Charleston Hop On Hop Off Bus

Ready to get to know Charleston on a tour bus? Knowing this beautiful southern corner in a comfortable vehicle is one of the best experiences and below I tell you everything you need to know about it.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

Charleston Hop On Hop Off Bus

Charleston Trolleybus | ©Robert Magina

Charleston is one of America's oldest and most iconic cities; with an impressive historical burden there is much to see and do in Charleston.

The tour buses in this destination are an excellent alternative to get to know the most outstanding points of interest in a short tour.

Want to know all about them, read on to the end!

The best tour buses in the city

Charleston Sightseeing Bus| ©Viator
Charleston Sightseeing Bus| ©Viator

Charleston is one of those American cities where it is very easy to walk, the main attractions and points of interest are close to each other, especially when we talk about the old part of the city.

However, those traveler friends who are visiting the city for the first time or whose stay in the city contemplates very little time, for example, 1 day to tour Charleston; can greatly benefit from the services of the city's tour bus.

Designed exclusively for tourists, this system tours the most important historical sites and tourist attractions in Old Charleston.

The tours are conducted in minibuses and in small groups, guaranteeing individualized treatment. However, the best part of the tour buses in Charleston is the accompaniment of a certified guide; who introduces the group to 350 years of history in a tour of less than 2 hours.

It is important to keep in mind that the traditional Hop-on Hop-off tour bus service is not available in Charleston. Instead you will find numerous local companies that offer a similar service at affordable prices.

In the following sections we will see in detail what the best tour buses in Charleston have to offer in their routes.

You will even find local companies that complement the city tours with options to visit the plantations from Charleston, a way to get closer to the best of what this charming southern destination has to offer.

Book the Charleston tour bus

Different routes of the Charleston sightseeing bus

St. John the Baptist Cathedral| ©Jules & Jenny
St. John the Baptist Cathedral| ©Jules & Jenny

The route of the different Charleston tour buses share a very similar objective: to tour the highlights of the old city. As a result, the routes and stops are similar to each other.

Although your itinerary and route may vary depending on the company you hire for the experience, some of the highlights you might expect to see include the following:

The Battery

The Battery is the name of Charleston's waterfront promenade from which you can get marvelous views of the Cooper River, the ships that ply its waters and the impressive Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Due to its strategic location it functioned as a defensive point during the Civil War, so you'll find several memorials in the surrounding area.

Many Charleston tour buses include a stop at The Battery on their itinerary so you can walk around and take pictures of the highlights.

Historic Charleston Homes

The Battery boardwalk borders South of Broad, a residential area filled with stately mansions built in true Southern style in the years before the Civil War.

Strolling along its beautiful facades while listening to revealing historical facts is one of the best things to do in the city.

Old Charleston Churches

Charleston is a city very attached to its traditions so religious worship has always been part of the dynamics of its people. In the historic downtown you will find several temples that are worth visiting, whether you are a believer or not, for their aesthetic appeal and architecture.

One of them is the Cathedral St. John the Baptist, an old temple made of stone and in neo-Gothic style in which stand out its beautiful stained glass windows and its benches carved in oak wood.

Charleston City Market

The Old City Market of Charleston is a must on any tour of the city. It is one of the oldest markets in the United States where the locals strive to keep their various traditions alive and present them to the many visitors who flock to this destination.

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row is known as one of the most beautiful streets in Charleston. Made up of a row of old houses painted in beautiful and cheerful colors, they face The Battery and, therefore, the seascape that makes it up.

Advantages of using the tour bus

Boarding the Bus| ©Dave Munday
Boarding the Bus| ©Dave Munday

Using the tour bus in Charleston to get to know the city is one of the best decisions you can make.

The main advantage of this service is the accompaniment of an expert guide throughout the tour. The guide is in charge of presenting to the group the most important details about each of the places you are going to visit during the tour.

Additionally, the excursions are conducted in small, air-conditioned buses. The size of the bus ensures the inclusion of a limited number of travelers and a more personalized treatment.

The air-conditioned buses are highly beneficial if you go to the city in very hot months such as July in Charleston or August in Charleston, when the high temperatures make walking tours very uncomfortable.

When visiting Charleston it is important to know that the tour guides in the city have a state license that endorses their knowledge and certifies them to offer this type of services in the different companies.

How long is the complete tour of the tour bus

Getting to know Charleston| ©robynfreaks
Getting to know Charleston| ©robynfreaks

The tour buses in Charleston mainly tour the Old Town area of the city and the main attractions in a tour of approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from the time the bus sets off.

The company will ask travelers to arrive at the meeting point a few minutes before the departure time; to give them a proper welcome and accommodate all participants in the right place before departure.

These are almost always circular routes where the last stop corresponds to the starting point or initial meeting point.

What I will see from the tour bus.

Pineapple-shaped fountain in Waterfront Park| ©charlee955
Pineapple-shaped fountain in Waterfront Park| ©charlee955

The tour bus tours are designed to take in the main points of interest in Charleston's historic district; however, Charleston is a city with an abundance of historic sites, so some highlights may vary depending on the company or person designing the tour.

From the bus it is possible to observe houses with the characteristic architecture of the southern United States; also some beautiful landscaped areas of Charleston such as the White Point Garden and the Waterfront Park, with its famous fountain in the shape of a pineapple.

Some tours stop at The Battery Pier, a key point from which you can see Fort Sumter Island in the distance, which you can get a closer look at by taking a boat ride around Charleston.

How much the tour bus ticket costs

Money in Dollars| ©Karolina Grabowska
Money in Dollars| ©Karolina Grabowska

In Charleston you will find several companies that offer the tourist bus service in the city and the prices are around the following rates.

  • The adult ticket costs about 30€ or 35€; depending on the company this may include all participants whose age is over 12 years old.
  • The child ticket costs about 20€ or 25€; depending on the company this usually includes children from 4 to 11 years old. If you are going to Charleston with children this activity can be interesting for them.
  • The senior ticket costs about 28€ to 30€; it includes people over 62 years old, this type of ticket is not offered by all companies.
  • Free for children under 3 years old who must be accompanied by an adult and sit on the legs not in a separate seat.

Keep in mind that the prices shared here are merely indicative and depending on the company you hire, the duration of the tour and whether or not other facilities are included, the price may vary slightly.

For example, some companies offer the Charleston sightseeing bus tour in conjunction with a visit to the Charleston Museum, increasing the time and price variables.

Tourist bus schedules

Bus for the tour| ©Alejandra Teran
Bus for the tour| ©Alejandra Teran

This is an aspect that can vary greatly from one company to another, however most companies in Charleston perform this type of experience in the same time slot.

  • Daytime Tour: All companies in the city offer a morning historic tour starting between 10 am and 12 pm; every day of the week. The larger companies have several minibuses at their disposal, which is why the tours depart every 30 minutes.
  • Afternoon tour: Not all companies in the city offer an evening historical tour. The smaller companies offer one or two tours while the larger ones have a bus every 30 minutes on average. The afternoon tours start at 1:00 p.m., with the last tours departing at around 3:30 p.m.

How the tourist bus works.

Charleston City Market| ©Historic Charleston City Market
Charleston City Market| ©Historic Charleston City Market

The tourist bus in Charleston, unlike other large cities in North America, works a little differently. Rather than a free-stop style service, you will find companies that organize tours of strategic points in order for the traveler to get to know the city in a guided tour of short duration.

How to buy tickets for the tourist bus:

For this type of adventure the best alternative is always to purchase tickets in advance using a search service such as Hello Tickets, where you will find some of the best local providers.

This experience is among the best guided tours in Charleston, which is why rush hour tickets can sell out quickly during peak tourist months.

Duration and validity of tickets:

With this type of experience tickets purchased are valid for one trip only on the time and day reserved at the time of purchase. I recommend structuring your itinerary in advance and purchasing tickets once you have your initial plan organized.

Cancellation policy:

You should carefully read the cancellation policy of each company as some companies state that, after a certain period of time, purchased tickets cannot be refunded or rescheduled because the company reserves your space for the agreed day and time.

If you need to cancel or reschedule, my recommendation is to communicate the inconvenience to the company immediately to mediate a solution.

Language of the tours:

These excursions are narrated tours and are offered mostly in English; if you need a guide in any other language I recommend contacting the organizing company to confirm their availability of expert guides in the language you need.

Private tour alternatives:

Almost all companies in Charleston offer the traveler the possibility of hiring a private tour bus tour. If you are going to the city with friends or family and want a more exclusive experience, just contact the company in charge and ask for a quote.

Tourist bus tips

Charleston Plantations| ©AnubisAbyss
Charleston Plantations| ©AnubisAbyss

It's no secret that when you travel to a new city, the tour bus is the perfect way to see most of the tourist area in a tour specially designed with the average traveler in mind.

However, not all experiences are equally enjoyable so I suggest taking into account the following tips in order to get the most out of your stay in Charleston.

Choose the right company

Almost every city has several alternatives and companies that offer a similar service while the internet is a wonderful resource that will allow you to read user reviews and easily compare different alternatives.

Plan your tour in advance.

For all travelers touring Charleston for the first time, I recommend arriving in the city with a structured plan of which attractions or places to visit on which days. You can check out the guides on what to see in Charleston in 3 days or what to see in Charleston in 4 days for inspiration.

Once you have planned your itinerary; determine which day and time is best to do the tour.

Make your reservation in advance

Once you have completed the planning phrase of your itinerary the smartest thing to do is to proceed to make your reservations using online booking. This tip is especially important if you are traveling to Charleston during the peak tourist season which tends to be the summer vacation months in the United States; such as July or August in Charleston.