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International Student and Scholar Support

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Transportation Around Columbia

While most students choose to walk to classes on-campus, you will likely need to find other means of transportation when you're not walking to class. We have some helpful tips for you as a new international student at USC.

To apply for a South Carolina driver's license, you must visit the Department of Motor Vechicles Shop Road or Irmo location with the following documents:

  1. Passport
  2. I-94 (Obtain most recent I-94 here)
  3. I-20 
  4. Certificate of Enrollment with current address (request one in the ISS Forms Library or visit the University Registrar's Office)
  5.  Social Security Card if you have an on-campus job or letter from the Social Security Administration stating you are not eligible if you do not have a job (more information about the denial letter here).
  6. Proof of residency in South Carolina (more information on the SC DMV website).
    1. This can include a utility bill or financial statement with your current SC address, current letter of employment or payroll statement from an SC employer, etc. 
  7. If your foreign driver's license does not have an English translation, a translation of your foreign driver's license using  this form. Students can typically find a translation service by searching the American Translators Association's website.

At the DMV, you will be required to take a written exam first. If you pass the written exam, you can schedule your driving exam for a future date. The driving exam requires you to also pass a vision test and to show proof of automobile liability insurance that is licensed to do business in South Carolina.

A note about reciprocity for Taiwanese and Korean citizens: Students from Taiwan and South Korea benefit from a reciprocal agreement allowing them to exchange their license from their home country for a license issued by the state of South Carolina, without requiring a written or practical ex-am.  Citizens of these places will need to get a certification letter from the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea or the Consulate General of the Republic of China (Taiwan) before they come into an SCDMV branch for a driver’s license or ID.

Parking on campus can be difficult due to the large amount of students with cars. For information about parking passes and other general need-to-knows, see the Parking and Transportation Services Website.

USC offers several on-campus shuttles 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.

Columbia's city bus system is called, "The Comet." If you will not have a car at USC, this is one of the best ways to travel. You can find the different routes and timings on the Comet website. The buses generally come to each bus stop every 30 minutes on weekdays and once an hour on weekends. The Comet also gives students large discounts. 

Some students choose to purchase a bicycle while they are a student at USC. If you do purchase a bicycle, be sure to register it with USC's Parking and Transportation Services. In the event that your bicycle is lost or stolen, your bicycle registration will aid USC's law enforcement in recovering it. Be aware of bike safety laws in Columbia and always wear a helmet!

As an alternative to taking a taxi, Uber and Lyft require  you download their mobile app and create an account with them before you request a ride. Uber/Lyft are similar to  taxi services. It has many modern features that most taxi services do not offer. 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.

Make sure that you always confirm that the vehicle you're entering is the Uber or Lyft you ordered by asking the driver if they know your name before getting in the vehicle. 

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. We recommend that our international students call one of the following companies if they need a taxi:

When you call, be prepared to tell the operator your initial pickup location, the number of riders that will be in the taxi, and your final destination.

If you are looking to travel by air, 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.

The Amtrak is also a long-distance option for you if you wish to travel throughout the United States by train. Additionally, MegaBus is also available in Columbia if you plan to travel to other major cities while you are a student in the U.S.


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