the right place at the right time
During the Fringe, don’t miss out on the two vibrant street performance spaces in the heart of the city that you can watch for free: The High Street on the Royal Mile (between Cockburn Street and George IV Bridge) and the Mound Precinct. At these spots, you’ll get to witness free previews of:
- hundreds of Fringe shows across four stages.
- World class street shows, buskers and entertainers
- Arts and crafts markets
2) Free stand-up comedy
This one costs nothing at all, just be in the right place at the right time. Some of the free events are ticketed or non-ticketed so make sure to check in advance.
Comedy is one of the highlights at Fringe and the festival hosts hundreds and hundreds of comedy shows which makes it really hard to pick the ones you want to see. There are plenty of free shows on offer during the festival so make the most of them. Find all free events here. For comedy lovers, our top pick for a good free comedy show is 10 Things I Hate About Taming of the Shrew located at the Voodoo Rooms or 99 (First World) Problems with feat Andy Quirk and Anna J. We also recommend 1 Chicks, 2 Dicks: 3 Americans Get Too Personal for some good old American humour. You can download the programme for free online to see what's on.
3) For Cabaret
Don’t miss out on a variety of music during Fringe Festival. Some of our favourite music acts are:
The 5pm Cabaret: a fun mix of burlesque, comedy and circus magic by talented cabaret performers. Held at McSorley's Irish bar
Absolute Burlesque: Last year's five star sell out is back for another year so you can enjoy some sassy burlesque from Sassy Von Sparkle and her all-star cast.
Blues and Burlesque: A saucy award-winning live music cabaret held at the Voodoo Rooms with great music and a Blues fusion.
FREE: All Star Cabaret - The Free Fringe Gala - Experience electric cabaret for free at the Voodoo Rooms.
4) Musicals and Opera
5) For a dose of dance, theatre and circus
Check out some of this unique dance and circus shows:
DNA: A stellar combination of ballet and acrobatics, this is one to remember. Held in Assembly George Square Gardens.
Bromance: An award-winning smash hit circus show all about camaraderie. Lots of backflips and handstands. Held at Assembly Rooms.
Chinese Dream: Your chance to experience Chinese classical and contemporary Tai Chi dance.
Chocolate: An unusual, sensory dance where you can immerse yourself in the world of cacao.
Boys in Sync: The male dance trio exploring contemporary masculinity through dance from a young, comedic perspective on youth desire.
Basque Showcase: Step into the world of Basque Country and experience the warmth of this beautiful, creative region of Europe through eclectic dance
Getting around Edinburgh during Fringe
You can walk pretty much everywhere during Edinburgh Fringe. In fact, some venues are literally within a stone’s throw of one another – particularly in the Old Town (near the hostel), where you wouldn’t need more than five to ten minutes to walk from the Royal Mile to many Old Town venues.
However if you fancy a break from walking (which we can assure you may be needed with all the uphill, steep paths in the city), take Edinburgh's trams, buses or even hail a taxi or uber.
A few nifty tips and tricks
- You don’t need to break the bank. There’s nothing better than seeing two shows for the price of one. To save money, check out what shows are on the 2-4-1 offer here.
- When you’re buying your tickets make sure to take note of the dates. Sounds obvious but you don’t want to book a show that’s on while you’re not even in Edinburgh. Tailor the festival to your timings. Find out what shows are on whilst you’re in Edinburgh and book your favourite ones.
- Prepare for Edinburgh to be busier during Fringe. The population doubles during August so plan your travel etc accordingly and keep in mind it might take longer to get from A to B.
- There will be queues in unlikely places. But it's in the queues where you’ll find a buzzing atmosphere, new friends and great recommendations for other shows. So make the most of the queues
- Be weather prepped. Although it’s summer, the weather in Scotland isn’t always as great as you would hope. The average temperature during the summer in Edinburgh is 15°C so make sure to pack a jumper because it may potentially get a little chilly outside! Scotland is also known for being a very rainy place so pack a waterproof jacket because the last thing you want is to be soaking wet before the festival has even began. Having said that, it’s still summer and the sun can be very dangerous, so make sure to pack some sunscreen to avoid looking like a red tomato!
- Get yourself a map and plan plan plan. Trust us, you’ll need one. Plan your route and trip IN ADVANCE so that travelling from show to to show is easier. You don’t want to see a show in the New Town and then have to be in the Old Town straight after. Try and see shows closer together first.
Where to eat on a budget?
- Jake’s Place offers you some fantastic local and traditional food choices from classic haggis to deep fried Mars Bars. A variety of delicious food all at a good price. They even have their own Fringe Festival menu! Plus, it’s just next door to the hostel.
- Belushi’s is the perfect place to go to enjoy some fat burgers, massive portions and some impressive bar snacks such as deep fried mac n cheese bites to fried pickles.
- For a real scottish experience, head to the Doric. It’s famous for being Edinburgh oldest gastro pub and has true Scottish pub food (and ales) - all at a reasonable price!
- Browns menu offers you everything from a special seasonal menu, memorable classics, lighter selections or traditional brasserie dishes. There are a wealth of choices for you to enjoy.
- The Dogs gives you a real taste of traditional Scottish food and is located at walking distance from Fringe events. The ideal place to grab some food if you’re feeling a little peckish.
- If you fancy something quick and easy to eat, then head to Cask and Barrel. The menu is perfect for a lunch break with soup,salad, paninis, wraps or some sharers. It’s the place to come if you fancy something easy before a long afternoon checking out what Fringe has to offer.
Where to drink?
For advice on where to find traditional Scottish pubs to quirky buzzing underground bars, check out our article on the Top 7 Affordable Bars in Edinburgh.
The main sights to see while you’re in Edinburgh
May as well kill two birds with one stone and explore as much of the city as you can while you’re in Edinburgh for Fringe. Edinburgh is home to rich history, art, architecture and stunning views. These are the places not to be missed, that cost absolutely nothing at all:
- See the finest (and largest) collections of Scottish art at the Scottish National Galleries. Free admission excluding some exhibits.
- Take a hike up the beautiful Arthur's Seat
- Admire the beauty of Edinburgh Castle. Make sure you're here at 1pm to see the 'One O'Clock Gun' fires be shot from the castle. This takes place every day in the capital (except Sundays) where spectators gather in the park to watch.
- Walk through the Princes Street Gardens
- Take a look at Scotts Monument
- Shop on The Royal Mile
Article by Shereen Sagoo and Katie Nichols