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One of the United States’ oldest cities, the massive metropolis of Boston sees more than six million visitors each year, and it is not hard to see why. Its museums, galleries and theatres, mixed with its endless supply of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and accommodation, makes it appealing to everyone, plus its professional sports teams are nothing short of outstanding. Although driving should be avoided in the city itself, it is the best way to get out and explore the rest of New England, which is very charming and full of hidden gems. Boston is rightfully nicknamed the Hub (of the Universe) as it is well connected to all areas of the region.
Who to Book With
There are a number of locations where travellers can pick up a rental car in Boston, including Downtown, Boston Harbour, the Boston South Railway station and the airport. Vehicles are supplied by top firms such as Avis, National and Europcar, and booking in advance is the best way to make sure that you get the best deals.
Best time to go
Summer is Boston’s peak tourist season, as this is when most of the city’s attractions are open. It is also when prices are at their highest, but this shouldn’t stop you from visiting during this time of year. Winters are quite cold with temperatures often well below 0°C, while March and November experience the most rainfall.
Need to Know Essentials
When retrieving your car hire, the following documents need to be shown:
- A valid UK driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Some sort of identification (other than your driving licence)
- The credit card used when the booking was made
- Confirmation of booking, printed if possible
Driving in the city should be avoided, as Boston is prone to congestion, parking is extremely hard to find and the locals tend to drive quite aggressively. If you must take your car into the city, try not to drive during morning and evening rush hours and be careful of cyclists. There is on-street parking with meters throughout Boston that allow you to park for a maximum of two hours for $1.25 per hour. It is also possible to park in commuter railway station car parks and then take the train into the city.
The I-95, I-93 and I-90, also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike, are the main highways that serve the Boston. The I-90 is a toll motorway, charging $1.25 to enter the city; expect to pay $3.50 from Logan Airport. US Route1 and 3 also span out from the city, so destinations in all directions can easily be reached. The underground O'Neill Tunnel runs underneath downtown Boston from Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge to Chinatown, with two exits heading northbound and three heading southbound.
Interstates have blue signs with white numbers to clearly distinguish them from other highways, while Routes are marked white with black numbers. The O'Neill Tunnel is marked as I-93, US Route 1 and Route 3, as it follows all of these highways. Signage on small streets in the city can be limited. Roads can be dangerous in the winter, especially after a heavy snowfall.
The MBTA goes to pretty much anywhere in the city and is by far the best way to get around Boston. It is quite comprehensive as the country’s fourth-largest transit system. It connects all neighbourhoods within the city along its seven colour-coded subway lines. Buses are slower but cheaper, while the water shuttle is the most scenic way for visitors to get around the downtown district.
CharlieCards and CharlieTickets can be purchased at all metro stations with cash or credit card. Prices vary depending on whether or not you are hoping on a bus, the metro, the commuter rail or a ferry, although the bus or metro should be no more than $2.50. Visitors can purchase seven-day passes for $18, recommended for those spending a few days here.
There are three railway stations in Boston that are served by both long-distance Amtrak trains and MBTA commuter trains. The South Station is the largest of the three, with the Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited and Northeast Regional lines all stopping here. The MBTA commuter trains, the purple line, depart from all three railway stations in all directions.
Taxis, which can be hailed from any major street corner, are the best option for getting around Boston at night. Boston’s taxis have a reputation of being the most expensive in the country, with tariffs sometimes being as high as $30 for travel within the city centre, while venturing out to one of Boston’s suburbs could cost around $80.
Buses and Trams
Buses, also provided by MBTA, are quite a bit slower than the metro, but may get you closer to where you need to go. There are also Express buses that are ideal for longer journeys, for example to a Boston suburb. There are plenty of bus companies that connect Boston, with close by destinations such as New York City, Baltimore and Washington DC catered to. Greyhound buses link the city to destinations farther afield.
Boston has the sea to its east, the Blackstone Valley to its west and the Cape Cod Peninsula to the south, so it is surrounded by beautiful scenery and an endless amount of places to enjoy on daytrips. Boston has a wealth of attractions that will keep any visitors busy for days, but it is also the perfect place to use as a base for exploring the rest of the region, with access provided by road, bus, train and ferry.
Cape Cod National Seashore - This is made up of 43,500 acres of dunes, woods, ponds and Atlantic coastline. It consists of beaches, salt marshes, high cliff dunes, swamp and oak forests, and boasts hiking trails and cycling trails. This is a lovely coastal drive southeast from Boston.
Boston to the Bronx - This is a popular 3.5 hour drive west along the I-95. Most do this drive in at least two days, stopping at places such as Providence, Mystic and New Haven along the way.
Six Flags New England - Found just 90 minutes west of Boston, this is ideal for a family excursion. It is the biggest amusement park in the region, having rides for all age groups, food to please any palate and entertainment that will make the whole family burst out in laughter.
White Mountain National Forest - Located in Maine this forest boasts fantastic scenery, great views and plenty of activities. It is a bird lover’s haven, a hiker’s dream and a great place for a romantic picnic.