Student Life in Edinburgh: Which Accommodation?

TItle Cover for Which Accommodation?

A complete guide to all the student accommodation options in Edinburgh including dorms and private/shared flats.

Getting accommodation organised is definitely one of the biggest and most stressful things to tick-off of your to-do list. The paperwork, back-and-forth emails and hefty move-in fees can certainly be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time moving out of your family home!

I am going to make it a lot easier for you by outlining your options and explaining all the good and bad points of each accommodation. I have also given my ultimate recommendation if you can’t make up your own mind!

If you’re short of time, see all the main pros and cons in the infographic here.

TOP RECOMMENDATION: Student Halls

First photo shows 4 young male students smiling, second photo students share pizza and drinks together outside, third photo student studies on his laptop in bed.

Assuming most of my readers are either international students or first year students, the option I recommend the most is definitely student halls. If you don’t already have close friends in the city or if it’s your first time moving there, then nothing beats living here for the year!

Otherwise known as ‘Student Residence’, ‘Student Dorms’, ‘Student Housing’ it’s basically a building (or sometimes set of buildings) that are owned by the university where you’ll have:

Furnished private bedroom (including bed, desk, chair, wardrobe, pin board and shelves.) →

Drawing of typical bedroom in student accommodation with 'single-and-a-half' bed, desk, chair, pinboard, storage, wardrobe, mirror, heater
Drawing of bathroom in a student accommodation with shower, sink and toilet

← Shared bathroom OR a private ensuite

Kitchen/dining/living (usually in an open plan space altogether). →

Drawing of a shared kitchen/living/dining area in student accommodation with oven and cookers, microwave, sink,, fridge, freezer, cupboards, sofas and bar seating
Drawing of a common room in a student accommodation with lounge, tv, games table, vending and seating

Common room for all residents with study space and chill-out area (sofas, TV, and maybe billiards or table football).

As well as;

  • On-site staff/security
  • Laundry facilities (not included in rent)
  • All utilities included (gas, water, electricity, wifi)
  • + Some sites have a weekly cleaning service.
  • + Some sites have a catered option, serving 2 meals everyday.

In Scotland we generally don’t have ‘roommates’. Sharing your bedroom with someone else is pretty much unheard of.

On your move-in day you’ll get a goody-box with snacks and coupons and other random useless stuff which is a nice touch.

Each university has its own private accommodation where ONLY students from that university can live. You will have to apply for this accommodation through the university in the Spring time, with the option to pay monthly instalments or a lump sum.

Based on social life and enjoying Edinburgh city, here are my dorm recommendations for each university:

University of Edinburgh

View from Arthur's Seat of Pollock Halls
"Pollock Halls of Residence" by nickmilleruk is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Edinburgh has a variety of options when it comes to accommodation. From big dorm-style sites with on-site canteens, gyms, study rooms .etc, to more quiet Victorian style buildings divided up into individual apartments. There are specific undergrad and postgrad options, and upon applying they will try to mix up your neighbours based on degree, nationality and gender. Check out all their locations here.

I recommend POLLOCK HALLS (£709-£936 per month)

Outdoor view of the Pollock Halls Student Complex for Edinburgh University students
"University of Edinburgh Pollock Halls" by John Allan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As the biggest, most popular and well-known accommodation exclusively for University of Edinburgh students, many have shared fond memories at Pollock Halls.

With several buildings located right next to the famous Arthur’s Seat and near The Meadows it’s certainly a great place to spend your year in Edinburgh. And the best thing – it’s catered! This means they will serve you lunch & dinner Mon-Fri and brunch & dinner Sat-Sun.

Within this site there are several buildings which are in a dorm-style where your room leads directly onto the floor corridor. All kitchen, dining and living spaces are shared but you can choose between rooms with shared bathrooms and rooms with private ensuites.

Heriot-Watt University

Student Accommodation on campus for Heriot-Watt university
'Scottish University Housing' by Keith Hunter

As Heriot-Watt University is located more out of the city, their students halls are right next to the campus so you won’t have to worry about waking up extra early to catch the bus to class.

Double decker bus at night.
The Night Bus will become your new best friend.

Contrastingly, you may worry about taking the bus to the city centre instead which is only a problem, if you are keen to party and go out. I remember my friend from Heriot-Watt always had to make sure he got the last bus around midnight which really cut his night short when everyone else was partying until 3am. Taxis are always available, but can become quite expensive if you are going out multiple times a week. 

However if you want to stay somewhere with only Heriot-Watt students then this is your go-to. As it is basically within campus grounds you can use the campus gym and university restaurant/cafe.

They have different sized rooms with and without ensuites from £576 -£716 per month. Click here to check them out.

However in my opinion, if you’re an exchange or study abroad student, I would say avoid Heriot-Watt’s Student Residence due to the fact that you don’t fully experience the buzz of living in the city centre here. If you’re coming to enjoy Edinburgh, then best to go for more central accommodation (see below!)

I recommend PRIVATE STUDENT ACCOMMODATION (£300+ per month). Jump to it here.

Edinburgh Napier University

Napier has three sites to choose from which are pretty centrally located. They are walking distance from most things, or a short bus ride.

Map of Napier Accommodation in Bainfield, Orwell Terrace & Slateford Road
Student Halls of Edinburgh Napier University (Map data: Google 2019)

Their dorms split students up on their likelihood to need a good night’s sleep; typically postgrads, nursing students and over-20 yr olds are separated from the under-20 yr olds who are more likely to throw flat parties and cause disruptions. Check them out here.

I recommend BAINFIELD (£616 – £678 per month)

Bainfield Napier Student Halls Building next to the Union Canal on a sunny day
“Canalside Living” by miketransreal is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

This is actually where I spent my first year of university and it was one of the best years of my life! Bainfield is pretty huge with six 6-story buildings (there are elevators – don’t worry!) and an on-site bar/cafe.

It’s right next to the canal which provides extensive trails for walking/running/cycling and leads to many grass parks. With an outdoor gym outside as well, there’s no excuse for being an unhealthy student here!

As with most student housing, you can choose a single-sex apartment or mixed. I lived in a mixed 8 person apartment which included 2 Scottish girls, 3 Scottish guys, 2 American girls and 1 American boy. Great mix.

Inside Union cafe/bar at Napier's Bainfield Halls, two students sit with balloons and get their drinks.
Union Café Bar at Bainfield Uni Residence
Bainfield Napier Student Halls Building next to the Union Canal on a sunny day
"Canalside Living" by miketransreal is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Inside Union cafe/bar at Napier's Bainfield Halls, two students sit with balloons and get their drinks.
Union Café Bar at Bainfield Uni Residence

I recommend BAINFIELD (£616 – £678 per month)

This is actually where I spent my first year of university and it was one of the best years of my life! Bainfield is pretty huge with six 6-storey buildings (there are elevators – don’t worry!) and an on-site bar/cafe.

It’s right next to the canal which provides extensive trails for walking/running/cycling and leads to many grass parks. With an outdoor gym outside as well, there’s no excuse for being an unhealthy student here!

As with most student housing, you can choose a single-sex apartment or mixed. I lived in a mixed 8 person apartment which included 2 Scottish girls, 3 Scottish guys, 2 American girls and 1 American boy. Great mix.

Other options...

PRIVATE STUDENT ACCOMMODATION (£400+ per month)

If you’re looking for somewhere in a more specific location, or with a certain group of friends (perhaps from different universities) then you should go for private student accommodation.

This is a very similar set-up to the dorm’s but is owned by a private company rather than the university itself. Therefore students from any university, any age, can apply. And consequently you are treated better and more as an adult since they see you as their customer rather than a child who’s just moved from home.

There are an abundance of these in Edinburgh. Start your search at: 

Or simply google ‘Private Accommodation Edinburgh Student’

SHARED FLAT (£300+ per month)

How about renting an individual apartment with your very own group of friends!?

This is generally the next step for students going into second year after spending a crazy year in halls. It’s usually students’ first experience of property hunting which may sound super exciting at first but I have learnt firsthand that the enthusiasm to find the perfect flat quickly wears off…

You’ll need to go online and search for places, then make phone calls and emails to organise viewings. Then get all your friends together to actually view it, make a decision and complete all the paperwork together before someone else snatches it up! It’s a lot of effort, but definitely worth it if you get the place you want.

Nicely located, fairly priced, furnished, ‘students welcome’ flats are in high demand every year so you gotta be efficient and with deposit ready. Here are the best websites;

citylets.co.uk

rightmove.co.uk

And the best Facebook groups for finding extra flatmates;

The University of Edinburgh Student Flat Ads

Edinburgh Flatshare

I don’t recommend a ROOM IN A SHARED APARTMENT(£300+ per month)

You will see on the rental websites and facebook groups the option to rent a room in a strangers apartment.

This may seem like a simple, cheap option but there are a lot of unforeseen downsides. I know you think you’ll become good friends with the flatmates and it’s gonna be awesome but the reality is that the other flatmates are probably either pretty anti-social, or already have a close friendship which you are breaking into.

Basically unless budget is your number 1 priority and you don’t have a group of friends to rent with then don’t choose this.

This is just my personal opinion because I have never heard anything good about these arrangements and my own personal experience has been pretty crap as well.

If that was way too much to take in, here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each option:

Are you thinking of moving to Edinburgh? Check out the full blog series on moving to Edinburgh and student life here.

The next post in this series is about Nightlife in Edinburgh, it’s full of essential info for those who don’t plan on spending all their time studying 😉

Hope you are feeling more informed on your options for accommodation. Leave a comment with any questions or your own experience in any of these places.

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Hi! I'm Robyn, a Scottish girl who has been embracing and enjoying life abroad since 2014 through work, study and volunteering opportunities!

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