I love Edinburgh and travel there quite often in normal times. But these are not normal times, so on this recent visit, I knew things would be a little different from my usual travels in the Scottish capital. Masks are still mandatory in indoor settings and social distancing rules still apply in Scotland, but despite all that, there were plenty of people around when I visited. COVID restrictions are currently due to be lifted in Scotland on August 9, meaning face masks and social distancing would no longer be a legal requirement, though they may still be advised, so do check the latest guidance before traveling. Based on my recent visit, here’s what it’s like to travel in Edinburgh right now.
Train Travel Is Well Organized And Feels Safe
I was a little apprehensive about getting a train for the first time in months and traveling all the way up to Edinburgh, but I needn’t have worried. The trains were running as normal and were on time. Everyone I saw on the train was wearing a mask and an announcement regularly tells passengers to sit in their designated seats. You can buy sandwiches and snacks at the catering point, as long as you wear your mask to do so. All in all, it was a well-organized and pleasant experience. You can travel freely within the UK, but you will have to prove your COVID status and may have to quarantine on arrival if traveling from abroad.
Hotels Are Booked Up And Feel Quiet At The Same Time
Staying in a hotel right now is a little bit weird. It’s more challenging than ever to get a room, as everyone staycations and hotels and rentals are booked up for weeks in advance. However, when we got to our hotel, it felt eerily quiet. This was perhaps one of the strangest parts of the experience of traveling during the pandemic. The lobby was always deserted, except for a couple of mask-wearing staff members. The restaurant had a handful of diners seated far away from each other. We never saw anyone else in the corridors or the lifts. I’m not sure if some of this is down to more people ordering room service and feeling more comfortable staying in their rooms more, or if it was that everyone prefers to be out in the city and not in the hotel. The only area of the hotel I saw groups of people was in the spa. Although guests are allocated a half an hour slot to enjoy the spa facilities, it was clear that not everyone was sticking to this and people lingered in the sauna and around the pool.
You Need Reservations For Museums
This is something we didn’t plan before we arrived and really should have. We’d booked onto a couple of other activities, but I’m so used to just walking into museums that I didn’t consider we’d have to book a time slot until we stood outside the gallery. As soon as I saw the guard on the door turning people away, I realized the error. Everything has to be booked in advance, and that means everything. The guard was very helpful and urged us to check online for tickets, but unfortunately, it was booked up for days in advance. If there’s anything you want to see or do while you’re in Edinburgh right now, don’t leave it to chance, book a ticket. We did book onto a whisky tasting experience before we arrived, which was very well run. When we arrived, someone did come in without a ticket and was able to buy one for later that same day, but be aware that if you chance it like this, you might not get in.
Most Restaurants Are Open
While it absolutely is not possible to get into a museum or gallery if you haven’t booked, you might be able to manage to walk in and get a table at a restaurant. We had booked our tables at restaurants ahead of our journey, and that’s still the safest way to do it, but many of the pubs in Edinburgh had space for walk-ins. It depends on the kind of place you want to eat in. We ate at Wedgwood, and had an amazing three-course meal with wine. Wedgwood is quite small and cozy, an intimate restaurant, but everyone wears a mask unless seated, and I felt all measures had been taken to ensure safety. You absolutely do need to book ahead here though, as the intimate nature of the restaurant means space is at a premium. We also ate at Wahaca. This is a large chain Mexican restaurant. We had booked a table, but I think you could chance it here, as it’s very spacious inside. Each table has a Perspex screen dividing you from the next table, which added another level of safety. And the food was so good, we ordered way too much! Most cafes were taking walk-ins, so no need to book for lunch, unless you want to go somewhere particular. If you want to eat somewhere specific or at a certain kind of eatery, book your table, but if you don’t mind where you eat, you’ll find somewhere with a spare table.
Bars Require A Check In With The Scottish NHS App
This was something we hadn’t considered until we stood in the doorway of a bar, waiting to be seated, and the staff member asked us to check in with the test and trace app. We’re from England and only had the English app on our phones. We had to quickly download the Scottish app and check in before we could be seated. If we’d thought about it before, we should have downloaded the app when we first arrived in Edinburgh. Once in, we were shown to a table and given a drinks menus. Everything is table service in Scotland, so you stay seated and the waiters come to you. Like in the restaurants, you wear a mask until you’re sitting at your table.
The Streets Are As Busy As Always
I was quite surprised to see so many people in Edinburgh. It’s always a busy city, with tourists arriving from all over the world, but I did think it would be quieter during a pandemic. It wasn’t. The main streets of The Royal Mile and Princes Street were as busy as I’ve ever seen them and there appeared to be lots of tourists around. This is great for the city, but I did feel a little nervous at times. It wasn’t possible to socially distance on Princes Street. The pavements are narrow and the roads are busy with cars, buses, and trams. If you are anxious about COVID while traveling, I’d suggest wearing your mask on busy streets like this. I did wear mine outside while navigating my way along Princes Street, simply because there were so many people coming out of the train station and waiting at bus stops, it felt too crowded not to. It was good to see the city bustling like old times, but I still felt a little caution was needed.