The Best Charleston Bus Tours

This post reviews and compares the various bus tour options available to you in Charleston. Though we love walking tours in Charleston, they’re not for everyone. Bus tours are a great way to see the most sites in the least amount of time, as well as visit historic plantations and sites found outside of the city. However, with so many to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which is the best option. This post aims to make the decision process a little easier so that you can finally choose… which Charleston bus tour is the best? 



Fully Guided Bus Tours

There are 6 companies offering bus tours of Charleston and the surrounding area. Adventure Sightseeing, Gray Line, Southern Accent Tours, and Charms of Charleston offer similar Historic City Tours of Charleston. Prices range from $20-$23 per person and each last 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. Both Gullah Tours and Sites & Insights Tours feature charistmatic guides who share a personal connection with Charleston’s unique Gullah culture, and do an excellent job of sharing their enthusiasm with visitors! 

 


GRAY LINE

Gray Line Tours offer 3 daily tours, in addition to several other combo tours. Their Historic City Tour is a 1.5 hour bus tour that covers important sites such as Charleston’s Historic Homes, Battery Sea Wall, Old Market Area, Rainbow Row, and many others. Additionally, they also offer tours to Magnolia Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation, each of which last approximately 4-4.5 hours. Overall, Gray Line is very similar to companies like Adventure Sightseeing in terms of length, price, and itinerary. 

 

 

  • Magnolia Plantation Tour 
    • From $52 
    • Departs daily at 9:30 am
  • Boone Hall Plantation 
    • From $45
    • Departs daily at 11:15 am

Reviews of Gray Line

Gray Line receives mostly positive reviews 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. Their combination tours are especially popular, so be sure to review them if you want to see as much as possible in one day! TripAdvisor Rating: 4 stars. 

 


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. Most run multiple times a day, though spaces tend to fill up during high season. At $23 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 
    • Adults – $23 
    • Children – $14 
  • Boone Hall Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $49 
    • Children – $26 
  • Magnolia Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $53 
    • Children $26 

Reviews of Adventure Sightseeing

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. Additionally, most praise the excellent value that this company ensures. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


GULLAH TOURS

Gullah Tours specialize 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 aim to share that language and culture with visitors to Charleston 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. 

  • Gullah Tour
    • $18 per person
    • Monday – Friday 11:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M.
    • Saturdays 11:00 A.M., 1:00 P.M., and 3:00 P.M.

Reviews of Gullah Tours 

Gullah Tours 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. Some visitors wished that there was even more Gullah history included in the tour. However, compared to any of the other companies featured here, this one definitely dedicates the most time to sharing Gullah culture and discussing African American history. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 

 


 


SOUTHERN ACCENT TOURS

Like Gray Line and Adventure Sightseeing, Southern Accent Tours offer a similar 1.5 hour Historic City Tour. At $22 per adult, this is a slightly cheaper option, though only by a $1 margin. The real value of this company is in their diverse selection of plantation tours. In addition to offering tours of Magnolia and Boone Hall Plantation like most of the other companies, 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 
    • Adults – $22 
    • Children – $12
  • McLeod Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $39 
    • Children – $19 
  • Boone Hall Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $44 
    • Children – $19 
  • Drayton Hall Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $50 
    • Children – $25 
  • Magnolia Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $50 
    • Children $25 
  • Middleton Place Tour 
    • Adults – $61 
    • Children – $29 
  • Winery, Distillery, & Tea Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $59

Reviews of Southern Accent Tours

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. Additionally, many compliment the guides for being knowledgeable and entertaining, all the while providing good ol’ southern hospitality! TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


CHARMS OF CHARLESTON

Charms of Charleston is a small and relatively new 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. Free pick-up from any hotels located downtown is also provided. 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! 

  • Historic City Tour 
    • Adults – $20 
    • Children – $12 
    • Departs Mon – Sat at 9am, 11:15am, 2pm, and 4pm
  • Historic City Tour with Aiken-Rhett House 
    • Adults – $29 
    • Children – $16
    • Departs Mon – Sat at 9am, 11:15am, 2pm, and 4pm

Reviews of Charms of Charleston

Despite being the smallest tour company of 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”. The guides also receive lots of praise for being so knowledgeable and well organized. In fact, as of Spring 2017, this company has only ever received 4 or 5 star reviews. TripAdvisor Rating: 5 stars. 


SITES AND INSIGHTS TOURS OF CHARLESTON 

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, costing only $13 per adult for the 1 hour option or $18 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. 

  • Black History / Porgy & Bess Tours 
    • Adults (1 hour) – $13 
    • Children (1 hour) – $10 
    • Adults (2 hours) – $18 
    • Children ( 2 hours) – $13 
  • Sea Island Tours 
    • Adults – $23 
    • Children – $18 

Reviews of Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston 

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. Many guests write that one of the guides, Al, tends to break into beautiful song! The buses themselves are also praised for being very clean and comfortable. There are a few less than stellar reviews, but these are uncommon and usually due to extenuating circumstances. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


Back to top


Free Trolley

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 travel through the historic part of Charleston, allowing you to 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 during your ride, you’ll never know the difference! 

There are 3 different routes that the trolley takes: 

  • Route 210 (Orange) drives from College of Charleston to the Aquarium.
  • Route 211 (Green) will take you to the waterfront, Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, and City Market
  • Route 213 (Purple) connects Brittlebank Park and Riley Stadium to historic city center.

Each of these routes meet at the Visitors Center, Marion Park and Charleston Museum. Maps are available at each of these locations. Learn more about the CARTA DASH Trolley


Back to top


Combo Bus Tours

Combo Bus Tours are a great way to maximize your time in the city and save the most on tours. Gray Line offers the largest number of package tours, though each must be combined with their Historic City Tour. Adventure Sightseeing is a close runner-up, though they have different packages such as the Combo: Boone Hall & Charleston Harbor Tour and the Combo: Harbor Tour & Ghost Tour. 

Sights and Insights of Charleston Tours offers the fewest options with just one package tour that combines an abbreviated city tour with a visit to John and James Islands. However, at just $23 for 2.5 hours, this package perhaps guarantees the best value as most companies charge just that amount for a 1.5 hour city tour alone. Southern Accent Tours offers the most extensive package, which blends together their Historic City Tour, Fort Sumter Tour, and a visit to any plantation! 


ADVENTURE SIGHTSEEING 

Adventure Sightseeing offers a wide selection of package tours, which allow you to combine 2 different attractions at a discounted rate! In addition to combo options featuring their Historic City Tour with a visit to Boone Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, or Southern Mansion, they also offer package tours of Charleston Harbor. Additionally, a Combo: Ghost Tour & Harbor Tour is available during certain times of the year. By purchasing a package rather than 2 individual tours, you can save a lot of cash — especially if traveling as a family! 

  • Combo: Boone Hall & Charleston Harbor Tour 
    • Adults – $67 
    • Children – $40 
  • Combo: City & Boone Hall Plantation Tour 
    • Adults – $61 
    • Children – $37 
  • Combo: City & Charleston Harbor Tour 
    • Adults – $40 
    • Children – $30 
  • Combo: Harbor Tour & Ghost Tour 
    • Adults – $39 
    • Children – $26 
  • Combo: City & Magnolia Plantation 
    • Adults – $65 
    • Children – $30 
  • Combo: City & Southern Mansion 
    • Adults – $31 
    • Children – $18 

Reviews of Adventure Sightseeing 

Their combo packages seem to be just as popular as their standard Historic City Tour and Plantation Tours, as many guests write positive reviews about their experiences. Those who opted for a package option emphasize the added value of purchasing 2 tours together, in addition to complimenting the company for being so well organized and the guides for being so informative. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


GRAY LINE 

Gray Line offers the largest number of package tour options, each of which is combined with their standard Historic City Tour. In addition to tours of Magnolia Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation, Gray Line’s Historic City Tour can also be combined with a trip to Fort Sumter, a Charleston Harbor Cruise, a visit to the Charleston Museum, and tickets to the S.C. aquarium, among a few others. Like Adventure Sightseeing’s package tours, these are a very budget friendly way to maximize your time in Charleston! 

  • Historic City Tour and Fort Sumter Tour 
    • From $39 
  • Historic City Tour and Live Narrated Harbor Cruise 
    • From $39
  • Historic City Tour and Charleston Museum 
    • From $30 
  • Historic City Tour & Southern Mansion Combo 
    • From $30 
  • Historic City Tour & Magnolia Plantation 
    • From $64
  • Historic City Tour & Boone Hall Plantation
    • From $58
  • Historic City, Fort Sumter, & Mansion Tour 
    • From $48 
  • Historic City Tour & S.C. Aquarium Combo 
    • From $45

Reviews of Gray Line 

Though reviews for Gray Line are generally very positive, their combo packages are especially well reviewed. Many seem very appreciative of how easy Gray Line made it for them to visit the sites they were most interested in seeing. The Historic City Tour and Fort Sumter package is an especially popular option! TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


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. Keep in mind that the trip can be a bit exhausting. However, if you only have one day to spare, this tour will allow you to make the most of it! Additionally, they also offer $10 offer the listed price of any of their plantation tours if combined with their Historic City Tour. 

  • Ultimate Combo (Historic City Tour, Fort Sumter Tour, and ANY Plantation Tour) 
    • Adults – $89 
    • Children – $49 
  • City / Plantation / Day Trip Combo 
    • Combine the Historic City Tour with any Plantation Tour or Day Trip Tours at $10 off the listed price

Reviews of Southern Accent Tours 

Though there is only one review that specifically refers to the Ultimate Combo, it is very positive and describes the experience as “outstanding” and “nicely priced.” Reviews of their other tours are all highly rated, so any combination of them will likely be excellent. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.


SITES AND INSIGHTS TOURS OF CHARLESTON

Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston offer 1 package tour 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 2.5 hour package tour is their best seller, and at just $23 per adult, it is an extremely cheap way to do both trips. 

  • City/Island Tours 
    • Adults – $23 
    • Children – $18 

Reviews of Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston 

Guests who have attended this package tour describe their experience as an “amazing, historical day” that features the very best of Charleston. Though there aren’t many reviews, those who have written about it are all very complimentary. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars. 


Back to top