For visitors, Savannah is more of a walking than a driving city. Most of the places visitors want to go are close together, and the one-way system, congestion and difficulties parking make leaving your car behind or parking it outside the Historic District an attractive option (more about parking in Savannah).
Savannah’s public transport, including several free services especially targeted toward the needs of tourists, can take you downtown and around the Historic District’s key sights.
The city’s public transit network has two main components: the fare-free Downtown Transportation (dot) system and the ordinary Chatham Area Transit (CAT) bus services.
Fare-free shuttle buses and a ferry provide safe and convenient transportation around the Historic District and its most popular tourist areas, connecting with Visitor Centers and city parking garages and lots.
Savannah’s local bus system operates services in and around the wider city and to its outlying suburbs, some of which stop near popular tourist attractions.
The city is also beginning to implement a bike rental system, though at the moment the number of bike stations (set to increase) is too small to make this a practical option for most people’s travel needs.
Free Downtown Transportation
Savannah provides free transportation around the Historic District as an alternative to driving and parking in the city’s congested central areas.
There are three separate services, collectively known as “dot” (short for Downtown Transportation). These connect most of Savannah’s main visitor center locations, parking garages and principal points of interest.
The dot Express Shuttle circuits downtown; the River Street Streetcar (temporarily suspended) goes up and down River Street; and the Savannah Belles Ferry connects River Street with Hutchinson Island.
The Liberty Street Parking Shuttle is also free but is not part of the dot system. This service, which only operates at certain peak hours, connects Savannah’s city-owned parking garages with several downtown points, along a loop.
A map of the Express Shuttle, River Street Streetcar and Savannah Belles Ferry routes, with popular attractions and parking garages marked, is available here.
All services are entirely free and ADA-accessible. No services are provided on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days.
The dot Express Shuttle runs every day, 9am-7pm. It follows a one-way counter-clockwise loop around the Historic District, with 12 stops near the most popular downtown destinations: the Visitor Centers, Forsyth Park, city parking garages, several Historic District squares and River Street.
A full loop on the shuttle takes about 40 minutes, and as it only travels in one direction it can sometimes take longer to wait for and ride the bus than it would take to walk between some points on the route, depending on where you want to go. It is convenient, however, for getting downtown from the Visitor Center and parking garages and from near Forsyth Park, and back again at the end of the day.
Riding The Free Shuttle
To ride, just find one of the purple “dot” signs (don’t confuse these with the regular CAT bus stop signs), and wait for your bus to arrive. Map showing all the stops
Look out for a vehicle (maybe a normal-sized bus, maybe a minibus) with a sign reading “fare free” or “free shuttle” on the front.
Ordinary city buses, operated by CAT, may also pass by. These will be clearly marked, with a sign on the front displaying the route number and name. Paid shuttle services may also pass; these will be painted in the livery of their respective companies.
River Street Streetcar
One of the most popular tourist places in Savannah is River Street, a mile-long street and promenade lined with historic buildings, shops and restaurants, alongside the Savannah River.
The free River Street Streetcar provides transportation along this promenade, on a historic 1930s streetcar. The streetcar shuttles backwards and forwards along River Street between Montgomery and East Broad Streets. There are six stops, mostly located next to the stairs and ramps connecting River Street with Bay Street, at East Broad, Habersham, Abercorn, Bull, Barnard and Montgomery Streets.
Services operate Thursday-Sunday, 12pm-9pm.
Savannah Belles Ferry
This free passenger ferry connects River Street to the hotels and convention center on Hutchinson Island. The service operates between three landings, two on the city side of the Savannah River and one on Hutchinson Island.
From River Street, embark at either the City Hall Landing, behind City Hall at the head of Bull Street and next to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, or the Waving Girl Landing, near the Waving Girl (Florence Martus) statue in Morrell Park, close to the East Broad Street ramp.
The Savannah Belles Ferry runs every 20-30 minutes daily, 7am-12:30am. Services to the Waving Girl Landing operate 8am-6pm. Travel time to cross the river is 10-20 minutes, depending on which landings you travel between. Pets, either on a leash or in a carrier, are welcome. See full service information and schedule.
The ferry’s name honors “Savannah’s Belles,” four women who influenced Savannah’s history: Susie King Taylor, Mary Musgrove, Juliette Gordon Low and Florence Martus.
Liberty Street Parking Shuttle
Also fare free, though not part of the dot system, is the Liberty Street Parking Shuttle (CAT Route 8, map and schedule available here). This route loops the northwestern part of the downtown area, passing most city-owned garages and Orleans, Telfair, Wright, Oglethorpe, Reynolds, Johnson, Ellis and Pulaski Squares. The service operates at certain peak traffic times:
– Monday-Thursday, every 10 minutes between 6:20am and 9:10am and again between 3:40pm and 6:20pm.
– Friday, every 10 minutes between 6:20am and 9:10am and again between 3:40pm and 6:20pm, plus every 20 minutes between 9:30pm and 2:10am.
– Saturday, every 20 minutes between 9:30pm and 2:10am only.
– This service does not operate on Sundays.
Using Savannah’s Public Transport
A map of all the services operated is available here (it also includes a convenient list of which bus you need to take to get to various tourist sights and other points of interest), and the list of CAT bus routes, with schedule information, is here. Please note that the map is subject to change. Check schedules and routes for your trip before setting out.
You can use the CAT service’s trip planner here (it uses Google maps to calculate routes and travel times, so you could also just go directly to the Google Maps site if you prefer to plan your route on a map).
Fares, Tickets & Passes
– Tickets to ride all CAT buses can be purchased on board the vehicle.
– Try to have the correct fare, as drivers are not able to make change.
– A one-way ticket on Savannah’s ordinary public transit system costs $1.50. Transfers (valid for 90 minutes) are free, but should be requested before depositing your fare.
– Children under 41 inches tall ride for free, two per adult passenger.
– Seniors (65+) and passengers with a disability can pay a reduced fare of $0.75 with the relevant ID (Medicare card). ID is not required for wheelchair users. For full details of the half-fare scheme, see here.
– The 100X Airport Express service costs $5 each way, or $8 for a return ticket.
Day passes can also be purchased on board the bus, for $3. A day pass allows unlimited travel on the day it is activated. You need to notify the driver you want a day pass rather than a single ticket before depositing your fare.
Weekly and monthly passes are also available, but these must be bought in advance. A 7-day pass, valid for seven days from the day of activation, is $14. A monthly pass, valid for 31 days from activation, is $50.
Passes, and also books of 10 tickets, are sold at Savannah’s transportation hub, the Joe Murray Rivers, Jr. Intermodal Transit Center, at 610 West Oglethorpe Avenue (three blocks north of the Visitor Center on Martin Luther King, Jr Boulevard, then left onto West Oglethorpe. The bus station, which is also used for Greyhound coach services, will be on your right). Hours for ticket sales are Monday-Friday, 7am-8pm.
All buses are wheelchair accessible.
If you are traveling with pets (except for service animals, and except on the Savannah Belles Ferry, which does allow animals on board), you will unfortunately have to use another method of getting around the city, as pets are not allowed on Savannah’s buses.