Drive into any city centre in the UK and you will be driving into a network of car-related regulations and restrictions administered by a revenue-hungry local council.  The good news is that Edinburgh is not the worst place for a car-driving short-stay visitor to end up (London, I’m looking at you); the not-so-good news is that bringing your vehicle could potentially add a significant cost factor to your holiday.

For an easy visual reference, have a look at Edinburgh-Flats.com’s Edinburgh Parking Guide. It’s an online map we put together for the benefit of all visitors to the city, because we know what it’s like driving into the unknown…then trying to find a parking space.

On-Street Parking in Edinburgh

An Edinburgh parking meter: pay by coins or with a mobile phone.

An Edinburgh parking meter: pay by coins or with a mobile phone.

The vast majority of accommodation in Edinburgh – and this goes for private property as well as short-term holiday rentals – has on-street parking only.  Long term residents living in controlled zones are required to purchase parking permits specific to their vehicle/s and linked to their home address; watch out for spaces marked PERMIT HOLDERS ONLY – the designated zone (1A, N5, S1 etc) will be displayed on street signs in the vicinity – as without displaying a valid permit you are not allowed to park in these spaces at any time.

The specification ‘Metered Parking’ on a property listing indicates that you will have the option of Pay & Display parking for your vehicle.  The cost of metered parking varies from £1.00 to £2.80 per hour according to location; as you would expect, the more central you are, the more expensive the parking (and the fewer spaces there are likely to be).  Broadly speaking the Central Controlled Zone covers the West End, Old Town, New Town, and Southside up to the Meadows.  In these areas you will need to pay to park between the hours of 08:30 and 18:30 Monday to Saturday.

Watch out for Maximum Stay periods (usually 4 hours in central zones) and periods of No Return (once your time is up, you have to leave, and you are not allowed to return within a set period).

As you move further away from the city centre the regulations relax…slightly.  In the areas of Dean, Stockbridge, Comely Bank, Craigleith, Inverleith, Broughton, Sciennes, Marchmont, Morningside, and Dalry (the Peripheral Parking Zone and Outer Zone) you will have to pay to park between 08:30 and 17:30 Monday to FridayThis page on the City of Edinburgh Council’s website tells you how to pay and indeed how to park – be aware of dangers such as trying to squeeze into the last space on the street and leaving your rear bumper hanging over double yellow lines; you are liable find yourself facing a penalty for such infractions.

If you find yourself standing in front of a meter with only a single twenty pence piece in your pocket, don’t panic: you have the option to pay for parking using your mobile phone.  The scheme is called RingGo  and you will find instructions on the parking meters themselves.

Edinburgh-Flats.com’s Tip for Weekenders

Free on the weekend!

Free on the weekend!

You can effectively park for very little cost in some of the above areas if you are coming to Edinburgh for a weekend.

If you park your vehicle in the Peripheral/Outer Parking Zone on a Friday afternoon (i.e., where there are no restrictions on Saturday or Sunday parking), for only a couple of pounds you will have your space until the following Monday morning.

Long Stay Options

Edinburgh has the advantage of being fairly compact with a wealth of five star visitor attractions all within easy walking distance of each other; Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is of course only one (Royal) mile on foot, and that’s including stop-offs at St.Giles Cathedral, the Museum of Childhood, and several fudge shops along the way.  Thus, even if you are coming to Edinburgh by car, once here you will probably be able to manage without it, and to this end all our property listings specify distance to the nearest long stay car park.  Check out this map of Edinburgh car parks and street parking zones with detailed tariffs to help you weigh up your options.  Pay close attention to opening times, Bank Holiday closures, and of course rates, which vary immensely: what you pay in one place for 24 hours’ parking could conceivably be double the rate charged at another location.

Disabled Parking

Disabled drivers (Blue Badge holders) can park at no cost in public parking spaces and designated Disabled bays.  The City of Edinburgh Council’s website has a map specifically designed to help you find a disabled parking bay.  Contact Edinburgh-flats.com direct for assistance in sourcing accessible self-catering accommodation and for advice on disabled parking provision and availability within the city.

Park & Ride

An eco-conscious and wallet-friendly innovation designed to reduce daily commuter traffic into Edinburgh, thereby cutting traffic congestion, pollution, and reducing pressure on city centre parking.  The provision of free car parking in outlying areas (currently Ingliston, Wallyford, Straiton, Sheriffhall, Newcraighall, Hermiston and Ferrytoll) can potentially be tweaked to suit the needs of short-stay holiday makers driving into the city.  Wallyford, Sherrifhall and Ferrytoll all permit a stay of up to 7 days while the usual maximum stay (24hrs) at Hermiston is negotiable in advance.  Have a look at this Park & Ride map to check which option would best suit you.

So… is there such a thing as free parking within Edinburgh?

This is a good sign.  It indicates where parking regulations end.

This is a good sign. It indicates where parking regulations end.

Actually, yes: short stay visitors booking through Edinburgh-flats.com do have a number of options.  If you know in advance that a car is imperative to your trip, why not consider booking accommodation that offers free on-street parking in the immediate vicinity?  Edinburgh-flats.com lists several properties located just beyond the boundaries of controlled zones where – as long as you keep out of Loading Only bays, and off the red and yellow lines – parking is unrestricted at any time.  Other, more centrally located properties (particularly those in new developments) have the advantage of free private parking, some of them covered/secure, and/or allocated to your selected accommodation, which saves competing for a space when you return to your apartment at the end of rush hour.  Each property listing on Edinburgh-Flats.com identifies parking options in the immediate vicinity and states whether free parking is available; our staff are always happy to advise on individual properties, just email or click on our Ask a Local chat option.

Permit Holders Only’ – The ‘Small’ Print

They ain't kidding, either.

They ain’t kidding, either.

Residents’ permits are in effect between the hours of 08:30 – 17:30 Monday – Friday.  Parking controls do not operate on New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Ensure you are parked in a resident’s parking place or shared use place. Permit holders cannot park in pay and display places between 09:00 – 17:30 unless a valid ticket machine voucher is displayed.

Edinburgh-flats.com’s Tip for Days Out of Town…

If you are going to be based in city centre accommodation but still fancy the odd road trip into the wild Lothians, why not consider hiring a car for a day or two?  There are various options close to the city centre including Enterprise and Hertz.  Alternatively, The City Car Club offers access to a range of vehicles citywide and you won’t have to pay parking fees – you pick up and return to a designated City Car Club parking space.  Rates for daily hire are reasonable although you will have to pay an additional membership fee. 

Special Circumstances

…City centre parking is not static, and it was recently announced that parking costs will rise in the April 2013 budget.  Edinburgh-flats.com endeavours to keep all our tourist information current; please check back for updates, and in the meantime remember to double check cost per hour and maximum stay period on meters and advisory notices in the vicinity as and when you park.                                                                                                

…Temporary pedestrianisation of certain main streets takes place during peak periods such as Hogmanay and the Edinburgh Festival and on occasion for special events (rugby matches, marathon weekend, etc).  If you are coming by car during such a time, Edinburgh-flats.com strongly advises that you plan your route to your accommodation in advance.

…The tramworks are ongoing in Edinburgh city centre and there are often smaller scale roadworks popping up here and there with ensuing traffic diversions, and the possibility of reduced access to or suspension of normal on-street parking.

…We can tell you things your SatNav can’t.  We also check multiple travel and transport sources daily, for any information that may benefit our guests.  Follow @edinburgh-flats on Twitter or make use of our Live Chat facility Ask A Local for up-to-the-minute advice on any factors that may affect your journey to or from the city, or email info@edinburgh-flats.com to discuss your specific property and parking needs.

…In the meantime, we find this real-time map of city centre parking availability and traffic disruption a really useful resource, courtesy of the City of Edinburgh Council.

For more information about parking in the area where you are staying, check out our Parking Guide Edinburgh – Area by Area.

A Final Word on Parking in Edinburgh

These signs are mounted in the dead of night, by naughty pixies.

These signs are mounted in the dead of night, by naughty pixies.

…Don’t do it.  (If you don’t have to, I mean.)  Edinburgh is a city best experienced on foot, for its winding Old Town lanes, world-renowned walking tours (spooky, literary or pub), and all the unique areas that are inaccessible by car (much of the Royal Mile is permanently pedestrianised, as is Rose Street).  Except for disabled drivers, there is no free parking at any of the major city centre attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland and Holyrood Palace; moreover, even where Pay & Display spaces are available nearby, capacity is limited.  For visitors with mobility issues, or with little legs that tire easily (my mum, for example), Edinburgh buses are frequent and reliable, and a £3.50 Daysaver ticket buys one adult unlimited all-day travel.  (Have a look at Lothian Buses’ Fares & Tickets page for details of extended/multi-day travel options.)  Black cabs (taxis licensed by the city council) might not be cheap but they are certainly plentiful, and can be hailed in the street, hired at designated taxi ranks throughout the city centre, or booked in advance to take you to or from your accommodation.