Arriving in a strange city for the first time can be confusing. Here is some information to help you make the most of your visit to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Airport is situated on the west side of the city, about six miles from the city centre. Getting into the city centre is fairly easy, as a limited-stop bus service arrives at the airport every 10 minutes. Look for a blue and white double-decker, route number 100. The journey takes about 25 minutes, depending on traffic.
Alternatively, there is an airport taxi service. Airport taxis are generally white minicabs, and are the only taxis licenced to work from the airport. The fare is triple the cost of a bus ride, and the journey time is not much quicker than the bus; but a taxi will take you directly to your destination. The black cabs are only allowed to pick up at the airport if pre-booked.
Most of the major car hire companies have desks in the airport terminal building.
Trains arrive at Waverley Station, at the east end of Princes Street. There is a taxi rank on the station concourse which is continually replenished by black cabs. The nearest point for bus services is Princes Street, which is reached by the following route:
Stand with your back to the outside of the main doors to the booking hall, and look to your right. You will see a set of metal stairs going up (next to the right-hand ramp road).
Ascend these stairs, and turn to the right at the top.
Cross the bridge over the railway. There are now more steps to climb (Waverley Steps), which lead to Princes Street.
For those who have a problem with stairs, the alternative stair-free route is to take the previously mentioned ramp road up to Waverley Bridge and turn right onto Princes Street.
Intercity coaches arrive at St Andrew Square in the city centre. The Main operators are,
The nearest taxi rank is on South St Davis Street, at the Southwest corner of St Andrew Square, which leads to Princes Street, where bus services are available.
If you are arriving by car, planning ahead is essential. Like most cities, Edinburgh is confusing if you don't know your way around. Get a good city street map and find the street where your hotel is located. Then plan your route in advance.
Parking in the city centre is limited and expensive. Many city centre hotels don't have enough private parking to cater for all their guests, so it might be better to consider a hotel further out from the centre.
Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board provides an accommodation booking service, as well as the usual tourist information.
Edinburgh has no suburban rail service to speak of, and no Underground system either.
Touring Edinburgh by car is not recommended, because the traffic in the city centre during the tourist season is horrendous, often coming to a complete standstill during the Edinburgh International Festival, which is held at the end of August. Parking at or near tourist attractions is very limited, very expensive, and fills early.
The first and most important thing to note is that buses do not stop at all stops on a particular street in the city centre. So, once you have decided to use the bus, the two questions to ask are, 'Which bus should I take to get to...?' and, 'Which stop does it leave from?'.
As a rough rule of thumb, buses stopping on the 'Gardens' side of Princes Street serve the Northwest, West, and Southwest of the city. Those stopping on the 'Shops' side serve the Northeast, East, and Southeast.
Two major bus operators serve Edinburgh, providing services from around 4.30am until midnight, seven days per week. Between midnight and 4.30am a limited night service is provided.
Lothian Buses are mostly maroon and white in colour (although newer vehicles are white with a red and gold harlequin pattern) and generally operate services within the city boundary. Routes cover almost every area of the city, and most pass through the centre. Daysaver tickets are available which allow unlimited travel on this company's normal service routes until midnight. Free timetables and route information are available at their offices at Waverley Bridge and Hanover Street in the city centre (Open 9am-5pm).
First Edinburgh also operates services within the city and to the towns surrounding Edinburgh. They appear in a variety of liveries, including blue, pink and grey, green and cream, and blue and cream. Fare structure within the city is similar to Lothian and Daysaver tickets are also available. It should be noted that Daysaver tickets purchased from one company are not valid on the services of the other.
Both companies operate an exact fare system and do not give change. Drivers have no access to fares deposited in the hopper and are not permitted, by company rules, to handle any money. Comprehensive timetable and route information is posted at all bus stops and is regularly updated.
Black cabs operate in the city and are available in the many ranks to be found in the city centre; or they can be hailed on the street. Fares are as reasonable as taxi fares anywhere. Some taxi companies offer city tours.
Open top buses operate city tours with commentary. Three companies operate these tours,
MAC tours offer the added charm of vintage buses. All tours depart from Waverley Bridge, and you can hop on and off around the route, to visit attractions along the way.
Travel on the bus system is cheap, reasonably efficient, and generally safe.
The city bus drivers will usually be able to help with information on which bus to get to a particular destination. Unfortunately, very few of them can speak any language other than English.
Try to avoid travel in the morning and afternoon rush hours (7.30am-9am and 4.30pm-6pm), when progress on the arterial routes and in the city centre is painfully slow.
If you get lost, don't be afraid to ask a local for directions. Most Edinburgh folk are only too happy to help.
If you are driving, don't be tempted to use the Greenways and Bus Lanes. They are for buses only, and most of the city is covered by traffic control cameras. And don't park illegally, because your car will be uplifted and taken to the police pound.