While walking on-campus is a realistic option for many EPI students, you may want to consider other options for transportation if you wish to travel to other parts of Columbia. We have some helpful tips for you as a new international student at USC.
On Campus Shuttles
USC offers several on-campus shuttles (small busses) to take you to different areas of campus throughout the week. Different shuttles have different routes, so make sure you are taking the correct one when you are traveling across campus.
- Carolina Shuttle: From August to May, USC offers a free shuttle service to take students from one part of campus to another part of campus. The Carolina Shuttle runs Monday - Friday from 7:30am - 6pm.
- Evening Shuttle: Operates from 6pm to 12:30 am, Monday through Friday, on an assigned route. See website above for schedule/route.
- APO Escort Service: Operates Sunday through Thursday, 8 pm to 12 am. Call 777-DUCK (3825) for more information or to request a ride or escort.
- Late-Night Shuttle: Operates from 6pm to 12:30 am, Sunday through Thursday, point to point service. Call USC police at 777-4215 for more information or to request a pick-up or escort.
Click the following link to learn more about the different shuttles: http://www.sc.edu/vmps/shuttle.html
Some students choose to purchase a bicycle while they are a student at USC. There are several bike shops around Columbia:
- Cycle Center (walkable from USC campus): http://cyclecenter.com/
- Outspokin’ Bike Shop: http://outspokinbicycles.com/
If you do purchase a bicycle, be sure to register it with USC's Vehicle Management & Parking Services (http://www.sc.edu/vmps/bike.html ). In the event that your bicycle is lost or stolen, your bicycle registration will aid USC's law enforcement in recovering it.
Taxis and Uber
You may hire a taxi (or cab) to take you somewhere off-campus. Calling a taxi in Columbia is not as easy as it is in some major cities that are filled with taxis on every street. You will need to call the taxi company directly if you need a taxi to pick you up. Prices vary according to where you go and the traffic, and the amount of time you are in the taxi. Tipping the driver (giving him/her extra money) $1 or $2 for short distances is normal.
We recommend that our international students call one of the following companies if they need a taxi:
- Blue Ribbon Cab 754-8163
- Checker-Yellow Cab 799-3311
If you need a taxi from campus, your home, or apartment or the mall, you must:
1. Call a taxi company
2. Give the person on the telephone:
- your location (the place you want to be picked up)
- the time you want to be picked up.
IMPORTANT: You must know the address of the place you want to go. You may want to write the address and the name of the place you are going on a piece of paper that you can give the driver.
ADVICE: Taxi drivers do not carry much change (small bills--coins or $1s, $5s, $10s). Always have smaller bills (nothing bigger than a $20 bill) before you get into the taxi.
Columbia's newest option for transportation is Uber. Uber is similar to a taxi service. Uber requires that you download their mobile app and create an account with them before you request a ride. It allows you to have an accurate estimate of the cost and time of your trip; you are able to see your driver's location and picture as they are driving to pick you up; and you can pay electronically and provide feedback about your experience.
Renting a Car
If you wish to travel outside of Columbia, you may wish to rent a car for a few days. The car must be rented in the name of the person who will drive it.
Car Rental Companies
- Alamo https://www.alamo.com
- Avis https://www.avis.com
- Budget https://www.budget.com
- Hertz https://www.hertz.com
- National https://www.nationalcar.com
Most car rental companies require the following:
(1) You must be 25 years old
(2) You must have all of these:
(a) a credit card,
(b) a driver's license,
(c) your passport.
Many companies require a U.S. driver's license. National is one company that will allow you to rent a car with a driver's license from your home country and not a U.S. license.
Many car rental companies' offices are located at the Columbia Airport. This is where you might pick up and return the car.
You should purchase insurance. "Liability" insurance is the cheapest and is usually sufficient.
Taking a Bus
Taking a Bus Within Columbia:
The buses generally come to each bus stop every 30 minutes on weekdays and once an hour on weekends. The Comet also gives students huge discounts. You can buy a U-pass for $80 or less and use it for the rest of the academic year as many times as you want with your student id.
Taking a Bus to Another City:
You can take a bus from Columbia to another city. There are a few options for you to use:
- Greyhound Bus http://locations.greyhound.com/us/south-carolina/columbia
- Megabus http://www.megabus.com/
If you want to travel by plane, you may contact the airline directly by phone or Internet. There are many sites online that can help you find good flights.
The Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is the airport closest to USC. The Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) are also located within a few hours of Columbia.
You may also talk with a travel agent or travel consultant. This person can arrange trips for you, change tickets you already have, and answer many questions you have concerning travel. The travel agency EPI recommends is Travel Unlimited. Visit their website at http://www.travelunlimitedsc.com. Be sure to tell Travel Unlimited that you are an EPI student.
The Amtrak is also a long-distance option for you if you wish to travel throughout the United States by train. Trains take longer that other types of transportation but are often very good ways to see the country. Visit their website to learn more about destinations and prices: https://www.amtrak.com/home.
Driving in Columbia
In order to drive in the United States, you will need to have a valid driver’s license. To get a new license, transfer an existing license, or renew your current license, you must go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV) http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/
You may visit any of the DMV’s offices, which are listed below, or on-line. It is a good idea to telephone one of these offices before you visit to see which documents you may need to bring with you:
- 1016 Broad Stone Road in Irmo 749 - 9041
- 2500 Decker Blvd, Decker Mall 865 - 9478
- 1630 Shop Road 737 - 8350
- 800 Dutch Square Blvd. 896 - 5777
Transferring a Driver’s License
If you have a license from another state in the U.S, you will need to replace it with a South Carolina license within 90 days.
International Driver’s Licenses
If you have a driver’s license from your home country, you will be permitted to drive in the U.S. for only 90 days after your arrival in Columbia. At that point you must get a South Carolina license. If you do not, you may receive a ticket from the police.
Obtaining a Driver’s License
To get a South Carolina driver's license, you will need:
- Your passport
- A Social Security card or a letter from the Social Security Office stating that you are not eligible for a social security number
- Your I-20 or DS-2019
- Your I-94
- A document that shows that you live in SC (phone bill, utility bill, rental contract - with your name on it)
- A letter from EPI stating your student status.
You will also need to prove your driving ability. You must pass two exams in order to get a license:
- Written Exam: There is a written test of the traffic laws of South Carolina. You can get a free copy of the South Carolina Driver’s Manual from the South Carolina Highway Department at 955 Park Street. The manual can also be accessed online at the following site: http://driving-tests.org/south-carolina/south-carolina-drivers-handbook-online/
- Driving Test: You must provide your own car to take this test. Most students will ask a friend to drive them to the South Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, located at 1630 Shop Road, for the test. You can take the test more than once if necessary.
If you have never had a license before, you will be required to have a Learner’s Permit for 6 months before you can take the Written Exam.
Owning a Car
While living in the United States, you may decide to purchase a car. There are advantages to owning a car but many responsibilities, as well. Insurance, taxes, repairs, and gas prices all add to the cost of owning a car. In addition, you must pay to park on campus. All of this must be considered before you decide to buy a car.
Please talk to Student Services before you make this decision.
Buying a New or Used Car
To buy a new car, you must go a car dealership. Each of these businesses sells certain types of cars, such as Ford, Chevrolet, or Honda. Before you visit a car dealer, find out about the features and costs of various cars.
You can look on-line as well as in magazines such as Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/index.htm) or Motor Trend (http://www.motortrend.com) which review the features and costs of different cars.
Sometimes people buy used cars, which that have already been owned by other people. Buying a used car is often less expensive than buying a new car. However, a used car may have problems that are not immediately apparently apparent. If you find a car you like, look over it carefully to make sure there are no problems, and have it looked at by a mechanic.
Car dealerships often also sell used cars. Other places to find used cars for sale include the classified section of the local newspapers and bulletin boards.
Whether you are buying a used car or a new car, you can bargain with the seller to arrive at a price which is acceptable for both of you.
South Carolina law requires that all drivers immediately purchase automobile insurance when you buy a car.
There are many insurance companies in Columbia. Each one will have different rates. Insurance agents can give you an estimate of your insurance costs over the telephone. Be prepared to answer several questions about your car and other personal details since insurance rates depend on many factors such as your age, where you live and your driving record.
Ask your insurance agent how each of these types of insurance work and what your responsibilities are if you have an accident.
Automobile Registration and Taxes
If you buy a car in South Carolina, you must register the car with the state of South Carolina.
- If you live in Richland County, go to the Richland County Auditor’s office at 2020 Hampton Street (803-748-4955). You must show proof that you have automobile insurance in order to register the car.
- If you live in Lexington county, go to the Lexington County Administration Building, which is located at South Lake Drive (359-8217) to register your automobile and to pay property taxes on your automobile.
In addition, you must pay property tax on your automobile. This property tax depends on the value and condition of the automobile and must be paid each year you own the car.
- Richland County: Pay at the Richland County Treasurer’s office, located at 2020 Hampton Street (803-748-4900).
- Lexington County: Pay at the Lexington County Treasurer’s office, located at 212 South Lake Drive, Suite 101 (803-785-8217)
South Carolina License Plate
If you buy a car in South Carolina, you must get a South Carolina license plate to put on the rear of the car. Each year you are required to renew your license plate and registration. Go to any DMV location to register your car.
Hopefully, you will never have an accident. However, if you do, these are some helpful tips:
- Do not move the cars unless they are blocking other cars.
- Call the police or ask someone else to call for you.
- While you are waiting for the police to arrive, exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers, driver's license numbers, vehicle license numbers, and insurance company names with the person with whom you had the accident.
- Write down the license plate number and a brief description of the car and its damage
- Get the names and telephone numbers of any people that saw the accident occur.
- Telephone your insurance company and give them this information. They will tell you how to get repairs done.
In the United States, children under the age of six who are in any vehicle (car, truck, etc) need to be properly restrained by an approved child safety seat.
Please Click here to learn about Child Car Seat Laws.