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A view of Jackson Square in New Orleans at dusk

6 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting New Orleans

Updated May 2023

You’ve probably heard about the lively jazz music, outrageous Mardi Gras celebrations, and mouth-watering Creole cuisine that make New Orleans a one-of-a-kind destination, but what you haven’t heard may take you by surprise. Our must-read, insider tips will help you get you ready for your adventure, from HI New Orleans hostel to the French Quarter and beyond.

Bring Cash

A person counting money in their hands

It’s fairly surprising how many cash-only places exist in New Orleans, including the world famous Cafe Du Monde (think beignets). Although you’ll find ATMs everywhere, avoid all the surcharges by planning ahead.

Beignet Attire

Beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans

Speaking of beignets, these pseudo-donuts are doused with powdered sugar. Not only will it get all over your hands face, but also your clothes. Bottom line: don’t wear black!

Portion Size

A breakfast plate from a restaurant in New Orleans

The U.S. is already known for large portions, but even Americans will gasp at the serving size at many New Orleans restaurants. With so many indulgent items to choose from throughout your stay, save some cash and calories by splitting meals with a friend. Fun fact: according to Louisiana law, chicken is a vegetable!

Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte square in New Orleans

You’ll want to remember this name for the best-kept secret in the French Quarter. Right on Decatur, you’ll find a doorway to the Jean Lafitte National Park Preserve and Visitors Center. A long, covered walkway shares the history of the French Quarter and leads you to a secluded courtyard. With plenty of spots to sit and relax, the bustle of the streets is a distant hum and a public restroom – a rare find – is at your disposal.

Responsible Travel

a row of colorful recycling bins

Although New Orleans makes it a bit challenging to be a steward for the environment, you can still do your part – especially when you stay at HI New Orleans! If you can’t find a recycling bin, bring your bottle or can back to the hostel and we’ll take care of it. And be sure to fill up your water bottle before you head out, because you will be hard pressed to find a fill-up station around town.

Live Music

A brass band playing in a square in New Orleans

If you’re not in the mood for a two-drink minimum to enjoy some jazz, just walk the streets of the French Quarter. You won’t have to wait long for a five-person brass band to pop up and dazzle a growing audience with their master craft. Just make sure you have a couple bucks for the tip jar that will soon follow (see tip #1!).