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Transportation in Edinburgh

Welcome to "Auld Reekie", as residents of the Scottish capital affectionately call their city. Life in Edinburgh has a lot to offer – not only for tourists and attendees of the local arts festivals. Our expat guide provides useful information on leisure, education, healthcare, and transport.
Edinburgh has a fairly extensive network of local buses.

The International Airport

Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s major transportation hubs, and the city therefore features some excellent public transport connections and an extensive local network.

Most expats moving to Edinburgh will probably arrive by plane, at Edinburgh International Airport. It is located in Ingliston, about 8 miles or 13 kilometers west of Edinburgh’s city center. In 2013, the busy airport served nearly 10 million domestic and international passengers.

There are direct flights from Edinburgh to Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey, as well as to several cities across the UK.

During the holiday season, both in summer and winter, there are also a number of additional flights to popular destinations in Austria, Eastern Europe, the USA, and on various Mediterranean islands.

From the Airport to the City

Once you have arrived at the airport, it is easy to get to the city center. The express bus service Air Link 100 runs about every 10 minutes. For a fare of GBP 4.00, it will take you to Edinburgh in about half an hour.

Between 0:30 am and 4:30 am, however, the night bus N22 takes over: It runs only every 30 minutes and costs one pound less – you can buy a single adult ticket for GBP 3.00.

Moreover, there are also several cheaper and slower local bus connections, as well as regional coach services to, for example, Fife and Glasgow. From June 2014 onwards, there’s also a brand-new tram route from Edinburgh International Airport to York Place in the city center.

If you prefer taking a taxi, just try the taxi stand in front of the airport, or pre-book your cab via 0844 4488 576. Please be aware, though, that a taxi is only marginally faster than the express bus. The journey to central Edinburgh usually takes 25 rather than 30-35 minutes.

Traveling by Train

Apart from the airport, Edinburgh’s train stations are the city’s most important transport link. Waverly Station in the inner city is, in fact, the second largest station building in all of the UK.

There are direct train services to several major cities in Scotland (e.g. Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth) and England (e.g. Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, York, and – of course – London).

Check the websites of Scotrail or National Rail for more information on timetables and tickets. Commuters from nearby locations may be especially interested in seasonal tickets for their route to and from Edinburgh.

Local Transport

The local transportation network in Edinburgh mainly consists of buses. These services are provided by Lothian Buses in the city proper and in Midlothian. Lothian Buses also runs the new tram from York Place to the airport.

First Edinburgh, the second major transport company, organizes bus services from central Edinburgh to East and West Lothian, as well as to Falkirk, Stirling, and the Borders region.

Fares for local buses are usually the same. A single ticket for adults costs GBP 1.50 and you can buy a ticket for the entire day for GBP 3.50. Frequent passengers should rather purchase the Ridacard: For GBP 51.00, you can use all buses and trams for a period of four weeks.

From the Edinburgh Bus Station on Elder Street / St Andrew Square, you can board regional and long-distance coaches to various destinations across the UK. Coaches are generally cheaper than similar train connections, but also slower and somewhat less comfortable.

Last but not least, Edinburgh has several taxi companies. These include, for example:

Taxi fares are regulated by the City of Edinburgh. You can have a look at the latest tariffs online.

Driving in Scotland

If you’d rather drive your own car in Scotland, there are several things to consider. First of all, you need to figure out if you have to get a local driving license.

  • Visitors intending to stay in Edinburgh for less than 12 months can go on using their valid driving permit from their home country.
  • If you want to live in Scotland for over a year, you’ll have to pay attention. In case your driving license was issued in an EU member state, it will still be valid in the UK.
  • Drivers with a permit from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe, as well as several smaller states or territories, can exchange their own license for a UK one. This should happen within five years of their arrival in the UK. The fee for this license exchange is GBP 50.00.
  • Drivers with a license from any other country need to take both a practical and a theoretical driving test after 12 months. After passing these exams, they will get a UK driving license.

It’s rather complicated to import your own car, especially if you come from a country with right-hand road traffic. It may actually be cheaper – and definitely easier – to buy a second-hand vehicle in Scotland or lease a car there.

For more information on transport and driving in the UK, please have a look at our detailed Expat Guide. There we explain again, in greater detail, how getting your UK driving license works. Moreover, car owners in the UK may appreciate our advice on issues such as importing and registering their vehicles.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ruben Barbosa

"Whether it's the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or the Highlands -- such great opportunities to explore Scotland with my fellow expats."

Marleen Jansen

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