How to get around Edinburgh: best ways to see the tourist sites

Compared to other cities in the UK, and mostly I mean south of the border in England, Edinburgh is actually quite small. So that means it’s really easy to get around and see all that there is to see. If you love leisurely exploring, wandering round old streets and finding hidden gems everywhere, you’ll love Edinburgh!

While I almost always walk or choose budget options when we’ve visited Edinburgh over the years we have been known to use some of the more tourist orientated alternatives too!

Whether you only have 1 day in Edinburgh or can spare some more days, figuring out how to get around is key to making the most of your time here. Read on for our guide for how to get around Edinburgh, especially as a tourist.

A hop on hop off tour bus on the Royal Mile. This is a great way to get around Edinburgh as a tourist
Getting right in the heart of the Old Town – traditional tour buses!

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Do you need a car to get around Edinburgh?

No. In fact, in Edinburgh having a car could be more of a problem than not having one. The city is small and tourist sites are generally walkable. Any further out attractions can be reached by bus, tram, taxi or tour bus.

Parking can be an issue in the centre of the city so if you’re planning to bring or rent a car be aware of where you can park nearby your accommodation so you don’t incur parking tickets and fines.

If you’re hiring a car and looking to explore more of Scotland it’s probably advisable to pick up your rental car after your Edinburgh portion if you can! It’s also easy to get around Scotland without a car too if needed.

How to get around Edinburgh city

So we’ve established that having a car is not necessary to get around the city of Edinburgh, so how is best to get around?

I’ve written this post with a tourist in mind visiting the city and aiming to visit some of the main attractions and landmarks in Edinburgh.

Hop on Hop off Bus

Like many popular cities around the world there are hop on hop off buses through the city of Edinburgh. You either love them, hate them or see them as a convenience for your day! We used one a while ago on a family trip in Edinburgh and it helped with tired little legs so I definitely see the plus points!

Regular buses (see below) are a lot cheaper but they come with some added stress of finding your way to your destination, getting on the right one and figuring out tickets. Some people don’t want that hassle, especially if they are just going to the tourist sites anyway or if they are in a group or with kids.

The advantage of the hop on hop off buses are that you can use them throughout the day as you need. If your feet are tired and you don’t want to walk – take the bus. If you’re short on time and want to get a glimpse of Edinburgh – sit on the bus and let it guide you round.

If you’re lucky to be there on a dry day there’s often an open top which will allow for pictures – you’ll get good views of the castle and many other places as it takes you round the city.

Hop on Hop off Bus:

Other tour buses (not hop on hop off – just a tour round the city)

Shopping street in Edinburgh new town
Shops in the New Town – easy to explore just by walking


Edinburgh is quite a walkable city so you might feel like you don’t need to get on any vehicles to enjoy it.

The Old and New Towns are small and can be discovered on foot really well. The whole place invites you to explore down small streets and alleyways where cars can’t go anyway!

Be aware that the streets in the old town are cobbled and there are hills – wear comfortable shoes when wandering!

A walking tour in some areas of the city are a good way to get local knowledge and explore the city without feeling like you’ve stormed around quickly! They can be quite inexpensive as well.

Walking tours to consider:

Old Town History and Tales

Harry Potter walking tour

A Taxi tour

An interesting way to get around and see the sights while having your own space is a taxi tour.

You might be considering this due to mobility issues, disabilities or because you value your own space (understandable after Covid). The taxi will take you all around the city, exploring the best sites and giving you a real local’s insider knowledge too.

These are expensive compared to other options but for the exclusive attention you get it can be well worth it!

Check out this company who does tours of the city.

Of course, you could simply take taxis around the city if you needed one. There are plenty of them around that you can flag down or if you want to book one in advance try Central Taxis.

tram in Edinburgh
Tram in Edinburgh city centre

Public Transport

If you need to go further afield, perhaps to the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens or Leith then you might want to just use public transport. It’s a lot cheaper than the tourist buses and you’ll get a taste of the local life too! If you’re traveling on a budget this one is for you.

Bus – Lothian Buses

The bus network in Edinburgh is really good and you can get all around the city. The buses are modern and have helpful displays that update and tell you which stop it is – perfect for keeping and eye on where you are.

Tickets can be bought on the app, by tapping a contactless card or on the bus itself. The app is helpful for navigating where you are in the city as well.

You can buy single tickets (£1.80 in 2023) or you can buy a day ticket (£4.50). The day ticket includes the tram as well but is confined to the city zone. You can buy a more expensive one if you’re traveling outside the city zone, for example to the airport.

See timetables, ticket options and download the app here.

Tram – Edinburgh Trams

The tram is a relatively new addition to the Edinburgh city transport options. There’s only one line so it’s limited in where you can go with it but it’s good to go to Murrayfield (The Scotland Rugby stadium) if you want to watch an event there.

The tram also takes you direct to the airport if you need to get there. It’s outside the city zone so attracts a slightly higher price but it’s a simple way to get there.

See more information here.

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Edinburgh Travel FAQ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Do I need insurance for traveling to Edinburgh?

YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!

Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.

Do I need a car for visiting Edinburgh?

MAYBE – if you’re staying in the city then you don’t need a car at all. YES – If you’re wanting to explore further afield in Scotland then a car is worthwhile.

I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Edinburgh

How to book accommodation in Edinburgh?

For hotels I recommend (and my favorite Edinburgh Hotel which is the APEX Grassmarket – hint: castle views!)

For apartments check out VRBO

Will my phone work in Edinburgh?

Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.

If you need a SIM for use in the UK I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.

What to pack for Edinburgh

Keep yourself dry and comfortable is my motto for Edinburgh travel! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.

See my post about what to pack for Edinburgh

Do I need midge spray for Edinburgh?

Edinburgh, as a city, doesn’t suffer from midges. You might see them if you travel to the west coast or lochs in the summer months. Check out my guide to midges and how to miss them in Scotland.

What’s the best guidebook for Edinburgh?

I really like the Lonely Planet Pocket Guides

Where to get flights for Edinburgh

Expedia is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Edinburgh and Scotland.

Do I need a visa for Scotland?

Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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