Average costs in Edinburgh
Stay – As in almost every city, you’ll find the cheapest form of accommodation being youth hostels. For around $25 / £17 / €20 you will be allocated a bed in a dormitory. For a double room you pay between $50 / £35 / €40 and $62 / £45 / €50 if you are lucky. A hotel with three or four stars normally starts at around $80 / £55 / €65 a night, but often there are deals where you can stay in a double room for $70 / £48 /€55!
For an overview of accommodations in Edinburgh, I recommend to look at Booking.com.
Eat – The food is certainly not unaffordable in Scotland! Fish & chips are generally the cheapest (about £6 to £12 per person), but Indian restaurants are often in the same price range. In the many pubs you’ll often find typical Scottish food at affordable prices. Count on £10 to £15 as a minimum.
Of course you can also spend more if you look at something better / more expensive restaurants.
Transport – A single ticket on the bus costs £1.5 (or £0.7 for a child) for a single ride, or £4 for a full day. Actually, buses aren’t really necessary in Edinburgh, because the city isn’t that big. Nevertheless, certain sights are a bit further and a trip by bus can help to save your legs. After all, the city is rather hilly…
From the center of the city there are very good train connections, but like everywhere in the United Kingdom trains are often very expensive. The MegaBus is another good option. For example, from Edinburgh to Glasgow you only pay £1 to £3 per person if you book in advance.
Saving money in Edinburgh
Free sightseeing – There are plenty of free attractions, museums and other attractions in the capital of Scotland! The National Museum of Scotland will fill your brain with information about the Scots.
The Scottisch Parliament will introduce you to the laws and the government of Scotland and the Scottisch National Gallery gives you an overdose of art. The Writers’ Museum is also fun to visit if you want to know more about some famous Scottish writers. Other attractions are the Botanic Gardens, Arthur’s Seat, St. Gilles Cathedral and Meadows Park.
Don’t come in August – Prices for flights, hotels and places of interest will be a lot more expensive in the month of August. Why? The Fringe Festival takes place in this month! The largest art festival in the world transforms the Scottish capital into a place where all forms of art can be seen for three weeks every August. The Fringe Festival is great to experience, but not so great when you’re on a budget …
No (or little) public transport – Edinburgh can be seen for 90% without public transport. The city is very easy to walk through. Here and there, there are some steps or a small slope, but all in all it’s never too bad. Certain attractions and sights (The Zoo, the Botanic Gardens, …) are a bit too far from the city center to walk, but a bus ticket doesn’t cost much either…
Picnicking – Join the locals! If the weather is good, you’ll see that in the many large and small parks of Edinburgh people are having their lunch outside. Go to the nearest Marks & Spencer and get a (tasty!) ready-made lunch.
Things to do in Edinburgh
Arthur’s Seat – Did you know that there is a volcano next to the city? WHAT?! Calm down! It’s not active anymore! Arthur’s Seat is a magnificent view of the city at a height of 250 meters or 820 feet. Go early in the morning, or just before sunset. A magical moment guaranteed!
Explore Old Town – The old part of Edinburgh is magnificent. The cozy houses, the beautiful views, the historic pubs and of course the Scot Monument must all be seen.
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – Every year (during the Fringe Festival – see below) soldiers from all over the world come here to perform. The Edinburgh Castle rolls out the red carpet for a spectacle of music, performances and military precision. The spectacle ends with deafening fireworks above the famous castle.
Fringe Festival – The largest art festival in the world is held every year in Edinburgh! In 2015, for example, more than 50,000 performances were here, performing for more than 25 days. Everyone can participate and watch the Fringe festival. For some performances you must pay, others are free. You have performances in the categories: theater, comedy, dance, physical theater, circus, cabaret, shows for children, musicals, opera, music, recital, exhibitions and events. There’s more than enough to see, if you ask me!
National Museum of Scotland – If there is only one museum that you will visit during your stay in Scotland, then it must be this one. With beautiful collections (art, historical objects, informative exhibitions, …) everyone will find something to his or her liking here.
Edinburgh Castle – Climb to the top of the city and pay a visit to the gigantic fort! Inside the castle you can find the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Scone where the Scottish kings were being crowned. A ticket to enter Edinburgh Castle costs £16.50 (£9.90 for children).
Visiting the parks – Edinburgh is a very green city. On a beautiful day you should definitely visit one or more parks. I recommend the Meadows and the Botanical Gardens. From Holyrood park you also get a unique and beautiful view over the city.
Edinburgh Vaults – A few centuries ago the laws were much stricter in Scotland… And what does a person do when something is not allowed? They do it anyway, but then somewhere where no one else can see it! Under the city lies a huge network of underground cavities and spaces that have had many purposes through the ages. Illegal storage places for alcohol, bars, houses for poor people, a warehouse of (!) corpses, … The Edinburgh Vaults are certainly something you have to visit. Tickets cost £10 per person.
Gilmerton Cove – Another option to explore Scotland’s depths is the Gilmerton Coves. The Gilmerton Cove is a vast network of excavated tunnels and roads that run under the border town of Gilmerton. Interesting and quite impressive!
Things to avoid in Edinburgh
Buying souvenirs on the Royal Mile – If you don’t want to lose all your pounds straight away, I recommend buying your souvenirs elsewhere. The Royal Mile is fun to walk around, but all the souvenirs you find here are ridiculously expensive. You’d better visit a nice boutique in Old Town or somewhere else and look for similar products at much more affordable prices.
Hop-on Hop-off buses – Edinburgh is really not that big! The hop-on hop-off buses cost you a lot of money and you’ll see most monuments and attractions only flashing by… Save your money and walk the whole city! You’ll find a lot more interesting places that way.
Staying too long – Edinburgh is fun, but you can see everything in three days. Use the city as a base to go to other Scottish highlights. Because there is so much more to see than just the capital in Scotland!