South by Southwest Tips – A SXSW Beginner’s Guide

Founded in 1987 as an all-encompassing media festival, The South by Southwest festival (SXSW) aims to bring creative people together to showcase their work, network with each other, and have an absolutely epic time with each other in the heart of Texas.

With more than 2,000 musical acts, hundreds of films, and scores of conferences, marketplaces, and workshops to attend, it can be overwhelming for the first-timer. In this article, we’ll help you organize your approach to this behemoth by sharing these South by Southwest tips with you.

Events start and end at different times

One of the most important South by Southwest Tips: plan your itinerary intelligently

SXSW will last ten days in 2018, stretching from March 9th to the 18th. During this hectic festival, scores of events go off in different time slots – to catch everything you want to experience, you’ll need to have a plan.

The music festival doesn’t start until Monday, March 12th and runs through to the last day, while the gaming festival runs from the 15th to the 17th. Want a job with a cutting-edge company? The job market exhibition happens on March 11th and the 12th only.

Check out the schedule so you don’t miss out on a part of SXSW you were hoping to catch.

Paying for an SXSW pass might not be necessary

Wincing at the thought of spending your hard earned money on an SXSW pass? It may not even be necessary depending on what you want to do. Of all the South by Southwest tips in this article, applying for an SXSW guest pass is a great life hack, as it will grant you access to events which may interest you, all without costing you a dime.

As of the writing of this article (February 21st), this includes the Wellness Expo, the Job Market, outdoor film screenings on March 12th, Flatstock 65 (an exhibition featuring poster art), SXSW Marketplace (a shopping experience featuring everything from local Austin businesses to global brands), and the Outdoor Music Stage at Lady Bird Lake.

Additional events will be added to the list during the month of March, so if you can go without attending the big-ticket attractions, the guest pass will free up money for more important things. Like the parties.

Use RSVPster to invite yourself to everything that interests you

SXSW has become tremendously popular over the years – unfortunately, this means uber popular after parties now fill up fast. Calm your FOMO by making use of RSVPster, an online reservation service for SXSW parties.

For no more than $40, you can add your name to the list of every gala, gathering, or party which has an open RSVP list. While this service does not offer an ironclad guarantee you’ll get in, it dramatically increases your chances of having a good time at SXSW versus having to sort through these time-sensitive party invites yourself.

Download local rideshare apps

Hailing a taxi off the street is extremely difficult during SXSW. What’s more, Uber and Lyft are in the process of re-entering the market after being banned for a period of time – so, how in the heck are you supposed to get around town during the week of the festival?

Fortunately, there is a pair of local rideshare apps worth checking out. Fasten is the most popular of them, as it jettisons hated ‘surge pricing’ in favor of offering incentive dollars to encourage drivers to pick you up faster.

Ride Austin is loved among progressively-minded ride hailers, as this non-profit service pay drivers the most out of all the apps, and it allows passengers to round up fares to the nearest dollar and donate it to local charities.

The best of these South by Southwest tips: grab all the free food

For some, the wide variety of food available at SXSW is the best aspect of this festival. Don’t bother reaching for your wallet, though: most attending tech companies spend ungodly amounts of money on hospitality, meaning you’ll find plenty of free grub at events they host.

While you may randomly come across these treasure troves, spend as little as possible on meals by coordinating your approach. Follow @thefreenoms on Twitter, and check local media for articles on where to find events where free food is being handed out.

Some are restricted to certain badge holders, so be sure to check access credentials to avoid disappointment.

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