We are often asked, “What is the best/cheapest way to get around whilst we are in Edinburgh on a CELTS Language Week?”. Other than the obvious – walking is the cheapest (!) – our response is always that we recommend using Lothian Buses whilst in Edinburgh. This post is all about different ways to purchase tickets for Lothian Buses and we would recommend both reading this and listening to episode 002 of our CELTS Language Weeks podcast: “Transport” (see the podcast tab on this website) to obtain an understanding of the different options available to you and your group.

Lothian buses on Princes Street, Edinburgh
Lothian buses, Princes Street, Edinburgh

Different tickets are available to purchase: single tickets, day tickets and weekly tickets are the most common. A single ticket, for a single journey, currently costs £1.80 (May 2021) and can be purchased on the bus. You can pay with cash, but be sure to have the exact money as the driver will not give you change. Alternatively, you can use a contactless card to purchase your ticket.

Day tickets can be purchased on the bus, from a Lothian travel shop, via us at CoolScot Tours, or using Lothian Buses’ app which you would need to download to your smartphone. A day ticket currently costs £4.50 on the bus or from a Lothian travel shop and can be used for unlimited journeys between 6am and midnight.

Many groups use day ticket scratchcards.

You simply scratch off the year, month and day and then show your ticket to the driver when you board the bus. Keep your ticket and reuse it as often as you wish during the day. The pictures above show an unused scratchcard and one that has been used on 11th May 2019.

If you want to use a weekly ticket, then you will need a Ridacard. These have to be purchased in advance from a Lothian Buses travel shop and there is a fair amount of admin involved if you are trying to arrange these for your school group. I strongly suggest listening to episode two of our podcast to understand more.

Lothian Buses Ridacard
Example of Lothian Buses’ Ridacard

We recommend using the Lothian Buses app, downloadable under the name “Transport for Edinburgh” (TfE), to help you get around and use Lothian Buses whilst in Edinburgh.

Screenshot of Transport for Edinburgh app
Download screen of Transport for Edinburgh app

The app can be downloaded whilst in your own country, but only works once you are in Edinburgh. It will help you to plan your route, even showing the route to walk from, for example, a host family to the nearest bus stop to get the quickest bus journey into the city centre. It will also show you how long you will have to wait for the next bus to arrive, when you are waiting at the bus stop.

Transport for Edinburgh app screenshot
TfE app screenshot

There is a button to press on the app for “m-tickets”, as you will see in the image above. When you press that it will ask you to download their M-Ticket app (see image below).

Screenshot of Transport for Edinburgh m-tickets
TfE m-tickets screenshot

The M-Ticket app will allow you to purchase electronic tickets which you then need to activate before use. Take care that you only activate an m-ticket on the day you want to use it. As soon as you activate it (before you get on the bus), a day m-ticket will then work for that day only. We must emphasise this: only activate it on the day you want to use it!

Transport for Edinburgh M-Tickets app download page
TfE M-Tickets app download page

Once you have downloaded the M-Tickets app, you will see all the different ticket types available:

Ticket options on TfE M-Tickets app
Ticket options on TfE M-Tickets app

Take note: the app only allows you to buy tickets when you are in the UK. In the past, some students have downloaded the app whilst still in their home country and tried to let their parents pre-purchase their bus tickets for when they would be in Edinburgh. It does not allow this.

M-tickets are the cheapest way of purchasing 5 x day tickets. However, if you are using a credit or debit card from a bank in your own country, your bank will apply an exchange rate and possibly a currency conversion charge, which will have the effect of increasing these prices to you.

Finally, to stop a bus when you are standing at a bus stop, simply put your hand out into the road, at somewhere between a 45 and 90 degree angle and the driver should stop for you (unless the bus is full).

Enjoy using Lothian Buses when you are in Edinburgh!

Using Lothian Buses in Edinburgh

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