This summer I decided to plunge even further into Scottish life and spend my time working a part time job in Edinburgh. Okay, it may have been more out of necessity after a depleted fresher bank account, but nonetheless it was an exciting new adventure.
Being from very far away, I had never attended the Edinburgh Festival nor had I ever heard of it until arriving at St Andrews. This, of course, was rectified very quickly being surrounded by British and European pupils, and I knew that my August in the capital would prove to be very exciting.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been so right. It was a hectic month in the service industry and even more hectic on the streets. While not all of the Fringe was as glamorous as it may seem, it was still a good deal of fun. So for all of you that will be new to the Fringe next year I’ve put together a Survival Guide so you have the year ahead to prepare.1. Sharpen Your Elbows
Edinburgh in August swells from a city with a population of about 400,000 to well over double, with estimations ranging everywhere from just under 1 million all the way to 4 million guests (what!?). This means that the normally sleepy or slightly bustling streets are now overflowing. The Royal Mile takes the brunt of the force, however George IV Bridge and Princes Street are also forces to be reckoned with, so throw your British manners out of the window if you have them and be prepared to hold on to your bag tightly as you claw your way forward in the crowd.
2. Buy Your Tickets Online
I made the mistake one time of trying to buy a ticket at a ticket collection point to no avail, however none of the staff seemed to be able to point me in the right direction. After an hour of fumbling with an app that wouldn’t work my friend managed to save the day and swooped in, knight-like, with two tickets to Al Murray’s Pub Landlord. To avoid all this, buy your tickets online and pick them up at the collection points, it’ll make your life so much easier.
3. Eat Very Early or Really Late
After working at a restaurant during the busiest times, I can tell you that your usual dinner time of six-ish to eight-ish is a no go. Restaurants will just be building up their business at about five and dying down about 9. These are the best times to go to avoid a queue and the uncomfortable reality of being packed like sardines into a too-small seating area.
4. Be Careful with Food and Drink
One of the best things about the Fringe is all the street food it brings with it. However, this can also be one of the worst. I had the misfortune of eating a bad bratwurst from a street vendor and paid for it for days. In my case I think I just got the wrong sausage, as I know many people who were fine from the same thing at the same place, but use your discretion because they’re not all so health-and-safety concerned. The most important thing though would be to pay attention to your drinks, as I know of quite a few cases where people – both men and women – had something put into their drinks and ended up extremely ill. It may be a bit mom-ish but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Alone
My work schedule didn’t allow for much planning time, and often I found myself with a free hour or so and no one to go see anything with. While this put me off for the first while, I soon found that many people were going to events alone without a care in the world. Seriously, so many people do it – no shame.
6. Go See the Free Stuff!
Yes, a lot of it is bad, and yes, some of it may feel like a big time waste – I won’t lie. However every once in a while in amongst the turds you find something shiny that has serious potential and is very amusing. It’s worth it to pop into a free show even for something different to do on a friday while consuming drinks, before they consume you that is.
A lot of people I knew felt like they weren’t seeing enough of the Fringe. Some serious FOMO went on, but in the end most of the people you talk to won’t have been to the same things anyhow, so it’s all very individual. Take your time and don’t stress yourself out with too many events and the pressure to run between things. The atmosphere and the people are a delight on their own, and there are so many street performances to marvel at. It’s a wonderful environment and even being there means you can kiss FOMO goodbye.
So there you are for all my tips. A lot of it may seem like common sense, but trust me when I say it’s a lot harder to remember in the crowd. If you’re there and you’re wondering what to see, go to a show that your St Andrews friends are putting on. Other than that, there’s always the ever-popular Spank! or Lady Boys of Bangkok for something a little bit raunchy at the end of the night, or the always-sold-out Hot Dub Time Machine that just made its way to our sleepy little town. Most importantly, have fun and paint the town red!