Mistakes Tourists Make In Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, has long appealed to tourists, thanks to its rich history, beautiful gardens and architecture and A+ food and shopping scenes. Still, the popularity of shows like “Southern Charm” and a large lifestyle influencer presence in the city have boosted its profile in recent years.

If you find yourself planning a trip to “Chucktown,” take heed ― there are many common mistakes visitors tend to make during their stays, and locals have certainly taken note. We asked people who live in the port city to share some of the faux pas they’ve observed.

From shoe choices to timing issues, here are 10 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Charleston ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Wearing The Wrong Shoes

“The biggest mistake I have seen tourists make when visiting Charleston is not bringing comfortable walking shoes. When in Charleston, you will be doing a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must!” ― Molly McGrew, blogger at Gracefully Gingham

“Don’t wear stilettos. Our streets are old and made of cobblestone. If you wear stilettos downtown, you are bound to get stuck and lose a heel. And bring a pair of rain boots. Charleston is just barely 20 feet above sea level, and it floods often. When high tide and a rainstorm coincide, you’ll be wading through water downtown.” ― Jaime Huffman, blogger at Charleston Blonde

Going To The Beach Too Late

“Don’t show up late to the beach. Traffic is terrible getting to the beaches during the summer. You definitely want to get there early if you don’t want to spend hours in traffic and finding parking.” ― Kelsey Hill, blogger at Chasing Cinderella

Not Making Dinner Reservations

“When visiting Charleston, tourists almost always want to eat at some of the most popular restaurants. Most of these restaurants require reservations and fill up weeks (if not months) in advance. So I recommend planning out your dinners well before your trip!” ― hill

“The first thing that comes to mind is to plan ahead! I think so many people arrive to town and expect to be able to just walk into a restaurant, or only have to wait for an hour or so. These days, Charleston has so many visitors that restaurants are often fully committed for the night, even on a random Tuesday. Even locals have to plan ahead and make reservations now!” ― Megan Pinckney Rutherford, blogger at Shades of Pinck

Peter Unger via Getty Images

Want to enjoy your visit to Charleston? Take advice from these locals.

Missing Happy Hour

“Don’t miss happy hour. Tourists often make the mistake of going out after 8:00 pm when really they should be joining the locals between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm for local happy hour specials. My favorite is at Uncork Charleston with half off their craft cocktails and discounted small plates and wine.” ― Huffman

Limiting Your Shopping Options

“Charleston has amazing shopping, but a lot of tourists seem to just stick to big-name stores that can be found anywhere. I would recommend shopping local at places like The Tiny Tassel, Charleston Wine Co. and Candlefish.” ― Emma Waugh, creator of Girl Eats Charleston

“Don’t do all your shopping on King Street. There are so many great shops and small businesses all around Charleston, don’t limit your shopping to just one street!” ― hill

Only Dining Downtown

“Charleston has an incredible culinary scene, but I often see visitors limiting their time to Downtown Charleston. Although there are several places not to miss on the peninsula, a short drive in any direction is worth your time. Make your way to North Charleston and visit Park Circle for a glass of natural wine at Stems & Skins, and then wander down Montague Avenue for heritage-driven New Chinese American cuisine at Jackrabbit Filly. After enjoying some time in the sun on Folly Beach, head to Jack of Cups Saloon. And over the iconic Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant, a visit to coastal tavern Post House in the Old Village neighborhood is a must. Oysters are always on the menu, and their Back Bar Cheeseburger is a personal favorite.” ― Jai Jones, food writer and photographer

Eating At Tourist Traps

“Don’t go to the ‘tourist-y’ restaurants. Stay away from the chain restaurants. Charleston is known for their amazing food, and you’re not going to find it at these spots!” ― hill

“Don’t eat at the tourist traps. Stay away from places like Hyman’s Seafood, which always has a line of tourists waiting outside the door. Try the locals’ favorites ― 167 Raw, SNOB, Chubby Fish or Halls Chophouse.” ― Huffman

Misunderstanding What ‘Charleston’ Means

“’Charleston’ can mean three different things, depending who you are speaking with: 1) The Great State of Charleston aka the entire Charleston metro area. 2) Charleston the county, which includes many different cities and municipalities ― James Island, John’s Island, North Charleston, etc. 3) Charleston the city, which is more than just the peninsula. West Ashley is also the city of Charleston but not a lot of tourists visit that side of town.” ― KJ Kearney, founder of Black Food Fridays

Spending The Whole Time In Crowded Places

“Charleston is such a unique American city in that the entire downtown is historic, charming, and full of beautiful churches, homes, and gardens to explore. Rainbow Row, a series of colorful homes located on East Bay Street, may be Charleston’s most photographed attraction, but the entire city is Instagrammable! I always wonder why tourists flock to the Row for their photoshoots when the whole city is a pastel lover’s dream. Wander down less popular streets like Tradd and Chalmers next time you’re in the Holy City for the same delightful views without the bachelorette party and engagement shoot crowds.” ― Nicole Rosania, founder of The Abroad Blog

Not Asking For Help

“Ask for help! In the South we are happy to give recommendations to travelers. Southern hospitality is king in Charleston and everyone is friendly. And if a local says hello, be polite and say hello back. In Charleston, locals talk to strangers, and we expect kind salutations in return.” ― Huffman

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