The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is big, hectic and chaotic. There are way too many people, way too many shows, way too many impromptu parties, pubs and clubs.
Sounds great, doesn't it?
If you are going to make the most of your time at the Edinburgh Festival, a few survival strategies should help. Here are some ideas that will help you have a great time without missing out because you've tried to squeeze too much in or because you are too tired, cold, wet, hungry, thirsty or hungover.
Get your bearings
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place all over town. Before you arrive, look at some Edinburgh maps, and, most importantly, locate the tourist information office near Waverly Station. If you've never been to Edinburgh before, it's the best place to go for maps and a general overview of the city.
It's possible to book Edinburgh Fringe shows before you arrive. But don't overdo it. If you book up every free minute, you miss the opportunity of picking up on the festival buzz and going after what strikes your fancy on the day. What makes Edinburgh so special is the way you can follow your nose, an attractive poster, a funny leafletter or the advice of a stranger you meet in a pub to discover a show you hadn't heard of two minutes before. You might end up watching a dud, but you also might fall upon the discovery of the festival. That's half the fun.
Start out early
You know who gets the worm. Be an early bird yourself if you want a chance at the best tickets -- or the best chance at the tickets you want. Sleep late and you'll have to settle for the leftovers, so wakey wakey.
Make a daily plan - and a plan B
Read the festival program or online guides like the WOW Guide, put out by The Scotsman, Edinburgh's local paper. Talk to people over breakfast and then head out with a plan of what tickets, sights, daytime events you'll be going after. Try to stick to it. Otherwise, if you let your head be turned by every tempting offer you pass, you'll end up like one of those people who have to read every menu of every restaurant in town before deciding and end up missing lunch.
Do have a Plan B though, and probably a Plan C and D. If a show (cabaret, comedy act, dance party etc) is hot, tickets will go quickly so it's a good idea to have a few alternative ideas.
Aim for a mix of experiences
Go after tickets for theatre, stand-up comedy, music, cabaret, physical theater and so forth. Try a couple of daytime workshops or talks with writers and performers. Go tea dancing in The Famous Spiegeltent. Edinburgh showcases everything. Make the most of that fact by trying a variety of performance styles and theatrical forms.
Check out the other festivals
At least five other festivals take place in Edinburgh at the same time as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Check them out for a change of pace or to mingle with a different crowd. While at the Fringe, you can also attend:
Pack suitable clothes
Edinburgh is a casual party with a lot of walking, plenty of outdoor events and a pretty good chance of rain. This is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes or to totter around on stilletoes. If you don't want to be burdened with an umbrella, plan on having a rain hat and a waterproof mac for the wet weather days you can pretty much count on. Similarly, bring something waterproof for sitting on the ground. And don't forget to bring a few warm things. Even in August you can never tell when the temperature may drop. There is nothing worse than trying to have a good time when you are cold and wet and your feet have blisters.
Carry snacks and water
The time can really slip by during the festival. Days are long and distractions are many. It's easy to miss a meal or two because you are having fun, or because the queues are too long to bother with. Carry some lightweight, high energy snacks and a bottle of water with you. The munchies can strike at any time.
Only you know how many late nights in a row you can handle, how many miles you can walk, how much head banging you can take. Edinburgh is full of sirens to lure you into one more cabaret act, one more pint of beer, another half hour of conversation. And the pubs and clubs stay open until 5 a.m. for the festival. Keep your own limits in mind. That extra drink that seems like such a good idea on the night may seem less of a good thing when you miss a show sleeping off a hangover. Have fun but keep your stamina up.
Maybe you've never considered renting a room in a private home before. Or staying in a hostel. Just because you've set your heart on an Indian meal, don't turn your nose up at pizza. And if you can't get tickets for the comedy act, play, gig, you're after, be willing to take a chance on something else.
The more flexible you are - about accommodations, meals, entertainment - the more you are likely to go with the flow and have a great time.