Parking is Charleston is terrible. If you're staying at a hotel, leave your car there. If must drive, valet your car. If your lucky enough to find a meter spot, leave your car there, just remember where you parked it. You can leave your car over night at SOME meter spots, not all. Pay attention to the signs or your car will be towed. Parking at meters is free after six everyday, and free all day Sunday.
As I mentioned, Charleston is relatively small. I would just walk everywhere. But, if you must take transportation, use a pedicab or rickshaw. They'll get to you within five minutes(cabs take forever). It's a fun way to get around Charleston. Most of pedicab/rickshaw drivers are college students...i.e. they are really nice.
Charleston has no train system, and the bus system is on the verge of being non-existant. Besides, the buses are dirty.
Take a cab as your last option.
Charleston is served by many air carriers.
The Historic district can be taken in by foot or by the narrated trolley rides that are available. Boats ply the Cooper River. For greater distances, a car or taxi is needed.
Your personal auto is the best way to come to Charleston because air fares are so high. About 85% of tourists arrive by vehicle.
If you are going to concentrate your day in the Historic Downtown District, I used to recommend parking your car at the Visitor's Center garage on Meeting Street between Ann and Mary Streets. (The parking lot infront of the Visitors Center is FREE for the first 1/2 hour.)
However I no longer recommend relying on the DASH bus for transportation. They, early in 2004, cut all the downtown routes but one because of a critical budget crunch. CARTA is using political blackmail against the citizens who defeated a 1/2 percent sales tax to fund the mis-managed bus service.
Parking is going to be hard to find with everyone now driving downtown without bus service. There are lots of parking garages and parking lots scattered throughout downtown. On street parking will be very difficult to find. Continually feeding meters will get you a ticket if you don't move to another spot.
Charleston has a very large force of parking meter ticket writers. They seem to patrol their assigned streets in about 30 minutes and return. Feed the meter or you WILL get a $6 parking ticket. DO NOT park in commercial loading zones. That will be a $20 ticket unless you have commercial plates. Even then you get ticketed for more than 30 minutes in that zone. Residential Neighborhood parking is very time limited without a permit. Read the signs. That is a $15 ticket. And they do boot vehicles that have unpaid tickets.
Driving in Charleston can be a HUGE pain in the ass. Too many of the streets are one-way, so it can be very hard to take a direct route to where you need to go. And God help you if you take a wrong turn.
Also, the streets are narrow, bumpy (even the ones that aren't cobblestone, which are REALLY bumpy), lined with parked cars, and prone to flooding.
And despite the construction of many new garages recently, there still isn't enough parking.
See the city by foot if at all possible. That way you can annoy the people in the cars by crossing streets slowly and in the wrong places--something a lof of the tourists seem to do.
We rented a car at Thrifty, which is off of the airport. They do have a free shuttle to & from the terminal - it's just a 5 minute ride. We got this price from the Thrifty web site. Tip: You get better prices if you tell them you're flying in. They have a different set of prices for local customers.
Car Type FULL-SIZE, 2-4 DOOR CAR, AUTOMATIC, WITH AIR CONDITIONING
(Dodge Intrepid or Similar)
Date: January 04, 2003 at 01:00 PM January 06, 2003 at 01:00 PM
Location CHARLESTON AIRPORT, SC, USA CHARLESTON AIRPORT, SC, USA
3826 W. MONTAGUE AVE 3826 W. MONTAGUE AVE
CHARLESTON INTL AIRPORT CHARLESTON INTL AIRPORT
CHARLESTON , SC 29418 CHARLESTON , SC 29418
UNITED STATES UNITED STATES
Telephone (843) 552-7531 (843) 552-7531
ESTIMATED FEES ( in USD )
ESTIMATED MANDATORY CHARGES
Rental Time Charge 31.92
With Discount applied 31.92
Drop Charge 0.00
Airport Access Fee ( 8.00% ) 2.55
State Surcharge ( 5.00% ) 1.60
Sales Tax ( 6.00% ) 2.16
Total Estimated Mandatory Charges 38.23
ESTIMATED GRAND TOTAL 38.23
The best way is by car. You can get almost anywhere you need to (except Fort Sumpter) by car.It's not too far from I-95.
You can get around fairly well by car, however I highly recommend the horse carriage tours to see the city and get some good information in a very enjoyable, leisurely manner.
If driving to Charleston, make sure you have a parking place available for your car. This is very important.
Once in Charleston walking is about the only way to get around. You can take some excursions outside the city in which case it is best to take your own car.
DO NOT DRIVE DOWNTOWN! LOCALS WILL HATE YOU! Even locals don't drive downtown unless absolutely necessary. Very hard to navigate Charleston if not familiar with area, due to the LARGE number of one way streets and alternating lanes. Walk (the city is only about 3 miles sqare) or take one of the busses or trolleys.
Parking is hellatious downtown. If you see a NO PARKING sign, heed it. Cops do not mind towing you or issuing you a ticket for every hour you are parked there. Also, cops go around with 'the boot' which they will happily attatch to the wheel of your car, making it immobile. Like I said before, don't drive. Then you don't have to worry about parking. Forget about parking in the Market. Virtually impossible!
As with all things US, it's best to arrive by car.
The historical section of town is small and easily explored on foot and there is ample parking so if you care to drive to some sights not right in the center, it's not stressful in the least. Some sights like Boone Plantation are far more easily reached with one's own vehicle. Nuff said about carriage rides...
These pedicabs are inexpenxive as well as fun. They also offer a great way to see things as if you were walking, only a bit faster.