Getting Around Edinburgh: Guide To Public Transportation

Tourist bus in Edinburgh
Tourist bus in Edinburgh.

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Although Edinburgh is known as a very walkable city, the Scottish destination also has a solid public transportation system. Run by Transport for Edinburgh, the city's primary public transportation options include buses, trams, and rental bikes. The main bus company, Lothian Buses, operates more than 50 routes, connecting locals and travelers to the city center as well as the surrounding suburbs and Edinburgh Airport.

Most visitors to Edinburgh will concentrate their itinerary to the city center and the Royal Mile, making it unnecessary to rent a car or take a lot of taxis. Meanwhile, the airport is easily accessed by bus or tram, with extensive hours available for early or late travelers. Here's what you need to know about using public transportation in Edinburgh.

How to Ride Lothian Buses

There are several bus companies that operate in and around Edinburgh, but Lothian Buses is the city's main mode of public transportation. In addition to its NightBus and Airport Bus services, the bus line operates more than 50 different routes throughout the city. Other local bus companies include First, which connects South East and Central Scotland (and is not run by Transport for Edinburgh).

  • Fares: Single journey adult tickets start at 1.80 pounds. DAYtickets, which allow unlimited rides on Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams, can be also be purchased for 4.50 pounds (2.20 for kids between the ages of 5 and 15). Families can buy group DAYtickets, which are available for two adults and up to three kids for 9.50 pounds. NightBus tickets and Airport Bus tickets must be purchased individually.
  • How to Pay: Tickets or DAYtickets can be purchased directly from the bus driver if you have exact change. Contactless credit and debit cards can also be used, and both adult and family tickets can be purchased in advance on the Transport for Edinburgh m-tickets app.
  • Routes and Hours: There are numerous routes both in Edinburgh proper and to the surrounding areas, some of which run 24 hours a day. Check the times for your journey online ahead of traveling or use the Transport for Edinburgh app.
  • Service Alerts: All current service alerts, including closures and roadworks, for Lothian Buses can be found on the company's website.
  • Transfers: Travelers using DAYtickets can freely transfer between the Lothian Buses and the Edinburgh Trams. Other passengers should use either the m-tickets app or a contactless card to tap on and off the buses to get the best fare when transferring.
  • Accessibility: There is a dedicated wheelchair space on all buses; passengers are asked to clear the space (and parents to fold strollers) whenever a wheelchair user boards. Mobility scooters are not permitted on the buses.

Riding Edinburgh Trams

Edinburgh Trams connects Edinburgh Airport with York Place via 15 stops, all of which are wheelchair accessible. The trams are a good option for connecting with the airport, although they are less useful for getting around the city itself when staying in the Royal Mile. The airport is about 35 minutes from Princes Street, which is the tram stop nearest to the city center.

  • Fares: Tram fares start at 1.80 pounds for a single journey adult ticket. You can also purchase a return for 3.40 pounds or a DAYticket for 4.50. For those traveling to and from Edinburgh Airport, fares start at 6.50 pounds for a single journey adult ticket. Tickets are available at ticket machines at each tram stop, and can be purchased with exact change or a credit or debit card. Use the Edinburgh Trams Farefinder to calculate your route.
  • Hours: The trams run from early morning until around 11 p.m., although the first and last tram times vary based on which direction you are traveling. The trams run every 7 minutes during the day and every 10 minutes before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Check the online timetable ahead of time to plan your journey.
  • Service Alerts: Live tram departure information and service alerts are available on the Edinburgh Trams website.

Using Edinburgh Cycle Hire

Transport for Edinburgh offers Edinburgh Cycle Hire as a way for residents and visitors to temporarily rent bicycles around the city. The bikes are parked throughout Edinburgh at 99 different stations; they can be rented using an app, available for iPhone and Android, which allows users to unlock a bike and ride for up to one hour. There are both electric and pedal bikes available, and you can select multi-trip access if you plan to use the bikes to stop at various attractions. While helmets are not required for cyclists in Edinburgh, it's recommended to ride safely and take proper precautions.

Taxis and Ridesharing Apps

With several taxi companies operating in Edinburgh, cabs can be hailed around town, at the airport, or booked online or by phone. Central Taxis is the most popular black cab company in the city, and offers guided driving tours of Edinburgh for those who want to take advantage of the cabbies' knowledge. A taxi from Edinburgh Airport to the city center typically costs between 20 and 25 pounds, but can run higher depending on traffic and other circumstances. Uber also operates in Edinburgh; the ridesharing app is often cheaper than a taxi, but does require you to have cell phone service to use it.

Renting a Car

Numerous car rental companies are available in both Edinburgh proper and at Edinburgh Airport. These include Sixt, Budget, and Hertz. While it might be daunting to drive on the opposite side of the road and learn foreign street markers, a rental car is a good way to travel outside Edinburgh or venture to more remote destinations. Be sure to add the GPS to your rental, especially if you are concerned about your cell signal, and have all your necessary documents ready when you arrive at the rental counter. Those driving into Edinburgh itself should be aware that parking in the city center can be a challenge, as many parking spots are restricted and some are reserved for resident drivers. Look for pay-and-park lots or talk to your hotel about the best parking option.

Tips for Getting Around Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh is an extremely walkable city, so if you're having trouble figuring out the best option for public transportation, grab some sturdy shoes and open Google Maps. Many of the main attractions in Edinburgh are in the city center near the Royal Mile, which means they are well positioned for walking.
  • During big events, holidays, or on warm days, you might spot pedicab drivers around the city center. The pedicabs have been operating in Edinburgh since 1996, and visitors can hail one for a (short) ride. The price is negotiable, although expect to pay a solid fee for the journey.
  • Traveling between Edinburgh and Glasgow is quick and easy (the drive is about an hour). Trains are available from Edinburgh's Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street regularly, or you can take a bus or taxi service between the two cities.