Though downtown Charleston is relatively small and easy to navigate, good transportation methods are still necessary. Visitors can traverse Charleston’s cobbled streets by foot and car, but robust public transportation options are also available. The city runs shuttles and buses that can keep you from the trouble of renting a car or calling a taxi.
Here is a breakdown of all the options for getting around Charleston.
Charleston has been inhabited for over 400 years, meaning much of it was designed to be accessible on foot. The city’s Historic District is especially walkable, but there might be traffic to contend with. If you want to explore outside of downtown Charleston, however, you will need a car or some form of public transportation.
Many tour companies offer guided walking tours in downtown Charleston, such as this culinary tour of local eateries that we recommend in our guide to the 15 Absolute Best Things to do in Charleston.
Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA)
CARTA provides bus services in and outside of downtown Charleston and the Charleston International Airport. It operates from 5:15am to 1am Monday through Friday, 6am to 12am on Saturdays, and from 7am to 9pm on Sundays, with the Sunday schedule on national holidays. CARTA runs more than a dozen regular routes and three express routes.
A regular one-way ticket is $2, while the express ticket is $3.50. Children under 6 ride for free, and discounts are available for students, seniors, and those with disabilities. CARTA also offers multi-trip and multi-day passes, which are the perfect option if you plan to ride the bus as your main method of transportation. Find more information on the cost and type of passes here.
Passes can be purchased online at the CARTA website or in-person at major bus stops like the Charleston Visitor Center.
Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH)
The Downtown Area Shuttle operates on three routes throughout the downtown area that are free for everyone. Its shuttles go everywhere from the Charleston Museum to the Citadel to Waterfront Park. Learn more about the routes DASH covers here. The shuttles run from 6am to 10pm on weekdays, and 8am to 9pm on weekends. All of its buses have WiFi and air conditioning.
DASH is the perfect option for getting around Charleston’s downtown area. Each of its three routes has between 15 and 24 stops, making it easy to hop on and off wherever you need to be.
Traditional, metered taxis aren’t common in Charleston, but ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are very prevalent. These apps may be your best bet for traveling outside of the city, or for getting to and from the airport.
The city has certain taxi companies like Charleston Green Taxi and Charleston Cab Company, whom you can book in advance.
If you are planning to embark on some day trips, like the ones we recommend in our list of the 15 Best Day Trips from Charleston, renting a car may be your best bet. Parking can be difficult and expensive downtown, so renting a car may not be ideal if you plan to spend all your time there.
Alamo, Hertz, Budget, and other major car rental companies have stations at the airport and in downtown Charleston.
Charleston has a robust bike-share program called Holy Spokes, with over 25 locations across the city. Users can download the Social Bicycles app or register right at a bike to begin using it. Rates for a bike are $8 an hour or $12 for a day pass.
Also known as pedicabs or rickshaws, bike taxis can be a fun, open-air way to travel around downtown Charleston. Companies like Charleston Pedicab and Charleston Rickshaw operate from about 9am in the morning to midnight, seven days a week. You can either call them and give them your location, or simply flag down an empty one. The cost is about $6 per person per ten minutes.
The Charleston Water Taxi is necessary for getting from downtown Charleston to Patriots Point, which is home to attractions like the Naval & Maritime Museum. The water taxi is an enjoyable, relaxing way to get across the harbor, and day passes start at $12.
Whether you choose to hail a pedicab or hop on the DASH, Charleston has many available options for transportation. Make sure to be mindful of rush hour traffic and special events like the Spoleto Festival when planning your travel, as they may affect prices and travel time.