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While visiting Edinburgh in 2021 will still be an incredible experience for Scots and visitors, a trip to Scotland’s capital will differ massively from other years. We want to detail exactly what you can expect from the top Edinburgh attractions, how to use its extensive transport system, the dining and drinking experience plus how to learn more about this majestic city through its exciting Edinburgh tours.
We do not intend to put anyone off visiting, we want to equip you with all the facts and procedures so you can come prepared for Edinburgh tourism’s new normal!
We’ll answer questions such as: ‘is Edinburgh Castle open?’ ‘How do I have a drink in a beer garden?’ ‘Can I use the loo?’ ‘Where can I buy a face covering?’ ‘Will I be safe in Edinburgh?’ ‘What are the trains like?’ ‘Are the shops open?’ ‘What happened to Bobby’s nose?’
This is written using our personal experience. Please consult your own government guidance before you start planning your trip to Edinburgh. If your leader is a moron, look to another who uses scientific advice and speaks sense.
From April 26th
- All retail premises, libraries, museums and galleries, tourist accommodation are open
- The hospitality sector reopened its outdoors for the service of alcohol, and indoors for non-alcohol service
- Up to four people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant
- Six people from up to three households can meet outdoors
- Gyms and swimming pools are open for individual exercise and non-essential childcare would be permitted
Tips For Visiting Edinburgh
1. You Must Bring A Face Covering
It is now mandatory in Scotland to wear a face mask or face covering if you are over the age of 5 and around other people indoors or in areas where you cannot be social distance.
You must wear a face-covering when entering a shop or using public transport (bus, train or tram).
Nearly everyone we’ve seen is sticking to this rule on public transport, which is great news.
This includes train stations but not bus stops. If arriving by air, you must wear a face-covering in the airport.
So what is a face covering?
According to the Scottish Government:
A face covering can be any covering of the mouth and nose that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe.
Don’t look at this as a hindrance, make it part of your holiday and go tartan! Here is an example of quality and nice looking tartan face covering.
Forgot your mask?
You can pick up closed packaged face coverings in supermarkets or trendy cloth ones in MaDeb African Shop or Weigh To Go or on Leith Walk and Master Tailor on Rose Street run by the sweetest guy called Patrick.
Many servers and guides will be wearing visors for their own protection and for yours.
Some businesses will have screens up to protect its workers and screens between sections for customers.
Expect to be refused entry if you are not wearing a face covering.
This goes without saying that you must respect social distancing rules around people from other households.
Social distancing will take place in Edinburgh’s parks, in restaurants, in beer gardens, in shops, on tours, at attractions and on public transport.
In Scotland, the social distance rule is 2 metres. Some restaurants and bars will have signage which advises you that you are now entering a 1 metre distancing area.
You will see markings outside some businesses to help customers visualise what 2 metres looks like when waiting in line.
We’ve enjoyed seeing how creative businesses have got with their markings. Why not make it on brand when you can eh?
3. You Must Book Ahead
If you plan to take a tour or visit an attraction in Edinburgh you must book ahead.
You can’t just rock up to a meeting point for a tour or activity because these businesses have strict rules to follow.
Many companies in hospitality and tourism have joined the Good To Go scheme to reassure customers that they are meeting all the requirements to keep their staff and customers safe.
For example, walking tours have reduced their group numbers to keep fewer households meeting and they are no longer taking cash payments.
While the tour companies state that their tour guides will be wearing face coverings this wasn’t the case for the most part and we were told we didn’t have to wear them apart from when we were down in the enclosed Edinburgh vaults.
All of the other walking tours were out in the open. We were encouraged to distance from other households during the tour.
We did attend a fully indoor experience and the guide asked if we preferred for the visor to be worn or not.
Overall, expect the guide to put the question to the group whether you want them to wear their face covering or not.
You can read more about walking tours taking bookings in Edinburgh here.
Obviously, there are a number of things to do in the city that doesn’t involve booking!
Walk from Leith to Dean Village stopping at Stockbridge, visit one of the farmers’ markets at the weekend, see the talked about Colington Tunnel street art, visit Cramond Beach and waterfall.
Shops are open and relatively quiet on Princes Street. Shopping centres such as The Fort are also operating.
Remember your mask and expect to wait in line, 2 metres from other customers.
Edinburgh Castle exterior area and interior sections where social distance can be implemented are now open.
Open aired attractions controlled by Historic Scotland are now open.
Did you know you can still give blood? I donated back in May.
You need to book an appointment and take your biscuit home with you but when I did it, the process was quick and the staff were as friendly as ever!
Beauty therapists and hairdressers are back in action but with a difference.
I managed to get a last minute nail appointment. To secure the appointment I had to:
- Book online
- Text to confirm I had no symptoms
- Arrive on time, not before
- Take minimal items
- A new buffer was used
- Cuticle oil wasn’t applied
- Pay by card
Ronan finally got his lockdown locks cut!
4. Dining and Drinking in Edinburgh
You can now dine in a restaurant and drink at a beer garden but the experience is a little different.
Beer gardens have strict social distancing rules and serving procedures to keep staff and punters safe.
There are also time limits to your visit so don’t expect to be lazing in that rare Scottish sun with a pint all day or bar hopping between gardens.
Find out who is open and serving in our beer gardens in Edinburgh guide.
Most bars are following guidelines at varying levels!
From experience, on entry someone will:
- Greet you, take your temperature and ask you to sanitise your hands
- Request that you provide contact details for Track and Trace so they can contact you if there are any known COVID-19 cases
- Take your own pen
- Explain how to use the toilet facilities as not all cubicles will be in action
- Show you how to use the one-way system if applicable
- Some bars use QR code for menus and apps for offering
- You take drinks from bar or tray, server won’t touch them
- Avoid using cash where possible
There was only one pub I didn’t want to enter and that was because men were smoking at the entry door.
It’s gross to walk through a wall of smoke at any time never mind during a pandemic which attacks your respiratory system.
Again, the process of eating at a restaurant will depend on the establishment.
Similar to drinking at a beer garden, someone at the restaurant will share their process with you.
Some restaurants and cafes are using protective screens between seats, others have measured out the distance so you are not dining shoulder to shoulder with a stranger.
If you don’t want to eat a meal in a restaurant, consider takeout instead.
Hundreds of businesses in Edinburgh are offering delivery and have been doing so since the start of lockdown so you can dine in or collect. Why not enjoy takeout at one of Edinburgh’s parks or gardens instead?
5. Parking and Public Transport in Edinburgh
During lockdown, parking was free around many areas of the city.
Now that the country has started moving again expect to pay those adorable premium prices for the privilege of parking.
We appreciate that many visitors won’t fancy taking the train or bus into the city but we don’t advise trying to park without paying because you will get hit with a fine.
We saw a parking attendant cheesing away to himself after typing into his fine box in Stockbridge during phase two.
To avoid using coins, check out the Ringo app which lets you pay for parking online.
Some pay and display machines now take card payments.
Ronan has created this guide to parking in the city which is worth a read.
Crossing the road doesn’t involve touching the traffic light button anymore!
Edinburgh now has automatic pedestrian crossing light stops during the day to stop traffic.
Public transport in Edinburgh is running and you are expected to wear a face covering or will be refused entry.
You can pay by card for a train, bus or tram ticket.
Both Waverley and Haymarket Train Stations have hand sanitiser points and seats blocked off to create social distancing.
There are toilets you can use in Edinburgh.
Transport hubs, attractions, restaurants and pubs provide access but there are rules such as one way systems, one user only and sinks blocked off to encourage social distancing.
You can use this map to find out which loos are open.
Avoid touching surfaces when you are out and about. Bring hand sanitiser.
Edinburgh is a city so expect it to be busier than towns.
My mum was surprised that people didn’t move off the pavement to avoid each other as they do in her hometown, Burntisland.
Obviously if you go to the beach on a sunny day you’re going to be met with crowds! Consider a day trip by train instead.
Bring your credit and debit cards with you to reduce passing notes and coins.
If you feel unwell and are showing COVID-19 symptoms or have been around anyone with symptoms postpone your visit and follow the NHS guidelines, or your own country guidelines, on self isolation. Edinburgh will wait!
After spending time in Edinburgh joining tours and dining out, I would say that people are behaving more responsibly than those in my hometown, Rosyth, where some folk aren’t wearing masks in petrol stations or the local shop.
Essential Edinburgh Information
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Edinburgh will feel different to what you are used to but that is to be expected. You should act accordingly to show respect to locals who live here and businesses who are trying to get back on their feet while serving you. All we ask is that you be considerate while having fun!
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