After living in Korea on and off for almost 3 years, it’s safe to say that I was excited to come back to Scotland. Friends, family, irn bru and tottie scones are just a few of the things that I was really missing from my homeland. There was one thing in particular, though, I was not looking forward to….. And no, I’m not talking about the weather.
The thing that I was really dreading, was the astronomical price of things! Especially in comparison to South Korea where, with a bit of care, I could function on £300 a month.
During our time at home, it would have been absolutely criminal not to take Veeran to see our beautiful capital city. However, doing Edinburgh on a budget isn’t an easy thing to do. I’m not gonna lie- we lived pretty extravagantly, making sure we sampled lots of different restaurants, bars and cafes around the city. I mentioned in my March Update that we weren’t really watching our budget, for a change, and it was nice to relax after months of saving.
It is completely possible to do Edinburgh on a budget, though. So, do as I say and not as I do. These are my top tips for penny pinchers heading to Auld Reekie!
Picnic (& Booze) Outdoors!
Not many people know this (apart from bevy-loving Scots!) but ancient laws in Edinburgh dictate that it’s perfectly legal to drink in the streets.
We spent a lot of time having pints in pubs but there is actually no need. Rather than paying through the nose for a prosecco filled lunch, grab a bottle from a supermarket and head to Princes Street Gardens or The Meadows for a boozie picnic! Visiting in the winter? Grab a flask and make some hot toddys to go, instead! You’ll save a fortune and have a very merry time.
Take Advantage of Edinburgh’s Free Attractions
What’s the first thing you think of when you think about Edinburgh? If it’s not The Fringe, then it’s probably the castle. But with its £16 entry fee, it’s not exactly budget friendly. (Plus, unpopular opinion, but the castle is best enjoyed from a far!)
Rather than spending your money on entry fees, take advantage of all the fun, free things to do.
The National Museum is Scotland is the city’s best museum. Plus it’s free (and the back window has a great castle view!)
Visiting Edinburgh on a rare, sunny day? Get out of those museums and get yourself outside. Arthur’s Seat offers the best panoramic view of the city and it’s a stone’s throw away from The Royal Mile. The walk up only takes about 30 minutes- very little work for a very big reward!
Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours
Having lived in Edinburgh for almost 2 years, I thought I knew the city inside out. It wasn’t until I was showing a guest around that I realised I didn’t know much at all!
We went on one of the city’s free walking tours and I was fascinated by the tales about Edinburgh’s dark past. Edinburgh has a deep, rich history and these tours are a great way to develop your own understanding of the city.
The great thing about the free walking tour is that you can pay whatever you can afford or whatever you think it deserves. Don’t be a tight arse, though, and give what you can. The guides operate on tips and ours was so informative and funny.
I originally cringed a bit at the idea of doing such a touristy thing in Edinburgh, but it ended up being a true highlight of the trip!
2 for 1 Underground City Tours
There’s so much more to Edinburgh than what’s you see on the surface level. The old town is full of old, haunted dungeons and a night tour is a fun way to explore these areas. If you’re around on a Wednesday, City Tour’s offer 2 for 1 on their underground tours!
Veeran and I did the tour and loved getting a wee spook after dinner. Check out my review here.
I love walking about in cities when I can and would usually rather walk 45 minutes than take a bus or tube. You see so much more, keep fit and save money.
Edinburgh is pretty tiny so it’s tailor made for walking around.
One day, Veeran and I walked 21 miles! That’s a full marathon.
My favourite place to walk is along the Water of Leith, making stops in Stockbridge to window shop and people watch. Make sure you follow the water right along to The Dean Village- one of the most photogenic parts of the city.
Get off the Royal Mile
It amazes me how many tourists visit Edinburgh and don’t leave the Royal Mile. Although it’s the heart of the city, it’s also where you will pay astronomical prices for everything. (Plus, there are so many other fantastic areas to see!)
I love supporting independent businesses but I would never shop at any of the shops on The Royal Mile. If you want whisky, tablet, shortbread or tablet to take home, I hate to say it, but you will save yourself a fortune by buying it at the supermarket.
Edinburgh has lots of local artists and independent shops to visits elsewhere. Go to shops like these and buy unusual souvenirs that support the local community. (The Grassmarket, Leith and Stockbridge all have lots of cute shops where you can pick up cute postcards and nick nacks.) Don’t buy tourist tat!
Another thing- the restaurants on The Royal Mile are usually over-priced and cater to tourists. You’ll find much better spots offering much better value for money almost anywhere else in the city.
Where to Stay
We stayed at St Christopher’s Inn on our Edinburgh Trip and it was the perfect base for travelling around the city. Extremely centrally located, St Christopher’s Inn is slap bang in the middle of the city, just off Waverley Bridge. If you’re arriving by train, you won’t have to walk far at all! It’s a stone’s throw away from all the main attractions, too.
Dorm rooms start at £16 including breakfast so you don’t need to worry about blowing your budget on accommodation. It’s probably the cheapest bed you’ll find in Edinburgh so it’s perfect if you’re watching your pennies.
I reviewed this hostel for thehostelgroup- you can check out my vlog here!
As Edinburgh is a student city, there are plenty of places to fill up for cheap. Thai Tuk Tuk Caravan, Mosque Kitchen and Oink are all centrally located and offer great value for money.
If you’re wanting to have a proper sit down meal (haggis, neeps and tatties, anyone?), I’d recommend going for lunch or pre-theatre as most restaurants offer great deals at these times.
I hope this guide has show you that a trip to Edinburgh can definitely be done on a budget! With the pound weak just now, there’s not been a better time for our transatlantic friends to come and visit. (And there’s not been a worse time for us to cross the pond!)
If you’re careful, eat cheap and cheerfully, and take advantage of all the fantastic free attractions, you can easily visit Edinburgh on a £35 a day budget- definitely not as expensive as you might have thought.
Let me know, have you been to Edinburgh? What tips would you give a budget traveller coming to the city?