Edinburgh Fringe – Top Tips for Planning a Trip to the Festival
As the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a magnet for artistes and theatre lovers alike. Old hands will know what to expect but if you are a first-timer you might feel slightly intimidated by the prospect of attending, so these tips are designed to help you avoid mistakes and enjoy the experience more.
Get a programme
With the Festival lasting nearly a month, a programme is essential if you want to make sure that you get to all the performances that you want to see in the time you have available. This is listed alphabetically so you should also print off a daily guide – available only on the Internet - that lists items by time.
What to take
Edinburgh isn’t known for its reliable weather so you’ll need to be prepared for some cool days as well as rain. It’s best to take some warm, light clothing (preferably something that you can remove easily when you are in the warmth of a pub) with a waterproof top. Most important is comfortable, sturdy footwear that will keep your feet dry and will cope with the cobbled streets of the city.
Keep your hands free by taking a small rucksack that will hold spare clothes, a flask and some food (save money and time by avoiding restaurants and food stalls). Also, don’t forget your camera – and your wallet.
Getting there and getting around
How you get to the Fringe depends on where you live, your budget and how long you want to stay. Probably the fastest and most comfortable way is to travel by train; it’s pricier than the bus, but the extra expense is probably worth it. If you have the cash, you can always fly though it’s questionable if it’s really faster than the train.
Taking your own car or car sharing is an option as it gives you considerable freedom. Once you get to Edinburgh, however, traffic will be heavy and parking will be a problem.
In the city, you’ll be able to get to most venues on foot; most venues are within 10 minutes of each other. The two outlying venues – Summerhall and the Traverse Theatre – require more time.
To be sure of seeing what you want to see when you want to see it, you should buy your tickets online. You may have to pay a premium but at least you will avoid the long queues at the Fringe Box Office. If you have to use the Box Office, get there early in the morning. You can also buy tickets at the venues; you’ll normally be able to buy tickets for all sites operated by the venue chain.
You’ll also get the chance to buy cheap tickets at the half-price ticket hut on Princes Street. If acts want to sell half-price tickets for a particular performance, then this is where you’ll find them.
There are also a number of free shows. Usually stand-up comedians or other one-man shows, you’ll find them in pubs and other small venues.
What to expect
Plays at the Fringe are usually only one act and last no more than an hour so expect well-known plays to be abbreviated. Be warned – performances vary widely in quality. The Fringe is full of writers, directors and performers (many graduates from drama schools) who want to make a name for themselves. Alongside these, you’ll find some amateurish productions by groups that are just out for a bit of fun.
For a guide on what’s best to see, you can always read the reviews but this means that you’ll have to wait to see performances later in the month. Best though, is to take a chance and make up your own mind.
If you leave it late, finding somewhere to stay can be a nightmare. The less expensive hotels and hostels get booked up early, leaving only the places that will punch a big hole in your budget. For longer stays, you could consider renting a flat; they are modestly priced but again these get snapped up quickly. Edinburgh University also opens up halls of residence; these offer good, cheap accommodation but you’ll have to be prepared for a half hour bus ride to the city centre. There are caravan and camping sites in the surrounding areas that are served by buses till late.
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