Practical Life in Edinburgh

Transport in Edinburgh

Home > Expat Guides > Europe > United Kingdom > Edinburgh

Edinburgh is very compact making navigation within the city very straight-forward. When walking through town, most of the major attractions are within the Old Town and New Town and no further than a 15 minutes apart.

The system does suffer from several problems as public transportation options are limited. The cities reliance on buses and cars has led to major congestion, but legislation to introduce a congestion charge like that in London was rejected. The suburban railway network is also limited, but there are attempts to expand in progress. Despite these challenges, there are a variety of transportation options available.

Public Transportation

Edinburgh's public transport system is lacking in comparison to London's superb system or any of the major cities in Europe. Buses are currently the best and cheapest form of public transport, but can also be slow and uncomfortable. Edinburgh is regarded as having one of the most extensive bus services in the country. There are two major bus operators in Edinburgh:

  • Lothian Buses - majority-owned by the Edinburgh City Council. Traditionally dark red and cream colored buses.
  • First Edinburgh - private operator.

The companies share bus stops, but the route numbers and tickets are not interchangeable. Most buses run at intervals of between 10 and 30 minutes during the day and a reduced service after 19:00.

A new BusTracker service is being developed that will provide "real time" bus information. Electronic signs will display wait times and online service will provide information for every bus stop in the city. Free apps named "Edinbus" for iPhone and "My Bus Edinburgh" for Android provide similar information with route maps and a stop locator.

There is a single tram line currently being built, but it will not be completed until 2012 at the earliest. It will link the airport, rugby stadium, both main train stations, Princes Street, Leith and the Cruise Liner terminal.

Night buses depart from Waverley Bridge next to the train station. Cheaper than taxis, these offer a safe way to get home. Night buses cost 3 GBP for unlimited travel on a single night.


Both bus companies operate similar ticket systems.
A day ticket for adults (allows unlimited travel during the day) for 3 GBP
A day ticket for children under 15 (allows unlimited travel during the day) for 2.40 GBP
A single non-transferable fare for adults (purchased from driver) 1.20 GBP
A single flat non-transferable for adults (purchased from on-street ticket machine before boarding) 1.10 GBP
A single flat non-transferable for children between 5 and 15 .70 GBP

Drivers do not usually give change, so try to have exact change. Ticket machines are not available at every stop, but can be identified by their bright red color.



The main railway station is called Waverley Railway Station. This beautiful station was first opened in 1846. Located adjacent to Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens, it serves over 14 million people a year. Explore it's intricately etched domed ceiling, playful cherubs, and scrolled ironwork. There is a second railway station known as Haymarket. Haymarket is the better station if you are travelling to the airport, zoo, or modern art gallery.

Waverly Railway Station is the major hub for the Scottish rail network. Train service is operated by ScotRail. There is an hourly service to Dundee and Aberdeen, and two hourly to Inverness. Shuttle trains to Glasgow run every 15 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes on evenings and Sundays, and takes about 45-50 minutes. Trains to London run on the hour until 18:00 and takes about 4 1/2 hours.

Caledonian Sleeper service also offers service every night between London and Edinburgh. The journey takes approximately 8 hours. Tickets usually cost about 100 GBP, or you can also travel for around 23 GBP one-way in a seated carriage. Bargain Berths are sometimes available for as low as 19 GBP if booked far in advance.


Tickets need to be purchased before entering or leaving the platform as barriers prevent entrance without ticket. Tickets may be purchased from the conductor at unmanned stations. Other stations offer a ticket inspector near the barrier gates. The barrier gates will retain single journey tickets so be sure to get a receipt if you need one.



Long-distance buses are also available. Most long distance services start and end in the Bus Station in St Andrew Square. The left luggage lockers at the Bus station are a great deal compared to the "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Waverly train station. During peak times, motorways can be quite congested and travel times extend.

    Major Bus Companies:
  • Citylink - extensive network
  • Megabus - cheapest way to travel. Ticket prices start at 1 GBP with 50 pence booking charge. Tickets can only be bought online.
  • Postbus - offers limited service


There are several water routes into the city, as well as tourist options.

Norfolk Line offers the only direct ferry service from Scotland to Europe. The line runs three times a week from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Rosyth in Fife. The crossing takes approximately 20 hours.

Passenger cruise liners are popular in summer. Most lines depart from Leith Docks.


Edinburgh International Airport (IATA: EDI)
About 10 miles west of the city, the airport has domestic and international flights. Many visitors to the city arrive via a connecting flight from London. It is the busiest airport in Scotland and the sixth busiest airport in the UK with 8.6 million passengers.

Transport to/from Airport

There is a dedicated airport bus service, Airlink Express. It runs from outside the terminal building to Edinburgh city center every 10 minutes (except for 00:22 to 04:45 where it comes every 45 min.).
Adult fares are 3.50 GBP for a single trip, or 6 GBP for an open return.

Lothian Buses service 35 is a less expensive option. This line comes from the bus stop outside the arrivals building to Ocean Terminal via the Royal Mile/High Street.
Tickets are 1.20 GBP for a single trip.


Taxis are easily available, but will need to be requested outside of tourist areas or hotels. Their are several Taxi Rank locations where you can find a cab:

  • Outside the main entrances of Haymarket and Waverley train stations.
  • Opposite the Caledonian Hotel and Sheraton Hotel (both near the West End), The George Hotel (east end of George Street) and the Crowne Plaza Hotel (High Street, Royal Mile).
  • St Patrick's Square, off South Bridge
  • Leith Bridge, close to The Shore and Commercial Quay

Black Cabs carry up to 5 passengers and can be found on the street. They display an orange light above the windscreen to indicate that they are available to hire.
Minicabs must be pre-booked. Let them know the number in your party when you book.

Main Taxi Firms

  • Central Radio Taxis (Black Cabs) - 0131 229 2468
  • City Cabs (Black Cabs) - 0131 228 1211
  • Festival Cars (minicabs) - 0131 552 1777

Car Hire

Car rental can allow visitors to see the hidden parts of Scotland. Rentals can be easily arranged online or at points of entry. Several major car rental dealers are located at the International Airport, as well as both main train stations.

Expect to pay about 30-50 GBP/day. Car rental may require you to be over 21 years old, and may require an additional deposit until 25 years old. Must have a valid driver's license, insurance certificate, vehicle registration, and passport to drive.

Driving Conditions

Like other places in the UK, driving is on the left side of the road. This can be confusing for foreign drivers so prepare mentally and be careful when driving here.

Central Edinburgh can be difficult to navigate. In Old town, narrow streets can turn into one-ways and abruptly dead end. The New Town is slightly better, but parking is scarce.


Issues with parking and frequent ticketing are infamous in Edinburgh. On-street parking is largely illegal without a residents parking permit. Parking attendants, locally known as "Blue Meanies", control the downtown area. Parking fines are usually around 40 GBP. Vehicles parked in an obstructive manner may be towed at a fee of 150 GBP to the owner.

Park-and-rides are useful. There is a National Park and Ride Directory that helps users find a location.

There are also several multi-story car parks in the city center like the Castle Terrace for the West End, and the St James Centre or Greenside at the East End.


From London: the fastest route is the M1 motorway, followed by the A1(M) and the A1 - a journey of 398 miles and approximately 8-9 hrs driving time.

Edinburgh can be reached by:
M8 motorway (from Glasgow and the west)
M9 motorway(from Stirling and the north-west)
A90/M90 motorway (from Perth, Dundee and northern Scotland)
A1 motorway (from Newcastle upon Tyne and north-east England)
A702/M74 motorway(from Carlisle and north-western England)

City Map:
Road Map:

Update 8/04/2011


Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Pinterest Addthis

Recommended Service Partners

International Movers
International Movers in Edinburgh
Compare up to 5 quotes from our network of moving companies that can help you plan your international move and relocate your entire family.
Expatriate health insurance
Expatriate health insurance in the United Kingdom
Apply online for free quotes on repatriation assistance and expatriate and foreign health insurance.
Hotels in the United Kingdom
You will get discount hotel rates, last-minute deals, hot deals, special offers, with a real-time reservation and on-line booking.

Do you have comments or personal information to communicate about this article? Add your comment.

Go to the Forum to talk more about transport in Edinburgh, practical life.

Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).