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American Student in Scotland

Any tips/advice for an American college student studying in Edinburgh for a year? Looking for cultural tips, do's/don'ts, safety, things to make sure to see and do, etc.? Thanks for any advice offered!

Posted by
2529 posts

Have you bounced around this website for various tips, articles, images, etc. tied to Edinburgh and Scotland generally?

Posted by
20336 posts

Well, my brother studied a year at St Andrews 25 years ago, and he didn't even play golf. He had no issues, and a great experience, a masters degree and a long distance relationship with an English girl. Maybe learn to eat haggis. And brush up on some Robby Burns poems. "To A Louse (On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, In Church)" is my favorite, and will help getting accustomed to the local dialect.

Posted by
5366 posts

Irn Bru, Haggis and The Hanging Bat pub

Safety? Common sense, do what you do at home. Depending on where you currently live Edinburgh is likely to be safer although I'd steer clear of Muirhouse.

Posted by
33141 posts

Safety - don't accept drinks from strangers, know when to stop, and don't use drugs.

Posted by
2649 posts

Where are you studying,i actually work for Edinburgh University, great place to study and Edniburgh one of the best cities to study in.

Posted by
5006 posts

Travel, travel, travel! If I were going to be in your situation, I'd plan to spend as much time traveling as possible. Of course you have to attend classes, study, and meet other student requirements, but the rest of your time will be an opportunity of a lifetime. You'll probably learn more from traveling than your regular studies. Some of your travel can be with new friends, independently, or with tour groups. Rick Steves' son Andy has a tour company set up for weekend trips for college students. Can't remember the web site so just google it and see it that might be a possibility. With regard to safety you will probably be safer than in most U.S. cities. Just maintain a high degree of situational awareness about things going on around you. Enjoy!

Posted by
1658 posts

Try Tunnock's Caramel Wafers and Tea Cakes.

Learn to put an interested face on when the poetry of Rabbie Burns is
performed, it can be hard going.


Burns is great. You must visit the museum in Ayr.

I'd add learn the money, especially the notes. Safety, find out on arrival by asking and listening. And get a student rail card.

Posted by
2 posts


I spent a semester in Glasgow in 2016. There is a lot to do and see both in the city of Edinburgh and Scotland.

In this post I will share with you some things that I suggest to do while in Edinburgh.

The first thing I would say is the Royal Mile. I advice starting in the morning at Edinburgh Castle (if you plan to visit it often or many other castles I advice you by a Scottish Heritage Pass after 4 visits anywhere it pays for itself) as the place is crowded almost year round. Then I would walk down the Mile and take in all the interesting things like the heart where the four counties meet if you spit on it you will have luck with love, it is next to a church, the sign that says here the End of the World, and other interesting things on the way to the bottom. Once you have gawked at the Queen's Scottish home, I would advice that you climb Arthur's Seat. There is two ways to do this and each one is amazing but one has steps and the other is more like a regular hill climb.

After finishing the Mile End and if you like Harry Potter, I advice going to the Elephant House and having a cup of tea with a pastry as it is the cafe where Harry Potter started. Then I would say go check out AHAHAHA Joke and Novelties that Zonko's shop was enspired by. Really just enjoy the beautiful city and the interesting archeteture in the area.

Now the Square next to the Joke shop, is a famous place where people used to be hung. They have good food and occasionally they also have markets. Once done there you could go enjoy the Prince Street Guardens. They are beautiful and believe it or not it used to be a man made mote.

If you like history, the National Museum of Scotland is free and has amazing exhibits. It is big enough that you could visit it several times and never get bored. If your into medicine then there is a Surgeon's Hall Museum. There are many more museums but I didn't get to them and can't vouch for them. But from what I hear they are all amazing.

If you are into tea, there are many great places to have it in the city. The one that I recommend is Eteaket. It was a marvelous place to have afternoon tea.

If you are interested in some tours, I say Mary King's Close is interesting and it is very educational. There are many great ghost walks as well. I would suggest the Cadies & Witchery Tours' Clapperton Tours. It was amazing and it is hilarious. I really enjoyed the tour and learned more about the closes than I had before. Also I found several interesting places to check out.

Also there is another tour group that I highly recommend called Student Tours Scotland. They are based in Glasgow and run most weekends. They do tours all over Scotland including Edinburgh. I found it to be affordable and an absolute blast. I recommend them to anyone that is going to Scotland and is on a budget.

Posted by
2 posts


There are many other places then Edinburgh to check out.

Glasgow is the first place that I recommend. There is a Glasgow Cathedral which is amazing because it survived the reformation of the churches when many others were destroyed. Then I advice the Provand's Lordships and the garden behind it. Then there is the park right behind that which has an interesting tale of it's own. You then walk through the University of Strathclyde campus to check out the metal Stone Circle and across to the Giant Bobby-Pin that was erected in the spot of a Maternity Hospital. I advice checking out Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (they cycle the art every month or so), the Riverside Museum, People's Palace, and the Lighthouse. I also suggest having tea at the Willow Tea Rooms.

You can get most places in Scotland by way of public transport and they you can walk to everywhere you want to go. But there are many places that I would also suggest that you have a car for because they are a long walk otherwise or the transport doesn't run on Sunday. But if you can afford it I really do advice going with Student Tours Scotland.

If you get a chance I say go up to Orkney and Shetland. You should schedule at least a week for both. My advice is either go with a tour group, during the high season, or have a car. Before the high season there are not a lot of buses or tourist places that are open. But both island chains are amazing. I especially advice Shetland during Puffin season, they are the cutest. I also advice checking out the Burra Bears.

Aberdeen is a beautiful city worth a visit as you either come or go to Shetland/Orkney.

Ilse of Skye is another place I definitely would suggest you visit and having a car for. There is many places to see there and it feels like you don't have time to see it all. Portree is gorgeous and very picturesque. I also suggest checking out the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, Fairy Pools, Fairy Bridge, and Dunvegan Castle and Gardens.

Inverness is a very nice city with amazing museums, a great second hand book store that is enormous, and a tartan museum and shop that are just amazing.

St. Andrew is amazing. I suggest checking out the castle and cathedral ruins. Just look at the cafe where Kate met William, because it is very expensive place to eat. Check out the cat statue and ask a local about it. Walk around, and if you are there on a Sunday ask someone about the students dress for church.

Dundee is a marvels place which with many amazing statues that are worth checking out.

I suggest biking on the Isle of Cumbrae at least once and the hill walk. Also while you bike you touching each of the post around the island for good luck.

If you get the chance check out the Isle of Bute. There is a ton to see and do, especially the unique public toilet in Rothesay. I would also advice the castle. My advice is if you don't do a tour then take a car or bike and check out the place.

Stirling is amazing place. I suggest visiting the castle, crossing a famous bridge and climbing the Wallace Momorial.

Stonehaven is another place to check out a castle, a beautiful war memorial (spring time is gorgeous), and they have a place with some of the best fish and chips I have ever had.

Oban is a great place to check out their distillery, a famous mythological stone, and a great view from the top of a hill. Also they have a great chocolate shop.

If you can go to Glencoe and walk the three sisters. It is absolutely amazing place.

In Perth, I would advice starting with a hill walk, check out the ruins of the newest castle in Scotland built by the Germans, walk the art path, and finish in the city.

I suggest checking out the Trossachs, Loch Katrine, and Loch Lomond to take a hike or be out on the water.

The Isle of Arran is a beautiful place to try whisky, check out a castle, hike or many other things.

I really could go on if you are interested.

Posted by
7575 posts

Expect more than a little rain, throughout the year. Bring a raincoat and umbrella (or get them over there, where they're designed to withstand Scottish weather).

Irn Bru is a local, neon-orange soda pop, more popular there than Coke, with a somewhat bubble gum flavor. Great for washing down a sandwich from Oink.

Oink (with 2 locations last I knew, the original near the eastern end of the Royal Mile, and a second in the Grassmarket area just south of the western end of the Royal Mile) is a great pulled-pork restaurant, unless you're a vegetarian (and maybe even if you are).

Be sure to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, moored outside a shopping mall at the east end of town. Queen Elizabeth II used it to cover the world by sea at one time, but it was retired several years ago, along with its on-board Rolls Royce.

In August, be sure to plan on some fun at the Edinburgh Festival and Festival Fringe. I bet your fellow students can clue you in on these annual events.

Posted by
5 posts

Our daughter studied at Strathclyde in Glasgow. Check out Student Tours Scotland at as she enjoyed their trips and the cost was fairly reasonable for an uni student.

If you are traveling around to historical sights, you may want to consider a Scottish Heritage pass.

Check with your uni about other opportunities.

Our daughter used the rail system and AirBnBs and traveled around Scotland.

Posted by
2649 posts

the OP has done one post 3 months ago, has now probably forgot they have ever joined Rick Steves or posted on the forum