Budget Travel

Edinburgh on a budget: steps to make your money go further

Edinburgh is famously among the UK's most expensive cities, but i am not saying it must set you back a pretty penny – you will find myriad affordable things to do on a click here.

Whether it's eating at restaurants, walking up an extinct volcano or jumping on the bus or perhaps a train to some nearby seaside town, it's possible to perform a lot with very little in Scotland's capital.

Fly on a weekday with a budget airline – though it may be cheaper to take the train

Flying via budget airline may be the most affordable way to get to Edinburgh, though weekend fares are more expensive, so consider making your way on the weekday if you're able to. If you're visiting from London, plan ahead and book the Lumo train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley – it's under lb30 (US$41) return.

Take the Airlink 100 bus towards the city center

From Edinburgh Airport you can travel directly to the city center via bus or tram. For many of the day, the Airlink 100 bus runs every Fifteen minutes, with an open return costing lb7.50 ($10.20). Get a physical ticket when you are getting around the bus, or download the Lothian Buses M-Tickets app to pay your fare ahead of time and store it safely in your phone. The tram runs every seven minutes, but it doesn't operate 24/7 such as the airport bus, and it's more costly and never as quick.

Explore the city under your own steam, otherwise take the bus

Once in the city you'll find Edinburgh can be quite walkable, and like most cities, you'll get a much better feel for it on foot. If you do plan to make use of the bus, just one ticket is lb1.80 ($2.45) regardless of distance you're traveling, but each day ticket is just lb4.50 ($6.10), meaning for a few quid more, you will get off and on as many times as you like. If you're planning a longer stay, the 5 x Adult DAYtickets option, available on the app, could save you even more money just for lb20 ($27).

Stay at a budget hotel or perhaps a decent hostel

Depending on your budget, there's an array of places to relax your head. A slew of budget hotels like Premier Inn, Travelodge and easyHotel can be found in every nook and cranny of Edinburgh's city center, and there are youth hostel options available too, several within a stone's throw of Edinburgh Castle, the city's most well-known landmark.

If you need to pretend you're living in the moat, try Castle Rock Hostel. For any unique stay, there's affordable living in the Court, part of the Code hostel group as well as an A-listed Victorian that once housed a courthouse and jail, located near the Royal Mile.

There's also an abundance of self-catering apartments in Edinburgh, with prices in the Holyrood Aparthotel starting at lb49 ($67) per night for any double studio apartment with a full kitchen. Shop at discount supermarkets, such as Lidl and Aldi, to prep and get your meals at home before venturing out look around the city.

Avoid the Festival and Hogmanay if you want cheap accommodation

If you'd like to avoid spending a small fortune on accommodation, stay away as the Edinburgh Festivals are on in August, and through the Hogmanay celebrations at New Year, when prices quadruple at most hotels.

Stick to Edinburgh's budget attractions

There's plenty in the city to determine for free, such as the iconic Edinburgh Castle – it sits right in the center of the city center and is generally hard to miss. You spend to visit inside, but you can walk right up onto the Castle Esplanade via the Royal Mile for some exceptional views over the city, especially around sunset. Around or on St Andrew's Day (November 30), there's usually a free-entry day, thanks to Historic Environment Scotland; still it is commonly ticketed, though, so plan in advance.

On the Royal Mile, browse the Gothic architecture of St Giles Cathedral, where entry is free 7 days a week. You will find loads of walking tours starting around the Royal Mile too, including the Edinburgh Free Tour, which departs daily just a couple doors down. At the bottom from the Royal Mile, take in the modern architecture of the once-controversial Scottish Parliament building.

Stay in the Old Town for a wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard, where you'll find the gravestone of Scotland's most famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby; look for a bronze statue from the pup just outside on George IV Bridge.

The gorgeous 70-acre Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is also liberated to visit and well suited for a leisurely stroll with your family. In the western world End kids will want to visit LOVE Gorgie Farm, a free-entry urban operation with chickens, alpaca, guinea pigs, goats and more. If you're visiting Edinburgh in September, be sure to browse the annual Doors Open Days event, when several spaces, some not usually available to the public, become free entry too.

Look for affordable (or free!) things you can do at night

Finding something to do on an evening in Edinburgh isn't hard. For live music, go to the Jazz Bar on Chambers Street or even the award-winning Sneaky Pete's in the Cowgate, where gig tickets are usually priced between lb5 and lb15 ($7 -20). There's free music by the bucket load several doors down at Stramash, and up at Whistle Binkies on South Bridge. For live folk music, head to Captain's Bar or to the 200-year-old pub Royal Oak, which both placed on shows free of charge.

For discounted theater, plan ahead using the Lyceum, where preview nights are often cheaper or pay-what-you-can. Similarly, restricted-view tickets can help save some weight. For a night in the opera, Scottish Opera offers discounted tickets for all those under age 26.

If you're following a night in the movies, visit Scotland's leading independent cinema, Filmhouse in the western world End. Tickets for many Sunday screenings are simply lb5 ($7), which is the price for students every single day of the week.

For laughs, head straight for Monkey Barrel Comedy, in which the Sunday-night variety show costs lb8 ($11), or lb6 ($8) for students, and the Wednesday Top Banana Comedy night is just lb3 ($4), or lb1 ($1.35) for students. Similarly, Red Raw, the Monday night beginners showcase at the Stand Comedy Club, is lb5 ($7). Across the road, go to the Rabbit Hole drag night at CC Blooms (lb5/$7).

If you're visiting during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, check both PBH Free Fringe and Heroes of Fringe for any host of free and pay-what-you-can LOLs. Be sure to look for the Half Price Hut on the Mound every single day too.

Most of Edinburgh's galleries are free

There's no shortage of art found in the capital, and most from the city's galleries offer free entry for his or her permanent collections, if not touring exhibitions. Within the Old Town you'll find the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound, and nearby, smaller galleries like Collective (in a former observatory on Calton Hill) and Fruitmarket Gallery (above Waverley train station) are a must. On the west side, visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, housed in 2 neoclassical buildings surrounded by a sculpture park, the second of which may be worth the visit alone.

Back within the Old Town, the National Museum of Scotland ought to be high up your agenda. It's ideal for a drizzly afternoon and great for entertaining the kids; in addition to a T-rex skeleton and Dolly sheep, cloned from an adult somatic cell, you will find plenty of interactive exhibits to obtain your imagination going. There's no entrance charge during the day, but determine when the Museum Late series is on while you are around – its lb15 ($20) entry enables you to begin to see the museum in a totally new light, with entertainment and free access to the paid exhibition space.

Get outdoors

There's a lot of beautiful green space in Edinburgh, with seven hills liberated to anyone feeling adventurous enough to consider them on. In less than an hour or so, you can climb to the top of Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano in the middle of the town, before descending and exploring the surrounding Holyrood Park using its lochs and ruins. Or try the greater readily available Calton Hill.

But the best-view-in-the-city award would go to Blackford Hill, where you can see the entire expanse in one mind-blowing panoramic. Pack an open-air picnic making a day's it, going through the surrounding Hermitage of Braid nature reserve. Check out Colinton Dell in the west of the city too, with its impressive 140m (459ft) mural in an old Victorian railway tunnel.

A leisurely stroll across the Water of Leith is also a fantastic way to spend a few hours, ensuring to stop off within the picturesque Dean Village and Stockbridge in route. Plan your walk on a Sunday and you'll find the free-entry outdoor Stockbridge Market on Saunders Street, ideal for an inexpensive breakfast, lunch or souvenir – or just for browsing.

There are a few great parks in Edinburgh too. Stockbridge's glorious Inverleith Park boasts excellent views of Edinburgh Castle and has an excellent pond for feeding swans and ducks with the kids. Meanwhile the Meadows, an enormous green expanse south of the city center, hosts among the best kids' play parks in the capital and it is stunning in the spring, when the blossoming trees have been in full bloom.

Heading towards the coast is yet another affordable way to spend your time during Edinburgh. A bus to the idyllic seaside town of Portobello will set you back just lb1.80 ($2.45). While there, spend time around the prom; enjoy video games at Nobles Amusements before grabbing a tasty shrimp bun from Shrimp Wreck (lb7.50/$10) or perhaps a slice of pizza bigger than your face from Prom Slice (lb4/$5).

A 20-minute train journey to North Queensferry (lb5.90/$8 return from Waverley or Haymarket train stations) goes across certainly one of Scotland's most iconic structures, the Forth Rail Bridge. Walk back over the old Forth Road Bridge, and spend a special afternoon in the quaint capital of scotland- South Queensferry, enjoying lunch from On the Hatch in the Port Edgar Marina before heading back to the town center.

Eat and drink like a close to save some pennies

There's no two ways about this – you have to eat. But eating out within the capital doesn't have to be expensive. For those keen to try haggis, you'll enjoy the lb6 ($8) haggis burrito from Bonnie Burrito within the Southside. Several doors down, Sister Bao supply an extensive selection of steamed buns for lb1.50 ($2), while around the back of Edinburgh Central Mosque at Mosque Kitchen, you will find loaded plates of comforting dal, chana masala and lamb bhuna with rice or naan for approximately lb5 ($7).

In Leith head to the Pitt, a weekend street food market with a lb2 ($3) entry fee, which grants you accessibility best chicken burgers (lb6/$8) around, thanks to the award-winning Buffalo Truck.

For a true Scottish experience, a chippy is a must, and Portobello's St Andrews Takeaway has become the very best in town. A fish supper (ie fish and chips) costs lb6 ($8); for the full Edinburgh experience, agree "salt and sauce." In case your budget can stretch a little further, you may consider booking set for a four-course lunch at Leith's Aurora (lb30/$41) or a three-course lunch at West End's Palmerston (lb19/$26).

For drinks, steer clear of the upmarket George Street. Instead, head for New Town's Starbar, a perfectly formed dive tucked away within the basement of the tenement block, where you'll find pints of Tennent's, Scotland's National lager, just for lb4 ($5). Within the Old Town, dive-bar fans should head to the Banshee Labyrinth. A subterranean network of underground vaults, it's famously Edinburgh's most haunted pub. Try not to let that deter you: it's open until 3am most nights, and entry is definitely free.

For a real taste of old Scotland, the Royal Mile is littered with classic pubs, but those often have a high cost; head out of the city center to reap the best rewards. Lovingly known by regulars as Diggers, as it sits between two graveyards, Athletic Arms in the western world End offers a rotating choice of local cask ales that mostly come with a sub-lb4 ($5) cost. There's an exceptional whiskey selection too, meaning you don't have to pay through the nose to get a taste of Scotland's most prized nectar, with a number of 35ml measured pours priced at lb2.50 ($3.40). While there, buy an award-winning pie – the macaroni version is just lb2 ($3).

Or go to the intense interior of Paradise Palms for affordable vegan plates, local beers and free DJ sets. Check the board behind the bar for normal offers, such as a boilermaker, a beer along with a shot of bourbon or whiskey for lb5 to lb6 ($7 -8). Cocktail fans should visit the Scottish capital throughout the annual Edinburgh Cocktail Week in October, when a lb7 ($10) wristband gains you access to lb5 ($7) cocktails over the city.

Daily costs in Edinburgh

Hostel room: from lb13 ($18) for a dorm bed
Basic accommodation for 2: from lb30 ($41)
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from lb49 ($67)
Lothian buses ticket: lb1.80 ($2.45) single; lb4.50 ($6.10) day ticket
Coffee: lb2.50 -3 ($3.40 -4)
Sandwich: lb5 -9 ($7 -12)
Dinner for 2: lb40 -50 ($54 -68)
Beer/pint at the bar: lb3.80 -6.50 ($5.15 -8.80)

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