First Timer's Guide

SXSW can be overwhelming to first-timers. We've created this guide to help you prepare for the adventure ahead. By now you should be registered and have your housing arrangements sorted.

Below we’ll cover some items to get ready for SXSW and a few tips on how to do SXSW. The SXSW Registrar has emailed registrants a “Before You Leave Home” email that contains a Registration QuickCode. The Registration QuickCode helps get you in and out of the registration hall so you can start doing South By.

Check back as this page is updated throughout the 2016 season.


One Tool Does It All - Get the SXSW GO Mobile App

We cannot overemphasize the importance of downloading SXSW GO, our official mobile app for getting the most out of attending SXSW 2016. Browse all events and speakers, and create your personal schedule, synchronized through all of your devices using a login system. Find your friends and connections to see what they're doing, and network with thousands of other attendees. Get information on exploring Austin, navigate the Trade Show, and stay connected to the social world. Discover new events through curated recommendations based off of your SXsocial profile tags. SXSW GO is available on the App Store and Play Store – download and learn more here.

Pack for Every Occasion

SXSW is more than just a conference. You'll be attending sessions, meeting potential clients, attending screenings, networking at clubs, and hopping from one showcase to the next. If you've ever been to Austin, you know that the weather can be unpredictable – be sure to check weather listings before you leave. That being said, Austin is a really casual city. If you want to attend panels in your pajamas, we won't judge.

You're going to be doing a lot walking, so unless you're dressed to impress for SXstyle, be comfort-conscious when selecting shoes to pack. If you can manage it, you may want to have a change of shoes available. Your feet will thank you. We strongly recommend that you pack sunscreen and a reusable water bottle. The Texas heat can be dehydrating and the air in the convention center can be quite dry, but you'll find water stations throughout the building to refill your bottle and stay hydrated.

Book & Double Check Your Flight

It's never too early to book your flight to SXSW. Airline prices seem to take off faster than the planes themselves the closer you book to your travel date. Use our handy travel tool to book flights early at the best available rates to save – you have much more important things to spend your money on, like tacos and barbecue. At travel.sxsw.com, you can find flights from a multitude of airlines to Austin from your hometown, with the option to sort by price, duration, and number of stops. The skies get busy in Austin around March, so be sure to check for flight delays before leaving for your airport.

Once you arrive in Austin, don't wait around for a ride at the airport! If you're anything like us, you want to start experiencing SXSW as soon as possible. After you book your flight, switch over to the car hire tab in the travel tool and have a ride waiting for you when you fly in. Browse more Transportation Options below.

International Travel

Austing-Bergstrom International Airport now offers non-stop travel to London Heathrow, Mexico City, and Cancun. As with our domestic registrants, we encourage our international registrants to use our travel tool to guarantee you find the best price possible for your flight. While most US carriers have flights directly to Austin, many International travelers will need to catch a connecting flight from another hub in the US. For registrants flying in from the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, the agents below will work with you to ensure you find the best rates possible:

  • Transatlantic Air Travel The Tour Company, our recommended travel vendor, offers great Transatlantic airfares from London with add-ons from other cities in the United Kingdom and Europe. See www.thetourcompany.co.uk. Contact Louise Fisher by email LouiseF@thetourcompany.co.uk or phone +44-141-353-8800.

  • Entertainment Travel Partners is SXSW's preferred air travel provider from Australia and New Zealand. Visit them at www.travelpartners.com.au. Contact Brad Thomas by email bradt@travelpartners.com.au or phone +61-2-9280-3767.

Be sure to double-check your Visa status a few weeks prior to leaving for the festival. For more information, visit the US Bureau of Consular Affair's Visa Page or our Visa FAQ.

Know Your Hotel

Be sure you know the complete name of your hotel. We have a lot of hotels, some with very similar names. Most brands operate more than one hotel in Austin, so write down your hotel's address to tell your ride to avoid confusion. This is the easiest way to quickly get to your room, drop off your luggage, and get downtown to start having fun! If you are not planning to travel with the credit card you intend to use to pay for your room, be sure to fill out a credit card pre-authorization form and fax or email it to your hotel.

Any desired changes to your reservation can be made by pressing the 'Request for Change' button at the bottom of your housing confirmation, your SXsocial account, and your SXSW shopping cart. Contact the SXSW Housing Department by calling 512-467-7979 or email housing@sxsw.com. The housing department is here as a resource for you and works tirelessly to ensure your rooming needs are met.

Badge Pickup

Visit our Bade Pickup page for pickup locations and times. Plan to arrive early and to help expedite the process, link your badge with SXsocial and upload a color photo to use on your badge. If we don't have a photo for you, we'll be happy to take one for you at pickup.

After pickup, badges must be attached to a lanyard worn around your neck at all times. If your badge is lost, stolen, or confiscated, reissues will only be offered at the walk-up price.

Driving

We want you to experience all that SXSW and Austin has to offer, so we ask anybody planning to drive in the Austin area during the festival to consider saving time and stress by using alternative forms of transportation. Parking downtown is a genuine commodity during the festival, and street closures may make it difficult to get around. If you will be driving an automobile and plan on parking near the Austin Convention Center, or anywhere downtown, here is a metered parking availability tool and garage and lot parking map.

Transportation Options

Mazda, Super Sponsor and the official automobile partner of SXSW, is bringing a fleet of Mazdas to Austin to help you get to every inspiring event on your checklist. This service is complimentary, and you can save time by pre-registering for Mazda Express or sign up at the Austin Convention Center.

Lyft is the official ride sharing partner of SXSW 2016. If you're a first time user, download the Lyft app and use the code SXSW2016 prior to April 30, 2016 for a $20 coupon towards your first ride. You can find more information on Lyft, and other transportation options, on our Getting Around page.

  • MetroAirport bus service for transportation from and to the airport. Rides cost $1.75 in exact change or a pass which can be purchased using the CapMetro App. As always, bus times are estimated so get to your stop 5 to 10 minutes prior to the estimated arrival time.
  • SXSW Festival Shuttles are provided as a free service to registrants. Shuttles leave the Austin Convention Center every 7 to 10 minutes during conference hours, but if you stay downtown for a nightcap on 6th Street, they keep running until 2:30am. To view the route and track shuttles in real time, download the SXSW GO app, or go to shuttles.sxsw.com.
  • Austin B-Cycle is the low-cost, pay-as-you-go bicycle commitment. B-Cycle has stations set-up all over downtown, and offers a myriad of different pricing options. Get around town faster than automobile travel, quickly move through areas blocked to automobile traffic, and enjoy some brief, refreshing exercise.
  • Pedicabs operate downtown for a pre-negotiated tip. Some couples find pedicab rides to be romantic, and others enjoy pedicabs rigged up with booming stereo systems or a novelty design. Pedicabs are a leisurely way to travel from event to event.
  • Bus and Rail public Transportation is provided by Capital Metro. Rides cost $1.75 in exact change or a pass which can be purchased using the CapMetro App. Visit the Capital Metro SXSW page for SXSW-specific information.
  • Taxi and many other services are covered here.

Make a Schedule

You don't have to stick with it, but having some place to start will make all the difference. The process of making your schedule is a useful discovery tool for events you may not otherwise hear about. Using the scheduling tool on schedule.sxsw.com or SXSW GO, events can be filtered by conference, event type, venue, and time. Simply click the star to the left of an event's listing to add it to your schedule. If you have any further questions, check out the Schedule Help page.

Wondering what events to schedule? Think about what you want out of your SXSW experience. Are you here to network? Are you here to learn? Or, are you just here to have the best week of your year? The sheer number of events can be daunting, but using the right filters in the scheduling tool will help you identify the events you'll enjoy the most. Don't be afraid to branch out – our Convergence programming events are open to more than one badge type and encourage networking between registrants from many different fields of expertise.

Find a SXSW Friend

SXSW provides a fun, social atmosphere – even if you arrive in Austin on your own, you'll be saying heartfelt goodbyes at the end of the week. Get a head start on making memories, and see if you know anyone attending in SXsocial. Don't hesitate to seek out SXSW-veteran attendees and speakers for advice, suggestions, and directions.

Pace Yourself

You will have the urge to hit the ground running and try to cram as much into your first day as possible. Resist it! You will only be overwhelmed and disappointed with yourself that you don't have the energy to go to that great evening event you had your heart set on. As they say, SXSW is a marathon not a sprint.

Lost & Found

Lost and Found is now located in the Registration Hall (Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5). You can drop off found items at the Registration Help Desks. A description of an item and the location it was lost/found in can be emailed to lostandfound@sxsw.com.

Information Desks

While inside the Convention Center, if you do happen to get lost, need access to a computer with internet connectivity, or have a question to ask, then stop by one of the four volunteer staffed Information Desks. Information Desk locations are identified on the maps found in the Program and Pocket Guides, as well as on the Convention Center maps found in the “Locations” tab of the SXSW GO app.

Read the Printed Materials

When you pick up your materials in the registration hall take a moment to look through them. Pay particular attention to the Pocket Guide. It will have a list of all the programming times and locations, along with a detailed map of the Austin Convention Center.

We hope you've found this page helpful. We'll keep adding to this list as we get closer to the event. Think we're missing something? Email us.