Ultimate guide for your first time in Edinburgh
I have visited Edinburgh many times as a tourist, before moving here 6 years ago and I wanted to create a useful guide with all the practical info you need for your first trip to the city of my heart!
This is a lovely, small and easy city to visit and with these few tips, I hope your holiday will be enjoyable ad full of great memories!
“LANDING” AT EDINBURGH AIRPORT
Edinburgh Airport is located just about 14 Km West of the city center. It is a relatively small airport (but it’s growing every year), clean, modern and easy to navigate.
Collected the bags, in the main building, you will find food, coffee, currency exchange, a supermarket, a luggage shop and the Visit Scotland information centre.
There are 24h transport services to the city, but if you want to spend the night close to the airport, you can choose among some beautiful hotels (for different budgets), for example the Double Tree by Hilton,the Holiday Inn Express, and the new Hampton by Hilton!
GETTING TO EDINBURGH CITY CENTRE
There are plenty of easy and efficient ways to reach the city center from the Airport: have a look and choose the one that suits you most! You don’t even have to plan this in advance 😊
Go on Lothian Buses to get all the information about the bus services.
The Airlink 100 is available 24/7, so even if you arrive (or leave) during the night, you are not stuck in the middle of nowhere!
It takes about 20 minutes to get to Haymarket station and about 30 to Waverley (the last stop).
On the bus, all the stops are well indicated both visually on screens and vocally with announcements.
This is the cheapest option, with the adult single journey costing £4.50 (£7.50 return).
You can purchase the ticket at the kiosk outside the airport or, directly from the driver.
As you can see on the Lothian Buses website, there are other two services from the airport to the city, the Skylink 200 and 300. Although some of their stops can be located just outside your accommodation (especially on number 300), they are not “express” buses, so it can take ages to arrive! My advice would be to get the Airlink to the city centre and then move from there in other ways, unless you are on a VERY tight budget, in which case it’s better to compromise on time but keep the price lower.
Edinburgh Tram has only been built few years ago and, so far, it only has one route that goes from the airport to York Place (and vice versa), in the heart of the New Town.
The website is amazing, with LIVE updates for every stop!
The whole journey takes about 45 minutes. It is a bit slower than the bus, but it is a great option for people who suffer of motion sickness.
It is not available during the night and it departs about every 7/10 minutes.
You need to purchase the ticket before you board, at the automatic machines located at every stop, and the price of an adult single ticket from/to the airport is £6.00 (£8.50 return). Be aware: the machines only accept coins or cards, no notes!
There are 4 main stops in the city centre, each of them very close to some of the most famous hotels: I will talk more of this in my post about “where to stay”!
I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT… EdinBus (iPhone only) or Transport for Edinburgh (iOS or Android)! These are free Apps that show you the stops around you, each line’s itinerary and the real-time arrivals. Life-savers!!!
On all of the above services, you will find plenty of space to store your luggage and you will be able to sit 99.99% of the times (excluding the times before and after a Rugby match, because they stop just outside Murrayfield Stadium!).
It is the official taxi company that you can find at the airport. They are just 2 minutes’ walk from the exit and you can find cars available 24/7.
They have different type of cars, but they are the only company with the traditional British black cabs, so you need to choose them if you want that classic experience 😉
A taxi ride to the city centre can take anything between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on the traffic and time of the day. As for the price, consider an average of £20 to the Princes Street.
It is a private taxi company that works around the city 24/7.
They say to be cheaper than anybody else in the city, but I am not able to guarantee it!
At the end of your journey, make sure to ask for the 20% discount advertised online, have a look!
This is the famous private company that is almost available everywhere in the world.
You can download the App, after creating your account here and you are good to go.
The best thing about Uber is that you don’t have to necessarily carry money with you, because the payment is take directly from your account!
In Edinburgh, Uber has a great coverage and -usually- the price is cheaper than the taxi companies above.
Make sure you check your App, though, because during very busy time when the demand is extremely high, they can become far more expensive, instead!
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
If you arrive by train, you can almost always choose in which station to stop: Waverley or Haymarket. This choice will depend on your accommodation or the location of your commitment upon arrival. To help you choose, just stick the address on Google Maps and see which station is closer! If they are at the same distance, ask Google to give you directions with public transport and see which one is the easiest!
My favorite way to book trains within the UK is TheTrainline, because it is a comprehensive website, very easy to navigate and understand and gives me all the times the cheapest rates available!
Generally speaking, Waverley is more centrally located, while Haymarket is in the West End, mainly used by business travelers. But nowadays, many hotels and B&Bs are located in this area, so make sure you check first!
MOVING WITHIN THE CITY
I used to work in a city centre hotel and when tourists were arriving at check-in, I can immediately tell from their stress level if they had rented a car!
This is a capital city: even if it is nowhere near as big as London, it is still a city! Part of the city centre is closed to normal cars, there are many buses on the streets, there can be traffic in certain moments of the day, and we drive on the left side of the street. If you want a relaxed break in the city, do not take a car!
If you are planning to go around Scotland, rent your car only for that time: before arriving or after leaving Edinburgh!
Lothian Buses is the company that provides the public transport in Edinburgh and the level is absolutely amazing!
The buses are usually clean, on time, frequent and easy to understand.
Within the city, each ride costs £1.70 per adult and it is payable directly to the driver.
Important: the drivers do not give any change! Make sure you have the right amount!
If you plan to take more than three rides in one day, you can purchase a day ticket for £4.00 or, if you are staying more than 5 days and want to have total peace of mind, you can head immediately to one of their TravelShops. They will take a photo of you and will make you a “Ridacard” that you can top up (the photo costs £3.00 and the 7-days pass £18.00) and keep for your next trip here!
I hope this information will help you getting in and around Edinburgh hassle-free!
Have you been to Edinburgh? Did you think it was an easy city to visit? Send me your thoughts and question through the comment box!
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