How to Get Around Austin During SXSW

Save on transit costs by walking or taking advantage of free shuttles and Austin's public transportation network.
Erin Oppenheim
By Erin Oppenheim 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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The South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, starts this weekend. The annual festival of panels, film screenings, parties and exhibitions across technology, film, media, education, comedy and music runs March 8-16.

According to organizers, over 340,000 people visited the festival in 2023. If you’re planning to attend SXSW in Austin this year, here’s what you need to know to get around efficiently and affordably.

What to expect at SXSW

SXSW has some events reserved for attendees and others are free for anyone to attend. The festival doesn't have a single venue; all sessions and events (official and unofficial) are located in or around downtown Austin, with most of the larger tech-focused sessions at the Convention Center.

Due to its central location, walking is one of the easiest ways to get between sessions, shows, restaurants, coffee shops and Lady Bird Lake trails.

Heavy traffic and road closures can make navigating SXSW by car — and finding parking — challenging. Austin's public transportation or the free SXSW shuttle route can help visitors avoid the hassle of driving.

Getting from the airport to downtown Austin

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) is 7 miles from downtown Austin, offering SXSW attendees numerous options to get to downtown Austin and most hotels.

Rental car

For longer stays before or after SXSW, a rental car is a good option for exploring more of central Texas. The Austin airport hosts most major rental car companies on site, but Enterprise is an official partner of SXSW, so it offers deals for festival registrants.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some credit cards offer automatic elite status with a rental car company as a benefit. Check the benefits your credit card might have and register for the rental car’s loyalty program to skip the long lines at the rental counter.

Rideshare and taxis

If you’re not renting a car, you can use rideshare services or traditional cab companies to get to the airport. The Austin airport has a designated rideshare and taxi pickup zone across from the terminal, behind the Red Garage.

SXSW attendees can also use a special link to get a discounted shared ride from Carter Transportation Austin, which is part of the SuperShuttle network.


The MetroAirport Flyer is a convenient public transportation option to get to and from the Austin airport. Austin’s CapMetro Route 20 can get you from AUS to downtown in about 35 minutes. Buses run every 15 minutes from the neon guitar-shaped bus stop and cost $1.25 per ride or $2.50 for a day pass.

SXSW Austin transportation options

From downtown Austin, SXSW attendees without a rental car have plenty of alternate transportation options to venues.

SXSW shuttle

Attendees have access to a free SXSW shuttle service to get from the Convention Center to most venues. The shuttle departs from Trinity Street and runs from 9 a.m. to 2 or 2:30 a.m. most nights.

CapMetro bus and rail

Public transportation is another convenient and affordable option for Austin visitors.

As far as bus routes, CapMetro Rapid routes 801 and 803 will operate with high frequency for the duration of SXSW. Night Owl Routes will run regular service from midnight to 3 a.m. as well to help shuttle people from late-night events. A CapMetro Bus fare is $1.25 for a single ride, $2.50 for a day pass or $11.25 for a seven-day pass.

The CapMetro rail runs to and from downtown Austin, with a stop near the Austin Convention Center on East 4th Street. Rail service during SXSW will run extended hours daily until midnight. On Fridays and Saturdays, rail service will be extended to 2:30 a.m. The cost is $3.50 for a single ride, $7 for a day pass or $27.50 for a seven-day pass.

Download the CapMetro mobile app to buy fares, plan routes and keep track of schedules.

Rideshare and taxis

Uber, Lyft and taxis offer door-to-door convenience during SXSW. However, anticipate longer wait times and surge pricing throughout the week. If you want to book a taxi, zTrip Austin or ATX Co-op Taxi operate in the city.

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Certain American Express cardholders and Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders get rideshare benefits that help cut Uber and Lyft costs.


Licensed pedicabs operate in downtown Austin around 38th Street, Oltorf Street, MoPac and Pleasant Valley Road. They’re easy to hail down during SXSW and offer an eco-friendly way to get around the festival. Pedicab drivers charge a per-block fare or accept tips.

Bikes and electric scooters

Austin’s MetroBike bike-share program is a popular way to get around as well. According to the City of Austin Transportation and Public Works Department, there are currently more than 80 stations and 800 bicycles. About 43% of the bikes are electric, which makes pedaling even easier. There’s a pay-as-you-ride option, as well as a $13 Explorer day pass and a $20 three-day Weekender pass.

Electric scooter use also spikes during SXSW. Ride Report, a company that tracks mobility, reported 14,000 scooter rides in a single day during SXSW last year. The average number of rides per day in the first quarter of 2023 was 6,800.

Austin visitors can use Bird, Lime or Link to rent electric scooters on a pay-as-you-ride basis.

Saving on SXSW transportation

Traveling by car might be the slower and least cost-effective way to get around Austin during SXSW. To save time and money, festival attendees will want to consider taking free shuttles, public transportation or walking.

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