Boston is the capital and most populous city of Massachusetts with a population of more than 675,000. With the diverse neighborhoods, rich history, and arts, culture, and education, Boston has something for everyone. But it can be confusing trying to get around in an unfamiliar place. Public transportation is sometimes a mystery unless you do your homework before you go.
If you are arriving at Logan Airport, you will have a plethora of transportation choices right outside the doors. You can take the Blue Line from Logan International Airport to downtown Boston or jump on the GO Boston Shuttle. In addition, there are many taxi stands as well as ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber.
The most popular public transportation services include the tram, bus, subway, water taxi, and ferry. But it can be confusing when you read that the Silver Line at South Station connects with the Commuter Rail on the Red Line while the Blue Line connects to the Green Line, Orange Line, and Commuter Rail at North Station.
You have numerous options for getting around the city from the bus to the train and even your feet. But you cannot bring your suitcases with you (and why would you want to). Find the nearest Boston suitcase storage locker and drop them off so you can enjoy getting around Boston unhindered.
How to get around Boston by train
The subway or commuter rail is the largest part of the public transit system in Boston and is often known as the train or "the T." The subway offers more than 700,000 trips each day and can reach areas as far as South Shore, Providence, Back Bay, Worcester, Fitchburg, Newburyport, Rockport, and Long Wharf north.
There are four subway train lines in the Boston area including green, red, blue, and orange with 128 stops in major neighborhoods but they all end up at the Boston Commons station. The best way to learn the routes is to get a subway map. You can download one onto your phone or get one from a vendor at one of the T Stations.
The green line runs from south Cambridge to Boston including Allston, Brighton, Brookline, and Mission Hill until it moves over to the E Line. This line covers many attractions such as the Boston Common Public Garden, Charles River Esplanade, Symphony Hall, and several museums. Fenway Park is also one of the stops so you can catch a game.
The red line also goes south from Cambridge and leads into Boston and the South Boston area. It is one of the major lines through Harvard University but it also takes you to Quincy, Dorchester, and Braintree. Some of the popular attractions include Beacon Hill, the Boston Harborwalk, and the Children's Museum, as well as the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
The blue line travels from Revere on the North Shore and under the city into the Beacon Hill neighborhood. You can reach areas like the Seaport District, Downtown Boston, and Revere Beach, There are also a variety of attractions from the blue line including the Massachusetts State House, the New England Aquarium, and Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.
The orange line also goes South around the city through downtown Boston but heads into the Jamaica Plain area including Roxbury, Mission Hill, and Malden. Some of the top attractions along the Orange Line include Faneuil Hall, City Hall Plaza, and Old North Church as well as Paul Revere's House, the North End, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Fares and Tickets
The MBTA offers CharlieTickets as well as the CharlieCard, which is a reloadable card that gets you discounts and a free transfer around the city as needed. However, you cannot use the CharlieCard on the commuter rail or ferry. You can get these at numerous MBTA stations around Boston.
The CharlieTicket is a paper ticket that you can load with ferry, commuter rail, bus, and subway passes. This is the best deal for visitors and can be purchased at any of the fare vending machines in the city. However, you do have limited transfers in certain areas.
MBTA operates another transport system called the Commuter Rail that can get you all the way to Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts. There are 20 stations and 137 stops on 12 routes running every day of the week. In addition, the rail has a special service to Gillette Stadium for concerts and events as well as to the TD Garden for a Bruins or Celtics game.
Fares and Tickets
You can get a one-way ticket that costs anywhere between $2 and $15 depending on your destination. A round-trip ticket is also available. You can get these online or at one of the fare vending machines. For those who are in town for the weekend, consider a Weekend Pass that gives you unlimited rides on Saturdays and Sundays for around $10.
How to get around Boston by bus
The MBTA is responsible for managing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The MBTA buses in Boston are some of the best forms of transportation because of the convenience and cost. MBTA buses link neighborhoods across Boston as well as nearby cities and towns.
You can find the main terminal on Atlantic Avenue next to South Station. Getting around is pretty simple since the routes that go north of Boston leave from the North Station and those that go south leave from the South Station.
The region boasts almost 170 routes with 8,000 stops that serve four to seven days a week. You can also use the bus to connect with the subway, commuter rail, and other public transportation. Some bus stops have fare vending machines to get tickets or you can get them online or on your phone. Locals find this is the most economical and accommodating form of public transportation in Boston.
The MBTA offers local bus service and the express bus. The local service takes you anywhere inside Boston proper and the express bus service stops in other cities as well as downtown. The silver line bus is a rapid bus that has its own lane or road to bypass traffic. This is one of the best bus services but is limited in its availability. It offers free service from the airport to South Station and other stops.
Fares and Tickets
The fare varies between $2 to $5 anyway you go on a bus except for coming from the Logan International Airport located in East Boston, which is free. Reduced fares are available for students and senior citizens. You can also use a special form of payment called the CharlieCard, which can save you money.
How to get around Boston by car
Rental cars are easy to find at the airport as well as around town. You can rent a car online and pick it up at the airport or go to one of the rental car offices or kiosks for help. However, you have to remember that Boston traffic can be frustrating and you will pay quite a bit for parking as well as fuel.
Finding good parking spots will not be an issue because you can find numerous parking garages all over Boston. However, they can be extremely costly, especially in major areas like Boston University, Downtown Crossing, and the Back Bay Station.
Boston has numerous taxi service companies from Airport Coach to Boston Cab as well as the Green and Yellow Cabs and MetroCab. If you are coming from the airport, you will not have to call a taxi because there are plenty of them outside waiting for you. Everywhere else, use an app or just give them a call.
Ridesharing is getting to be pretty popular in Boston just like all over the world as people discover how much money they can save. The cost of one of the rideshare companies like Lyft, Uber, and Car Share Boston is just a fraction of the price you will pay for a taxi.
These types of car services can be extremely helpful if you are in an area where there is no public transportation and you do not want to call a taxi. One-way fares are typically just over $1 per mile. However, do not forget about the tip.
Can I get around Boston by foot?
Boston has made the list of the top 10 most walkable cities several times and has a Walk Score of 83, coming in third after New York and Los Angeles. Because of the number of pedestrian greenways, getting around Boston is not just easy and free, but it is also pleasant. Many popular Boston hotels, shopping, dining, and attractions are within walking distance. Skip the car and take a walk instead.
Other Modes of Transportation in Boston
Ferries and Water Taxis
Avoid traffic completely by using the Boston Harbor to get around. There are several routes with three docks including one from Long Wharf South, Long Wharf North, and Rowes Wharf. These can take you to Salem, the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Logan Airport as well as the Charles River, Hull, and Hingham on the Massachusetts South Shore.
Another way to get around the harbor is the high-velocity catamaran ferry service from Boston to Provincetown. This is the fastest way up to Cape Cod as it only takes 90 minutes and it is a very scenic ride without having to deal with the traffic in the city or worry about parking spaces.
The cost of a ride on the ferry depends on which route you take. But the average ticket prices range from about $4 to around $10. You can use a one-way or round-trip ticket, sold at harbor docks or you can get them online as well. You will also be able to use a CharlieTicket or 10-ride ticket that you can get at fare vending machines.
The Boston Inner Harbor Water Taxi is another way to bypass the awful traffic and see the beauty of Boston from a different angle. It serves over 25 locations along the Boston Harbor. This is a fantastic option whether you want to get from point A to point B or just want to see the city from the water.
Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour Trolleys
Perfect for visitors and tourists, the Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour Trolleys take you on a tour of the city while getting a narrated lesson on Boston history and a ride on one of their double-decker buses. The trolleys have been providing these sightseeing tours for more than 30 years and what they call a "transportaining" ride.
Choose from any one of the tours including the Boston Tour that takes you through downtown, the waterfront, the theater district, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill. The Old Town Trolley Tour takes you to the Seaport District, the Convention Expo Center, North Station, and the historic North End.
Boston's Bike Share Program is another fantastic mode of transportation. Whether you want a bicycle, motorcycle, or electric scooter, you can find them all over Boston. Most are within walking distance of popular spots like Charles Street, near the Freedom Trail, and near the schools like Harvard University.
Bluebikes has more than 2,200 bikes in 200+ stations that cover all of Boston and the surrounding cities. Visit a kiosk or the website to get a pass and download the app. You can bring bikes to the T (subway), commuter trains, and most buses for no extra price.
If you would rather use an electric bike, Urban AdvenTours has got you covered. In fact, they have a variety of bikes like off-road, tandem, and city bikes as well as bikes for kids and accessible bikes. They also offer tours of the city and mountain bike rides.
Commuter Trains and More
Whether you take the commuter rail from the north station to get around Boston or the subway trains, it helps to keep you from having to deal with the horrible Boston traffic you can run into. The silver line, one of the local buses, is another great choice especially from the airport since it is free. You could also jump on a tour bus like the Hop-On/Hop-Off, which takes you around Boston proper.