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You can choose whether to arrive in Edinburgh by train, plane, car or coach.
Many direct scheduled flights from major airports, both in the UK and overseas, make getting to Edinburgh simple. Major operators (to/from numerous European destinations) include easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2 and FlyBe. Lufthansa operates direct flights to/from Frankfurt; KLM serve Amsterdam and Air France fly to Paris CDG. Brussels Airlines and BMI Regional both fly to Brussels. Turkish Airlines flies to Istanbul, with connections to many Middle East destinations. British Airways are the largest operator on the London Heathrow route (using the new Heathrow Terminal 5). Virgin Atlantic is starting from London Heathrow in 2013. Air Canada Rouge and Air Transat fly to/from Toronto. New York is served by United (to/from Newark Airport) and Delta (to/from JFK).
Edinburgh International Airport (EDI) is is 12km (8 miles) west of the city centre and is easy to reach thanks to regular Airlink Coach (bus 100) service and good taxi services. It takes about 20 minutes to get from the city centre to the airport, noticeably more during rush hour. Edinburgh is about an hour’s flight from London and forty flights a day serve this route. Many more international flights arrive at Glasgow International, about 60 km to the west of Edinburgh.
If you are heading for the city centre (including Murrayfield Stadium, Haymarket, the West End, Princes Street or Waverley Rail Station) the simplest and cheapest way is to catch the Airlink Coach (bus number 100) from right outside the arrivals door. An open return is £6, a single £3.50. Because Edinburgh has a very effective system of bus lanes (which taxis also use), journeys are pretty fast even at busy times. Even if you want to get to somewhere in the centre that's not so handy for the bus route, it will usually be cheaper to take the bus but pick up a taxi at the Haymarket or Waverley rail stations. There are some diversions in place in the city centre due to construction work on the city's new tram line (which is now expected to open in 2014). Another possibility is to take bus 35 from the Airport (fare £1.40, single journey, £3.50 for a day ticket to all Lothian buses; no change given) - this is slower than the Airlink coach but does go directly to Lauriston Place and the Royal Mile.
Taking a taxi makes sense if there are three or four of you, or you want to get to somewhere around the edges of the city that's more awkward to reach by bus. Typically, it will cost around £20 to most areas of the city centre; don't expect the taxi to be significantly faster than the 100 bus. To catch a taxi, just walk out of the terminal, turn left and walk up to the taxi rank. The taxis are all licensed and very well organized so you won't get ripped off and the airport is very strict on who can pick passengers up. If the driver is helpful and friendly, then a tip between 10-15 per cent of the fare is reasonable. However, don’t feel pressured into leaving a tip if the driver is rude or grumpy. Don’t attempt to get into a taxi that is not licensed to pick up people from the airport. Edinburgh taxis are mostly London hackney-type vehicles, but there are a few people-carriers with a bit more space which may be needed if you are traveling with a lot of cases. Ask the taxi dispatcher if one is available. It costs the same amount and gives you more room. If you pre-book a return leg ask the taxi dispatcher for a discount.
If you need a chauffeur-driven luxury car, try a Google search on chauffeur driven cars in the Edinburgh area. Chauffeur Drive companies offer business & leisure travellers with airport transfers, sight seeing tours and forward travel across Scotland.
Finally, if you are flying into Edinburgh but want to get to Glasgow, Stirling, Perth, Inverness, Dundee or Aberdeen, you can take either the Airlink 100 bus or a taxi to Haymarket Rail Station or Waverley Station. Trains for these places start from Waverley and call at Haymarket about three minutes later. From 2014, a new tramway will link the airport with the city centre.
If you’d prefer to travel by bus, Edinburgh is well placed on the Scottish motorway network, and it’s a swift way to get to the city. Edinburgh is linked by bus to all other major UK cities and to many smaller Scottish destinations. Major bus companies include National Express (08705 80 80 80), Mega Bus (01738 639 095), Scottish Citylink (08705 50 50 50) and Stagecoach (0871 200 22 33). Edinburgh's Bus Station is located off St Andrew's Square, in the city centre.
Efficient rail links throughout Great Britain make the train a great way to get here. The city's main station is Edinburgh Waverley. East Coast (formerly National Express and GNER) operate one of the fastest intercity railways in the UK, with a journey time of just 4 hours between Edinburgh (Waverley) and London (King's Cross). ScotRail operate an overnight service, the Caledonian Sleeper, between London (Euston) and Edinburgh 6 nights a week. There are also rail links to York, Newcastle, Inverness and Aberdeen (all about 2 hours train trip), and Glasgow is just 50 minutes. Trains to Glasgow Queen Street leave Waverley station every 15 minutes. See www.scotrail.co.uk or www.eastcoast.co.uk
Train travellers can buy tickets up to 12 weeks in advance of travel. Advanced purchase tickets are usually much cheaper than those bought on the day of travel. It is a good idea to book online (through either of the websites mentioned above) and then collect your tickets from a ticket machine at any main station in Great Britain. A credit or debit card will be needed; it is possible to book from outside the UK. Note when booking online to ensure that the station you select is Edinburgh Waverley (the main station) - unless you particularly want to go to Edinburgh Haymarket or Edinburgh Park.
Edinburgh is 3 hours from Inverness, just over 2 hours from Aberdeen, 5 hours from Birmingham, 4+ hours from Manchester and York and 2+ hours from Newcastle. Note that the A1 road between Newcastle and Edinburgh is not dual-carriageway for its entire distance (and can be quite slow at times). If driving from North West England, note that the A7 road between Carlisle and Edinburgh is rather slow and twisty in sections; the M6 then A74(M) motorway north from Carlisle is a much faster option (followed by the A702 road from Abington to Edinburgh).
From Continental Europe: Unfortunately, there is no longer any direct passenger/car ferry service between Scotland and continental Europe. The overnight ferry between Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Rosyth (near Edinburgh) was discontinued in 2010. For travellers from the Netherlands or Germany, there is the DFDS ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle. It is less than 3 hours by car from the ferryport at North Shields (near Newcastle) to Edinburgh. A further option is the P&O Ferries services from Rotterdam or Zeebrugge to Hull in England, followed by a 250 mile drive to Edinburgh.
From Ireland: There are ferries from Belfast (Stena Line) and Larne (P&O Ferries) to Cairnryan in South West Scotland. This is a cheap way to add a trip to Scotland onto your visit to Ireland (or visa versa). A ferry ride is usually much less expensive than flying and takes only 2-3 hours, depending upon which ship you book. There is an economical option for foot travellers: a combination ticket for a ferry ride from Belfast to Stranraer including a bus connection from Cairnryan to Edinburgh city centre (roundtrip available). This is a great way to see the Irish and Scottish coastlines and the Scottish countryside through the large picture window from your bus seat. Stena Line also offer a rail and sail option, with a bus connection between Cairnryan and Ayr station. Stena Line and P&O also offer tickets for those with cars. The ships are quite large and comfortable. There's a cafeteria style food service on board, along with a couple of snack stands. Seating is open and travellers can choose from lounge seats or tables with chairs. Wireless internet is available on both the ship and the bus.