Charleston is a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides with islands buffering each side. Suburbs on each side are James Island to the west and Mount Pleasant to the east. Most visitors will stay on the peninsula, unless you’re visiting for the Cooper River Bridge Run or are interested in exploring Charleston’s plantations. Getting around without a car is entirely possible if you flew into town.
Walking and Biking
If you’re staying on the peninsula, known as downtown Charleston, you can reach just about anywhere in a 30 minute walk. The city is very walkable, especially between the tourist attractions. Grab a tourist map of the city from the Visitor’s Center on Meeting Street to help you navigate the area on foot.
For longer distances, you can ride a bike, which guests can borrow from Not So Hostel or you can rent from The Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting Street for $7-10 per hour, $28-40 per day or $50-120 per week. They offer both beach cruisers, pictured above, and hybrid bikes for downtown and Mount Pleasant. Cruisers are single speed with baskets. Be sure that you have get a lock, as bike theft is common.
Driving in Charleston is essential if you’re exploring areas like Wadmalaw or Kiawah islands, but can be avoided entirely if you’re staying downtown. Hotel parking and the visitor’s center deck will cost you at least $10 per day and most don’t have an in and out policy. Street parking is dicey, as they vary by street, and metered spots are hard to come by. The city writes tickets before you can blink, so you may not want to risk it.
Taxis and Rideshares
Pedicabs, or bike taxis, are popular with tourists, but aren’t very cost effective. The mostly student-run companies are good for getting back to your hotel after a night out on Market Street, but not much else. You’re limited to only two people per pedicab, so this isn’t a great option if you’re in a group.
Taxis are hit or miss in Charleston, as they’re hard to hail on the street at certain times of day. It’s best to have a few taxi numbers written down in advance. Charleston Green Taxi is well run and has a fleet of hybrid vehicles, while Yellow Cab is one of the most popular companies in town, now with their own app. Uber is another option for Charleston. Simply open the app, request a ride and enter your destination for a quick and cashless ride. They offer UberX, which is their rideshare variety, instead of the black town cars found in other cities.
via The Digitel
CARTA is Charleston’s public transportation system, which isn’t usually employed by visitors. The downtown trolley, known as DASH, offers a free ride that runs through town to the South Carolina Aquarium, the Visitor’s Center and King Street. Other services run to the airport in North Charleston, Summerville, West Ashley and beyond. Standard fares are $1.75 each way for standard routes and $3.00 each way for express and flex routes.