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Getting Around Charleston by Car

Updated: October 12, 2021

Getting around Charleston can seem a little daunting at first, but really it is a piece of cake! Just be aware of the following things and you’ll be cruising the city like a local.


Don’t Look Up - Always Look Down or to the Side!!Driving car Charleston

  • Turn Only signs are rarely above you - they are all painted on the street itself.
  • Traffic Lights in the historic area are never above the street - they are on the side of the street.

 Don’t Honk!

  • Charlestonians only honk if an accident is imminent.

Go Around

  • If you get behind a horse and carriage, feel free to drive around it.
  • If a car in front of you is turning left at a light and you wish to go straight, simply go around them (provided the light is green and there is no traffic). Swing into the Right Turn lane to get around the left turning car and proceed straight through the intersection. We all do it, even the cops.

Charleston is a peninsula and is laid out in a grid system - which is great for you! It is not very big and once you’re aware of the following main streets there’s no way you can get lost.

The main North-South thoroughfares are:

MEETING STREET - Meeting Street is the main road that cruises through the middle of the peninsula. It will take you right from Interstate 26 all the way down to the southern tip of the peninsula and is two-way the whole way. Hint: Hang out in the left lane - it is a straight and left turn only lane. The right lane will turn into a Right Turn Only lane every other light or so.

KING STREET - King Street also goes the whole length of the peninsula and is one block west of Meeting Street. It is two-way part of the way and then turns into One-Way at Calhoun Street, where you can only continue going south. Look down for the turn lanes!

EAST BAY STREET - East Bay is one block east of Meeting Street and follows the Cooper River. It is two-way its entire length.

The main East-West Thoroughfares are:

CALHOUN STREET - Calhoun Street is the main cross street of the northern portion of the historic district. It will take you from the Ashley River to the Cooper River. Be aware of the frequent Turn-Only lanes (look down for the symbols). You’ll have to switch lanes a few times if you want to head in a straight line. If you take it all the way to the Cooper River, you’ll find yourself at the Aquarium and the launch site for Fort Sumter Tours.

BROAD STREET - Broad Street will take you straight across the lower portion of the historic district and is two-way from one river to the other. Hint: All of the lights on Broad Street are located on the corners, not above you!

We have one-way streets - Have no Fear! 

Our one-way streets, generally, are side streets. If you find yourself going down one unintentionally you’re only two turns from getting back in your intended direction.  Just turn at the first cross street. The next intersection will more than likely bring you to a one-way street going in the direction you want to travel.


  • There are numerous garages throughout the city.
  • When taking a walking tour with Free Tours By Foot the best place to park is the parking garage at the corner of Cumberland Street and Church Street - plug in 90 Cumberland Street, 29401 into your GPS to find it.
  • The rates are: $1.00/every half hour; $20 daily maximum.
  • Alternately, right across Cumberland Street from the garage is a small lot. The charge is a flat fee of $10 and you can park all day.
  • Both of these parking areas will bring you basically across the street from the tour start point.

Happy Travels and Drive Safely! We’ll see you soon!

About The Author

Scott Nelson

Scott has led over 2,000 tours of Charleston and has more than 1000 5 star reviews. He started working in museums at the age of 16 (Unsinkable Molly Brown House) and hasn't looked back. He was the Executive Director of Heurich House and on the historic interpretation/ education staff at Mount Vernon, both in Washington DC, for over 6 years. Scott moved to Charleston in 2012 for a job with the Historic Charleston Foundation and began leading tours for Free Tours by Foot.
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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