Getting to Savannah
Savannah is served by the fairly new and efficient Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (400 Airways Ave., 912/964-0514, airport code SAV, www.savannahairport.com) directly off I-95 at exit 104. The airport is about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah and an hour from Hilton Head Island. Airlines with routes into and out of SAV include AirTran (www.airtran.com), American Eagle (www.aa.com), Continental (www.continental.com), Delta (www.delta.com), United Express (www.ual.com), and US Airways (www.usairways.com).
Taxi stands are available for transportation to Savannah at the following regulated fares and conditions: The cost is $2 for the first sixth of a mile and $0.32 per sixth of a mile thereafter, not to exceed $3.60 for the first mile and $1.92 per mile thereafter. Waiting charge is $21 per hour. No charge for baggage. The maximum fare for destinations in the Historic District is $25.
Savannah is the eastern terminus of I-16, and that Interstate is the most common entrance to the city. However, most travelers get to I-16 via I-95, taking the exit for downtown Savannah (Historic District). Once on I-16, the most common entry points into Savannah proper are via the Gwinnett Street exit, which puts you near the southern edge of the Historic District near Forsyth Park, or, more commonly, the Montgomery Street exit farther into the heart of downtown.
Paralleling I-95 is the old coastal highway, now U.S. 17, which goes through Savannah. U.S. 80 is Victory Drive for most of its length through town; however, after you pass through Thunderbolt on your way to the islands area, including Tybee, it reverts to U.S. 80.
Savannah is on the north–south “Silver Service” of Amtrak (2611 Seaboard Coastline Dr., 912/234-2611, www.amtrak.com). To get to the station on the west side of town, take I-16 west and get off on I-516 north. Immediately take the Gwinnett Street/Railroad Station exit and follow the Amtrak signs.
Chatham Area Transit (www.catchacat.org), Savannah’s publicly supported bus system, is quite thorough and efficient considering Savannah’s relatively small size. Plenty of routes crisscross the entire area, with one-way fares of $1 per person, exact change only, which includes one connecting route. Service runs weekdays and Saturdays 5:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sundays 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Children under 41 inches tall ride free. A weekly pass is $12. Buy advance tickets at two locations: 900 East Gwinnett Street and 124 Bull Street.
Of primary interest to visitors is the completely free CAT Shuttle, which travels a continuous circuit route throughout the Historic District, keyed around hotels, historic sites, and the Savannah Visitors Center. The Shuttle is wheelchair-accessible and runs weekdays and Saturdays 7 a.m.–7 p.m., Sundays 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Parking is at a premium in downtown Savannah. The city’s Parking Services Department is extremely vigilant about parking violations, ostensibly to encourage “turnover” of the valuable spaces, but also of course to generate revenue. Traditional coin-operated metered parking is available throughout the city, ranging from 15 minutes to a precious few 10-hour meters. More and more, the city is going to self-pay kiosks where you purchase a stamped receipt to display inside your dashboard.
Bottom line: Be sure to pay for all parking weekdays 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. No matter what the printed information on the meter tells you, there is no enforcement of parking meters at all on weekends or after 5 p.m. any day. That information has been on the meters for years and almost seems intended to bilk tourists. That being said, you should also know that illegally parking and parking in sweep zones will get you ticketed and/or towed any time of day.
The city operates several parking garages at various costs and hours. A printable PDF file is available from the City of Savannah’s Parking Services website and contains hours and pricing information. Be sure to look into their Visitor DayPass.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition