Hi all, just wanted to post a warning to anyone traveling in the Columbia, SC area. Do not rent from GSP Transportation (which runs Dollar and Thirfty out of the Columbia airport). I traveled here in July 2011 and rented a car from them for one day. I did not opt to take insurance, and long story short, they claimed I scratched their car (which I assuredly did not - I thoroughly inspected the car prior to dropping off). But even aside from that, the customer service is TERRIBLE - from the moment I returned the car, where there was no attendant in the lot OR at the kiosk inside the airport, to the months of phone calls and emails to the customer service desk and claims department - my calls and emails were never returned. All I wanted was to discuss this matter with the company, and I could not even get the courtesy of a return phone call from anyone other than their collection agency, which had no specific knowledge of the alleged claim. Quite frankly, I am contemplating taking them to small claims court. In the meantime, though, unless you want to be the victim of potential insurance fraud at worst, or the worst customer service ever at best, I highly recommend avoiding this company. Please note I am not a hate-poster - feel free to check out all my other reviews on Trip Advisor (username ericafowler - as an aside, I am new to virtualtourist but wow, what a great site! I will definitely be posting a lot here in future!) I just want to warn potential travelers away from this company - ignore at your own peril!
We rented a car through Enterprise as that was the cheapest rate on Expedia, I kept on eye on Hotwire but the rates never went any lower than what I reserved the car for. The daily rate was $30.65, the total with taxes $176.57 for 4 days. There are several other national companies that rent cars from the Columbia airport, the desks are all in terminal. By the time we got there, only a couple of cars were left so we didn't get the compact car we requested but it wasn't a Range Rover type gas guzzler either.
We flew into Columbia for our 4 day driving trip to Charleston-Savannah-Hickory because it was in between the cities we were visiting and I could use my United miles otherwise the ticket from Chicago would have been very expensive. The airport is very small and only has around 40 flights per day so getting to the airport 90 minutes before your flight leaves will leave you with about 85 extra minutes to spare. On the return flight, we returned our rental car, got our boarding passes and then went outside to sit on a bench and read.
For a 5:07pm flight the boarding time was 4:47pm, security took all of about 2 minutes, getting our boarding pass was another 2 minutes. The drive from downtown Columbia to the airport was about 15 minutes and very well marked.
Columbia Charlotte Shuttle is becoming increasingly popular. It's a van service that will pick you up at your house and bring you straight to the Charlotte Airport. It only costs $49 per person, each way. Kids are half price. With the price of gas, this service makes it much easier to get between Columbia and CLT. www.columbiacharlotteshuttle.com
Greyhound is another inexpensive option to get to CLT. It takes a little while to get there, but if the timing works out, it is very reasonably priced.
Once you get to Columbia, rent a car and get a map! This town is spread wide across many miles. If you stay by the airport you won't see much, if you stay downtown you will miss a lot. Many people stay downtown and only see the vista area. Check out the local guides and don' be afraid to drive. It's easy to get around and easy to get directions. We don't have big amusement parks or large attractions but you can find a lot of shopping and eating and friendly people.
The Central Midlands RTA has both a fixed route bus service, a trolley service, and Dial-a-Ride Transit which mainly serves the old and the crippled. Fixed routes operate from 5.10 am through to midnight Monday-Saturday and 6.30 am to midnight on Sunday. One-way fare is $1 with some discounts available for students, the young and the old.
In Columbia, Interstates I-77, I-26, and I-20 all meet up. Columbia is pretty much the "hub" of the southeastern states. From here you have direct access to Charlotte, Charleston, Florence, Augusta, and Atlanta, and almost direct access to Savannah.
The Central Midlands RTA is the company operating the local bus and trolley systems. The signs in the downtown Columbia area are blue and white and the standare fare is only one dollar. You can get a ten day pass for $7.50.
Check out the website below for all the details.
There is a nice looking airport, but only one major airline (Delta) flys there itself. The other airlines contract commuter airlines (many of them who fly the small jets) because there isn't enough commerce to support the big jets.