50,000 performances, 3,000 shows, 300 venues – the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (AKA the largest arts festival in the world) is an experience like no other. The city transforms into a giant, non-stop street party for the entire month of August, with performers on every corner, pop-up food venues and cocktail bars, and an exceptionally raucous nightlife scene.
The Fringe Fest isn’t necessarily the most budget-friendly festival – despite living in Edinburgh and avoiding frivolous costs like over-priced hostels and taxis, I still somehow managed to spend a small fortune; however, I also discovered quite a few ways to save money. After doing some research and consulting with many Fringe veterans, I’ve compiled a list tips to help stretch your budget at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
1) Free Shows
There are hundreds of free shows at the festival, and you can find a comprehensive list on the PBH’s Free Fringe and Free Fringe websites. Certain bars – like The Three Sisters and Paradise Palms – will have free nightly comedians, musicians, variety shows, etc., as well.
You can also speak to promoters on The Royal Mile, and check the flyers they hand out to find free shows daily.
2) Apps for last minute and discounted tickets
Download the Fringe Festival app to browse performance descriptions, reviews, and to keep an eye out for specials and discounted shows at the Half Price Hut. Theatre Ninjas advertises free or discounted last minute tickets, as well.
Located near the Royal Scottish Academy at the foot of The Mound, The Half Price Hut opens after the first weekend of the festival, and offers half price tickets for hundreds of shows. The shows on offer change everyday, and you can browse the options on the Fringe Fest app, or enquire at the hut itself. It’s generally open from 10am to 9pm, but it’s best to arrive early if you want to avoid the queues.
4) 2-for-1 Tickets
Visiting at the beginning of the festival gives you a better chance of getting 2-for-1 tickets – which are offered during the first week as venues are generally eager to fill seats. I noticed 2-for-1 tickets toward the end of the festival as well, but mostly for less popular shows, and shows that had been playing throughout the entire month.
5) Cheap Eats
There are plenty of budget-friendly restaurant options in Edinburgh (check out the post I wrote with a few of my favourites), and pop-up street food venues, trucks, and stalls flood the city during the month. I saw lots of options for £5 or less: La Favourita pizza slices and German-style sausages on the Royal Mile, Pad Thai, burgers and kebabs near Udderbelly and George Square, and falafel wraps at Pleasance Courtyard – to name a few.
Camp sites are available on the outskirts of the city near the airport, starting around £20 per night.
The University of Edinburgh offers student dormitories of various sizes and types at Pollock Halls for reasonable prices during the summer months.
Edinburgh is easily walkable, and the majority of Fringe venues are located within the city centre, but if you’d like to take advantage of public transport, I’d recommend buying a Ridacard – which gives you unlimited travel on the regular buses, night buses, airport shuttle bus, and trams. A one week Ridacard costs £18 and can be purchased from any of the Lothian Buses Travelshops.
If you plan to use the bus multiple times a day over the course of only a few days, you can buy day tickets for £4 (for unlimited travel on day buses and trams for one day), instead of paying the £1.50 fee for a single ticket repeatedly.
Booking on the Fringe Festival website, app, or over the phone will cost you an extra fee of 90 pence – which may sound like nothing, but it can easily add up. You can avoid booking fees by purchasing tickets at the individual venues, or at the main box office on The Royal Mile.
9) Preview Shows
If you arrive a few days before the festival begins, you can snag tickets to preview shows – which can be up to 50% cheaper than the regular price.
I noticed a variation in prices – usually between £1 and £7 – depending on the day of the week. Try seeing shows on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays for slightly cheaper tickets.
Students, senior citizens, and children under the age of 18 are eligible for discounts, and a 10% discount for groups of 10 or more is also available at most shows.
Have you been to the Fringe Festival? What are some of your best money saving tips?