Help: It’s August! The Edinburgh Festival Fringe survival guide (for locals and tourists)

Help: It’s August! The Edinburgh Festival Fringe survival guide (for locals and tourists)

It’s that time of year again – For three weeks every venue, bar, and nook and cranny in Edinburgh welcomes performers from all over the world. There’s so much to do and see (and drink). Can you tell I’m excited for the Fringe?!

For many locals, the Fringe is nothing more than an annoyance. And for tourists, the vast array of performances can be overwhelming. I think that’s a pity – I want everyone to enjoy it as much as I do! After all, we’re so lucky to have this amazing event that celebrates creative expression.

Here’s my guide on how to survive the Fringe, whether you’re a local or a tourist.

Edinburgh Fringe street performers handing out flyers

For locals

Set off early
Central Edinburgh is gonna be busy. Accept that. However long you think your journey will take, add on at least an extra ten minutes. If you can, avoid the most popular areas: Princes St, South Bridge, St Andrew’s Square. And if you can’t… well, at least you’re not a bus driver being asked for the 87th time in a day if buses give change (FYI tourists: they don’t, by the way).

Just take the flyers
Let’s be nice, Edinburgers: people are paid to hand out flyers, and it’s best just to take them. Apart from the obvious environmental impact, what harm can it do? Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen have been the result of random flyers. One of my favourite ways to enjoy the Fringe is to choose an area (Cowgate, George Square, Leith Walk) and stumble into some random shows… while sampling the pop-up bars and food stalls, of course!

Find the smaller venues
Catch a performance at Underbelly, Assembly Rooms, or EICC and you know it’ll be good… but also pricey and busy. It feels like every public building in Edinburgh becomes a venue in the Fringe, so prepare to think outside the box. More discreet venues are less obvious for tourists, and lesser known artists are more affordable.

Become a Friend of the Fringe
If you’re an arts lover like I am, I’d recommend purchasing a ‘Friend of the Fringe‘ membership. For £32 you receive 2 for 1 tickets for over 2,000 shows – ideal if you’re planning on fitting in as many performances as possible this year. If you have an EH postcode, you can also take advantage of £5 tickets at any Assembly venue. Book direct through them for discount.

Look out for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards
Nominations for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards are announced 22 August, with the winners revealed on 25 August. This is an amazing opportunity to scope out the future big names in comedy. Last year’s joint best comedy show was Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. Sound familiar? That’s  because it’s currently the Netflix Original no one can stop talking about.

Edinburgh Fringe street performers Royal Mile

For tourists

Learn the difference between the Festival and the Fringe
OK, this is about to get a bit confusing. The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe are technically two different things which run parallel to each other. The Festival covers more classic artforms, such as theatre, classical music, dance performances etc. Meanwhile, in the Fringe anything goes! The Fringe is mostly known for comedy but you’ll also find contemporary theatre, cabaret, musical performances and more. The Edinburgh International Book Festival and International Television Festival also run in August.

Wear comfy shoes
Scotland is known for its changeable weather so be prepared! It’s generally best to walk everywhere in central Edinburgh, and a busy day at the Fringe will definitely get those steps in. Wear trainers and your feet will thank you. Stay comfy and wear layers.

Don’t plan too much
You can have put together a detailed schedule of all the shows you want to see, but even the best laid plans can fall apart in the madness and melee of the Fringe! You’ll need time to navigate from venue to venue (and people move SLOWLY – see first tip for locals), plus you’ll need food and (alcoholic) drink breaks to keep your energy up. Also, if you plan too much then it means you can’t go see any last minute flyer suggestions.

Free doesn’t mean free
The ‘Free Fringe’ would be better called the ‘Pay-what-you-like Fringe’. If you enjoy your free show, then it’s good practice to tip the performer on the way out. However, the plus side is that you can walk out any time as you haven’t invested in the performance.

Don’t forget about the locals!
Sadly, a lot of Edinburgh locals aren’t as keen on the Fringe as the rest of the world, largely because of the sudden influx of extra people. To keep annoyance to a minimum and us Scots sweet, I suggest the following:

  • Download the Bus and Tram and m-tickets apps. These will show you how to get around the city and allows you to purchase tickets via card. Alternatively, make sure you have the correct change: as of April 2018 a single is £1.70 wherever you go on the route, and a day ticket is £4. There’s no such thing as a return.
  • If you need to stop to check a map or your phone, please pull over and let us past. Some of us have jobs to get to (sad face).
  • Remember to be kind to shop, bar and restaurant staff. It’s their Fringe too!

I’ll be popping up my guide to which Fringe shows to see in 2018 next week, but in the meantime enjoy your Fringe experience, everyone!