A budget guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh On A Budget, A Backpacker Guide!

Are you dreaming of exploring the Scottish city of Edinburgh but worried about blowing your budget? If so, don’t worry! The good news is that it’s possible to explore Edinburgh on a budget and enjoy everything this spectacular city offers.

This post will provide our top tips for exploring Edinburgh without overspending. From free attractions to the best hostels for backpackers, we’ve covered everything, allowing you to experience one of the world’s most fascinating cities without breaking the bank!

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Edinburgh is one of the most popular cities to visit in the United Kingdom, and it’s easy to see why! The UNESCO World Heritage site has a beautiful medieval old town with cobbled streets and historic buildings. It also has countless museums, beautiful scenic parks, vibrant nightlife, and friendly locals. 

However, with all these attractions, it can also be expensive! While some attractions are unavoidably expensive, there are many free things to do as well. This guide will help you plan a trip to Edinburgh on a budget and stay within it.

Getting To Edinburgh:


Edinburgh’s international airport is approximately 10 miles away from the city centre. Once you get to the airport, the city centre can be reached easily by public transport. I recommend using Skyscanner for the best deals on flights.

Tram – The tram line connects the airport with the city centre, and ticket sales can be purchased from ticket vending machines at the station using cash or most credit cards. Adult single tickets cost £7.50 and open return tickets £9.50

Bus —Several bus routes run from the airport to various areas around Edinburgh. The Airport Link 100 runs every 10 minutes and terminates at Waverley Bridge in the city centre. Adult single tickets cost £5.50 and open return tickets £8.00


Edinburgh can also be reached from most UK cities via low-cost bus operators such as National Express. I recommend using Omio to find the best value tickets and up-to-date information on all UK and European bus services.


Edinburgh Waverley station is the main central train station in Edinburgh. It is slap bang in the city centre, within walking distance of most hotels, hostels, and tourist attractions. For information and to book a train trip, check out Trainline.

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Best Time To Visit Edinburgh

Shoulder Season: September to October, April to May

If you want to explore this iconic destination without the tourist hordes, book yourself into one of the two-shoulder seasons! Wander through The Meadows as it sways with beautiful cherry blossoms, or soak up autumnal colours at the Royal Botanic Garden. For budget travellers, this is the best time to visit Edinburgh.

High Season: June to August

If you’re looking for entertainment, consider visiting Edinburgh during the festival season! Throughout summertime, visitors can immerse themselves amongst world-class music acts and theatrical performances at events like The Fringe Festival or Jazz Festival. However, please book accommodation early, as the best value options will be booked quickly.

Low Season: November to March

Tis the season for wintery bliss in Edinburgh! Visitors still find a unique charm strolling along its windblown streets despite the cold and dark nights. Whether you’re looking to browse Christmas markets of all sizes or attend one of the almost-mythical Hogmanay celebrations, there’s something extra special about being here during this time of year. 

Please note, although this is probably the cheapest time of year to visit Edinburgh, Christmas and New Year are the exception; expect prices to be similar to the summer peak season!

Edinburgh On A Budget – Where To Stay?

If you are a backpacker or simply trying to stay within a tight budget, hostels are the best option for accommodation. Most of Edinburgh’s hostels are within walking distance of the Royal Mile and all its attractions. 

My personal favourite is Budget Backpackers, located in Cowgate, with dorms from only £12 a night. This hostel is lovely and friendly, with each dorm bed having a light, plug socket and locker. Just remember to bring a padlock; they will charge you for one if you don’t have one. Budget Backpackers also has a chill-out room, a bar serving fabulous cheap food, vending machines and a variety of activities to get involved in. If you have never stayed in a hostel, check out my newbie’s guide to surviving hostels.

However, if hostels aren’t your thing, you will also find many mid-range hotels and bed and breakfasts, although many of the cheaper options may be further outside the city centre.

Check Booking.com to find the latest availability and prices. 

Edinburgh On A Budget – Things To Do

Free walking tours

One of the first things I like to do when visiting a new city is to walk around and get my bearings. One of the best ways to do this is to join a free walking tour, and Edinburgh has lots to choose from. 

You can join a free walking tour to see most of Edinburgh’s highlights. Ghost and Harry Potter tours are also available. Although these tours are free, you are expected to leave the guide with a small tip. The best ones I’ve included below:

  • SANDEMANS New Europe Tours – Walking Tours are available every day on the hour from 10am to 2pm and last 2.5 hours.
  • Edinburgh Free Tours – Walking tours are available every day at 10am, 11am, and 1pm and last 2 hours.
  • Free Ghost Tour – Ghost tours are available every night at 5pm, 7pm, and 9.30pm and last 1.5 hours.
  • The Potter Trail – This Harry Potter trail runs daily at 12pm and 2pm and lasts 1.5 hours.

Exploring parks and outdoor spaces

Edinburgh has More than its fair share of parks and outdoor spaces. The city is built on the remnants of an extinct volcano, providing many landscapes to explore.

If you are looking for a good hike and fabulous views of Edinburgh, head to Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. Holyrood Park is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile behind Holyrood Palace and is a popular place to hike and explore. 

The hike up to Arthur’s Seat only takes about 1 hour, depending on your fitness level and the route taken. Be sure to take some snacks, water and warm clothing if you plan on sitting at the top to watch the sunset like I did, as it can be freezing and windy. The hike is worth it for the fantastic views across Edinburgh and beyond.

A budget guide to Edinburgh

If you love flowers and gardens, a trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens is a must. It’s located 1 mile outside the city centre, and entrance is free. However, there is a small charge of £5.50 to enter the Glasshouse. You could also try the 12-mile walk along the Water of Leith, which passes through the beautiful Dean Village.

A budget guide to Edinburgh

Other options include the central Princes Street Gardens or walking up to Calton Hill, with its look-alike Athens Parthenon. This monument is the unfinished memorial to those who lost their lives in the Napoleonic Wars.

A budget guide to Edinburgh

Explore churches

There are many beautiful churches to explore in Edinburgh, but my two favourites are St Giles Cathedral and Greyfriars Kirk.

St Giles Cathedral is probably one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in the UK, and it is free to enter. The architecture’s attention to detail is truly stunning. It also houses many beautiful stained glass windows, including one dedicated to Scotland’s famous poet Robert Burns.

A budget guide to Edinburgh

Greyfriars Kirk is the graveyard where you will find Scotland’s most famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby. This Skye Terrier became a legend after guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years. Bobby died on the 14th of January 1872 and was buried near his owner in Greyfriars Kirk.

The Kirk is also famous as the home of Scotland’s most famous poltergeist, the Mackenzie Poltergeist. Check out one of the ghost tours to learn more about this scary encounter!

Explore museums and galleries

Edinburgh has many museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Museums that have free entry include:

  • National Museum of Scotland—This was one of my favourite museums in Edinburgh. It has so many exhibits and collections that it’s sure to appeal to everyone.
  • Scottish National Galleries – If art is your thing, then a visit to the three museums that make up the Scottish National Galleries is a must! 
  • Writers Museum—This lovely little museum celebrates the lives of three famous Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Museum of Childhood—This lovely little museum will instantly take you down memory lane. Its huge collection of memorabilia includes old doll houses, Hornby train sets, and board games.
  • The Peoples Story – Tells the story of Edinburgh’s working class from the 18th to 20th century.
  • Museum of Edinburgh – Discover Edinburgh’s unique history inside this maze of a 16th-century building.
  • Scottish Parliament Building – Take a free tour of Scotland’s official parliament building.

Other free things to do in Edinburgh

Take a day trip out to Cramond Island. This is a lovely little trip out and a hidden gem. Explore the many walks or even walk across the causeway to Cramond Island, subject to tidal times. You can easily reach the town and island by taking the Lothian bus number 41 from the city centre.

Visiting Cramond Island from Edinburgh

You can also take a day trip to South Queensferry to check out this lovely, quaint town and view the three Forth River bridges. You can walk across the Forth Road Bridge to North Queensferry if you feel energetic. There is also a small museum documenting the history and construction of the three bridges.

Visiting the Forth Bridges from Edinburgh

Edinburgh On A Budget – Useful Information

If during your trip to Edinburgh, you don’t want to miss out on the three main paid attractions, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Royal Yacht Britannia, you can get the Edinburgh 48-hour attraction pass that includes skip-the-line tickets for the above attractions as well as 48 hours hop on hop off bus access. 

Getting around Edinburgh is very easy. Most attractions are along the Royal Mile or within walking distance from it. If you want to venture further out of the city, the buses are the way to go. You can get an Edinburgh unlimited bus pass for £5 a day or a weekly pass for £22. (You will need the exact money as drivers cannot give you change.)

A helpful phone app to download is the Lothian Bus network, where you can buy tickets and plan routes.

I’ve not included information on cheap eats and night outs as there is so much choice! Whatever your budget, you will find many restaurants, cafes, and bars to suit your needs.

Final Thoughts

With a little creativity and careful planning, it’s possible to enjoy Edinburgh on a budget. Following these tips will ensure you can save money while enjoying all this incredible city offers. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

Remember to follow our social media accounts for more travel inspiration and updates. 

Happy travels!

A budget guide to Edinburgh
A budget guide to Edinburgh

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