Edinburgh is an amazing city to visit! Full of history, culture, and natural beauty, there is something for everyone. I am spending one month in Edinburgh with my family this summer. Mike and I lived here in Edinburgh for three years while we were in grad school, and our oldest daughter Emma was born here. We are excited to share this city with our children! I am compiling tips on visiting Edinburgh with kids, both for my own reference and anyone else looking to visit this Scottish capital. Today I am sharing tips on getting around Edinburgh with kids. If you want a detailed guide to the city, I recommend the Lonely Planet Pocket Edinburgh Travel Guide.
Getting Around Edinburgh with Kids: Tested Insider Tips
If you are wondering how to get around Edinburgh with kids, this is the post for you!
Leaving the Airport
We caught a taxi to our Airbnb flat. With six people, it made sense – particularly factoring in exhaustion from the flight from California. There is, however, an excellent airport bus that you can take instead.
Check out my tips for taking kids on long flights.
Walking the City of Edinburgh with Kids
Edinburgh is a wonderful city for walking, and walking is a reasonable way of getting around Edinburgh with kids. There are always sidewalks and protected street crossings. Some streets (including part of the Royal Mile) are pedestrian only. The abundance of dogs and interesting window displays keep my children going even when they get tired. When three-year-old Anna gets tired, I can often help her find her second wind by suggesting that she move like different types of animals. Being a butterfly was a big hit with her this afternoon!
If you plan to walk a lot, I recommend bringing easy-to-eat-in-small-increments snacks along. Kids get tired and hungry, and having something to eat will help them keep going. We stretch a single snack out as much as we can.
Public Transportation in Edinburgh with Kids
Edinburgh’s public transportation system is incredible. If you are going to be in Edinburgh for an extended period of time, it is probably worth buying a Ridacard bus pass. This pass also works for the trams and the airport bus. You fill the pass one week at a time and top up as needed. Since we knew we would be riding the buses a lot, we simply paid for four weeks in one go. Children under 5 ride free (my three-year-old was disappointed when she did not receive a card). Students and youth passes cost less than adult passes. If you plan to ride the bus only occasionally, family day passes and single ride fares may be your best option.
Navigating Public Transportation in Edinburgh
To figure out how to use the buses, Type a destination into the Lothian Buses app and it will show the best ways to get there using buses and trams. Google maps also tracks the bus routes. We are staying just south of the Meadows, and I usually find several ways to reach desired destinations. If your phone plan doesn’t include data (mine doesn’t) you can still download the app over WiFi. Once the app is downloaded, you will be able to view the routes of different buses even if you don’t have any data connection. The buses have free WiFi.
Logging Onto the Free Lothian Buses WiFi
Connecting to the free bus WiFi is slightly tricky. First, find the correct WiFi connection. Right now (June 2016) it is called free-bus-wifi. Pull up a browser window and tap the “I Agree” button on the page that loads. A few seconds later, a news page should show up.The articles on this news page will load, but that’s all that will load! Scroll down to the bottom of the news page and click the “Connect” button to go online to your heart’s content.
You can find free city bus route maps in the bus pass office. I recommend picking up the routes of any buses you will be taking frequently, as well as the master bus route map.
Using City Tour Buses to Get Around Edinburgh with Kids
For short stays in Edinburgh, consider buying a ticket for an Edinburgh Bus Tour. These buses follow a very efficient route around the main city sites. Buying a ticket allows you to hop on and off for 24 hours using the same ticket.
One Last Tip
I highly recommend packing day bags of some sort for your children. Temperatures fluctuate a LOT in Edinburgh, even within the space of a single day. On most days out, you will want a jacket for at least part of the day, but the buses are often too warm to wear a jacket comfortably on board. If your child has a backpack or shoulder bag to stow their jacket and anything else they might need that day, your trip will run more smoothly.
My kids use their shoulder bags from the luggage sets we purchased for this trip. I like cross-body bags, because kids can put things into them and take things out without taking off the bag – one less opportunity to leave something behind.
Fellow Edinburgh travelers: what tips am I missing for getting around Edinburgh with kids? Let me know in the comments, or via email (mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com).