Palmetto Carriage Works Blog

Becoming A Tour Guide In Charleston

Becoming a certified tour guide in Charleston is not quite as easy as some may think. To become certified, you have to take tests, memorize facts and have an upbeat, engaging personality.

When looking to become a tour guide, you will have to take a written exam. The exam is based on a 492-page guide that details everything from Charleston’s historic battles to its architecture to the rich African-American history here. This 200-question, written exam takes about two hours to complete, and test-takers must receive 70% or higher to pass.

The exam is given out every two weeks and can cover any part of the Historic District, which ranges from the Citadel’s campus to the Battery.

Additionally, potential tour guides need a great personality to keep the customers engaged and the tours fun. At Palmetto Carriage Works, we think we got the deal of a lifetime with our amazing guides! What do you think?


Want to learn more about one of our guide’s firsthand experiences as he went through his certification process? Keep reading!

PCW: How long did it take you to complete the tour guide certification process?

  Jim: It took me 3 months to study for the test and 6 weeks of training with a temporary license.

PCW: Were you surprised at all of the steps that you had to go through?

  Jim: I knew starting out what the process was so I was not surprised, but I did feel like there were a lot of qualifying steps to go through. 

PCW:  What was the hardest part of the tour guide certification process?

  Jim: The hardest part is the exam. It covers not only historical information but architecture, horticulture and local lore.

PCW: What was the most interesting thing you learned while going through the certification process?

  Jim: There is so much great history it’s hard to pinpoint one thing in particular, but one thing that stands out is how the city preserves its history through rules and regulations.

PCW: How long ago were you first certified?

  Jim: 2002 was my first year certified so this makes my 16th year as a licensed guide.

PCW: Did you tour with certain groups while you were in training? Did you find that helpful?

 Jim: We trained as a class.We also took tours with paying guests which I found very helpful.

PCW: What is your favorite part of being a tour guide?

 Jim: There is nothing better than when you get a group that is really into what you are talking about. I love seeing our guests as excited about history as I am.

PCW: Do you remember your first day giving a PCW tour? Can you describe it for us?

  Jim: I do. It was really cool. I didn’t tell the guests until we got back that it was my first solo tour. They gave me a big round of applause.