A Guide to Hop-On Hop-Off in Savannah

By Meg Jernigan

Seeing Savannah at your own speed with on-off privileges

A Guide to Hop-On Hop-Off in Savannah

Riding in one of Savannah’s famous carriages may be a romantic way to tour the city, but hop-on hop-off trolleys provide visitors the flexibility to see the attractions they want and to take as much time as necessary to explore them.

Hop-on hop-off in Savannah

Hop-on hop-off tour operators in Savannah typically serve 10 to 15 historic sites and attractions at about 20-minute intervals. Open-air trolleys circulate through the historic downtown, dropping off and picking up passengers on narrated tours. Must-see stops include the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a French Gothic building begun in 1873. Old buildings on River Street, another popular trolley stop, house antique shops and brew pubs, and the City Market, in operation since the 1700s, is the place to shop and eat.

Getting there and getting around

Chatham Area Transit, or CAT, is the city’s public transportation system that serves Amtrak’s passenger station a few miles west of downtown Savannah. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is 12 miles northwest of downtown. From there, you can rent a car or take a taxi, shuttle or bus. Interstate 95 passes Savannah about 30 miles to the west. If you drive, plan to leave the car at the hotel and use CAT’s free shuttles, streetcar and ferry to get around downtown, along River Street and out to Hutchinson Island. Pick up a visitor’s parking pass at the visitor’s center for unlimited parking in downtown city lots.

Avoiding the crowds

Spring and fall are Savannah’s busiest tourist seasons, when temperatures in the 70s and 80s make visiting more comfortable. Many of the city’s largest festivals are scheduled for the busy season, but because the city is surrounded by rivers and marshes, insects thrive, beginning in spring and through the warm months of summer. Cheaper prices and fewer visitors make July and August the best time for budget vacationers, but the hot and humid weather can make touring miserable. Freezing temperatures and snow are uncommon in Savannah in winter, but the humidity makes it feel cooler than the average 60 degrees F. Hotel prices are lowest in January and February.

Make the most of it

Begin at the main Savannah Visitor Center in the restored railroad station at the western edge of downtown. Pick up maps and visit the Savannah History Museum while you’re there. Make a plan, but be flexible. Don’t slavishly follow the hop-on hop-off tour schedule. You may find a site so interesting you’d like to spend hours exploring it. On the other hand, if a particular site doesn't interest you, use the time until the next trolley comes along to explore the neighborhood, grab a cold drink or take a break on a park bench. If you’re short of time, ride the tour without getting off the trolley. While this eliminates the main benefit of a hop-on hop-off tour, you’ll get a narrated look at Savannah’s high points.

Where to get tickets

Generally, ticket holders can board the trolley at any of the designated stops rather than beginning at a set stop. Some tour operators offer discounts for online ticket purchases and most appreciate a gratuity for the on-board guide and driver. You can also buy tickets for most tours at the visitors center. Ask if your tour has GPS tracking that allows riders to know exactly when the tour transportation will arrive or where the nearest stop is. Keep in mind that admission to museums or historical sites is typically not included in the price of the hop-on hop-off tour.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.