Dangers & Annoyances

Charleston is a safe city with a relatively low crime rate.

  • Take the same precautions as you would in most cities – be aware of your surroundings at night or when alone, especially in North Charleston.
  • The biggest annoyance here is that sidewalks and cobblestone- and brick-paved alleys are often uneven. When people trip over these, they are said to be doing 'the Charleston shuffle.'

Discount Cards

ID cards for travel on CARTA are issued at the SC Works Charleston Career Center at 1930 Hanahan Rd, North Charleston, between 8:30am and 5pm (closed for lunch noon to 1pm). There are discounts for seniors (who only need to show proof of age when buying bus tickets), travelers with disabilities and students. For more info call 843-724-7420.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Police, fire, ambulance911
Hurricane hotline843-402-5800
Emergency preparedness hotline843-202-7100

Etiquette

Charlestonians are incredibly genteel people, and they expect visitors to be on their best behavior as well.

  • Greetings Don't be surprised or take offense if locals are inquisitive about your last name or probe your political leanings. They live in a small place where everybody knows each other, and these are common ways to become acquainted.
  • Open container law One thing locals get angry about (particularly in the South of Broad neighborhood) is people carrying on after dark. Be aware that it's illegal to drink alcohol in the street and rude to make too much noise.
  • Sensitivity about race Charleston was a center of the slave trade and places connected with that history should be treated with respect. For instance, when touring the Old Slave Mart Museum, it is not funny or OK to ask where you can get yourself a slave. (People have actually done this.)

Gay & Lesbian Travelers

The city of Charleston is very accepting of people from all different backgrounds and has a large and vibrant LGBTQ community. Beau Magazine (https://beau-magazine.com) is a Charleston-based online resource that offers suggestions for LGBTQ friendly businesses and events and shares stories.

Insurance

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

The City of Charleston offers free public wi-fi access in most city parks. Otherwise, it's easily accessible at most hotels and coffee shops, and the occasional restaurant.

Media

  • Newspapers The Charleston City Paper (www.charlestoncitypaper.com) is published each Wednesday; this alt-weekly has good entertainment and restaurant listings. The Post & Courier (www.postandcourier.com) is Charleston's daily newspaper.

Money

ATMs are widespread, and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. The US dollar ($) is standard currency.

Tipping

A tip is expected in most cases for a job well done.

  • Restaurants 15% is adequate, 18% is standard and 20% will be highly appreciated.
  • Hotels A few dollars per night for the housekeeper is a lovely gesture.
  • Other staff Between $2 and $5 is the norm for someone who valets your car or carries your bag.

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary throughout the year. We provide high-season opening hours; hours will generally decrease in the shoulder and low seasons.

Banks 9am–5pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants 9am–10pm

Cafes 7am–7pm

Bars and clubs 5pm–2am

Shops 10am–6pm

Post

The post office is perfectly reliable in Charleston. The main office is downtown.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day January 1

Martin Luther King, Jr Day Third Monday in January

Presidents' Day Third Monday in February

Confederate Memorial Day May 10

Mother's Day May 14

Memorial Day May 29

Father's Day June 18

Independence Day July 4

Labor Day First Monday in September

Veterans' Day November 10

Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday in November

Christmas Holiday December 22

Christmas Day December 25

Day after Christmas December 26

Smoking

  • Smoking It's illegal to smoke cigarettes in Charleston's restaurants and bars. Electronic cigarettes are not regulated under state law or smoke-free laws, but municipalities may enact restrictions.

Taxes & Refunds

The hotel tax in Charleston is 14%, restaurant tax is 11% and sales tax is 9%. There are no tax refunds.

Telephone

International access code+1
Area code843

To make a domestic call from a cell phone or a landline in Charleston, enter the area code and then the phone number. For an international call, enter the country code, area code and phone number. Toll-free numbers typically begin with 1-800 or 1-888.

Mobile Phones

Many cellular networks, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, are reliable in Charleston. To avoid crazy roaming fees, it's advisable to get a local, prepaid SIM card that can be used with an unlocked smartphone or a cheap, local cell phone. Find more information and a list of prepaid-plan vendors at http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/USA.

Toilets

  • Toilets are sit-down and you'll never be charged to use one. That said, some businesses only allow paying customers to use their restrooms. The best public bathroom in Charleston is inside Charleston Place.

Tourist Information

Charleston Visitor Center Find help with accommodations and tours or watch a half-hour video on Charleston history in this spacious renovated warehouse.

North Charleston Visitor Center A visitor center with brochures, maps and staff who can help you plan your trip.

Travel with Children

Charleston is an imaginative city and as such a great place to bring kiddos of all ages, with plenty of attractions, museums and green spaces to stimulate their rapidly expanding minds and bodies. The visitor center has given a lot of thought to which activities are best for families, and put together a five-day itinerary at www.charlestoncvb.com/itineraries/family-playcation.

Experiential Learning

  • South Carolina Aquarium Kids of all ages will adore sea-creature touch tanks and the turtle rehab center.
  • Middleton Place For kids that will like kayaking by the Ashley River and frolicking in America's oldest manicured gardens.
  • Old South Carriage Co Young children will enjoy bouncing on your lap, and older ones may have their curiosity about history piqued.

Travellers with Disabilities

The city is generally pretty friendly to travelers with disabilities, as most businesses are in compliance with ADA regulations. But the uneven sidewalks and alleyways aren't great for wheelchairs, and while all taxis can carry a folded wheelchair in the trunk, none offer lifts.

There's free parking for people with disabilities in government-run parking areas, including for garages and meters. Visitors with disabilities can find more info and contact information at www.charlestoncvb.com/travel-support/accessibility.

Accessible Travel Online Resources

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Volunteering

Charleston offers a range of volunteer opportunities. One of the most popular organizations for visitors to get involved with is Charleston Beautiful (www.facebook.com/KCBSC), which works to beautify the city and outlying areas through education, awareness and clean-ups. There are regular events that short-term visitors can attend, and longer-term projects suitable for those planning to stick around a while.