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Do You Need a Car in Boston? 5 Things to Know

Do You Need a Car in Boston? 5 Things to Know

Are you traveling to Boston and worried about how to commute there? Asking questions like do you need a car in Boston? This article will answer all your questions!

Boston has everything from its illustrious history to successful sports teams and a world-class education center. Officially known as the City of Boston, it is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the U.S.

Several significant events of the American Revolution, including the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, took place right here in the city.

A rich history, breathtaking scenery, cultural attractions, and excellent quality of life encourage tourists to visit Boston. There are several things you are probably considering about Boston and traveling around the greater Boston metropolitan area:

  • Do you need a car in Boston for a tour?
  • Is it possible to get around without a car?
  • What about Boston’s public transportation?

Moreover, if you plan on making a tourist trip to Boston, you’ll definitely want to get an all-inclusive sightseeing pass of some description to save money on Boston’s top attractions. You can save as much as a mint rather than purchasing admission individually.

Commonwealth Avenue Boston

Let’s take a look at some options:

See related: Boston CityPASS Review: Is It Worth It?

Do You Need a Car in Boston?

Sunset over Boston skyline with illuminated skyscrapers
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Many people wonder if living or visiting Boston without a car is possible. Well, that depends on your preferences, of course.

For instance, if you are traveling with small children or your family, exploring Boston in a car might be convenient. Also, a car rental will be a more convenient option if you wish to visit far-off places in the city.

However, if you want to wander around the city streets, visit the malls, shop, or dine in, you can do that easily on foot. Most people walk around rather than deal with traffic and parking.

Further, if you want to avoid traveling in your car because you believe it’ll add to the travel expenses, you have several other options to go around the city.

How Is Boston’s Public Transportation?

Train passing Boston Longfellow bridge
eskystudio / Adobe Stock

Is Boston public transportation good? What about the Boston public transportation from Logan Airport? Fortunately, Boston’s public transport is very good, and you can easily rely on it to travel across the city. Below are a few local transport mode options in Boston.

Light Rail

Boston T subway in Boston, Massachusetts
eskystudio – stock.adobe.com

The T subway is the Boston Light Rail service that runs beneath the city and is the fourth largest Metropolitan Transit System in the U.S. Its construction began in 1895, and till today, it is being used. The commuter rail has two main entry points: the North and South Station.

It serves 175 towns and cities in central and eastern Massachusetts. Whether you wish to visit beaches, museums, or an educational institution, the T subway has you covered with its color-coded lines.

  • Red Line: The red line will take you to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, and the JFK Library.
  • Blue Line: The blue line will take you to the Logan International Airport, the beaches, and the Old State House.
  • Orange Line: Takes you to Boston’s North End Neighborhood, Faneuil Hall, the TD Garden (Boston Garden), Samuel Adams Brewery, and Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
  • Green Line: You can use this one to reach the Museum of Science, Symphony Hall, Museum of Fine Arts, and Faneuil Hall. It also runs across several parks known as the Emerald Necklace.
Boston Green Line Metro

You can get your tickets from the T subway station. A one-way trip would cost you around $2.75. But if you have a “Charlie Card,” a round trip will cost you $4.50.

The Charlie Card is Boston’s subway line smart card scheme. Lastly, the T Rail also offers Boston public transportation from the airport. So whether you want to travel to or from the airport, you can hop on the subway and reach your desired location within minutes.

Before you arrive in the city, get oriented with the MBTA Map. The Boston area will seem incredibly small if you are oriented with the commuter rail.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Map
Wangkun Jia – stock.adobe.com

Bus

Shuttle Bus in Boston Massachusetts
Wangkun Jia – stock.adobe.com

Boston’s buses offer comfortable seating and accessible travel locally and regionally. So whenever you plan to visit, you can purchase the ticket, get on the bus, and reach your preferred location.

Boston Express Bus offers ticket deals, including Commuter Pass, Same-Day Round Trip, Children’s Fare, and Monthly passes. Further, you can check the official website for discounts on fares. Still, we’d recommend using the subway line over the bus system.

Water Taxis

East Boston Boston, Massachusetts Water Taxi
Wangkun Jia – stock.adobe.com

Boston water taxis provide fun, fast, convenient, and affordable transport around and across the Harbor without having to contend with road traffic!

Standard water taxi stops include CruisePort Terminal, Logan Airport, TD Garden, Boston Harbor Hotel, the World Trade Center, the New England Aquarium, and the list goes on, all from downtown Boston!

Typically, it will take around 7-10 minutes to reach your desired location on a water taxi – which is about what you’d expect from a road-going cab. Plus, you get to enjoy the fantastic city skyline views!

Besides that, the boats are covered and have a heating system for the harsh winter weather, and the seats are comfortable, so you’ll feel at ease while riding.

Tour Trolley

Boston Tour Trolley

You’ve already done most of your work as a tourist if you know your directions and have a list of places to visit. Now all you need is a reliable transport system to get moving.

But what if you don’t know what to hit up? A Tour Trolley is your best bet if you are sans a list of attractions. The service offers comfortable seating and knowledgeable travel guides to get the most out of your Boston tour.

You can choose from Silver, Golden, and Platinum passes. The price and features vary per pass. Check out what the tour includes to know the ins and outs of how you can use it to get around. This is an efficient way to explore the unique variety of the many Boston neighborhoods and tourist attractions.

Do You Need to Rent a Car in Boston?

Cars on a street in Boston, Massachusetts
jStock / Adobe Stock

While Boston’s local transport is pretty doable, if you want to avoid traveling with people for safety purposes, you can rent a car, through car services such as Kayak and Rentalcars.com.

You will find exploring Boston with a car better than other options, as it offers more control over your travel for things like day trips.

Having your wheels creates a private comfort zone, and you enjoy independent freedom of movement. Car rentals can be expensive, depending on the company you hire from. While some companies are costly, choosing the right one is up to you.

Several rental car companies offer affordable deals. Also, you can accessibly book the ride by entering information, including the date & time you need the car and the driver’s age.

Within no time, you’ll have the ride waiting at your doorstep! If you wish to travel in a private space that offers comfort and ease to you and your family, renting a car is the way to go.

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Chicago?

Are There Carless Options to Get Around Boston?

Cambridge Kendall Square skyline and MBTA red line train on Longfellow Bridge aerial view, Boston, Massachusetts MA, USA. The bridge connects Cambridge and Boston over Charles River.
Wangkun Jia / Adobe Stock

If you do not want to move around in your car or travel locally, you still have a few options to explore Boston neighborhoods. Read below to find other ways to roam around Beantown and have a whale of a time!

Bike

Bike in Boston

Bikes are a fun and affordable way to ride around your favorite location. The city is bike-friendly, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting around. Boston’s hiking trails, parks, and historic streets are worth exploring on a bike ride.

All you need to do is get a rental bike, clip on a helmet, and get peddling. If you do not have a bike, there are plenty of places to hire or rent bikes. Policies and prices vary per company.

When biking, you also get a chance to meet other bikers. So, if you’re a cycling social butterfly, this opportunity may interest you.

Scooter

Vespa Primavera scooter in Boston, Massachusetts
Baharlou – stock.adobe.com

Head out on an eco-friendly tour exploring the captivating sights of Boston on a chic little scooter! You can discover beautiful hidden spots, meet locals, and avoid traffic jams.

So, what are you waiting for? Get on the scooter for a spin and travel in style! Just make sure you pay attention to those tricky alleys and roads around the city.

By Foot

Statue Harvard Boston Historic Attraction

Now that walking tours are again in vogue, you have more reasons to ditch your car. There are tons of walk-friendly attractions in Boston.

For instance, you can stroll in Harvard Yard (the oldest institution of higher education in America). The garden’s exotic, bright, glorious trees and flowers will relax you.

Besides, you can go Back Bay shopping, Beacon Hill, Fenway Park, or North End to shop, dine in, explore the history, and discover Victorian brick row houses lit by vintage lanterns.

And, of course, there is the world-famous Boston Freedom Trail, which can only be enjoyed on foot. Most of these tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other.

Access all these tourist attractions by purchasing a Boston Go Explorer Pass, which gives you all-inclusive access to your chosen landmarks and tourist destinations.

See Related: Best Boston Tours to Take Today

Exploring Boston Without a Car: Is It Possible?

Boston Skyline and Harbor View
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Short answer: yes. Exploring Boston without a car is pretty much possible. The choice is yours: Do you want to take a tour in a car or not?

If you choose not to bring your car, you can always rent or use public transportation to save money. You can always get around the city on foot, scooter, or bike.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to visit in Boston without a car easily.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

If you are fond of fine arts, this museum is the ideal destination to tour. Also, art isn’t limited to one or two categories. The museum holds several exhibitions featuring classic, fine, modern, and new art. Ongoing collections include the Garden of Boston and Art of America.

Besides, you’ll also discover artwork related to Black History, Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, British, and Korean artistic history. The museum also arranges several activities for kids. So, if you have young children, they’ll enjoy the visit just as much as you!

See Related: 2 Days in Boston Itinerary

The Rose Kennedy Greenway

Rose Kennedy Greenway Boston

Rose Kennedy Greenway Park has everything, whether you love art, food, plants, or fun activities! The park has diverse trees, plants, beautiful blossoms, and shrubs. Nothing will unwind your spirits like walking briskly through this perfectly manicured chain of green in the city’s heart.

Furthermore, the Kennedy Greenway series of linked parks hosts various events, art exhibits, and attractions. Also, the fun-filled and exciting festivals and a fantastic selection of Boston’s food trucks draw thick crowds daily.

If you have less time and desire to view everything at once, you can take a trip to the Kennedy Greenway to catch a glimpse of Boston’s best.

Boston Common

Enchanting sunset at Boston Common with historic parkland pavilion - sRGB color space, coordinates (42.353778, -71.065619)
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Established in 1634, the Boston Common is on the list of top National Historic Landmarks. It was used as a site for public executions and campgrounds for British troops and is also where notable leaders and politicians have given legendary speeches over the years.

The remarkable speeches of Gloria Steinem, Pope John Paul II, and Martin Luther King are some of the most famous ones in Boston Common.

Today, this spot is the starting point of the Freedom Trail, which goes to the Emerald Necklace. You can walk, jog, or ride a bike to enjoy the pristine scenery of the place. Besides, various events, concerts, and sports also occur in the Common.

So, if you prefer public gatherings, you can check the schedule and catch an event.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Salem, Massachusetts

Newbury Street

Boston Back Bay reflection

Newbury Street is the perfect place for you if you love fabulous dining, boutiques, or salons. You get everything all in one place here.

It is one of the earliest streets in Boston and was once called Washington Street and Back Bay. Hop on a walking tour to see the sights of these amazing areas.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in the US in Your 20s

Black Heritage Trail

Secret Passage of the Black Heritage Trail in Boston

Grab your bike and head straight to the Black Heritage Trail. It features many memorials, homes, and sites associated with the African-American community of Boston during the 19th century.

On your way to the trail, you’ll come across the George Middleton House, once the home of Revolutionary War hero and early civil rights activist George Middleton.

Then there’s Philips School, one of Boston’s first integrated schools. Perhaps most haunting is the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, dedicated to the first Union Army infantry unit comprised of Black volunteers.

See Related: RVshare Review

How much does it cost to have a car in Boston?

Boston, Massachusetts Sunset view
SeanPavone Photo / Adobe Stock

The cost of owning a car in Boston can vary depending on several factors, such as parking fees, insurance rates, and gas prices. According to a recent report, the average cost of owning a car in Boston is around $10,000 per year, making it one of the most expensive cities in the United States for car ownership.

Boston is a highly accessible city using any of your favorite transportation methods. The best options are walking, biking, and public transportation, especially if you stay in one location. However, if you’re looking for a car in Boston, do not fret. There are plenty of options for rental car companies.

Even if you don’t live in Boston proper, renting an RV with Outdoorsy is another viable option for getting around without owning a vehicle—research before deciding what will work best for your needs and budget.

FAQs

Can you get around Boston without a car?

Yes, it is possible to get around Boston without a car. Boston has a well-connected public transportation system, including buses, subways, and commuter rails, making navigating the city easy without a car. Additionally, Boston is a walkable city, with many attractions and neighborhoods within walking distance.

Is it easy to get around Boston in a car?

Getting around Boston in a car can be challenging due to heavy traffic and limited parking options. The city’s narrow streets and one-way roads can confuse unfamiliar drivers. Having a car can also provide flexibility and convenience for traveling to destinations outside of the city center.