Life in Austin

If you talk with any Austinite you'll notice how proud we are of our city. The self-described Live Music Capital of the World is known for its natural beauty, its entrepreneurial business climate and a fiercely independent cultural scene determined to "Keep Austin Weird."

Here are a few resources and tips to help you enjoy your stay in Austin.

HousingTransportationCommunicationsExploring Austin


Housing

Hotels

21st Street Co-op by Peter CraigFor short stays, hotels are easy to book through well-known travel sites such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Kayak, Orbitz, and Travelocity.

As an alternative to hotels, some Austin residents rent out spaces in their homes through services such as AirBnB and HomeAway.

For medium-term visits of a week to a month, extended stay hotels such as Extended Stay America, Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Residence Inn by Marriott offer discounts off of nightly rates and amenities such as kitchens and laundry facilities.

Apartment rentals

The Office of the Provost offers a very useful guide to finding housing in Austin, including questions to ask before renting and listings of apartments available for rent.

Members of the Portugueses em Austin Facebook group have collected their advice in a shared document, Alojamento em Austin.

Many apartment locator services operate in Austin. Although they do not charge a direct fee to renters, be aware that the apartment owner pays a fee which will be reflected in the price.

You can find individual apartments, houses and roommate situations listed in Austin Craigslist. Be sure to follow Craigslist's advice on how to avoid scams and fraud.

Craiglist is also a convenient place to find used furniture and housewares, as are the many garage and yard sales at private homes all over Austin on any sunny weekend.


Transportation

Ridesharing

As of this writing, Uber and Lyft do not operate in Austin following a dispute over safety regulations. Locally available alternatives include Fasten, Fare, and RideAustin.

Mass transit

Austin transit by Larry MillerAustin’s transit system is known as Capital Metro and it includes bus service and one rail line.
http://www.capmetro.org/

The CapMetro website includes schedules and maps and a "trip planner" interface, or you can plan Cap Metro trips using Google Transit.

Renting a car

National car rental agencies such as Hertz, Enterprise, Avis and National are easily found in Austin and may be the best solution for very short-term visitors. A local rental agency which offers rentals by the week or the month is Longhorn Rentals, 512-452-1773.

A local auto mechanic who rents out older cars by the month is Flamingo Automotive, 3512 Guadalupe Street, tel. 512-459-9917.

Buying a car

Long-term visitors may consider purchasing a car. Online classified ad sites like Craigslist offer cars of varying conditions and prices. Services like Carfax.com and is-it-a-lemon.com will give reports on a specific car’s accident history and other potential flaws, generally for a fee.

Texas law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of insurance. Although holders of Portuguese driver’s licenses may drive under these licenses for up to a year, insurers generally require drivers to hold a Texas license. The UT International Office advises visitors to obtain a license before purchasing and insuring a car. To get a Texas license visitors must take written and driving tests and present their passport, DS-2019 or I-20 card, a letter from UT attesting to official status as a visiting researcher or student, and a US social security card, if available. The International Office site has more detailed suggestions on how to buy a car and the Texas Department of Public Safety site has more information on how to get a Texas driver's license.


Communications

Phones

FREE WIFI by Dayna BatemanMobile phones (or cell phones as they are more commonly called in the US) work somewhat differently here than in Europe, so be prepared for some confusion when you talk to retailers.

Most mobile phone users in the US subscribe to a post-paid plan, which requires a one-or two-year contract in return for a substantial discount on the price of a phone.

Options for shorter-term visitors include pre-paid or pay-as-you-go plans. Pre-paid plans are charged by the minute while pay-as-you-go plans involve one-month contracts. Both usually allow payment online with a credit card or by buying "refill" cards available in many stores. Pay-as-you-go plans may offer benefits such as free evenings and weekends.

Activating your Portuguese phone in the US may be possible, depending on the phone. Most US phone operators do not use the GSM standard which is the norm in Europe. Two carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, do offer GSM coverage in Austin, but on different frequencies than in Europe, so you will need a tri-band or quad-band phone to be compatible with their GSM networks.  Pre-paid SIM cards for GSM phones are available at AT&T and T-Mobile stores or online. In addition, some Portuguese phones (such as the iPhone) are locked, or tied to a specific carrier, and would need to be unlocked before being used in the US.

One source for reviews of wireless carriers (including a short section on prepaid options) is the Wirecutter.

The phone number for emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) is just the three digits 911.

Internet

Short-term visitors to UT Austin may find it easiest to use the AT&T wi-fi service available throughout the campus. Simply select the "attwifi" network on your device, open your web browser, and enter a credit card number if prompted.

If you need to provide your own wifi access for laptops and other devices on the road, one option is a mobile hotspot. You will find reviews of several hotspot devices and services at the Wirecutter.

Many apartments include cable television, broadband Internet access and/or wifi with your lease. If yours does not, common Internet service providers in Austin include AT&T U-verse, Grande Communications, Time-Warner Roadrunner, and Google Fiber (coming soon). Not all of them are available in all neighborhoods.


Exploring Austin

Barton Springs by Robert NagleThe Portugueses em Austin Facebook group is a friendly place to get your questions answered, in addition to organizing occasional social gatherings.

The free weekly Austin Chronicle, both in its paper edition and online, is a resource for everything happening in Austin music, film and arts. Its Best of Austin guide is a quick orientation to restaurants, shops and services selected by the Chronicle's readers and critics.

Outdoor musts include Barton Springs, a spring-fed pool in the heart of the city (on the #30 bus route), and the many hike-and-bike trails along Austin's lakes and greenbelts.

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an enormous conference and festival for the music, film and interactive industries held each March during UT's spring break. Recently SXSW has launched SXSW Eco in the fall to cover green and sustainable industries.

Live music: Long-time participant in the Austin music scene and IC² Institute Fellow Jim Butler shared a few of his personal favorite music venues for visitors.

  • Broken Spoke – traditional Texas dance hall and honky tonk since 1964 (South Lamar)
  • White Horse – a more eclectic approach to a Texas dance hall (East Austin)
  • Continental Club – roots rock & rockabilly (South Congress)
  • Saxon Pub – singer-songwriter and Americana in an intimate setting (South Lamar)
  • Stubb’s – local and touring acts, plus great Texas barbecue (Red River/downtown)
  • Mohawk – local and touring acts (Red River/downtown)

Photo credits: Dayna Bateman, Peter Craig, Larry Miller, Robert Nagle