6 Ways to Get Around Boston: A Guide to Efficient Transportation

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If you are visiting and need to get around Boston, the public transportation system is the best way option.

A car rental may be tempting, but the only time it’s worth driving is if you’re heading to a destination that is not easily accessible by public transportation.

How to Get Around Boston

statue of a man walking

As a management consultant, I worked in the Boston area for a year and always had a rental car which was funded by the firm.

When I rented a car in Boston, I found that not only can driving be a nightmare, but parking is also nearly impossible and comes at a premium.

As with most larger cities, I recommend that you avoid being on the road during traffic hours as much as possible because believe it or not, it’s much easier to drive and find parking in New York City than in Boston.

On a more recent trip to Boston, it was still easy to get around using Boston public transportation system. However, we didn’t need transportation for every part of town, and we were able to visit the most popular areas of Boston on foot.

The city is very walkable, especially when visiting the Freedom Trail. For the historic district and downtown zones, it’s best to travel on foot (and don’t forget the strollers for the little ones).

However, just note that historic streets are cobbled and may be difficult to navigate with wheels.

Now get ready to take some great photos in Boston, here’s a roundup of the best ways to get around town.

The Boston T

boston T stop

Boston has an incredibly good public transit system called the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), or to locals, the “T” and it offers the most affordable way to get around Boston.

I found the maps easy to read and we used them to get to all the places on our itinerary. It is the best mode of transportation in Boston, the suburban towns, and smaller cities within Eastern Massachusetts.

The “T” has five color-coded branches that run above and below ground. There is also a map at every station and on most of the individual cars and ticket kiosks.

Daily or weekly passes are also available. You just need to decide if you need a CharlieCard (a plastic reusable card) or a CharlieTicket (a paper ticket).

You can also pay cash; they are accepted on buses and trolleys with fare boxes. 

And there is good news! Unlike cities like London, you can get around in Boston with no extra fee for peak periods. All fares are the same no matter what time of day or day of the week that you travel.

You can also pay for more than one person if you have a CharlieCard (but it doesn’t apply to CharlieTickets), so there is no need to purchase multiple cards.

Just tap your crew through the turnstile and keep it moving! Activation for the CharlieCard begins on first use. 

Cost & Service:

  • One-way – $2.40, transfers included
  • Day pass – $12.75 for unlimited rides in 24 hours
  • Weekly pass – $22.50
  • Service – 5 AM to 12Am and later on weekends

I imagine traveling on the “T” has become a challenge over the years, just as it has in Chicago due to crowding and undesirable behaviors.

Just keep your wits about you, secure your belongings, and avoid peak travel periods (before and after business hours).

Biking

outdoor seating near cafes

Many cities are making an effort to be more eco-friendly, and Boston is no exception.

With the development of new street lanes and paths, the bike share program has become a safer and more economical mode of transportation.

It’s a healthy way to get around Boston and bikes make it easy to navigate the street and sidewalks.

The bike-sharing program is called BlueBikes and with the app, you can manage membership and rentals.

The plans are created to benefit frequent riders so if you sign up and cancel the membership, you are still responsible for the remaining balance.

Some companies, like Urban AdvenTours, rent bikes on an hourly or daily plan. Renting a bike is a great way to see the city, get exercise, and create your own sightseeing agenda.

If the weather is great, it will be easy to get around Boston as a first-time visitor or take a ride along the harbor.

The Boston Trolley Tour

boston trolley stop

We were huge fans of the HopOn-HopOff when our stay is short, and we want to see as much as possible in a short amount of time. We rode this tourist bus and saw quite a few famous sites in half a day, which allowed us to explore other parts of the city during a long weekend.

Tickets can be obtained at the booths and select hotel concierges.

The Green line is the most traveled route and travels through the Historic Downtown, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, North End, and Seaport districts. The first HoHo stop begins at Faneuil Hall and tours start daily at 9:00 AM. The last tour leaves at 5:00 PM during peak season (4:00 PM, non-peak).

Buses

Buses are inexpensive to get around Boston, but it is also slower than the “T”. However, the savings are hardly worth it unless you are traveling a short distance.

Cost: $1.70, transfer included

Ferries

people on a ferry at sunset

There are two harbor ferry routes that travel in the harbor and it’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and get around Boston harbors.

The Charlestown Inner Harbor Ferry runs on the Charles River from Boston to Charlestown, and the Hingham/Hull Commuter Ferry travels between Boston, Logan International Airport, Hingham, and Hull.

Prices are affordable and it would be a nice way to spend time on the harbor at a low price point if the trip didn’t finish in the blink of an eye.

Cost: $4 – $10, one way

Commuter Rail

man standing in empty train station

A commuter train is a great option to get around Boston or outside the city, for taking a day trip to Providence, Rhode Island, or accessing nearby suburbs. Prices vary depending on the start and end zone.

Compared to the Peter Pan bus, a trip to Providence will cost about $16.00 for a one-way fare and both methods are close in duration for traveling from city to city.

The commuter weekend ticket is valid on Saturdays and Sundays for unlimited travel between zones and only costs $10. That’s a nice deal for a one-day getaway out of Boston.

Cost: $2.40 – $13.25 one way

Traveling Outside of Boston

a street in boston with buildings and bay windows on both sides

How to Get from Boston Logon Airport to Downtown Boston

Depending on the proximity of your destination, you’ll take the Silver Line (1, 2, or 3) and transfer it to one or more of the color-coded “T” lines. Transfers are free.

The cost of a one-way fare on the Silver line is the same as the color-coded lines. Line 3 will take you to Chelsea or to the Blue Line which takes you to historic downtown Boston. Lines 1 and 2 will transport you near to the Seaport District or Chinatown.

We found this mode of transportation very simple to understand and follow when we were leaving Boston. Just follow the same steps in reverse.

Cost: $2.40, one-way

If you are up for a one-day adventure elsewhere like a tour of the Newport Mansions, here are some ways to get to other common destinations around Boston.

How to Get from Boston to Cambridge

We took the “T” that connects to the Red line and exited at either Harvard station.  You can also exit at Central Station.

We wanted to visit outside of Boston to see the Harvard University Campus and take photos. It is a beautiful neighborhood, and the ride was about 30 minutes from the city center.

Cost: $2.40, one-way

How to Get from Boston to New York City 

A bus from Boston to New York takes about five hours on a good day with a bit of traffic. We found tickets for $7 per person with Megabus.

Another bus line is Peter Pan but the tickets tend to be slightly more expensive but under $60 one-way. A quick trip by train leaves from South Station with service via Amtrak Acela and the lowest price you will find is in the $30 range.

Driving is about 4 hours, more so with traffic. The drive from Boston to tour New York City is an easy 220-mile stretch. The only other costs you will aside from gas are tolls.

Flights are in the $100 range but consider the time spent getting to the airport, snaking the TSA line, and potential flight delays.

Cost: Varies

How to Get from Boston to Rhode Island

a peter pan bus

We caught the Peter Pan bus from Boston South Station to Rhode Island Convention Center stop. The ride was less than an hour. The bus was quite comfortable and with air-conditioning. At the time, the ticket cost us about $30 per person round trip.

Since it was only 25% full, we had a lot of space to spread out and we loved that the bus was equipped with charging stations at every seat.

Cost: Varies

How to Get from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard

While you can drive a car in Martha’s Vineyard, the only way to transport the vehicle is via the Steamship Transport Authority.

So, you’ll need to get to one of two ports: Woods Hole in Falmouth, MA or Hyannis in Barnstable, MA (Cape Cod). Assuming you don’t have a car, the easiest way is to leave from Boston Logan Airport and a Peter Pan bus to Woods Hole terminal.

Walking to the port is about 10 minutes. The trip is 2 to 2.5 hours in duration. From Boston Logan, you can also take the Plymouth & Brockton bus to the port, the savings is $2 or $3 dollars.

Cost: $30 range

Final Thoughts on How to Get Around in Boston

pair of shoes near train tracks

I walked a lot in Boston and my feet were hurting at the end of the day, but I easily get 30,000 steps logged on any given vacation day.

Overall, Boston has a great public transportation system that is very comprehensive. Like Chicago’s transportation system and New York, the system is expansive and makes it easy to explore beyond the familiar tourism spots.

We used it to visit South Seaport, the Isabella Gardner Museum, to get to the airport, and to take a 2-day side trip to Rhode Island.

On my next visit to Boston, I would use public transportation to get around Boston in a heartbeat.

If you have a car, the New England area is a lovely drive especially in the fall when the jewel-colored leaves are on display.

Using a comprehensive trip planner will help you organize your visit.

Happy trails!


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2 Comments

  1. Michelle Remaud says:

    You might want to update your post. Getting around Boston on the T is a nightmare!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for the feedback. I make updates every 6 to 12 months but may be behind on a few posts. I still think the T is a good way to get about town, especially if you want to pop into the campus at Harvard or visit the Isabella Gardner Museum. But I know EXACTLY what you mean because Chicago trains can be a pain with overcrowding and interesting characters too. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!