The Best Charleston Bus Tours

This post reviews and compares the various bus tour options available to you in Charleston, including prices, discounts, as well as a free option.

 

 


OVERVIEW

There are (7) companies offering bus tours of Charleston and the surrounding area: 

Prices range from $20-$30 per person and each lasts approximately 90 minutes.

In addition, each company also offers trips to nearby plantations such as Magnolia Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation. 

Gullah Tours and Sites & Insights Tours of Charleston specialize in tours highlighting Charleston’s Gullah culture and African American history.

These tours are also slightly less expensive than those listed above, though not by a huge margin. 

All tours feature charismatic guides who share a personal connection with Charleston’s unique Gullah culture and do an excellent job of sharing their enthusiasm with visitors!

 


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GUIDED BUS TOURS

This section covers all of the major bus tour services currently available in Charleston, including details about ticket prices, subjects covered, and the length of each outing.


Gray Line

Gray Line Tours (seen in the video above) offer 3 daily tours, in addition to several other combo tours.

Their Historic City Tour is a 1 ½ hour bus tour that covers important sites such as Charleston’s Historic Homes, the Battery Sea Wall, the Old Market Area, Rainbow Row, and many others. 

Additionally, they also offer tours of Magnolia Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation, each of which runs for approximately 4 – 4 ½ hours. 

Overall, Gray Line is very similar to companies like Adventure Sightseeing in terms of length, price, and itinerary.

Historic City Tour

  • $25/Adults | $16/Children
  • Departs daily at 9:30 am

The Historic City Tour is included with the Charleston Tour Pass, allowing you to save a lot of money on tickets. For more details, please read our discounts section.

Gray Line receives mostly positive reviews of around 4 ½ out of 5 stars for their informative and convenient tours around Charleston and the surrounding area (read the reviews). 

Many note that this is a great alternative to a carriage tour in the winter, as the Gray Line buses are warm and enclosed.

 


Adventure Sightseeing

Adventure Sightseeing is a family-run tour company that has been operating since 1984. 

They offer a wide range of popular tours including the “See It All” City Tour, Magnolia Plantation Tour, Boone Hall Plantation Tour, and a range of combination tours. 

 

Charleston Rainbow Row

 

Most run multiple times a day, though spaces tend to fill up during the high season. At $25 for the city tour and approximately $50 for the half-day tours to nearby plantations, these provide excellent value for the price. 

Adventure Sightseeing can drop off guests at most hotels in the city after the tour.

“See It All” City Tour

  • $25/Adults | $15/Children
  • Duration: 1 ½ hour

TIP: The “See It All” City Tour is included with the Charleston Tour Pass which can be used to save money on a variety of fun activities and attractions. For more details, please read our discounts section.

Boone Hall Plantation Tour

  • $52/Adults | $28/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Magnolia Plantation Tour 

  • $59/Adults | $30/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Adventure Sightseeing is the highest-rated bus tour company in Charleston. Though some guests found their buses to be too warm and stuffy, those complaints are few and far between. 

A majority of guests were very happy with their experience, writing that the guides were informative and personable. 

This company has an overall rating of 5 out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

 


Pineapple Tour Group

Pineapple Tour Group is newer to the scene and prides itself on a “luxury” tour experience. 

Their city bus tours are offered usually 3 times a day, at 10:15 am, 1 pm, and 3:15 pm and last 1 ½ hours. 

They also have exclusive rights to provide an all-inclusive Middleton Place experience. 

This means an all-day tour that includes lunch, round-trip transportation from downtown Charleston, and even an introductory video to get an overview of the place before you arrive.

 

 

Charleston City Bus Tour

  • $39/Adults | $37/Seniors | $30.75/Children
  • Duration: 1 ½ hour

Middleton Place Tour w/ Lunch

  • $115 per person
  • Duration: 5 hours

Thus far, Pineapple Tour Group has received excellent ratings from its customers and they enjoy an overall 5 out of 5-star rating (read reviews here).

Guests indicate that their bus tours are fun and informative, and their guides are both knowledgeable and entertaining.

 


Southern Accent Tours

Like Gray Line and Adventure Sightseeing, Southern Accent Tours offer a similar 1 ½ hour Historic City Tour.

At $22 per adult, this is a slightly cheaper option, though only by a $1 difference. The real value of this company is its diverse selection of plantation tours. 

In addition to offering tours of Magnolia and Boone Hall Plantation, they also offer trips to McLeod Plantation, Drayton Hall Plantation, and Middleton Place, as well as a Winery, Distillery, and Tea Plantation Tour. 

 

 

However, these are tours are not led by a Southern Accent Tours guide, and instead just include transportation and the entrance fee. 

Free hotel pick-up is available 30 minutes prior to any of their tours.

Historical City Tour

  • $23/Adults | $14/Children
  • Duration: 1 ½ hour

Boone Hall Plantation Tour 

  • $49/Adults | $26/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Drayton Hall Plantation Tour 

  • $53/Adults | $29/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Magnolia Plantation Tour 

  • $53/Adults | $26/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Middleton Place Tour 

  • $69/Adults | $29/Children
  • Duration: 4 ½ hours

Though reviews from a few years ago were critical of the company’s lack of organization, more recent reviews suggest that they’ve since improved tremendously as most praise Southern Accent Tours for being so punctual.

This company currently enjoys an overall average rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

 


Charms of Charleston

Charms of Charleston is a small tour company that offers a Historic City Tour of Charleston with the option of adding on a visit to the Aiken-Rhett House as well. 

The latter is a nice follow up to the city tour as it brings to life some of the history that was shared throughout the tour.

 

 

As a younger company, Charms of Charleston doesn’t attract quite as many visitors as some of the others.

However, this is perfect if you’re looking for a more intimate experience as they often cater to fewer than 10 guests!

Another bonus is that they provide free pick-up from any hotels located downtown. 

Historic City Tour 

  • $22/Adults | $13/Children
  • Departs Tuesday – Saturday at 11:15 am & 2 pm

Historic City Tour with Aiken-Rhett House 

  • $33/Adults | $18/Children
  • Departs Tuesday – Saturday at 11:15 am & 2 pm

Historic City Tour + Aiken-Rhett House + Charleston Museum

  • $43/Adults | $23/Children
  • Departs Tuesday – Saturday at 11:15 am & 2 pm

Purchase tickets or learn more.

Despite being the smallest tour company on this list, Charms of Charleston maintains the highest rating on TripAdvisor with 5 stars.

Guests write that “this was the best tour I’ve ever been on” and “worth every dollar”.

As of Spring 2017, this company has only ever received 4 or 5-star reviews and they currently have a rating of 5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

 


Gullah Tours

Gullah Tours specializes in Charleston’s African American history and Gullah heritage. As their website states, Gullah is “the language spoken by the Lowcountry’s first black inhabitants.” 

Gullah Tours aims to share that language and culture with visitors by bringing you to important historic sites such as Denmark Vesey’s home, Catfish Row, the Old Slave Mart, and the Market, the Aiken-Rhett House slave quarters, and many more. 

All tours are led by Alphonso Brown, a passionate historian and licensed tour guide who speaks Gullah fluently. 

 

 

Gullah Tours are very unique in their approach to Charleston’s history, and so we highly recommend them to those interested in learning more about Gullah’s role and influence in the city.

  • $20 per person
  • Monday – Friday 11 am and 1 pm
  • Saturday 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm

Purchase tickets or learn more.

This is a very popular company that receives excellent reviews. Alphonso Brown is especially highly regarded by many visitors who describe him as both charming and funny, but also hugely knowledgeable.

Currently, they have an overall rating of 4 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

 


Sites and Insights Tours

Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston is another smaller company that also specializes in African American history, like Gullah Tours. 

Their most popular tour is the Black History/Porgy & Bess Tour, which can be done in 1 or 2 hours, depending on if you would like to visit the Hanging Tree Site as well. 

This is the most affordable bus tour on the list at only $15 per adult for the 1-hour option or $20 per adult for 2 hours. 

Additionally, Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston also offer a Sea Island Tour, which is a 2-hour motorized tour that visits both James and Johns Islands. 

Stops include the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, Ft. Lamar Civil War Battleground, and Burn Churchyard Memorial, as well as a drive past McLeod Plantation.

 

Charleston Bus Tour to McLeod Plantation

 

Black History / Porgy & Bess Tours

  • 1-Hour Tour: $15/Adults | $12/Children
  • 2-Hour Tour: $20/Adults | $15/Children

Sea Island Tours 

  • $25/Adults | $20/Children

Purchase tickets or learn more.

Reviews for this company are generally very positive. Their guides are especially well regarded and described as “personable, engaging, and funny,” as well as extremely knowledgeable.

There are a few less than stellar reviews, but these are uncommon and usually due to extenuating circumstances. Overall, this company has a 4 ½ out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

 


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DISCOUNTS 

Tourist Passes

There are currently two bus tours included with the Charleston tour pass which you can use to save money on a variety of fun activities and attractions.

This all-inclusive pass covers admission to over 40 different tours, historic locations, museums, plantations and more for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days).

 

 

Depending on which services you use the pass to access, you could save anywhere from 10% – 55% off or more.

Here are the bus tours you can take with the Charleston tour pass:

  • Gray Line Historic City Tour | $25
  • Adventure Sightseeing “See It All” Tour | $25

In addition to those outings, here are just a few places you can visit with this tourist pass. Next to the activity is the retail price you’d pay without the pass. 

  • Charleston Speedboat Adventures | $75
  • Ghost & Dungeon Walking Tour | $30
  • Aiken Rhett House Museum | $15
  • Palmetto Carriage Works Tours | $28
  • Charleston Tea Plantation | $12
  • Boone Hall Plantation | $24
  • McLeod Plantation | $15
  • Fort Sumter Tour | $23
  • Drayton Hall | $32
  • and more!

For more information about how to use this service to save money, please read our post about Charleston tourist passes.


Combo Packages

If you’re only interested in a few different activities, you may want to consider a combo deal instead.

These packages typically include at least 2-3 attractions or tours for a discounted price.

Gray Line  

Gray Line offers the largest number of package tour options, each of which is combined with its standard Historic City Tour. 


Adventure Sightseeing

Adventure Sightseeing offers a wide selection of package tours, which allow you to combine 2 different attractions at a discounted rate! 

By purchasing a package rather than 2 individual tours, you can save a lot of cash — especially if traveling as a family!

  • City Bus Tour + Boone Hall Plantation Tour 
    • $65/Adults | $40/Children
  • City Bus Tour + Charleston Harbor Tour 
    • $45/Adults | $32/Children
  • City Bus Tour + Magnolia Plantation 
    • $72/Adults | $40/Children
  • City Bus Tour + Southern Mansion 
    • $34/Adults | $19/Children

Purchase combo tickets or learn more.


Southern Accent Tours

Southern Accent Tours is the only company to offer a full-day tour package that incorporates their Historic City Tour, Fort Sumter Tour, and a trip to any plantation. 

At $89 per person, this is a very budget-friendly way to see as much as possible in just 1 day.

The trip can be a bit exhausting, but if you only have one day to spare, this tour will allow you to make the most of it! 

Additionally, they also offer $10 off the listed price of any of their plantation tours if combined with their Historic City Tour.


Sites and Insights of Charleston Tours

Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston offers one package that incorporates an abbreviated tour of Charleston with a visit to John and James Islands to see the Burn Churchyard Cemetery and the Angel Oak Tree. 

This 2 ½ hour package tour is their best seller, and at just $23 per adult, it is an extremely cheap way to do both trips.


Discount Sites

If you’re only interested in a bus tour, you might still be able to save some money by using a site such as Groupon or Living Social.

In addition to the discounts these services provide, they also frequently offer coupon codes you can use to save an extra 10% – 25% off or more.

Before you make any purchases, check the top and bottom of the page for any banners that may feature a coupon you can use to save even more money!

 


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FREE TROLLEY 

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 14.07.14

Though there are no traditional hop-on-hop-off bus tours in Charleston, they do have a free city trolley called the CARTA DASH Trolley. 

These trolleys travel through the historic part of Charleston, allowing you to see much of what you would on the other guided tours, though without any commentary. 

However, if you use our Self-Guided Tour of Historic Charleston or one of our audio tours of Charleston during your ride, you may not even know the difference!

There are 3 different routes that the trolley takes:

  • Route 210 (Orange)
    • From the College of Charleston to the Aquarium
  • Route 211 (Green)
    • Waterfront, Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, and City Market
  • Route 213 (Purple)
    • Connects Brittlebank Park and Riley Stadium to the city center

Each of these routes meets at the Visitors Center, Marion Park, and Charleston Museum. Maps are available at each of these locations.

Learn more about the CARTA DASH Trolley.

 


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