By Plane -- Charleston International Airport (www.chs-airport.com) is in North Charleston on I-26 (5500 International Blvd.), about 12 miles west of the city. The meter rate for a taxi from the airport into the city is $2.52 per mile plus $14 per person in excess of two passengers; typical metered fares to the Historic District range from $29 to $34 ($45 to Middleton Place; $50 to Isle of Palms; $73 to Kiawah Island). The airport shuttle service (every 15 min.; tel. 843/767-1100) has a $14 fare to hotels in downtown Charleston (a shared ride making several stops). The local bus, CARTA Route 11 Dorchester/Airport ($1.75; Mon–Fri 7am–8:40pm hourly; Sat 8pm–8:40pm hourly; Sun 10am–7pm hourly) serves the airport and runs directly into the downtown area (around 50 min.). All major car-rental facilities, including Hertz and Avis, are available at the airport. If you’re driving, follow the airport-access road to I-26 into the heart of Charleston.
By Car -- The main north-south coastal route, U.S. 17, passes through Charleston; I-26 runs northwest to southeast, ending in Charleston. Charleston is 120 miles southeast of Columbia via I-26, 98 miles south of Myrtle Beach via U.S. 17, and 106 miles northeast of Savannah via U.S. 17 and I-95 (around 2-hr. drive).
By Train -- Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) trains arrive at 4565 Gaynor Ave., North Charleston, 11 miles from the Historic District. The station serves the Silver Service/Palmetto route between New York and Washington D.C., and Orlando and Miami. Trains travel twice a day between Savannah and Charleston (1 hr. 45 min.–2 hr.). Local bus CARTA runs from the Amtrak station directly into the downtown area ($1.75), but if you arrive at night take a taxi ($20–$30 to the Historic District).
By Bus -- Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) offers regular service to North Charleston (7 miles from the Historic District) from Columbia and Myrtle Beach, and 1 daily from Savannah (2 hr. 10 min.). Southeastern Stages (tel. 404/591-2750; www.southeasternstages.com) offers similar routes. The bus station is at 3610 Dorchester Rd. (tel. 843/744-4247). CARTA Route 11 also services the Greyhound bus station.
Tourist offices -- The Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting St., at John St. (tel. 800/774-0006; www.charlestoncvb.com), just across from the Charleston Museum, provides maps and brochures, and the helpful staff can also assist you in finding accommodations. Numerous tours depart hourly from the visitor center, and restroom facilities, as well as parking ($16/day), are available. Be sure to allow time to view the 24-minute multi-image presentation
Charleston’s streets are laid out in an easy-to-follow grid pattern. The main north-south thoroughfares are King, Meeting, and East Bay streets. Tradd, Broad, Queen, and Calhoun streets cross the city from east to west. South of Broad Street, East Bay becomes East Battery.
By Bus -- Public transport is provided by CARTA (Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority). The standard bus fare is $1.75 (express $3, transfers 30[ce]), and service is available from 5:35am to 10pm (until 1am to North Charleston). Between 9am and 3:30pm, after 6pm, and all day Saturday and Sunday, seniors pay 85[ce]. The fare for persons with disabilities (all day) is 50[ce]. Exact change is required. A 1-day pass is $6 (3 days is $12), but if you intend to stay primarily in the Historic District these are not necessary. Bus 41 connects Downtown with Patriots Point, but for most of the attractions in West Ashley and the outlying areas you will need your own transport. For route and schedule information, call tel. 843/724-7420 or visit www.ridecarta.com.
By Trolley -- The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) is the quickest way to get around the main downtown area. The service is free. There are currently three routes: RT210, which runs along Calhoun Street between the Aquarium and the College of Charleston; RT211, which runs between the Historic District and the Visitor Center; and RT213, which makes a big loop to the Citadel. All three routes intersect at the Visitor Center and tend to run Monday to Friday 6:30am to 9:30pm and weekends 8am to 9:30pm, every 20 or 30 minutes. To confirm hours and routes, call tel. 843/724-7420 or visit www.ridecarta.com.
By Taxi -- Leading taxi companies are Yellow Cab (tel. 843/577-6565; www.yellowcabofcharleston.com) and Safety Cab (tel. 843/722-4066). For pick-ups at the airport, and Amtrak and Greyhound stations, try Mount Pleasant Shuttle (tel. 866/223-7226; www.mpshuttle.com). Each company has its own fare structure, but city ordinances require all taxi drivers to charge a flat $5 rate for any trip within the Charleston peninsula. Companies are allowed to add a $1 surcharge per passenger beyond the first passenger, plus a gas surcharge ranging from 50[ce] (when the gas price reaches $3/gallon) to $3.50 (if gas reaches $6.50/gallon). You must call for a taxi; there are no pickups on the street.
By water Taxi -- Charleston Water Taxi, 10 Wharfside St. (tel. 843/330-2989; www.charlestonwatertaxi.com) runs an hourly ferry loop service across the Cooper River starting at 9am at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in Mount Pleasant before heading over to Waterfront Park in the Historic District; the ferry then runs up to the Maritime Center (1 block south of the South Carolina Aquarium) before crossing back over to Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant and starting the loop again. Ferries run daily 9am to 8pm late March through late November (June–Aug ferries run Fri–Sat until 11pm). The rest of the year ferries run Saturdays only 10am to 6pm. One-way tickets are $6; 1-day passes are $10. Children 3 and under ride free. Purchase tickets on the boat or online.
By Car -- If you’re staying in the city proper, park your car and save it for day trips to outlying areas. You’ll find parking facilities scattered about the city, with some of the most convenient at Hudson Street and Calhoun Street, both of which are near Marion Square; on King Street between Queen and Broad; and on George Street between King and Meeting. If you can’t find space on the street to park, the two most centrally located garages are on Wentworth Street (tel. 843/724-7383) and at Concord and Cumberland (tel. 843/724-7387). The fee is $16 all day.
Leading car-rental companies are Avis Rent A Car (tel. 800/331-1212 or 843/767-7030; www.avis.com), Budget Car and Truck Rentals (tel. 800/527-0700, 843/767-7051 at the airport, 760-1410 in North Charleston, or 577-5195 downtown; www.budget.com), and Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131 or 843/767-4554; www.hertz.com).
Ride a Rickshaw
By far the most fun way to get around the Historic District (though not the cheapest) is to hail a tricycle taxi, otherwise known as a rickshaw. In peak season it’s easy to find them on Market Street, but you can also call for pick up. Contact the Charleston Rickshaw Co., daily 9am to 2am (tel. 843/723-5685; www.charlestonrickshaw.com). Drivers charge $5.50 per passenger, per 10 minutes.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.