Edinburgh Fringe: 8 Survival Tips for Locals

The other day, I tried to buy cat food. This isn’t usually a momentous event in my day, in fact I can usually go months without feeling the need to mention the purchase of kitty kibble on my blog. However, this fateful day my poor beleaguered feline ran out of Whiskas was also the day Edinburgh Fringe 2016 officially started. Let me weave you a sad, sad tail (see what I did there?).

I went into three shops, and all three had run out of cat food. Yes, this year, tourists to our fair city must have decided to bring their furry feline friends along to soak in the atmosphere, because there was a definite shortage in meow mix. Also – who the hell brings their cat on holiday with them?

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for almost a decade now, and I’ve been here for the Fringe for the last 5 years or so. Five years of the city transforming into a veritable playground of shows, comedy, music and theatre for the whole month of August, and also the sometimes frustrating crowds that come with it. I’d say I’m probably fairly qualified to give my expert opinion on how to survive the Fringe* with minimal casualties. 

*This post was intended to be humorous; I do enjoy the Fringe, and it’s awesome that Edinburgh becomes a total cultural hub for the month. If you’re here on holiday, I hope you’re having a fabulous time, and if like me you live here, keep in mind that it’s meant to be FUN ;-).


1. Directions mean nothing

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve arranged to meet friends who are in town for August, and had to decipher the most random of directions to something that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t actually exist the rest of the year. Yesterday I asked a lass at the ticket office where the Circus Hub was, and she assumed I was a tourist because I didn’t know. Uh, I live here 12 months of the year, and for 11 of them the CIRCUS HUB ISN’T A THING. Don’t assume I’ll know where these mythical inflated structures are located.

2. There’s more to Edinburgh than the Fringe

This weekend I went to the latest pop up edition of Judy’s Vintage Fair, and it was fabulous. Emily and I tried on tiaras, bought some incredible vintage sunglasses, ogled record players and 70s floor-length dresses. The kind you can imagine saying you wore when you murdered your first husband. The fair was held in the Out of the Blue Drill hall in Leith, and was far enough out of town that it was unlikely that the tourist throngs would find it in their hordes.

3. You WILL double book

Folk will expect you to come see their show. even if their show is on at the same time as someone else’s show, which you also want to go to. Or already have tickets for. Fringe performers DGAF about your scheduling plans ;-). Go see what YOU want to see, get a little selfish, because there is no reason why this needs to feel like a chore.If you want to see only gigs, like I did last year, then go for it. If all your friends have booked tickets for some random comedian you have no interest in seeing, don’t bother. Meet them afterwards. There are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants in town to meet up at during some Fringe downtime. You’ll thank me for this later.

4. Eat something

I’m the kind of person who does not function well on an empty stomach, and trust me, you do NOT want to get hangry halfway up the Royal Mile with no options for food that don’t require a 30 minute wait for a table. If you’re vegan like me, or have any sort of dietary requirement, this can be hazardous. You’ll feel murderous towards tourists. That family of six wearing their rucksacks up front will start to look like potential lunch. You will want to eat your arm.

Whatever you do, no matter how much you believe deep down you’ll be able to handle the hunger pangs until you get to your destination, you won’t. Oh, and any cafe or restaurant near one of the major Fringe areas (Pleasance, George Square, Royal Mile) will be overpriced and overcrowded, so please do try to be prepared. I’ve written a few posts about some of the great vegan foodie options in the City, and I’ll be adding more throughout the month so keep an eye out!

Best things I’ve eaten so far: a tenuous Fringe Post: Moon & Hare, Nova Pizza, Henderson’s Vegan and Hendersons Holyrood

3 Vegans go to Tuk Tuk: Tuk Tuk

A Feast from the Middle East: Pomegranate

My dog is sassy and he loves Odds and Ends: Odds and Ends Cafe

Sunday Tea at Casa Angelina: because Vegans love to eat: Casa Angelina

5. Carry an umbrella

This handy tip comes from Emily at Frankly Ms Shankly, who advises to always carry an umbrella with you during the month of August. Edinburgh gets its fair share of rain, and though August is “technically” still considered summer, chances are at some point during the day, the weather will turn marginally moist.

An open umbrella is also a handy way to grab yourself a little bit of extra personal space, as people will be more likely to move out of your way if you’re holding aloft something sharp and pokey. An UMBRELLA, mind you, not a sword.

6. Learn to say NO with some conviction

Let me tell you a story. Last year, my flatmate played a DJ set in St Andrews Square, and he bought home a couple of performers he’d met; I was in bed, mixing my own business, when I heard a knock at my bedroom door. Who was it, you ask? Why, it was a random lassie, flyer in hand, telling I should really check out her show later than evning. Yes, I got handed a flyer in my own bedroom, in my own house. IS NOTHING SACRED??

7. Move like you mean business

This wonderful tip comes from Kimberley at Wardrobe Conversations, who told me her favourite survival tactic is to “move like you mean business, so people don’t flyer you every second”. If you’re the type of person who likes to stroll, to dawdle and to saunter at a leisurely pace, then chances are you’ll end up with every single performer in you path thrusting a flyer to their one-person musical rendition to the Odyssey.

Walk quickly, purposefully, and whatever you do, don’t look like you’re lost.

8. Go on holiday

I’m only half joking here, as Emily and I are heading to London for the last weekend of the Fringe for our friend’s birthday. Sometimes, 3 weeks of Fringe is all you need or can handle, and that’s ok. Book a train, plane or bus out of town and enjoy that peace and quiet. You’ve survived another Edinburgh Fringe, and you deserve it!


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