Edinburgh Fringe - Frequently Asked Questions
This page contains useful answers about the Edinburgh Fringe. If you need help using "Plan My Fringe", click here.
The information on this page is based on the experiences of the Plan My Fringe team, and are just our opinions. Others may disagree with some of the things we say. But it is there as a guide to help both newcomers and more seasoned Fringe-goers have the best Fringe experience. As with anything at the Fringe (and indeed in life), investigate all possibilities in more detail, and come up with a plan that suits you!
What is the Fringe - is it just a comedy festival?
The Edinburgh Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, and while the most famous aspect of it is comedy, it is by no means just limited to that. In Edinburgh you can witness performances from almost any form of expressive arts imaginable. The official Fringe list sub-divides the shows into 10 categories and that will help you when you Plan Your Fringe, but there are many different sub-genres within that, so we recommend that you always look further than just the title.
Why go to the Fringe?
When was the last time you came across anyone who did not have an interest in at least one form of expressive art? Certainly we never have and whether your interest is painting, comedy, spoken word, music, dance or any other form of art the Edinburgh Fringe will cover it. There is quite literally something for everyone.
When is the Fringe on? What is the official fringe calendar?
The official fringe calendar runs throughout August. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe dates in 2021 are 6th August to 30th August. Though some shows run slightly outside of these timescales, so your timetable on Plan My Fringe runs through the whole of August.
How has the Fringe been affected by Covid-19?
The Edinburgh Fringe was cancelled in 2020. In 2021 the Edinburgh Fringe will be different in ways we are yet to find out about. But the Fringe will still have In-Person shows (complying with government guidelines), but will also have 2 online types, Online-Scheduled and Online-On-Demand. Online-Scheduled performances take place at a specific date and time. Online-On-Demand shows can be viewed any time.
Plan My Fringe will display which of these types each show is, and many screens will allow you to filter for any combination of these types. In-Person shows will be treated the same way as before, and you can plan your fringe as normal with these. You can also add Online-Scheduled shows to your wishlist, and Plan My Fringe will schedule them in as usual. It will schedule these outside your stay in Edinburgh if you select this under "My Details" (this is the default), as these can be viewed from anywhere.
Online-On-Demand shows can be added to your Wishlist as usual, but you will then have other options. You can choose just to keep these out of your schedule (the default) which allows you to just view them when you want. Or you can allow Plan My Fringe to schedule them at any time (fitting them automatically around fixed shows), or choose the date and time you want to schedule it manually (within the times when it is available).
Where should I stay during the Fringe?
This is very dependent on budgets, but Edinburgh has a large variety of places to stay. From AirBNB through to luxury 5-star hotels. If you are putting on a performance at the Fringe or coming in a large group, people have often found it useful to rent a small apartment. This allows you to spread costs more evenly and can save on food bills.
You can check some of the larger hotel booking sites for hotel availablility and pricing (just search for "Edinburgh Hotels"). However some of the bigger hotel chains do not use these booking sites, so you may find a better options on for example the Travelodge, Premier Inn or similar web-sites.
If you are on a very tight budget, there are hostels which can provide the basic necessities for a good price.
How much does it cost?
This is a bit open ended depending on budgets but there is no of getting away from it, the Edinburgh Festival can be expensive. It is not unreasonable to put aside a few hundred to several thousand pounds, depending on the length of your stay. But if you are on a tight budget there are things that you can do to help:
- 1) Start planning your Fringe early. Hotels are cheaper if you make your booking early in the year. If you don’t mind a bit of a commute it can also be cheaper to stay outside of Edinburgh and travel in every day. On her first visit our founder Maddie stayed in Stirling and came in every day by train (though this is obviously an extreme example).
- 2) Be realistic on the shows you want to see. Some of the most famous acts on the Fringe can cost a lot of money for tickets. On the other hand you don't need to limit the number of shows that you see. If you are happy to see some less well known but potentially equally good performances you can go to entirely free shows (although etiqutte is to put some money in a bucket at the end if you enjoyed the show). In reality however, people tend to do a bit of both. Using Plan My Fringe, all you need to do is work out your own individual show budget and update that in your preferences - you can even set a budget of £0 and Plan My Fringe will only show you free shows.
- 3) Book your travel early. As with hotels the price of travel ramps up the nearer to August that you book. Also if you are travelling by train you can save some money by nominating the train you are travelling on.
- 4) If you are going as a group of 2 or more (seeing the same shows), and are intending to view over 15 ticketed shows, you can become a Friend of the Fringe for £35, which allows you 2 for 1 on many (but not all) shows for up to 15 shows. You can also become a Close Friend of the Fringe for £70 which gives 2 for 1 on up to 25 shows (plus a free Friends reception), or a Best Friend for £160 (unlimited 2 for 1 plus your name in the Fringe Official Programme). If you have chosen one of these options, you can put this in your "My Details" options on "Plan My Fringe", and as long as you enter the number of people attending, the cost will be calculated accordingly. You can also try this once you have a schedule to see if it would be cheaper paying to be a Friend of the Fringe.
How is it best to travel to Edinburgh?
This obviously depends on where you are coming from! Edinburgh is well served by various forms of transport:
- Aeroplane - Edinburgh Airport is well served by various airlines. Buses, taxis and the tram will take you directly between the Airport and the City Centre.
- Train - Edinburgh has 2 main stations, Waverley (near the city centre) and Haymarket (to the west of city centre).
- LNER goes from London Kings Cross along the East of England and Scotland into Edinburgh Waverley, taking in Stevenage, Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Berwick upon Tweed and many others. This is the quickest way from London.
- Virgin Trains go from London Euston along the West of England and Scotland into Glasgow, that can then go onto Edinburgh. This is the best way from stations in the Midlands and North-West of England.
- The Caledonian Sleeper goes overnight from London Euston to Edinburgh Waverley, so you can sleep during the journey. However it is quite pricey for a bed (although cheaper for seats), and in our experience only really for heavy sleepers!
- Scotrail has various services from Scotland.
- Just use National Rail to find times and prices. The best advice for trains is to book early, and you can get substantial discounts for booking a particular train - just make sure you don't miss it! If you do miss a scheduled train due to another train delay, go to the ticket office and explain, and they will give you a note to allow you on a later train. If not, you may have to pay a lot more for an open ticket.
- Travelling at less popular times gives the biggest discount.
- Road - we would not recommend travelling into the city centre by road, due to the traffic during the Fringe and lack of parking. However you can travel to and park at a station and travel into Edinburgh, or travel to and park outside of the city centre.
- Coach - for those that just want to get there the cheapest way possible, National Express run coaches from various locations to Edinburgh. Journeys can take a long time, but if you are a good sleeper you can book a late coach and wake up in Edinburgh.
- Trams and Buses - if you live or stay fairly local to Edinburgh, there is a tram line and many bus services that will take you into the city centre.
However, during the Fringe itself once you are in Edinburgh, we always recommend walking. "Plan My Fringe" shows the walking time (based on your walking speed preference) between venues, so that you can judge this. It may sometimes be easier to get a taxi, Uber, or other private-hire cab for some of the longer walks, or take the tram or a bus, but generally most of the Fringe venues are within easy walking distance of each other.
Will you recommend us the best shows?
Yes and no. Plan My Fringe has a strict policy of not favouring any show above another as we want all performers to have the best possible chance. We do however want everyone to have the best possible fringe so we do want to help people to work out what to see at Edinburgh. So in 2018 we introduced a new section called Recommendations (you have to be logged on to view it). This tool, based on your existing WishList and (if you want), on a set of key words that you nominate, will create a personalised list of shows which we think may be of interest to you.
Will my favourite performer be at the fringe?
There are thousands of shows at hundreds of venues so it quite possible they are. You can find out by searching for all or part of their name on the Search screen.
How long should I stay at the fringe?
Like much of the fringe this is entirely up to you!
We have people who stay in Edinburgh for the whole month or some go for just one day. For those staying for the whole month we have an annual challenge called “Beat the Fringe”. At the beginning of every Fringe our advanced algorithms calculate the maximum number of shows that it is possible to see in a month. We then publish this and will provide a prize to anyone who can prove they have been to all of the shows listed.
On the other hand some chose to do the Fringe in a day. This isn’t our favoured way of doing it as you are limiting yourself greatly but it is an option and it has really worked for some people.
From their experience our founders have always said that they favoured being at the Fringe for a minimum of 8 days (starting and ending on a weekend).
Using Plan My Fringe, you can reduce the length (and therefore cost) of your stay by using it to see all your favourite shows and cram in many more into a shorter period.
How many shows could you see at the 2019 Fringe?
The Plan My Fringe alogorithm says the maximum number of different shows that could possibly be seen during the 25 days of the Fringe is 321 shows. That averages 12.84 shows a day! If you don't believe us, you can find the proof here.
As soon as the full show list is available in 2021, we will let the Plan My Fringe algorithm loose on it again to see if it can beat the record.
You would have to be devoted to see this schedule. We have always used "Plan My Fringe" (or the spreadsheets that were the forerunner to the app) to squeeze in a fair number of shows, and generally stay for 9 days (arriving on a Saturday and leaving the following Sunday). We will typically see 35-40 shows in this time, usually including one day where we try to squeeze in 8 or 9, and allowing for a couple of lighter days. But it is entirely down to budgets and personal preferences.
Where do I buy tickets?
There are many places you can buy tickets from, these include:
- Directly from the official Fringe website. Just click the link on the show description in Plan My Fringe and it will take you through to the show. This can be done in advance of or during the Fringe. Tickets can be delivered, or collected from many Fringe Venues.
- The Virgin Money half price hut
- Various other official Fringe stalls and ticket collection points dotted around the city.
Just make sure you only buy your tickets from reputable sources. If someone is offering you a big discount or anything feels wrong, don't risk it.
Who do I know that started their career at the Fringe?
The list is endless. A great number of some of the best known comedians started their careers at the Fringe - take your pick. In line with our strict policy of not promoting any individual over another we are not specifically naming anyone however.
Where can I get the full programme?
There are many places you can pick up an official Fringe Programme during the Fringe. Or you can request it from the Fringe Office or the official Fringe Website.
Is there an Edinburgh Fringe Festival Map?
Plan My Fringe creates your own personalised maps for you based on your schedule. On top of this, there is also a Full Fringe Map on Plan My Fringe. The official programme also has a printed map inside the back cover.
What do you wear to the Edinburgh Fringe?
For the shows you can generally wear whatever you like. But there can be a lot of walking between shows, so you have to be prepared for the Edinburgh weather! In August the weather can be reasonably warm and sunny and you can wear t-shirts, or it can be cold, windy and very rainy! It can frequently change in the same day. So pack a reasonable variety of summer and wet-weather clothing.
How accessible is the Edinburgh Fringe?
The Fringe Society strive to ensure the Fringe is accessible to everyone as far as possible. There are BSL interpreter events, and shows and venues that have wheelchair access, access parking, captioning, interpreted or signed performance. More information can be found in the official Fringe programme.
However, Edinburgh is an old and hilly city, which in August is very crowded. Some Fringe venues are crammed into small cellars, and many performance spaces can only be accessed by narrow staircases. If anyone attending has mobility issues, check the information in the programme and on "Plan My Fringe" for details. If you want to be informed of Accessibility information on "Plan My Fringe", tick "Show Accessibility Information on Shows?" on the My Details screen after you have logged on or registered.
What is the Fringe Day?
The Fringe day runs from 06:00 until 05:59. This means that if a show takes place in the early hours of the morning (before 6am), whenever a date is displayed it is treated as if it is on the previous day. The best way to illustrate this is with an example. A show that starts at 1am in the early hours Monday 12th August will be displayed as being on Sunday 11th August. This is in the Fringe programme, any publicity to do with the Fringe, any web-site or app that uses the official Fringe data (this date display is one of the conditions of use), and even on the printed Fringe tickets.
This is because there are very few Fringe shows taking place between 5am and 9am you can see this on the "Average Performances in Progress" graph on the "Plan My Fringe" Stats page. So people viewing shows late into the evening on Sunday will tend to count shows that run into the early hours of Monday as part of Sunday's schedule.
Is the Fringe suitable for children?
Yes, absolutely. There are numerous Children's shows for all ages. There is age information available against all shows and venues so that you can make a decision on suitability. There are also exhibitions that children may enjoy, or at least attend with adults.
However, if you are travelling with children (particularly young children) and are hoping to see some non-children's shows, then we would advise taking a friend or relative with you to act as part of a babysitting rota. While some shows (such as improvised comedy shows) you can risk taking a small child and hope they sleep through the performance (and if they cry-out it can even become part of the plot), you may have to leave if they cause problems. And between the ages of 3 and about 7, they will not like most non-children's shows, and may interfere with the audience's enjoyment.
Children of 8-12 may be better equipped to see or sit through some shows aimed primarily at adults (again see the age guidelines against the show and venue).
Teenagers are better at coping with more kinds of shows (although still see the age ratings, some shows only allow 18+), and if they are old and mature enough they may be able to stay at the hotel while the parents go out to see a show.
There are so many shows to see, how do I pick which ones to see?
Use "Plan My Fringe" - we would say that! Everyone has their own preferences, but this is what we have always done:
Before the Fringe
- Register on "Plan My Fringe" (if you haven't already), and enter the dates of your visit (if known).
- Ahead of the Official Fringe Programme release, browse through shows as they become available and add any you like to your WishList.
- Go through the Fringe Programme, circling shows you may like to see.
- Add the circled shows to your WishList on "Plan My Fringe" (using either the web-site or mobile app), giving it a rating depending on how much you want to see it.
- Go to the Schedule and click Calculate. "Plan My Fringe" will produce a schedule for you.
- Book Tickets for the shows you definitely don't want to miss, then Confirm them on "Plan My Fringe" so that they won't be moved when you next re-calculate your schedule.
- If any performances that are sold out when you book tickets, you can select to Ignore that performance on "Plan My Fringe", which will then try to find another performance next time you re-calculate your schedule.
- If you have any gaps in your schedule, you can use the Recommendations section of "Plan My Fringe" to recommend shows based on those you have already added to your WishList. You can then add some of these recommendations to your WishList and Re-Calculate.
- If you want to cram in as many shows as possible to a particular day, use the Fringe Trail section. Pick a starting location and date/time, select a nearby show, confirm it, then click Nearby After to find another show that starts nearby shortly after it finishes. Repeat until you have added all the shows you can.
- If you want to block out any time for non-Fringe activities, simply add them to your schedule. "Plan My Fringe" won't schedule anything during this time (although you still can do manually).
During your Stay:
- You will receive flyers, recommendations from other Fringe-goers, see preview performances in the street, read reviews of shows, etc. You will probably come across other shows that you want to see.
- Add these shows into your "Plan My Fringe" WishList, and re-calculate your schedule to see if any can be fitted in. If you rate them higher than shows you have already selected, they will be slotted in ahead of them if possible (although if you have confirmed you have booked tickets, that performance will not be moved in your schedule).
- If you have a gap, or aren't particularly sure you want to see the next show on your schedule, use the Nearby option on "Plan My Fringe" to see what shows are starting soon near you. You will be told if the performance is already on your schedule.
- For the shows the "Plan My Fringe" team definitely want to see, or know are going to be in high demand, we book tickets for them ahead of the Fringe. But apart from these, we go through each day's schedule at some point the day before, and buy tickets for whatever ticketed shows are on our schedule online, collecting them on the morning at one of the many Fringe Collection points. This allows us to be flexible, because if we hear about other shows that sound good while we are in Edinburgh, we can use "Plan My Fringe" to slot them in.
Above all, enjoy your stay! Experiment with the shows you see, and pick at least one random show you wouldn't normally see. Plan your Fringe to make the most of it, and make sure you don't miss things you want to see, but allow time for spontaneity. If you are staying more than a few days, use some days to cram in as many shows as possible, but allow some time to have less busy days, and just enjoy the Fringe vibe with thousands of like-minded people.
Have a Good Fringe!