The major long-distance bus lines serving Boston's transportation are Greyhound
and Peter Pan
, but most folks who travel that way are coming from the New York/Washington corridor and have other options. Consider BoltBus
, which like the Acela offer cushier seats and better technology, including WiFi. You could also take one of the Chinatown bus services that are often the cheapest option, but they have come under fire for safety and service issues after several incidents in recent years, so we can’t recommend them.
Logan International Airport
is shoehorned onto a relatively small piece of land across the harbor from downtown, so it can feel like a maze. On the bright side, major renovations are just about finished and it’s in much better condition. Locals often fly out of Manchester, N.H., or Providence, prizing the ease and simplicity of these smaller airports. But each is roughly an hour from downtown by car, and other Boston transportation options are limited. Unless you’ve got friends who’ll pick you up, Logan is the way to go, and there are plenty of flights from most cities, including shuttles from New York and Washington.
The rise of Amtrak’s
high-speed Acela service has made more people consider the train when traveling to Boston from the Washington—New York corridor. But the regular Amtrak isn’t that slow—just over four hours from Penn Station in Manhattan versus three and a half for the Acela. The Acela’s real advantages are amenities like comfier seats and power outlets for your laptop. Get out at South Station and take a cab to your hotel or walk downstairs to the Red Line subway.
No, no, a thousand times no! Urban legend claims that some Boston streets were laid out along old cow paths. Add in baffling rotaries, confusing signage and the homicidal mania that seems to overtake locals behind the wheel and we recommend you avoid driving as your form of Boston transportation. Even though the Big Dig has made getting around downtown significantly easier, you should avoid driving here if at all possible. If you’re taking a side trip to the Berkshires or New Hampshire, fine, rent a car and go. But take it from us, if you're driving anywhere within a 10-mile radius of Beacon Hill, you're asking for it. If you must, plan ahead thoroughly and get a knowledgeable local to check your itinerary.
Boston taxis are among the most expensive around, $5 for the first mile and $2.80 a mile thereafter. But Mayor Tom Menino has a push on to force drivers to stay off their cell phones, clean their cabs and take credit cards. His plan to require them to go hybrid is tangled up in the courts, however. In our experience, cabbies here are pretty much the same as in other cities—you can get a nice guy who wants to take care of you, or a jerk who just wants your money. Boston transportation by taxi is still a better bet than trying to drive around the city by yourself. A route suggestion from a doorman can be one way to avoid getting ripped off.
Locals love to complain about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
or MBTA, but the outfit known universally as “the T” actually does a good job moving people around the city on subways, surface trolleys, buses and commuter trains. Boston transportation is easy if you understand its idiosyncratic ways: You’ll mostly use the subway, which offers five color-coded lines: The Red, Blue, Orange, Green and Silver Lines. Pay close attention to the maps and it’s easy to figure out if you’re inbound or outbound, even though all the lines cross in the middle of the city. The Red Line runs through Cambridge and downtown to South Station, the JFK Library and Dorchester. The Green Line covers the Back Bay, Fenway and western neighborhoods. The Blue Line goes to the Aquarium and Logan Airport. The Orange Line is busiest from Chinatown through the Back Bay to Roxbury. The Silver Line primarily serves the airport and downtown. Get a CharlieCard from the machines in every station and enjoy a small discount, free bus transfers and a faster trip through the turnstiles. If you’re going to ride the T more than once, it’s worth it. The name, by the way, comes from the song "M.T.A," about “the man who never returned.” Apparently the T has acquired a sense of humor. If you’re riding the Green Line, pay special attention to the four different routes—the B, C, D and E—that go their separate ways as they leave the Back Bay. Make sure you get on the right one. The Green also tends to be the slowest line, because much of its length is run along surface streets. The system is mostly safe, but be careful on the Orange line between Back Bay station and Jackson Square. Also note that Boston goes to bed earlier than most big cities, and most lines stop running just after midnight. f you’re looking for that great view of the skyline and the Charles River that you’ve seen in a thousand TV shows and movies, it’s from the Red Line between the Charles—MGH and Kendall—MIT stops.