Way up in North Charleston  is Charleston International Airport (5500 International Blvd., 843/767-1100, airport code CHS, www.chs-airport.com ), served by AirTran (www.airtran.com ), American Airlines (www.aa.com ), Continental Airlines (www.continental.com ), Delta (www.delta.com ), United Airlines (www.ual.com ), and US Airways (www.usairways.com ).
As in most cities, taxi service from the airport is regulated. The fare from the airport is $2.15 per mile, with a $12 fee for each passenger over two (no additional charge up to two people). For example, this translates to about $27 for two people from the airport to Charleston Place downtown. For the airport vicinity there’s a fixed rate of $9 per person.
There are two main routes in to Charleston , I-26 from the west/northwest (which dead-ends downtown) and U.S. 17 from the west (called Savannah Highway when it gets close to Charleston proper), which continues on over the Ravenel Bridge into Mount Pleasant and beyond.
There’s a fairly new perimeter highway, I-526 (Mark Clark Expressway), which loops around the city from West Ashley  to North Charleston  to Daniel Island and into Mount Pleasant. It’s accessible both from I-26 and U.S. 17.
Keep in mind that I-95, while certainly a gateway to the region, is actually a good ways out of Charleston, about 30 miles west of the city.
Charleston International Airport has rental kiosks for Avis (843/767-7031), Budget (843/767-7051), Dollar (843/767-1130), Enterprise (843/767-1109), Hertz (843/767-4550), National (843/767-3078), and Thrifty (843/647-4389).
There are a couple of rental locations downtown: Budget (390 Meeting St., 843/577-5195) and Enterprise (398 Meeting St., 843/723-6215). Hertz has a location in West Ashley (3025 Ashley Town Center Dr., 843/573-2147), as does Enterprise (2004 Savannah Hwy., 843/556-7889).
Public transportation by Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (843/724-7420, www.ridecarta.com ), or CARTA, is a convenient and inexpensive way to enjoy Charleston  without the more structured nature of an organized tour. There’s a wide variety of routes, but most visitors will limit their acquaintance to the tidy, trolley-like DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) buses run by CARTA primarily for tourists. Each ride is $1.25 per person (seniors are $0.60). The best deal is the $4 one-day pass, which you get at the Charleston Visitor Center (375 Meeting St.). Keep in mind that DASH only stops at designated places.
DASH has three routes: the 210, which runs a northerly circuit from the Aquarium  to the College of Charleston ; the 211, running up and down the parallel Meeting and King Streets from Marion Square  down to the Battery ; and the 212 Market/Waterfront shuttle from the Aquarium area down to Waterfront Park .
As you’ll quickly see, parking is at a premium in downtown Charleston . An exception seems to be the large number of free spaces all along the Battery , but unless you’re an exceptionally strong walker, that’s too far south to use as a reliable base from which to explore the whole peninsula.
Most metered parking downtown is on and around Calhoun Street, Meeting Street, King Street, Market Street, and East Bay Street. That may not sound like a lot, but it constitutes the bulk of the area that most tourists visit. Most meters have three-hour limits but you’ll come across some as short as 30 minutes. Technically you’re not supposed to “feed the meter” in Charleston , as city personnel put little chalk marks on your tires to make sure people aren’t overstaying their welcome. Metered parking is free 6 p.m.–6 a.m. and all day on Sunday. On Saturdays, expect to pay.
The city has several conveniently located and comparatively inexpensive parking garages. I strongly suggest that you make use of them. There are several private parking garages as well, primarily clustered in the City Market area. They’re convenient, but many have parking spaces that are often too small for some vehicles.
The city’s website (www.charlestoncity.info ) has a good interactive map of parking.