Travel information: Edinburgh fast facts A-Z

Everything from embassies to emergency services, customs to currency

By Will Fulford-Jones

Age restrictions

You have to be 18 to drink in Scotland, athough some bars and clubs admit only over-21s. The legal age for driving is 17, however, most car rental firms won't hire cars to under-21s. The legal age of consent is 16.

Attitude & etiquette

Edinburgh is, on the whole, an informal city. A handful of high-end restaurants may insist on jacket or jacket and tie (call ahead to check if you’re unsure), but this is generally a pretty relaxed place, whether you’re here doing business or on holiday.

Consumer

If you pay with a credit card, you can cancel payment or get reimbursed if there's a problem. The Citizens Advice Bureau and the local trading standards office at the Advice Shop can also help.

Customs

Citizens entering the UK from outside the EU must adhere to duty-free import limits:

200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
2 litres still table wine plus either 1 litre spirits or strong liqueurs (above 22% abv) or 2 litres fortified wine (under 22% abv), sparkling wine or other liqueurs.
60cc/ml perfume.
250cc/ml toilet water.
Other goods to the value of no more than £145.

The import of meat, poultry, fruit, plants, flowers and protected animals is restricted or forbidden; there are no restrictions on the import or export of currency. People over the age of 17 arriving from an EU country are able to import unlimited goods for their own personal use, if bought tax-paid (ie not duty-free). For more details, see www.hmrc.gov.uk.

Disabled

It’s forbidden to widen the entrances of or add ramps to listed buildings, and parts of the Old Town have wheelchair-unfriendly narrow pavements. However, equal-opportunity legislation requires that new buildings are fully disabled-accessible.

Lothian Buses’ new fleet of vehicles are accessible to passengers in wheelchairs. Some routes still rely on older buses, but more than half the buses are now accessible. Call 555 6363 for details. Newer black taxis (see Getting around Edinburgh) are wheelchair-accessible; always specify when booking.

Most theatres and cinemas are fitted with induction loops for the hard of hearing. Ask when booking.

For more on disabled living in Edinburgh, contact Grapevine, part of the Lothian Centre for Integrated Living.

Grapevine

Norton Park, 57 Albion Road, Calton Hill, EH7 5QY (475 2370, www.lothiancil.org.uk). Open By phone 9.30am-4pm Mon-Fri.

Drugs

Although cannabis was briefly and confusingly reclassified as a class-C soft drug a few years ago (the decision has since been reversed, both hard and soft drugs are illegal in Scotland, as they are in the rest of the UK.

Electricity

The UK electricity supply is 220-240 volt, 50-cycle AC rather than the 110-120 volt, 60-cycle AC used in the US. Foreign visitors will need to run appliances via an adaptor. TV and video use different systems to the US.

Embassies & consulates

For a list of local consular offices, check the Yellow Pages, or see www.edinburgh.gov.uk/internet/city_living/cec_consulates.

The majority of embassies and consulates (the US is an exception) do not accept personal callers without an appointment.

Australian Consulate

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Capital House, 2 Festival Square, EH3 9SU (228 4771, www.australia.org.uk).

Consulate of Canada

5 St Margaret’s Road, EH9 1AZ (07702 359916 mobile, www.cic.gc.ca).

Irish Consulate

General 16 Randolph Crescent, EH3 7TT (0131 226 7711, www.irishconsulatescotland.co.uk).

US Consulate

General 3 Regent Terrace, Calton Hill, EH7 5BW (556 8315 enquiries, 01224 857097 after-hours emergencies, www.usembassy.org.uk/scotland).

Gay & lesbian

Several campaigning groups maintain offices in Edinburgh, such as Stonewall Scotland (557 3679, www.stonewallscotland.org.uk) and the Equality Network (07020 933952, www.equality-network.org). Young people should check the LGBT Youth Scotland website at www.lgbtyouth.org.uk. Among the city’s special-interest groups are the Edinburgh Gay Women’s Group, which runs a social at the Regent from 7.30pm on the third Wednesday of the month, from 8.30pm every Wednesday; there’s a comprehensive list of the others at the Lothian Gay & Lesbian Switchboard website (see below).

Edinburgh LGBT Health & Wellbeing

Centre 9 Howe Street, New Town (523 1100, www.lgbthealth.org.uk). Bus 24, 29, 36, 42. Open hours vary.
Health advice and support, along with other social events.

Lothian Gay & Lesbian Switchboard

556 4049 main line, 557 0751 lesbian line, www.lgls.co.uk. Open Main line 7.30-10pm daily. Lesbian line 7.30-10pm Mon.
Advice and support, with occasional social events.

ID

ID is not widely required in the UK, but you will need a passport or drivers’ licence (with a photograph) for changing money, cashing travellers’ cheques and so on.

Insurance

Non-nationals should arrange baggage, trip-cancellation and medical insurance before departures. Medical centres will ask for your insurance company and policy number; keep the details with you at all times.

Internet

Public internet access is abundant in Edinburgh. Many cafés and bars offer free Wi-Fi access, as do many hotels; all the reviews in our Hotels section (see Hotels in Edinburgh) include information on the variety and price of internet access offered at each property. In addition, some chain cafés such as Starbucks offer wireless access via a paid-for subscription.

However, if you’re not toting a laptop or similar, a handful of internet cafés have computers available for rent, usually by the hour.

Coffee Home

28 Crighton Place, Leith Walk (477 8336, www.coffeehome.co.uk). Bus 7, 10, 12, 14, 16, 22, 25, 49. Open 10am-10pm Mon-Sat; noon-10pm Sun.

easyInternetcafé

58 Rose Street, New Town (226 5971, www.easyinternetcafe.com). Princes Street buses. Open 7.30am-10pm daily.

West Bow Internet Café

98 West Bow, Old Town (226 5400, www.edininternetcafe.com). Bus 2, 23, 27, 41, 42. Open call for details.

Left luggage

Edinburgh Airport

344 3486, www.edinburghairport.com. Open 5.15am-10.45pm daily.
Left luggage facilities are located between the check-in area and the internationals arrivals hall.

St Andrew Square Bus Station

Waverley Station 558 3829, www.excess-baggage.com. Open 7am-11pm daily.
There are lockers in the station. The left luggage facilities are run by Excess Baggage.

Lost property

Always inform the police if you lose anything, if only to validate insurance claims. A lost passport should also be reported at once to your embassy or consulate, if relevant (see above). Below are the details of the lost property offices for items left on public transport.

Edinburgh Airport

344 3486, www.edinburghairport.com. Open 5.15am-10.45pm daily.
The lost property office is located in the international arrivals hall.

Lothian Buses

Annandale Street, Broughton (558 8858, www.lothianbuses.com). Bus 7, 10, 12, 14, 16, 22, 25, 49. Open 10am-1.30pm Mon-Fri.

Taxis

Edinburgh PoliceFettes Avenue, Stockbridge (311 3141). Bus 19, 24, 29, 37, 38, 42, 47. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
All property that has been left in a black cab, as well as in the street or in shops, gets sent here.

Waverley Station

558 3829, www.excess-baggage.com. Open 8am-5.30pm daily. Waverley’s lost property facilities are operated by Excess Baggage. For items lost in other stations or on trains, contact the individual station.

Money

Britain’s currency is the pound sterling (£). One pound equals 100 pence (p). 1p and 2p coins are copper; 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins are silver; the £1 coin is gold; the £2 coin is silver with a gold edge. The euro may be accepted in some shops in tourist areas.

Three Scottish banks – Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Clydesdale Bank – issue their own paper notes. The colours of the notes varies between the three, but they’re not far from the following schema: green £1; blue £5; brown £10; purple/pink £20; red or green £50; bold red £100.

Banks & ATMs

In general, banks are open 9am to 4pm Mon-Fri, but some remain open later. ATMs, usually situated outside banks, give 24-hour access to cash; most will also allow you to draw money on a card tied to an international network such as Visa.

There are branches of the three Scottish clearing banks throughout the city. Customers of English banks should be able to draw money from their ATMs at no charge; check with your bank.

Some English banks do maintain a limited presence in the city; the main branches are listed below.

Barclays

1 St Andrew Square, New Town (08457 555555, www.barclays.co.uk). Princes Street buses. Open 9.30am-4.30pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-12.30pm Sat.

HSBC

76 Hanover Street, New Town (08457 404404, www.hsbc.co.uk). Bus 13, 23, 27 or Princes Street buses. Open 9am-5pm Mon, Wed-Fri; 9.30am-5pm Tue.

Lloyds TSB

28 Hanover Street, New Town (0845 300 0000, www.lloydstsb.com). Bus 13, 23, 27 or Princes Street buses. Open 9am-5pm Mon, Tue; 10am-5pm Wed; 9am-7pm Thur; 9am-6pm Fri; 10am-4pm Sat.

National Westminster

8 George Street, New Town (0845 366 1965, www.natwest.com). Princes Street buses. Open 9am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 9am-5pm Wed; 10am-3pm Sat.

Bureaux de change

Bureaux de change charge fees for cashing travellers’ cheques or exchanging currency. Commission rates vary greatly; it pays to shop around. There are bureaux de change at the airport and Waverley Station; others are scattered around in areas popular with tourists.

Most banks offer currency exchange; rates are usually better than at bureaux de change. Commission is often charged for cashing travellers’ cheques in foreign currencies, but not for sterling travellers’ cheques, provided you cash them at a bank affiliated to the issuing bank. Get a list when you buy your cheques.

When changing currency or travellers’ cheques, you’ll need photo ID, such as a passport or drivers’ licence.

Lost/stolen credit cards

Report lost or stolen credit cards both to the police and the 24-hour phone lines listed below. Inform your bank by phone and in writing.

American Express 01273 696933, www.americanexpress.com.
Diners Club 0870 190 0011, www.dinersclub.co.uk.
MasterCard 0800 964767, www.mastercard.com.
Visa 0800 891725, www.visa.com.

Safety & security

Violent crime is relatively rare in central Edinburgh, but it still pays to use common sense. Keep your wallet and other valuables out of sight; and never leave bags, coats and purses unattended.

Edinburgh’s city centre is a pretty safe and civilised place, but the lairy pub culture on the Cowgate and Lothian Road can be a little unpleasant at closing time. Ill-lit parks such as the Meadows have been the scene of (infrequent) assaults down the years. Women should avoid the Leith backstreets, one of the region’s main red-light districts. Away from the centre at Edinburgh’s various peripheral housing schemes, things get a lot dicier; these areas are best avoided.

Smoking

Smoking is now banned in enclosed public spaces across Scotland, including all restaurants and pubs. The law is strictly enforced, as fines for establishments that break it are punitively high.

Telephones

Dialling codes

The area code for Edinburgh is 0131; Glasgow’s area code is 0141. To reach a UK number from abroad, dial the international access code (011 if you’re in the US) or the ‘+’ symbol on a mobile phone; then 44 for the UK; then the area code, omitting the first 0; then the seven-digit number. So to call Edinburgh Castle from the US, for example, dial 011 44 131 225 9846.

Numbers beginning 075, 077, 078 and 079 are mobile phones. Phone numbers beginning 080 are toll-free; those prefixed 084 and 087 are charged at up to 10p a minute; and numbers beginning 09 are billed at premium rates.

To call abroad from Edinburgh, dial the international access code (00) or the ‘+’ symbol, then the country code (61 for Australia, 33 for France, 1 for the US), then the local number.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones in the UK operate on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz GSM frequencies common throughout most of Europe. If you’re travelling to the UK from Europe, your phone should be compatible; if you’re travelling from the US, you’ll need a tri-band handset. Either way, you should check that your phone is enabled for international roaming, and that your service provider at home has a reciprocal arrangement with a UK provider.

Operator services

Operator 100.
Automated alarm calls *55*.
Directory enquiries 118 500.

Public phones

Public payphones take coins, credit cards or prepaid phonecards. The minimum cost is 20p. Phonecards are available from post offices and many newsagents in denominations of £2, £5, £10 and £20. Most public phones in the city centre now also have an integrated internet facility.

Time

Edinburgh operates on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Clocks move an hour forward to run on British Summer Time (BST) at 1am on the last Sunday in March, and return to GMT on the last Sunday in October.

Tourist information

The Edinburgh & Lothians Tourist Board operates the main tourist office in the city, at the east end of Princes Street. As well as distributing a wealth of information on tours and attractions, staff can book hotels and event tickets, car hire and coach trips. There’s also internet access and a bureau de change. The information point at the airport has a smaller range of services, but can help with tours and hotels. There are other centres around the Lothians; see www.edinburgh.org for details.

Edinburgh & Scotland Information Centre

Above Princes Mall, 3 Princes Street, New Town, EH2 2QP (0845 225 5121, www.edinburgh.org). Princes Street buses. Open Apr, Oct 9am-6pm Mon-Sat; 10am-6pm Sun. May, June, Sept 9am-7pm Mon-Sat; 10am-7pm Sun. July, Aug 9am-8pm Mon-Sat; 10am-8pm Sun. Nov-Mar 9am-5pm Mon-Sat; 10am-5pm Sun.

Edinburgh Airport Tourist Information

Desk Edinburgh Airport (0870 040 0007, www.edinburgh.org). Open Apr-Oct 6.30am-10.30pm daily. Nov-Mar 7am-9pm daily.

Travel advice

For up-to-date information on travel to a specific country – including the latest on safety and security, health issues, local laws and customs – contact your home country government’s department of foreign affairs. Most have websites with useful advice for would-be travellers.

Australia www.smartraveller.gov.au
Republic of Ireland http://foreignaffairs.gov.ie
Canada www.voyage.gc.ca
UK www.fco.gov.uk/travel
New Zealand www.safetravel.govt.nz
USA www.state.gov/travel

Visas & immigration

EU citizens do not require a visa to visit the UK; citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand can also enter with only a passport for tourist visits of up to six months as long as they can show they can support themselves during their visit and plan to return. Go online to www.ukvisas.gov.uk to check your visa status well before you travel, or contact the British embassy, consulate or high commission in your own country. You can arrange visas online at www.fco.gov.uk.

Home Office Immigration & Nationality Bureau

Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon, CR9 1AT (0870 606 7766 enquiries, 0870 241 0645 applications, www.homeoffice.gov.uk).

More travel information

Getting to Edinburgh
Getting around Edinburgh
When to go to Edinburgh

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