Top tips for doing the Edinburgh Festival on a budget

Edinburgh during August isn’t the cheapest place in the world – here’re are some tips to give your bank account an easier time

The Edinburgh Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe
© James Ratchford

Though the ticket prices may be slightly less hefty than a trip to the West End, it's hard to describe the Edinburgh Fringe as a cheap experience. With accommodation at a premium and thousands of shows on offer, it's never a bad idea to have a bit more of an eye on the pennies – here're our top tips for a cost-effective Fringe.

1. Check out the Half Price Hut

Want to see something but not sure what? But don't want to invest too much in a ticket? The Half Price Hut, down by the National Gallery, should be your first port of call. It does exactly what it says on the tin – shows can put a limited number of tickets on sale there throughout their runs, especially early on to generate more word of mouth. Our tip: time your trips well. The queues for the hut get very busy around lunchtime, so you can bag better tickets earlier in the day.

2. 2-for-1 tickets are your friends

There are 2-for-1 dates dotted throughout the Fringe for a lot of shows, so if you're planning your schedule then it's worth snapping them up now – these performances can sometimes sell out quickly. Signing up to becoming a Friend of the Fringe can also help as it provides 2-for-1 tickets for at least 15 shows each year – though it's worth checking whether or not you think it'll prove cost-effective.

If you're up earlier, you can also benefit from cheaper tickets during previews, while a lot of acts may be comping their shows just to test out material. At the same time, if you're up slightly later than keep an eye out for "Black Wednesday" – the first Wednesday of the Fringe – a day that, statistically, most shows record their lowest audience figures. Some venues will include special promotions that day to try and bolster turnout.

The Edinburgh Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe

© David Monteith-Hodges

3. Try the Free Fringe

The Free Fringe is a buzzing spot full of emerging comics, writers, clowns, musicians and performers, each trying something out, cutting their craft or just performing because it's darn fun. While it's invariably more hit-and-miss an experience, The Free Sisters on Cowgate is usually packed but full of great acts, while the BlundaBus next to Pleasance Dome has a pretty solid line-up (and can occasionally see appearances from the likes of Stewart Lee!). It's also somewhere to find unexpected joys – one of our favourite shows was Mrs Green, a sure-fire Free Fringe addition back in 2013.

You can also listen to some stellar free music at places like The Jazz Bar on Chambers Street.

4. Get your nosh in all the right spots

To the unsuspecting punter food can come with a heftier pricetag than expected in Edinburgh, with all manner of street vans offering takeaway food at prices you'd expect from an east London gentrified café. But there are some cheaper alternatives if you know where to look – the Mosque Kitchen in Nicolson Square has long been a favourite of performers (and handily midway between Zoo Venues, Summerhall, George Square and Pleasance Courtyard so you don't have to travel far), while the Pieminster on South Bridge is another favourite. A lot of cafes will also provide discounts for people bringing their own mugs, so packing a thermos can be a good shout.

Our best recommendation – just get a classy meal deal from a supermarket – did you go up to a massive arts festival to try out the food? Or if you want something more unusual, try the unexpected mashup haggis pizza on George IV Bridge – it'll keep you full for days.

5. Know where to camp out

Let's face it, accommodation at the Fringe while on a budget can be a bit of a nightmare. We remember one year draped across one side of a sofa for a week… The University can sometimes provide relatively affordable rooms, but it's definitely one occasion for cashing in on favours if you have thespily inclined friends. One good tip we've learned is to trade an hour or two's flyering for a bed or spot on the floor for a sleeping bag – tit for tat!

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