How to Get Around Boston

By Nathalie Alonso

Boston Harbor to Boston Common and beyond: The best transportation to navigate city streets

How to Get Around Boston

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA, Boston's robust mass transit system includes trains, buses and ferries, which make a driving a car seem like a hindrance when it comes to exploring the city. The capital of Massachusetts is also one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S. Many of its attractions are best enjoyed on foot, so pack comfortable shoes.

Subways and buses and trolleys, oh my!

Boston's subway system is made up of four lines – Red, Green, Blue and Orange. It includes a few trolleys and is a convenient way to travel between major attractions. To stay oriented, remember that inbound trains head toward the city center, while outbound trains lead away from it. When riding the Green Line, keep in mind that it splits into four routes. To get to the Museum of Fine Arts, for example, you would take Green Line E, whereas Fenway Park lies along Green Line D. Notice a Silver Line on the subway map? That's one of the city's many bus routes and it stands out because it operates as a subway with designated lanes. Don't plan on taking mass transportation after a late night out on the town because Boston's subways and buses run roughly between 5:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.

CharlieCards vs. CharlieTickets

It is possible to pay cash on MBTA subways and buses, but it's more convenient and cheaper to pay with a prepaid pass. You have two to choose from: CharlieCards and CharlieTickets. The former can be purchased from customer service personnel at subway stations, at the CharlieCard Downtown Crossing Station and at some retails stores around the city. By using a CharlieCard, you avoid the surcharge that applies when using the CharlieTicket, a heavy piece of paper with a magnetic strip that can be purchased from kiosks at any subway station. The ticket machines allow you to add value to both CharlieCards and CharlieTickets. Children 11 years old and younger ride free when traveling with an adult, but only two children per adult count toward this policy.

Boston by sea

Depending on where you're going in Boston, you may be able to get there by boat. The MBTA Inner Harbor ferry runs between Long Wharf – near the New England Aquarium – and the historic Charlestown Navy Yard. When you're ready to head home, the Cross Harbor Ferry connects Long Wharf and Logan International Airport. Private water taxi companies also provide service between attractions along Boston Harbor.

Exploring on foot

The cozy, labyrinthine streets that contribute to Boston's charm are as much a boon to pedestrians as they are a nuisance for drivers. Walking is the ideal way to see the city's architecture and green spaces. In fact, the city's popular Freedom Trail, a route that connects historic sites from the American Revolution, is meant to be explored on foot.

About the Author

Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.