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Visiting Charleston on a Budget

visiting charleston on a budget

With summer and hopefully an end to COVID on the horizon, you’re looking into a possible vacation to Charleston. There seems to be a persisting myth that traveling to Charleston has to be expensive, so here’s the mythbuster you’ve all been waiting for! Touring Charleston in luxury soothes the soul, but not as much as enjoying the city without breaking the bank.

Where to Stay

When looking to stay in Charleston, you may be surprised to find the many affordable AirBnB or VRBO options available, some as low as $65 per night for an entire apartment. Whether you choose the bustling downtown area, a quiet rental by the Angel Oak on John’s Island, or the more eclectic West Ashley; you will that staying alone or with a local Charlestonian will surround you with the kind of southern charm Charleston is famous for.

If a hotel is more your speed, and traffic from inconvenient locations is not, consider one of the competitive hotels along Ripley Point Drive, which overlooks downtown from just across the Ashley River. Options include the Cambria and a few under the Marriott umbrella, to name a few. Just over the Ravenel bridge in Mt Pleasant also offers many all-suite hotel options that are close by, but give the convenience of a kitchen space and usually offer pools to cool off.

Cities in the day can be exciting, and cities at night provide endless fun, but after a long day of exploring Charleston, you might find yourself yearning to replace the hustle and bustle with nature rustles in the breeze. If camping is your ultimate getaway, the Campgrounds at James Island County Park will take your breath away—and even offer shuttles to downtown Charleston and to Folly Beach. There are also two KOA campground options available in the Charleston area.

What to Do

When you first arrive, you may find yourself equally eager to explore and incredibly disoriented. Why not familiarize yourself with the Holy City via Adventure Sightseeing’s See It All City Bus Tour? With pricing more affordable than quite a few restaurant meals, this 90-minute sightseeing excursion introduces you to all historic Charleston has to offer. Double it up with our city tour/harbor tour combo, which can save you up to $20 versus buying them separately. Getting out on the water on a sunset cruise is simply nonnegotiable.

Speaking of cruising around the harbor, why not search for dolphins aboard the Schooner Pride on a daytime dolphin sightseeing sail? This sailboat tour wraps luxury and affordability into one neatly-wrapped package. And when the time comes to purchase your tickets, calling us directly [EXT LINK: 8437221112] to ask about any specials we might be running never hurts.

Once you’ve gained your footing, take advantage of Charleston’s free shuttle system, DASH, to visit iconic downtown sites and spend as much time as you’d like at each location. Strolling around the battery and City Market while snapping pictures of the antique architecture will make any budget-conscious tourist feel like royalty. The will even drop you at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square, the departure location for the Fort Sumter ferry. The education center is like a free mini museum about Fort Sumter, and is also a great place for an AC break on a hot day of touring!

Nothing quite beats the price of free, which is how much parking costs at the stunning Sunrise Park located on a secluded area of James Island. This hidden gem features exquisite views of the Charleston harbor from a dock perfect for sightseeing and a small beach great for seashell collecting. Expect to find this setting much more intimate than
Folly Beach.

Be sure to check out James Island County Park while you’re in the neighborhood. This locals-only spot has a small entrance fee to picturesque hiking, fishing, a dog park, and more. If you have an extra $6 left to spare, why not rent bikes, kayaks, or even a paddleboard for some outdoor water adventures that are easy on the wallet?

Where to Eat

After all these one-of-a-kind experiences, you’re probably famished. Lucky for you Charleston has just about as many restaurants as churches, and they cater to all types of palates and budgets.

For breakfast, consider stopping by Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, where their fresh-baked namesakes come in sandwich sizes or miniature baker’s dozens. To top it off, the location on King Street couldn’t be closer to the heart of the city for easy enjoyment and a charming atmosphere.

Boxcar Betty’s is famous for its chicken sandwich that surpasses both Chick-fil-a and Popeye’s with its local flare, and the prices compare quite nicely as well. We recommend dressing it up with some pimiento cheese for that southern flavor, and you can’t forget the house-made fries.

For an afternoon pick-me-up, Harken Cafe in the heart of the French Quarter provides quality coffee, breathtaking décor, and a grassroots atmosphere for less than the Starbucks drive-thru. This piece of living history is sure to immerse you in the daily life of a Charlestonian.

To satisfy the itch for seafood tacos and a latinoamericano touch, Chico Feo on Folly Beach has some of the most affordable options as well as the tastiest, and its outdoor seating is perfect for that social media vacation picture.

Of course, perhaps one of the best ways to study the local culture and cuisine is by visiting a mom-and-pop café off the beaten path, which helps when the harbor sauté is unbeatable like at the Bear E Patch Café west of the Ashley river.

Keep Your Memories and Your Savings

Avoid the post-vacation financial panic with these moderately priced, priceless experiences waiting to be lived. This economical guide to Charleston may come in handy for quite a few people—but if you prefer to splurge on your vacations, stay tuned for the next post discussing the best ways to do Charleston in luxury.