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I recently enjoyed a solo trip to Charleston, South Carolina, spending four days exploring that city on my own.
Previously, I’ve enjoyed solo weekends away within 100 miles of home. And I’ve flown alone across country, meeting friends or colleagues at my destinations. However, this was my first solo trip to a new to me city.
Inspired by the Tradd Street series of books, by Karen White, I set off on an adventure to see this gorgeous city for myself. Was I nervous? Yes, a little bit. Lying awake the night before my flight I wondered, “What am I doing??”
My excitement overrode my slight reservations though…and I’m glad. That trips set the stage for more solo trips next year.
So…is it safe to travel solo to Charleston?
Read my thoughts about it and what I learned.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a port city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town. It soon became the fourth largest city in the colonies and the wealthiest.
Charleston is known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, antebellum houses and a rich history that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. The downtown historical district includes the French Quarter, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park that overlooks Charleston Harbor.
I visited in early September, 2021, flying from Tulsa International Airport to Charleston Airport, with one layover in Dallas, Texas. After arriving in Charleston about 5:30 PM, I took a taxi to my accommodations, Meeting Street Inn on Meeting Street in the historic district. And I arrived home about 1:00 am Friday morning, after travel delays due to a tropical storm.
Those are the basic details of my trip. However, it’s the time spent between arriving and leaving that will remain in my memory forever.
Here are my suggestions for traveling solo to Charleston…or to any other destination.
I began planning my solo trip months before departure. After arranging accommodations and securing a flight, I turned my attention to studying Charleston and reading posts from other travelers about their experiences there.
Part of my preparation included studying maps of the historic district. Since I was on foot, I studied the layout of streets and found the locations of all the sites I wanted to visit, using Google Maps and a historic map that I bought from Amazon. In my imagination, I walked those streets.
By the time I arrived in Charleston, I felt like I knew the city. Wandering the streets the first 24 hours brought a sense of familiarity that kept me centered and aware. I never got lost walking in Charleston, even though it was my first time there. Always, I knew exactly where I was.
I keep a travel notebook and it accompanied me on my trip. I added lists of places I wanted to see, tour info, accommodation info, vegan restaurants, sites I wanted to photograph and even possible blog post topics. Plus I created a loose itinerary for each day. That notebook proved valuable to me.
Choose Accommodations that Work Well for You
Accommodations are always an important component of a trip and perhaps even more so for solo travel.
I chose to stay in the historic district, since most of what I wanted to see was there. And, I wanted to feel safe. I researched accommodations in Charleston’s historic district and jotted down info about the ones that appealed to me.
It became an easy choice for me. Meeting Street Inn checked all my boxes: a beautiful outdoor space, historic stories, charming rooms, in-room refrigerator, central location, free breakfast and evening nibbles and a secure set up.
I loved my stay at the inn. It became my base of operations.
Create a list of what’s most important, in accommodations, and use that list as a guide for finding the perfect spot for your stay. Top of the list…do you feel safe staying in the hotel/inn/resort and in that particular location?
Explore During the Day and Stay Aware
I used the daylight hours to thoroughly explore the neighborhoods around Meeting Street Inn, traveling the streets for real and finding the sites on my list. Two of my booked tours were in the historic district as well. I located the meetup places for both and noted the distance from the inn so I knew how long it took to walk there. And I made a stop at the Visitor Center to chat with staff there, pick up information and get the bus schedule.
Charleston has a wonderful…and free…downtown bus system called DASH. It serves as a hop on/hop off bus with multiple stops in the historic district. I rode the DASH bus my first morning in town, to get a great overview of the area, and then took off on foot.
My familiarity with Charleston served me well during the evening ghost tour. I knew where the tour began. I did not know where it ended and how far I’d need to walk to get back to my accommodations. As the tour finished, I knew exactly where I was…a short two blocks from the inn. Knowing the streets gave me the confidence to get back to my room, without concern. As a bonus, other people were walking that direction. I tagged along behind the group!
When out walking, during the day or evening, always remain aware of what’s going on around you. Watch people and traffic. Keep your phone close. And if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to ask for help or enter a store or business.
And make sure someone knows where you are. Keep in touch with family or friends back home. And communicate plans with the front desk person at your accommodations.
Talk to Strangers
Although we all grew up with the warning about “stranger danger”, talking to people I met in Charleston remains one of my favorite memories. I consider myself a mix between an extrovert and an introvert. I enjoy engaging with others…and I’m perfectly happy in solitude.
From the moment I arrived in Charleston until I exited a taxi at the airport to depart, I enjoyed chatting with strangers. Some lived in Charleston. Others came for a visit, like me. I learned much by asking questions and listening to stories.
The people of Charleston are friendly and helpful. I talked to the staff at Meeting Street Inn, the staff at the Visitor Center, bus drivers, taxi drivers, restaurant waitstaff, museum curators, tour guides, children playing in fountains and their patient parents, workers, artists and those riding buses and participating in tours with me. I met local residents and people from far away places.
It was fun to put myself out there and talk to strangers who quickly became friends. Even if you don’t typically talk to strangers, try it. Try going beyond your comfort zone and engaging with others in genuine ways.
By my second day in Charleston, I had a detailed understanding of the city. It was time to really enjoy myself. I wandered the cobblestone streets, snapped lots of photos and discovered beautiful hidden alleyways.
I used my list of “must sees” to do what I most love to do…explore. And I visited the vegan restaurants in my notebook, for lunches and suppers.
I knew that I walked the city as a solo traveler…and a female one at that. Yet I never felt afraid or uncomfortable. And I certainly never felt bored or unsure about what to do next.
I made the most of my time in Charleston and had an incredibly fun visit.
Is it safe to travel solo to Charleston? My experience says yes.
Will I travel solo again?
Yes! I enjoyed my trip to Charleston so much that I’ll definitely travel solo again.
I learned important things about myself on this trip. City energy appeals to me, especially cities with a historic district. I discovered I can take care of all the details of getting to where I need to go and getting back home. People have good, kind hearts, for the most part, and a willingness to engage with others. And I found that I love the freedom of deciding what I’ll do and when I’ll do it.
Solo travel empowers me and brings me joy.
I already have a couple of trips scheduled for next year, with many more in the planning stages. The majority of these are solo adventures.
Do you enjoy solo travel? Where have you journeyed to, on your own?
Amazon solo travel books:
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