Charleston on a Budget


Charleston was made for romantics. Colonial homes, Georgian row houses and Victorian mansions on palmetto-lined avenues. Horse-drawn carriages clopping along cobblestones. A summer breeze flowing onshore. A charming southern town where you downright expect to see gentlemen in seersucker suits and ladies in petticoats sipping lemonade during polite conversation. It’s a city with a long history – never apologizing for sharing every bit of it. And it has become a culinary destination deeply influenced by its European, Caribbean and West African roots.

But all that charm and romance come a price. Charleston and cheap are not often used in the same sentence. Be that as it may, you can still do the Holy City on a reasonable budget – one where you can still experience Charleston in all its splendor without breaking the bank.

When to Go and Where to Stay

If you must travel during peak season (which is March through May and September and October), staying mid-week is one way you can save on hotels. Room rates in July and August are surprisingly on the low side – until you remember how hot and humid Charleston can be during that time.

Finding an affordable hotel in Charleston doesn’t mean you’re restricted to big budget chains. There are a number of quaint bed & breakfasts and inns that are quite reasonable, especially during the less crowded times of the year. The Ansonborough Inn, 1837 Bed & Breakfast and the Inn at Middleton Place are three charming enough for even the pickiest of travelers – and where you can possibly find a room for less than $200 a night.

Tour the Town

USA, South Carolina, Charleston, Church Street, St. Philip's ChurchWith all of its history and awe-inspiring architecture, Charleston is a city that begs to be discovered. The good news is it doesn’t cost much (nothing if you act as your own tour guide) to strap on your best pair of walking shoes and see the sites. Plan to spend a couple of hours exploring the Historic District as you meander down its cobblestone streets and peruse its many shops. Make sure you add Rainbow Row and its pastel-colored mid-18th century homes to your itinerary.

If you’re a history buff, stop at Fort Sumter National Monument – the spot where the Civil War began. Park rangers and volunteers offer programs during your visit. The museum can only be reached by ferry, which is located at 340 Concord Street. The cost for the ferry is $22 for adults. Military and senior discounts are available.

Another must-see is the Old Slave Mart at 6 Chalmers Street, which is housed in the same building where slaves were sold and doesn’t pull any punches in illuminating this time in our past. It’s often staffed by those who can trace their ancestry to Charleston slaves.

If you absolutely must take a carriage ride, the most economical way is to take one of the group rides by the Old South Carriage Co., which start at $26 per person.

Lastly, it’s no surprise after viewing its centuries-old homes and graveyards, Charleston embraces its haunted reputation. Charleston Ghost Tours offers two tours based on which level of fright you prefer. The Ghosts of Liberty Tour, which is more suitable for families, is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 6-11. Taking it up a notch is the On Death and Depravity tour, which focuses on the seedier aspects of the town. Cost is $30 per person.

Good Eats for Less

barfood-beef-chicken-1058292You could stand in Charleston’s French Quarter or Historic District, throw a rock in any direction and hit a number of James Beard-award winning restaurants. But if spending in excess of $50 per person for dinner (not including alcohol) is not your thing, don’t despair. There are a lot of other options at hand that are just as delectable minus the white table cloths.

Jack of Cups Saloon located on Folly Beach makes everything from scratch that day, serving a variety of upscale pub grub at reasonable prices.

Early Bird Diner serves American classics in their funky, art-filled West Ashley location. If chicken and waffles is calling – this is your place.

Tattooed Moose is an upbeat bar that takes bar food to the gourmet level. Their downtown location is just south of Wagener Terrace, and their specialty sandwiches are out of this world. Try Mike’s Famous Duck Club, a triple decker filled with duck confit, Applewood smoked bacon and cheddar.

Dave’s Carry-Out, located at 42 Morris St., is a no-frills delight serving seafood and soul-food classics with a 4.6 Zagat rating.

Are you ready to book your Charleston vacation for less? Book now at


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