We’ve updated this post for 2017! Check out the updated article..
With attendance growing each year, figuring out where to stay during SX can seem impossible. Booking through SXSW official site if you have a badge is the best way to go, but hotels for Interactive sold out in November. Since we’re less than two months away from the fest, the prospect of finding a hotel might look bleak. Try to get a hotel/house/apartment as close as you can to downtown/the convention center – it’s difficult, but walking/biking is always the best option for getting around and be sure to bring cash for cabs. Renting a car won’t do much (unless you’re staying way outside of downtown) since parking is nonexistent in the majority of areas surrounding the festival (unless you’re paying high prices) and you shouldn’t be driving anyway after free drinks. We’ve had RVs stay in our front yard, had 12 DJs from New Mexico crash on our couches, we’ve befriended too many cab drivers to count all in the name of SXSW – where there’s a will, there’s a way to find a place to stay during the fest.
Here’s s a quick run down of the options still available for lodging and suggestions on how to get around during the festival.
Where to Stay
HomeAway: A quick search for homes/apartment available and by eliminating the options outside of south/central Austin comes up with about 100 available rentals at the moment, which will surely decrease as the festival nears. HomeAway offers the ability to book both luxury and affordable homes/apartments in prime locations online.
VRBO: Owned by HomeAway, this site is basically the same deal as above, but might have a few different properties not listed on HomeAway.
AirBNB: Current listings show about 1,000 places available that week in March – including entire homes, apartments and shared spaces.
Couchsurfing: Traveling solo or with one friend? Consider the couchsurfing route and stay with an Austin local host.
Craig’s List: Many locals go the CL route to list their places for the fest – while this is the less secure option, there’s already quite a few listings, many of which are far cheaper than other vacation rental sites. Craig’s List should probably be considered a last option due to the uncertainly of what you might be getting into – it’s better left for missed connections than finding housing.
Ask your friend network: We live in Austin and see Facebook posts daily with people renting out their places – if you have a friend in Austin, ask them if they know of anyone renting a place (or if you can stay on their couch).
Use a planning service: Austin-based company Lucid Routes can help you plan your festival. How it works: the company meets with you, either in person or virtually, and gets to know you to uncover exactly you want get out of your trip. They create a guide for you tailored to your interests. Check them out if you need some festival hand-holding – they can help with hotels, where to eat and what to do or any other concierge tasks.
Hotel Tonight: For the very last minute planner, HotelTonight tells you rooms available – as the name implies – tonight. As a very last minute option, you could attempt to snag a room if you’re in need.
Cabs: There are only about 700 cabs in Austin during that busy week in March. If you’re a local and you take a cab any time between now and SX, see if you can get the driver’s cell number. This has helped countless times. Befriending a driver who is willing to grab you when there’s 30,000 other people trying to hail a cab can be a lifesaver. This usually comes at the price of 3x the the normal tip, but it’s totally worth getting a ride when needed. Yellow Cab does have an app, which (sometimes) assists in booking a cab faster – be sure to download it before the festival. Uber and similar services haven’t launched in Austin, but did do promotions during the festival last year.
Save these numbers:
- Yellow Cab Austin – 512-452-9999
- Lone Star Cab – 512-836-4900
- Austin Cab Company – 512-478-2222
Catch-a-Chevy: Chevrolet has been a sponsor of SXSW for the past few years, and they’re back again this year. It’s not certain that they’ll bring back the Catch-a-Chevy idea – but it was great for SXSW 2013. If you were near the convention center, Chevrolet had Chevy Cruzes giving rides within a few miles – you could tweet @Chevrolet with the hashtag #ChevySXSW to find a free ride nearby. Another idea from last year we hope to see back this year: the Razorfish #UseMeLeaveMe bikes, which tweeted their locations for anyone to pick up and use.
Bike Texas: 3 day minimum at $35 a day & the money goes to the BikeTexas nonprofit.
Austin B-Cycle: Austin’s new bike share program just started in December – By March, B-Cycle will have 400 bikes available to rent with kiosks located in downtown and central east Austin. You can get a day pass for $8 and a weekly pass for $25.
Windmill Bikes: One of our favorite East Austin bike shops, they usually rent out bikes – check their Facebook for more info.
Car-2-Go: Rent a Smart Car for .41 cents a minute, drop-off/pick-up the car anywhere in the service area, find the cars via the Car2Go app, insurance/gas included and there’s no reservations required. The service usually has specific drop-off/pick-up locations during the festival. If you have a membership (and you can find an available car), using Car-2-Go can be the perfect way to get around downtown Austin during the busy festival. They often offer promotions through Twitter and Facebook for new users.
Public Transportation: The MetroRail might be useful if you’re staying near the route. Bus schedules, fare information, route information and more is available online. Also: if you’re completely confused, you can send a tweet to @CapMetroATX and they’ll most likely respond with the info you need.
Pedicabs: More than 400 will be around the streets of Austin. The drivers work for tips. Talk to the driver before you get in to let them know where you’re going – the amount might change if they’re pulling you and two friends up the hill on Lamar. Usually it’s about $10 a person for a short ride, consult the driver before hand so you know what you’re paying. There’s also the RedBox motorized golf carts – they usually charge about $5 a person and can be seen in streets downtown throughout the festival.
Segway: Just because the segway tours always make us laugh, we’re including this as a ‘getting around’ option.
Help! I lost my car! If you do decide to drive – and say, you park somewhere on the eastside and can’t remember where you car is – download the Dude Where’s My Car? app before coming the fest. The app can help you find your car, hail a cab or find nearby parking and hotspots.
Navigating the fest can seem difficult, but it’s generally pretty easy after a day or so of getting yourself acclimated to the chaos. Are we missing any tips on places to stay or how to get around? Let us know via Twitter.