Even though it's a smaller Southern city, Savannah has a surprisingly good public transportation network. Free for both visitors and residents, the Downtown Transportation system (DOT) operates shuttle buses to 24 points of interest in the Historic District, in addition to a ferry to the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center on the Hutchinson Island. The Chatham Area Transit (CAT) offers 20 bus routes in Savannah and Chatham counties as well as service to and from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and select downtown hotels. Both are a great alternative to driving in the busy downtown area and visiting the city's many parks, restaurants, and attractions. Here's everything you need to know about both options.
How to Ride the Downtown Transportation System (DOT)
With two loops that run continuously through downtown, DOT is a faster and cheaper option than driving in the busy Historic District.
- Fares: DOT shuttle buses and ferry are free of charge.
- Routes and hours: DOT shuttles run every ten minutes and make 24 stops at local points of interest, including Visitor Centers, parking facilities, the Telfair Museum of Art, Forsyth Park, and City Market. Shuttles operate from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Holiday hours are the same as Sunday, with no service offered on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's Day. The Savannah Belles Ferry to Hutchinson Island and the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center runs Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., though service to Waving Girl Landing ends at 6 p.m.
- Service alerts: Weather can sometimes disrupt ferry service, so call (912) 447-4026 or visit the DOT website for up-to-date information on service and routes.
- Accessibility: DOT shuttles buses are ADA compliant and allow service animals.
Riding Chatham Area Transit (CAT)
Savannah's public transportation network, Chatham Area Transit (CAT), operates 20 bus routes in Savannah and Chatham counties, as well as a shuttle to and from the airport and select downtown hotels. While not an exhaustive system, it does offer an alternative to driving without a car.
- Fares: The one-way CAT fare is $1.50. The transit system also offers unlimited day ($3), weekly ($14), monthly ($50), and ten ride ($15) passes as well as $5, $10, $15, $20, and $25 value cards. Senior customers (ages 65 and older), children (ages 6-18), and those with disabilities are eligible for half price (75 cents) local fares with proper ID. Children 41 inches or shorter ride for free, with a maximum of two children per paying customer. For the Airport Express (100X), fares are $5 one way and $8 round trip.
- CAT SmartCard: Re-loadable fare cards are available for weekly, monthly, ten-ride, and stored value fares.
- How to pay: Day passes and one-way fares may be purchased on buses with cash and exact change only. Please announce to the driver which fare you'd like to purchase before making your purchase. To buy passes or fare cards in advance, visit the Joe Murray Rivers, Jr. Intermodal Transit Center at 610 W. Oglethorpe Avenue. Open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., the transit center accepts cash, major credit cards, and check payments with valid ID.
- Routes and hours: CAT operates 60 buses on 20 routes throughout the city and Chatham and Savannah Counties, including to and from the airport, downtown, Wilmington Island, and Georgetown. Service starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 1 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, while buses run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. The 100X Airport Express bus runs from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. All buses have limited schedules on holidays and do not operate on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
- Service alerts: Area construction as well as certain special events can disrupt normal service, so check the website for the latest schedule information.
- Transfers: While transfers are free, they must be requested before paying for the fare and are only valid for 90 minutes on one-way travel.
- Accessibility: In addition to half-fare discounts for those with disabilities, all CAT buses and shuttles offer accessibility features like ramps, secure areas for wheelchairs, and priority seating. For more information on options for passengers with disabilities, visit CAT's website.
Taxis and Ride-Hailing Apps
While taxis aren't as widespread in Savannah as in other major cities, they are readily available at the airport and can be ordered anywhere in town. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are also available throughout the city and the suburbs and are the best way of getting around outside of downtown.
Renting a Car
While not ideal if you're planning to spend all of your time in the Historic District, renting a car is recommended if you are planning to visit nearby beaches like Tybee Island (a 30-minute drive from downtown) or Hilton Head Island (60 minutes from downtown), or you want to make a day trip to nearby Charleston, SC (about two hours away).
Major rental car companies like Alamo, Enterprise, and Hertz have outposts at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, as well as in downtown, Midtown, and the suburbs. Keep in mind that parking downtown can be expensive, but there are several city-operated and private lots for those who choose to do so and plan to drive in from other parts of town. Many of these are on the free DOT shuttle line.
Tips for Getting Around Savannah
- Be mindful of rush hour traffic. While not a large city, Savannah's 150,000 residents combined with nearly 15 million annual visitor does result in the occasional traffic jam. Expect delays on major routes like I-16 (Jim Gillis Historic Savannah Parkway), I-95, and Georgia Highway 21 during rush hour (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays) and high tourist season (March through June).
- Beware of special events, rain, and road construction. From the annual St. Patrick's Day parade and the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll marathon to tropical storms and highway construction, any number of special events or circumstances could result in road closures or delays. Check the city's website for the latest traffic alerts.
- When in doubt, walk or use DOT. At least in the Historic District, parking your car and exploring the city on foot or with DOT's hop-on, hop-off network is the easiest and cheapest way to enjoy your stay.