Convenient though the Fringe box office may be, there are still times when it's best to go directly to the venue hosting the show you're planning to see. For smaller venues which aren't directly linked to the central box office system, it's possible for the Fringe to sell out of its allocation even though venue still has some last-minute tickets available. Alternatively, it might simply be more convenient for you to visit the venue box office than to get to the city-centre Fringe outlets.
Going to the venue box office in person may be the only way to get a last-minute ticket - but prepare yourself for a potentially frustrating experience. On a Saturday evening, the queue at some popular venues can reach the length of a block. But with a little inside knowledge, you can dodge the worst of the queues, and even save a bit of shoe-leather into the bargain.
- First of all, several of the major venues have arrangements to sell each other's tickets - so you may only need to queue once, even if you're seeing shows in more than one venue. The computer systems are all linked, so you have just the same chance of getting a ticket whichever box office you go to. The biggest venue chains - Assembly, Pleasance, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly - can all sell each other's tickets.
- Secondly, the big venues all have more than one site: the Pleasance, for example, has a satellite at Pleasance Dome, including its own box office. Once again, the computer systems at these sites are all linked, so you can buy your tickets from whichever one you happen to be near. What's more, the box offices at the satellites are invariably much quieter than the ones at the main venues - so with a bit of strategic planning you can skip the queues altogether.
- And finally - it may sound obvious, but before you join a long queue, check to make sure that the ticket you want is available. All the major venues have "sold out" blackboards somewhere near the box office. If your show is on the board, there really are no tickets left - there's no point in optimistically joining the queue anyway. Your only remaining hope is to hang around the venue near to the start time and see whether anyone has a spare ticket to sell (a practice which is broadly tolerated, as long as there's no profit involved.)
Online or by phone
If you don't want to traipse around the box offices, the online or telephone options may well be for you. You have exactly the same chance of getting a ticket online or by phone as you do if you go to the venue.
The experience of calling venue box offices can be mixed: some work very well indeed, while others are, frankly, inadequate. Be prepared to wait on hold or choose your moment carefully (mornings are usually best). By contrast, all the major venues have efficient online ticketing sites, though some work better than others from a smartphone. Whichever way you book, you'll need to pay a per-order booking fee set by the venue.
Picking up your tickets is simplicity itself - just arrive at the venue a few minutes early, and hand over the card you used to make the booking. Be warned though: there is often a separate desk for pre-booked ticket collection. A lot of people don't realise this and join the (very long) main box office queue instead. If you can't see the right desk, just ask in the bar, or anywhere else you see venue staff hanging around.