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There is so much to see and do in Charleston, one of the most charming cities in South Carolina. The city is compact, and one can easily explore it on foot, especially if planning a weekend getaway and staying downtown, which has everything – shops, restaurants, and numerous historical sites. While walking is one of the best ways to get around Charleston, there are other impressive options to consider. Public transportation alone comes with many options, including DASH shuttles, offering services throughout the city, and allowing travelers to have access to several attractions. Here is a guide to Charleston's best transportation options.


Downtown Area Shuttle DASH

Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) administers the city’s transit system and provides numerous options for getting around, including bus services and park and ride options. The best option for visitors touring the historic downtown is DASH, which offers free shuttle rides around the Peninsula and various attractions, including the Waterfront Park, South Carolina Aquarium, and Charleston Visitor Center. Servicing three major routes, DASH is the most convenient transportation option for travelers, as all the routes stop by the visitor center. The routes include:

  • The Green Line: Loops from Charleston Visitor Center along King St to Broad St. From there, it rides to the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, then through the Waterfront Park and Charleston Market.
  • The Orange Line: Also known as Route 210, this line takes travelers to the South Carolina Aquarium, Marion Square, the Visitor Center, and the College of Charleston.
  • The Purple Line: Route 213 stops at the City Market, Waterfront Park, Charleston Museum, and Upper King Street.
  • DASH hours of operation: 7:00 am – 10:00 pm
  • Accessibility: All shuttles are accessible by travelers in wheelchairs.

Getting Around On A Bus

CARTA regulates 16 bus routes and three express bus routes. Dorchester Road, on Route 11, connects visitors between the Charleston Visitor Center and the airport. Travelers can pay per ride, which is cash only, or purchase a day pass at the Visitor Center. Kids riding with paying visitors can travel for free.

  • Cost a one-way fare: $2 for regular routes and $3.50 for expressways.
  • A day pass costs: $7, and kids can ride for free.
  • Accessibility: Buses are wheelchair-accessible, and there are lifts and mobility devices for the disabled.

If attractions travelers are planning to explore is not on any of the DASHH routes, the CARTA buses are the best option because they are simple and easy to navigate. It is important to check ridecarta.com/ to see if a bus is offering services to desirable destinations.

Related: 10 Tips For Getting Around On Public Transport In A New Place

Tips For Getting Around On A Bus

  • The discounted daily passes are available online or at the Charleston Visitor Center.
  • Ensure you have the exact change before hopping on a bus.
  • Don’t come with pets. They are not allowed.
  • It is important to be at the bus stop at least five minutes earlier than the bus' arrival.
  • Disabled riders are eligible for discounted fares.

Getting Around Charleston In A Car

Travelers won’t need to rent a car if they are only visiting Charleston for a weekend and are only planning to explore the downtown area. Riding the DASH, Uber, or Lyft should be enough, but if exploring outside the city limits is on the plane, then using a car would be appropriate. Travelers have eight different car renting agencies at the airport and more downtown to choose from. Parking is something vacationers have to worry about when getting around this gorgeous city in a car.

  • Parking cost at city-run garages: $1 per thirty minutes
  • Cost of city-run parking lots: between $1 and $2 per thirty minutes
  • Cost of parking at meters: $1
  • Meters opening hours: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, Mondays through Saturdays.

Traffic jams are very common at any time of the day, thanks to several bridges, tourists, and so many new residents moving around.

Taxis And Ride Sharing Apps

Taxis, Uber, and Lyft, are all available in Charleston and are perfect for travelers looking for privacy. Uber and Lyft services' costs depend on their demand and sometimes can be significantly lower. For travelers undergoing short trips to see attractions or to dine at a restaurant, Uber and Lyft are the most convenient option, especially when staying downtown.

The cost of a taxi: $15 is the minimum fee from the airport, but it can cost up to $60, depending on where one is staying.

Check on the hotel's website to see if they are offering free shuttle rides from the airport before hopping into a taxi, Uber, or Lyft.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About NYC's Taxis

Biking In Charleston

Cars in Charleston are not driven too fast, thanks to the short city blocks, making biking another good transportation option for vacationers. There are several shops spread across the city from which travelers can rent bikes. Downtown Charleston has no bike lanes, but tourists can use the Ravenel Bridge to Mount Pleasant, a 2.5-mile designated as a multipurpose route.

The free DASH system and rideshare are the cheapest ways to get around Charleston, but all these options will get travelers to whichever destinations they are heading to.