South Carolina, together with North Carolina forms a region historically known as The Carolinas. Both were originally part of a single British colony called Carolina before the two were separated into two distinct states. Though smaller in population than North Carolina, South Carolina boasts a rich historical legacy. This is particularly evident in Charleston, which was an important port in the colonial and post colonial eras of the United States as well as the site of the onset of the Civil War.
Though the famous "Southern accent" is definitely in evidence here, if you listen closely, you'll hear all its regional variations, from the deeper drawl of the lowcountry to the more clipped speech of the upstate.
South Carolina can be quite hot in the summer, and its nice coastal areas are a big tourist attraction. Winters on the coast are generally mild, though the upstate does get light snow accumulation from time to time.
South Carolina is very much a part of the American "Bible Belt," and religious zeal is much more evident that it would be in some other regions of the United States like California. Similarly, South Carolina is a historically conservative state. As such, liquor can only be purchased from State-run ABC stores, which are closed on Sundays. People are generally kind and open.
Due to the popularity of South Carolina as a tourist and retirement destination, there are large numbers of individuals who are seasonal or new residents from other parts of the country (particularly the North East) and Canada. This substantially more common in the coastal areas like Myrtle Beach.
English is official, and by far the most commonly spoken language. Spanish is also widely spoken, particularly in Hispanic communities; however, travelers should not expect to get buy without a decent command of English. Signage is commonly in both English and Spanish.
Gullah is spoken on the Sea Islands by a few. Due to its unique cultural heritage, preservation and promotion efforts have been undertaken in recent years.
South Carolina is served by five interstate highways.
Interstate 26 stretches southeast across the state, from Landrum to its terminus in Charleston. Interstate 26 intersects with Interstate 85 near Spartanburg, Interstate 20 near Columbia and Interstate 95 near Orangeburg.
South Carolina has multiple airports servicing the state. Charleston International is the largest in the state, and features flights all around the east coast. Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Greenville both have decent sized airports. Smaller regional airports are located in Hilton Head and Florence. These airports primarily service regional hubs.
Amtrak has multiple routes that pass through South Carolina. The Silver Service and Palmetto trains call in Florence, Columbia, and Charleston in addition to smaller towns along the route from New York City to Florida. The Crescent train calls in Spartanburg, Greenville, and Clemson en route from New York City to New Orleans.
The roads in South Carolina (like most places in the United States) are in good condition for travel. Interstate 95 in much of the southern part of the state is highly traveled and only a four-lane highway. One should keep a very close eye out for sudden back ups...especially close to Hilton Head.
Public transportation is not a viable option in most of the state. A vehicle of some sort will most likely be necessary to get around, especially from city to city. Charleston is the notable exception as it is highly walkable.
Along the Eastern Atlantic Coast of South Carolina are several popular tourist destinations.
The most well known area is called The Grand Strand and comprises 60 miles of mostly beachfront property. The Strand runs south from the North and South Carolina border through the towns of Little River, Atlantic Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach and Garden City (in Horry County), down Hwy. 17 south through Georgetown County including Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, and Pawleys Island.
Little River is known for its beautiful inlet, great for fishing and water sports. Myrtle Beach's claim to fame is not only its beaches, but its nickname as "Golf Capital of the World". Murrells Inlet offers some of the freshest seafood around. Pawleys Island offers historic plantation sites as well as great golf.
Most of the BBQ in South Carolina is similar to Eastern Carolina-style with mostly mustard-based sauces on pulled pork. South Carolina is the only state that boasts 4 distinct styles of sauces: mustard, vinegar, tomato and mustard.
On the Southern coastline, lowcountry and Charleston-style cuisine prevail, influenced by French, continental, and creole cooking with lots of fresh seafood.
As with elsewhere in the United States, enclaves of immigrant communities exist, so a wide range of options are available aside from the more traditional southern comfort and lowcountry cuisines.
Sweet tea is very popular and readily available, as it is elsewhere in the South.
The drinking age for alcohol in South Carolina is 21. Almost all bars and off-premise vendors request government issued photo I.D. for younger looking patrons. In spring break destinations like Myrtle Beach police write scores of citations for underage drinking at clubs or on the beach.
Beer and wine are widely available in grocery and convenience stores around the state. Liquor must be sold in dedicated liquor stores. With the exception of coastal and metropolitan counties, off-premise sales of beer are banned on Sundays. Bars, however, will serve alcohol on Sundays.
Bars serve alcohol until 2:00am
A word of caution, it is illegal in South Carolina to be 'grossly intoxicated' in public. The police can arrest you and charge you with public disorderly conduct if they believe this is the case, and there seems to be no legal definition of grossly intoxicated for a pedestrian. This is a misdemeanor offence, resulting in a court hearing. You can get your charge expunged within the state by entering a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program. This involves fines, community service, drug tests, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and homework assignments and typically takes about 2 months to complete. However, the PTI program is not recognized by the Federal Government.
Most of the areas visitors would normally visit in South Carolina are relatively crime-free. However, some residential areas in large cities like Charleston may be somewhat dangerous after dark for non-locals.