Edinburgh Fringe Festival - How to Plan Your Festival and Get Tickets

Navigate among the thousands of performances by having a strategy

Posters Advertising shows at Edinburgh
••• Posters advertising shows at Edinburgh. britainonview/Grant Pritchard

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival stages more than 2,000 shows in hundreds of theatres with tens of thousands of individual performances. Choosing shows and getting Edinburgh Festival Tickets can seem like a big challenge.

Some - but unfortunately not all - shows are listed in various newspapers, on billboards and on websites. People in the streets of Edinburgh hand out leaflets, flog tickets and stage scenes from their plays as if their lives depended upon it.

And all you want to do is see a few good shows and have a good time. Goodness! What's a body to do?

To Get Edinburgh Tickets, You Gotta Have a System

First things first - Get real
Before you even start to plan, resign yourself to the fact that not only can't you see everything but when it's all over you'll realize there were things you missed because:

  • They were sold out
  • You chose something else
  • You didn't even hear about it until it was over
  • You just ran out of steam.

Forget about it.

Order a program
The festival organizers publish a thick program that's free (except for postage and packing) and lists everything. You can get your hands on one by:

  • ordering online
  • telephoning the box office at +44 (0)131 226 0000(June to September only
  • picking one up at a partner location listed on the Fringe website just before and during the festival.

Score a few Edinburgh Festival tickets...
...but not too many. It's a good idea to have a few shows lined up before you arrive, especially if they are likely to be sold out quickly or feature an artist you're keen to see.

You can buy tickets through:

  • the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website
  • the venues directly (get details from the program)
  • The Fringe Box office, +44 (0)131 226 0000, 180 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1QS, Scotland.
The Fringe Box Office (online, by phone or in person) only sells about 25 per cent of the tickets for each show so, if they sell out, it's always worth checking with the venues directly.

Once You Arrive

Half the fun of Edinburgh is being spontaneous. Pick up the buzz about what's hot and act on it fast. Remember, though, you have to get up early to stay ahead of other trend seekers.

It's also fun to just take a chance. See a poster that appeals to you? Like the sound of a name? Go on, what can you lose? If it's a turkey, leave between scenes; there's probably another show or a cabaret just getting started, right up the road. Here are some other ways to find out what's cooking:

  • The sponsor's festival guide Most years a newspaper or media group is one of the festival's sponsors and produces a daily festival guide that's free, pocket sized and distributed everywhere in Edinburgh. The guide is published daily with chronological listings of everything going on at all Edinburgh's summer festivals. It's usually also folded inside the sponsor's newspaper.
  • The man on the street Talk to people you meet in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Ask the waiter, the desk clerk at your hotel, the barman in the cabaret. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has heard about a show you really ought to see.
  • Stay tuned The BBC usually has late night reviews of the festival as well as radio broadcasts from the festival. Listen to local Scottish radio stations as well.
  • Go online to read the online editions of the major UK national papers as well as the Scottish papers. They'll all be reviewing festival shows. Look for these in particular:
  • Tweet Lots of festival goers tweet from their iPhones, Androids and other smart phones. Performers and critics will probably be tweeting too. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go to Twitter.com and sign up now. Then enter a useful phrase in the Twitter search box (preceded by a hash mark) say #Edinburgh Festival, or #Festival #Buzz - sit back and wait for your inbox to fill up with festival conversations.