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Festival time management

In an ideal world, you'd always have enough time between shows to chat to your friends, have a beer or coffee, and enjoy the whole experience without rushing.

In reality, the two shows across the whole Festival which you most want to see always turn out to clash - and you'll almost certainly have at least one episode of high-pressure hightailing in your attempts to fit it all in.

How long's a show?

Edinburgh clock towerWhile shows at the International Festival are generally full-length, taking up the solid part of an evening, at the Fringe you may be surprised by how little time you get for your money. The "standard" length of a Fringe show is just one hour these days - and the other festivals, such as the Book Festival and the Jazz and Blues, increasingly follow suit.

There are numerous exceptions, though, so do always check. Show lengths are indicated in the programmes, in one of two ways: either the running time is listed in brackets, so "18:00 (2hr)" is a two-hour show starting at 6pm; or the finishing time is shown instead, as "18:00 (20:00)".

Make allowance too for the likelihood of over-running, especially at the Fringe. With an average performance space hosting six to ten shows each day, small delays getting audiences in can stack up over time - just as airlines run further and further behind schedule as the day wears on. It's best to assume you'll be out up to 15 minutes after the advertised end time; while longer delays are entirely possible, you'd be unlucky to suffer one at the exact moment you need to rush to another show.

Booking events back-to-back is really not a good idea, even if they seem to be in the same place. Most venues have more than one performance space, and there's every possibility your first show will run late while your second starts on time in another room.

Travel time

Be generous, too, in the time you allow to get across the city if you're transferring from one venue to another. Parts of Edinburgh get very crowded - and parts are very hilly, too, so a simple assessment of the distance is likely to under-estimate the time you'll need.

If you know you're going to be in a rush, you can spare yourself a bit of time by clever route planning. Divert away from the Royal Mile or the east end of Princes Street, where the crowds can be almost impossible to fight through; and in the evenings, avoid George IV Bridge and the Mound, which are packed with crowds on their way to the Tattoo. It's worth investing in a proper street map, which will point the way to an alternative route better than the freebie guide in the back of the Fringe programme.

Cut it too fine?

Arriving late
"If it does all go wrong, you'll be let in late to almost all Fringe events... the other Festivals can be rather more formal"
If it does all go wrong, you'll be let in late to most Fringe events (though there are exceptions, so don't bank on it), and between sets at the Jazz and Blues Festival. If it's a comedy show you can expect a bit of ribbing from on-stage, but otherwise there's little drama.

The other festivals can be rather more formal, though, and the Book Festival in particular doesn't admit latecomers at all. Take extra care if you're pushing your luck away from the Fringe - it may be wise to take an aisle seat at the previous show, so you can nip out if you're running close to your deadline.

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