Basic guide to living in Edinburgh

Royal Mile, Blue Hour (photo: byronv2)

Over the past few years, more and more people have gone to Edinburgh in search of work. That’s why we at think it’s a good idea to come up with a basic guide for all the expats who’ve decided to start a new life there.

1. General information about the city

When we hear about Edinburgh, the first think we think of is the word “castle”. Although it is certainly the main tourist attraction, the city has many other charms, which you’ll discover in this article. The climate isn’t one of them, but you’ll get used to the constant cold grey days.

Because of the news, the word “referendum” might also spring to mind. Scotland had a referendum last year to decide its future, and the final result was that, for now, it would continue to be part of the United Kingdom. Castle, referendum… what else do we know about Edinburgh?

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is the second biggest city in the region after Glasgow, and the second most visited city in the United Kingdom after London. It’s famous for its International Festival: the biggest live music, theatre, opera, and dance festival in the world, which takes place every August. Its two main districts, which you’ve probably heard of, are the Old and New Town. Its university and Princes Street, which crosses the centre of the city, are also well known.

You can look up more general information about the city at

Population: 782.000 residents (urban zone)

Postcode: BS1 through BS20

City councel

2. Public transport

At this link you’ll find the different ways of getting to Edinburgh and travelling around its streets: The city has one of the best intercity bus companies in Scotland and the United Kingdom. Most of the long distance services begin and end at the bus station in St Andrew Square.

Once inside the city, there are two bus companies: Lothian and First. Nonetheless, the best way of seeing Edinburgh is walking. That’s the only way of taking in all its potential and its wonderful historical sites.

Another website that can answer your questions about city transport is In addition to one we’ve already mentioned: Traveline.

Airport website:

Edinburgh is a popular tourist destination, and its airport has connections to many European cities.

15 NOV 2015 UPDATE:

Thanks to the survey we did of Europeans in the UK in 2015, we found the average amount spent by European residents of Edinburgh to be £47/month.

3. Tourism

Today tourism is one of the main sources of Edinburgh’s income. Its unmissable sites are, as we said before, Edinburgh Castle, Old and New Town, and Princes Street, as well as its cathedral, where it’s said that whoever finds the figure of an angel playing bagpipes will be lucky for the rest of his life. We recommend you take your time walking through the city centre and discover all its corners, as well as its many shops, restaurants, and pubs. If you’re Harry Potter fans, you’ll want to walk by the school that appears in the series. Head into a church and you might get a surprise and discover a huge restaurant inside. At night, head to a lively pub and enjoy a good Scotch.

Go on a guided tour with Sandemans (reserve in advance on the Internet; Spanish speakers have the option of a tour in Spanish): They’ll explain the history of the city centre to you, as well as tell you different anecdotes for you to share at home. One of the things they’ll show you is the oldest house in Edinburgh, and they’ll tell you the story of a heart built into the pavement in the cathedral square: anyone who steps on it will never find love, because the city prison used to be located there.

They’ll also take you to the cemetery, open 24 hours a day, where it’s not unusual to see Scots stretched out on the lawn or making the most of a sunny day. Did you know that the cemetery is the second most common place in Edinburgh to have sex? In addition, you’ll find one of the most famous torturers in history there. You’ll also learn the story of Bobby the dog, who stayed by his owner’s grave for 14 years, hoping he would wake up (today there’s a sculpture for Bobby, a Scottish Terrier). One more interesting fact: JK Rowling borrowed names from the graves in the cemetery to create some of her characters.

For more information about tourism in the city, you can look at these websites:

4. Accommodation

Accommodation in Edinburgh isn’t that different from what you can find in other big British cities. The further you go from the centre, the cheaper the rent is.

If you’re just passing through, you need to remember that hotel prices shoot up in August during the International Festival. At other times of the year, you can find hostels from 10 pounds on up. Short flat lets are a good temporary option, as they tend to be reasonably priced.

To look for a room we recommend the website:

If you rent, know your rights in the UK:

The city council website can answer your questions about the taxes you have to pay to live in Edinburgh:

15 NOV 2015 UPDATE:

According to the 2015 survey, European residents in Edinburgh spend an average of £541/month on accommodation (bills included).

5. Work

The unemployment level in Edinburgh is one of the lowest in the country. There’s most work in the service sectors (tourism and financial services, especially) and in education and new technology research. If your level of English is average, you’ll probably find work in the hotel or catering industry. If, on the other hand, your English is good and you’re well-prepared, it will be easier to find work in your field.

The latest numbers show the unemployment rate as 6.6% (average between April 2013 and March 2014).

Como alternativa existen dos formas de buscar empleos de forma más local:

But the best way to ensure success: traipse around the city with a lot of CVs and hand them out.

15 NOV 2015 UPDATE:

2015 survey data: European residents in Edinburgh earn an average salary of £1,161/month net.

6. Leisure

If you want to do something fun in Edinburgh, we recommend having a look at Edinburgh’s TimeOut page: You’re sure to find something in the dozens of suggestions that fits with your interests or hobbies.

You can also visit one of the many museums in the city (most of them free) like the National Museum of Scotland, where you’ll find Dolly the sheep stuffed, or the Museum of Edinburgh. Students should be aware that the National Library of Scotland is one of the biggest in the United Kingdom.

If you have the chance and some money saved, don’t forget to visit Edinburgh in August, the time of its international festival: Though this isn’t the only festival hosted in the city. The Science Festival of Edinburgh, which takes place in April, is also well known. On the webpage we’ve just mentioned, you’ll find all the festivals that happen in town throughout the year, like the Hogmanay.

Film lovers have different cinema options, starting with Cineworld. Those of you who like trying new foods, ask for haggis, one of the area’s typical dishes. And finally, if you like nature, stop by the botanical garden. It’s free.

7. Studying in Edinburgh

There are four universities in Edinburgh. The University of Edinburgh is one of the most prestigious in the world, a pioneer institution for IT and management. You’ll notice the number of students living in Edinburgh because of the atmosphere at night in pubs and clubs in the centre of the city.



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