It’s always handy to know what you’re walking, or indeed flying in to. Edinburgh is a small city, but it is Scotland’s capital. The public transport in and around Edinburgh is pretty well established, with Lothian buses holding the monopoly on your travel around the city.
That being said, public transport in the city is efficient for the most part if you discount roadworks or the extensive tram works taking place currently in Leith. Prices aren’t too expensive – especially if you compare the prices to the rest of the UK!
There is also a move towards green and sustainable transport with eco-friendly buses. Let’s look at arriving in Edinburgh, how to get around and even a little bit of bus etiquette!
Arriving by plane to Edinburgh
Getting to and from Edinburgh Airport is simple as it isn’t that far away and there’s a lot of buses and a tram to take you to wherever you need to go to in Edinburgh. Lothian Buses are the local bus company and they also have a ticket desk just outside the front of the airport (it’s a blue standalone ticket office) In addition, you can now pay contactless with your card on these buses or buy a ticket from the driver directly with exact change.
Airlink 100 (Stop D)
Get on this for the city centre – it runs to Waverly Bridge just off Princes Street and next to the main train station – it also runs through Corstorphine past the zoo.
Frequency: Every 10 minutes.
Journey time: 30 minutes approximately (Waverley Bridge)
Fare: Single £4.50, return £7.50 (reductions for children)
Skylink 200 (Stop B)
This service runs from the airport via Clermiston, Blackhall, Drylaw, Muirhouse and Newhaven to Ocean Terminal in Leith between 04:55 and 00:00, seven days a week. Same prices but runs every 30 minutes.
Skylink 300 (Stop F)
This service runs via west Edinburgh, Slateford, Fountainbridge, Surgeons’ Hall and Newington to Cameron Toll. Same prices and runs every 20 minutes.
Skylink 400 (Stop B)
This service runs to Oxgangs and on to Fort Kinnaird with stops including Edinburgh Park, Fairmilehead and Royal Infirmary. Same prices and runs every 20 minutes but only until 21:35.
The night bus runs throughout the night into the city centre via South Gyle and on to the Ocean Terminal in Leith. (£3 flat fare and every 30 minutes)
The tram runs into the city centre via the Gyle Centre and are pretty quick getting into town but a pricier option.
Edinburgh Tram Tickets: Buy before you get on the tram from the ticket office or machines that do take card too. Adults are £6.50 and children are £3.30 for single journeys including the airport or the same price as buses if you don’t include the airport.
You will also find other bus companies running buses all over Scotland – Glasgow, Dundee, Livingston, Fife and Stirling. You can plan your journey with Traveline Scotland.
Arriving By Train
Edinburgh does have a few stations but you are most likely to either arrive in Haymarket or the main station in the city centre – Waverley Train Station. For example, if you’re staying in Edinburgh’s West End or Dalry/Gorgie then Haymarket is your stop. The tram stops just outside and so do lots of buses. Haymarket is newly renovated with some shops and a coffee stand inside.
Waverley is directly in the middle of Edinburgh. Subsequently, as soon as you leave the station you’re greeted by the grand Balmoral Hotel and a view of Edinburgh Castle. In addition, there are lots of places to eat and shop in the station and Waverley Mall next door.
Taxis and City Buses
You can order a taxi through local companies like Capital Cars (a personal favourite, the phone number is – 0131-777-7777) or Uber, or grab a more expensive black taxi outside.
Buses are on the main shopping street directly outside on Princes Street, but check which direction you’re going in. If you’re staying in the Old Town it’s directly behind the station, we would recommend just walking up Cockburn Street to the Royal Mile it will only take ten minutes.
Arriving by bus
Buses and coaches will arrive into St Andrew’s Square at the main bus station situated there. Again this is directly in the city centre and you’ll find cafes and restaurants in the square – Dishoom is a particular favourite! Local public transport can be found in St Andrew’s Square or on Queen Street which is a two-minute walk from the bus station.
A quick guide to Edinburgh’s public transport
Edinburgh takes great pride in its bus service. It consistently wins awards and they made a big move to make their buses more eco-friendly. If you’re a local you’ll know that they don’t always turn up on time but they are very regular so we don’t have many complaints!
Lothian Buses are the company in question and they have a no change policy on the bus. You have to have exact change because it speeds up the process. There is a way around this and that’s by downloading the M Tickets App and buying them on your phone and showing it to the driver as you get on the bus OR now they have Contactless payments and a ‘tap, tap, cap’ policy which means if you get three buses or more in a day it only charges you for a day ticket.
Single – £1.80 (Adult) £0.90 (Child) – Flat fare in city zones
Dayticket – £4.50 (Adult) £2.00 (Child) – For more than two journeys
There are night buses that operate around the city centre from midnight to 0430 – a night single will cost you £3.00 and you can get a LATEticket which is valid on the day and night buses from 6 pm to 04:30 am.
Other city bus services
The buses in Edinburgh have services which run to surrounding towns and villages:
East Coast Buses – travel around the beautiful region of East Lothian and visit towns like Haddington, North Berwick, Dunbar, Dalkeith, Gullane and Musselburgh.
Lothian Country – Discover West Lothian and visit the picturesque South Queensferry. Get a view of the Three Bridges (Forth Bridges and Queensferry Crossing), Linlithgow and Jupiter Artland.
Bus etiquette is also very important – ALWAYS say thanks to the driver as you get off – read more about this tradition in our local’s guide to Edinburgh.
Public transport in Scotland
There are rail and bus services throughout the country, it’s a small country so if you’re visiting the capital city then take this opportune moment to get out in the countryside, visit castles, lochs and historical sites. Eat the local seafood, eat from our farms and enjoy a wee tipple. Experience the beauty of Scotland.
Train services to other Scottish cities and towns
Trains in Scotland are operated by ScotRail and from Edinburgh, you can pretty much get anywhere! From Edinburgh, you can travel to the Highlands or the Cairngorms. You can also visit other major cities like Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen. Prices vary massively between where you’re going. It’s not as cheap as getting the bus (Megabus, for example, runs cheap services across the UK).
You also have peak and off-peak trains. Peak times are in the morning (between 6:00 am and 10:00 am) and in the afternoon (between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm). Here are an example of popular routes and their return prices from Edinburgh during off-peak hours:
Edinburgh to Glasgow: £13.60 (off-peak day return)
Edinburgh to Dundee: £29.40 (off-peak day return)
Edinburgh to Dunfermline: £6.90 (off-peak day return)
Edinburgh to Inverness: £68.50 (off-peak day return)
Edinburgh to Stirling: £10.10 (off-peak day return)
Remember to look up various websites to get the cheapest deals. Bought in advance you could land a bargain-priced ticket. Use Trainline or Omio and compare prices before you buy.
Tickets can also be bought in the station on ticket machines. They can also be bought on trains from a conductor who can take card payments as you travel.
Longer services and the Glasgow service also normally run a buffet cart on the train. Perfect for if you want a wee cuppa and a snack for your journey!
Bus services across Scotland
There are several companies from First, National Express, City Link and Megabus who cart people around Scotland every day and quite regularly.
Again prices do vary but the best way to approach this is to compare prices before you buy. Do buy in advance if possible for cheaper deals. For us experienced travellers we use apps like Rome to Rio and Omio to suss out the most cost-effective ways to get around.
The cheapest services tend to be on Megabus. Sometimes you can get a ticket for £1 when they have special offers on!
Handy travel apps and websites for Edinburgh
Here’s a rundown of what apps to download before your trip to Scotland’s capital:
There are zero affiliated links in this article, just some helpful tips from locals.