Getting Around Edinburgh - Travel Options Including Car Hire & Rental, Buses & Trains
Written by Jonny Gordon Sunday, 22 April 2018 18:30
Despite being the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is actually not that big. It's fairly compact, and one big advantage it has over other larger cities is that it's easier to maintain efficient public transport systems throughout the city. As a result, it does very well in providing a reliable and safe public transport system as well as car hire both city-wide and beyond.
We’ve provided information below on all the various methods for buying tickets, as well as route planners and other useful info for travelling around Edinburgh.
Buses are plentiful in Edinburgh and operate all over the city, with Lothian Buses and First Scotland East being the largest and most visible operators offering local services, day and night.
Lothian Buses are arguably a more economical way to get around Edinburgh, with all day passes costing just £4 for adults and £2 for children. They also offer special tours and airport shuttle services. The website has excellent journey planners to help you navigate the city in the quickest and easiest routes.
Other coach companies such as Scottish Citylink and Stagecoach provide well-developed inter-city bus services to London and other UK destinations. The main bus terminal for travel to other cities is Edinburgh Bus Station, located on Elder Street in the city centre.
Whilst there is a wide range of ticketing options designed to make life easier for commuters, don’t forget if you're going to use cash to buy a ticket make sure it's the exact amount as drivers can't give change.
Edinburgh Train Services
As home to the UK's second-largest rail station, Waverley, Edinburgh is well known for its mainline inter-city services to Glasgow and the north, as well as its popular 'East-Coast' route to towns and cities to the south such as Newcastle, York, Leeds, Peterborough and London.
Train services are well organised and provided by several rail companies including Virgin and Scotrail. You’re most likely to be travelling on Scotrail trains if you’re just travelling within Scotland, especially if you’re travelling to the more rural destinations in the Scottish Highlands. They do also have a busy route between Edinburgh and Glasgow though.
The Edinburgh Borders Railway is an important rail link to the Scottish Borders that was controversially closed during the 60s leaving the Scottish Borders with no rail link. Now it's fully restored, reopened and operating successfully. Other than that there are also Edinburgh based. local train services within the Edinburgh Crossrail route, which links stations in the west of the city, such as Edinburgh Park, to Haymarket in the city centre and further east to Newcraighill.
National Rail is another useful resource for planning your train trip which integrates the timetables of different railway companies and routes.
Trams are the new kid on the block in Edinburgh - at least these sleek modern ones they have nowadays are. Introduced, or rather, re-introduced, to the city in 2014 after an absence of around 60 years, Edinburgh now has a much-awaited, and highly-efficient tram system that runs from Central Edinburgh to the airport, taking in 16 local stops along the way including: Princes Street, Haymarket Station, Murrayfield Stadium, and the Gyle Centre. Trams don't run all night, though.
After around 11:30pm, passengers can use a bus-link service that runs between the airport and Edinburgh's city centre all night. The tram service is owned by Edinburgh Trams and runs in partnership with Lothian Buses.
Edinburgh Car Hire & Rental
As a modern capital city, it's no surprise that Edinburgh has an abundance of car hire and rental firms. Many are familiar UK-wide, high street companies such as Avis and Budget that offer the ability to pick up a car in Edinburgh and drop it off in any other major town or city in the UK. In addition, there are local rental places offering a competitive hire service. City-Centre locations tend to be pricier but there are some reputable and affordable car hire companies around the airport and nearby Ingleston area. So if you’re in need of your own wheels then book online in advance (where possible) using any of the following as you'll get better discounts that way:
Avis Car Hire - Car rental in Edinburgh and across 120 UK and 3,800 international locations.
Budget Car Hire - Range of Edinburgh car rentals. 3,400 locations in over 128 countries.
Edinburgh Car Rentals - Includes minibus and van hire
Arnold Clark Car & Van Rental - Scottish company offering reservations for car, van and minibus hire across the U.K.
Alamo Car Hire - International car rental firm with Edinburgh and Edinburgh airport locations.
Edinburgh has rain, wind, hills, and traffic is often heavy. So it may come as a surprise to learn that it is considered one of the better cities for cycling in the UK. Part of this is down to its extensive off-road cycle network built along old railway lines which were closed down in the Sixties to make way for the brave new age of the car. These “green corridors” now provide a haven for wildlife and non-motorised traffic alike.
By bike you can see Edinburgh in all its permutations in a day, from the run-down housing schemes to the Georgian New Town, the beach at Crammond in the North to the leafy suburbs in the South. Unfortunately, there are few of these routes within the city centre itself and since they pass few shops or places of work, they’re more suited to leisure riding.
Cycling uptown is definitely a less leisurely affair, although experienced cyclists shouldn’t have a problem. Also, as climate change and environmental concerns grow, Edinburgh City Council has started taking cycling more seriously with more space devoted to bicycles on city streets.
In recent years, more bike lanes and bike boxes at traffic lights have also been painted on roads and traffic calming measures introduced on busy biking commuting areas, although the network is far from joined up and motorised traffic still a major deterrent for would-be cyclists.
Edinburgh also has plenty of black cab and private taxi companies available and Uber launched within the city in 2015.