With their many charming neighborhoods, Boston and Cambridge often feel like small towns. But they're both cities, subject to the same problems plaguing many other urban communities nationwide. Although violent crime is rare, residents and tourists alike sometimes fall victim to pickpockets, scam artists, and car thieves. As in any large city, use commons sense, especially after dark. Stay with the crowds and walk on well-lighted, busy streets. Look alert and aware; a purposeful pace helps deter trouble wherever you go. Take cabs or park in well-lighted lots or garages.
Store valuables in a hotel safe, or better yet, leave them at home. Keep and eye (and hand) on handbags and backpacks; do not hang them from a chair in restaurants. Carry wallets in inside or front pockets rather than back pockets. Use ATMs in daylight, preferably in a hotel, bank, or another indoor location with security guards.
Subway and trolleys tend to be safe, but it's wise to stay on your guard. Stick to routes in the main Boston and Cambridge tourist areas - generally, the Downtown stops on all line, on the Red Line in Cambridge, on the Green Line through the Back Bay, and on the Blue Line around the New England Aquarium. Know your itinerary, and make sure you get on the right bus or train going in the right direction. Avoid empty subway and trolley cards and lonely station hallways and platforms, especially after 9:00p on weeknights. Don't take unmarked taxis or any taxi that lacks a posted photo ID of the driver. The MBTA has its own police officers (who patrol stations and monitor them via video); don't hesitate to ask them for help.
Distribute your cash, credit cards, IDs, and other valuables between a deep front pocket, an inside jacket or vest pocket, and a hidden money pouch. Don't reach for the money pouch once you're in public.
Prices are generally higher in Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, and Harvard Square than other parts of town. You're more likely to find bargains in the North End, Kenmore Square, Downtown Crossing, and Cambridge's Central Square. Many museums offer free admission on one weekday evening, and reduced admissions at all times for children, students, and senior citizens.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) - known as "the T" - operates subways and buses along five connecting lines, as well as many bus and several rail commuter lines that reach nearby suburbs and cities. Subway and buses operate from about 5:30a to about 1:00a, with limited late-night service. A 24-hour hotline and the MBTA website have specific information on routes, schedules, fares, wheelchair access, and other matters. Free maps are available at the MBTA's Park Street Station information stand, open daily from 7:00a to 10:00p. The www.mbta.com site has a useful trip planner tool.
T fares are $2.50 for adults paying in cash or $2 with a pre-purchased CharlieCard (Most bus fares are $0.50 cheaper, with the exception of the SL1 and SL2 bus lines, which are priced as if they were part of the subway). Children age 11 and under ride free. Senior citizens pay $1. Fares on the commuter rail - the Purple Line - vary from $2 to $11, depending on distance.
One-day ($11) and seven-day ($18) passes are available for unlimited travel on subways, city buses, and inner-harbor ferries. Buy passes at any full-service MBTA stations. Passes are also sold at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center and at some hotels.
"Inbound" trains head into the city and "outbound" trains head away from it.
Cabs are available around the clock. You can find them outside most hotels and at designated cabstands around the city, which are marked by signs. Taxis generally line up in Harvard Square, around South Station, near Faneuil Hall Marketplace, at Long Wharf, near Massachusetts General Hospital, and in the Theater District. You can also call or use smartphone apps, such as Hailo or Uber to get a taxi or other hired car.
A taxi ride within the city of Boston cost $2.60 at entry for the first 1/4 mile and $0.40 for each 1/7 mile thereafter. Licensed cabs have meters and provide receipts. An illuminated rooftop sign indicates an available cab. If you're going to or from the airport or to the suburbs, ask about flat rates (Be aware that you'll also need to pay a $5.25 toll and a $2.75 airport fee when leaving the airport, and a $2.75 airport fee when traveling to the airport in a cab). Cab drivers sometimes charge extra for multiple stops. One-way streets may make circuitous routes necessary and increase your cost.
Boston's short-term bike rental program is primarily commuter-oriented, but it can also be a handy and fun way for travelers to cover relatively short distances. Members are able to unlock a bike from a Hubway dock, ride it for up to thirty minutes, and then return it to any other dock.
There's no additional charge for any ride that lasts less than 30 minutes, and the docks are in strategic locations throughout the metro area.
Short-term memberships are available for 24 hours ($6), 3 days ($12), and by the month ($20), and you must be 18 or over to join. Sign up online or via one of the kiosks at each dock.
Beyond Times Square can book a private car and driver for airport transfers and a private car and driver for use while in New York City. Contact us for more details.
Parking on Boston streets is tricky. Some neighborhoods have strictly enforced residents-only rules, with just a handful of two-hour visitors' spaces; others have meters, which usually cost 25¢ for 15 minutes, with a one- or two-hour maximum. Keep a few quarters handy, as some city meters take nothing else. Newer meters, strategically placed, accept credit cards and issue receipts that you should leave on your dashboard, on the side nearest the street.
The parking police are ruthless—it's not unusual to find a ticket on your windshield five minutes after your meter expires. However, most on-street parking is free after 8 pm in the city and on Sunday. Repeat offenders who don't pay fines may find the "boot" (an immovable steel clamp) secured to one of their wheels.
Major public lots are at Government Center, Quincy Market, beneath Boston Common (entrance on Charles Street), beneath Post Office Square, at Prudential Center, at Copley Place, and off Clarendon Street near the John Hancock Tower. Smaller lots and garages are scattered throughout Downtown, especially around the Theater District and off Atlantic Avenue in the North End. Most are expensive; expect to pay up to $10 an hour or $24 to park all day. The few city garages are a bargain, at about $7–$11 per day. Theaters, restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions often provide customers with one or two hours of free parking (always ask if the establishment validates receipts). Most Downtown restaurants offer valet parking.
Please be careful crossing the city streets. In many cities in the U.S., cars and bicycles yield to pedestrians.
Most Downtown hotels offer free or fee-based wireless in their rooms or at least in common areas. Check with your hotel before arriving to confirm.
You'll find that many Internet cafés on Newbury Street and throughout the city offer free Wi-Fi. Most coffee shops, including branches of Pavement, Peets, Starbucks, and Espresso Royale, have free Wi-Fi available to customers. Others may charge a small fee (from $2 and up) depending on the minutes of usage.
Shopping in Boston is a lot like the city itself: a mix of classic and cutting-edge, the high-end and the handmade, and international and local sensibilities. Though many Bostonians think too many chain stores have begun to clog their distinctive avenues, there remains a strong network of idiosyncratic gift stores, handicrafts shops, galleries, and a growing number of savvy, independent fashion
boutiques. For the well-heeled, there are also plenty of glossy international designer shops.
Most stores accept major credit cards and traveler’s checks. There’s no state sales tax on clothing. However, there’s a 6.25% sales tax on clothes priced higher than $175 per item; the tax is levied on the amount in excess of $175.
In restaurants the standard gratuity is 15% to 20% of your bill. Many restaurants automatically add a 15% to 20% gratuity for groups of six or more.
Tip taxi drivers 15% of the fare, and airport and hotel porters at least $1 per bag. It's also usual to tip chambermaids $1 to $3 daily. Hotel room-service tips vary and may be included in the meal charge. Masseuses and masseurs, hairstylists, manicurists, and others performing personal services generally get a 15% tip. Theater ushers, museum guides, and gas-station attendants generally do not receive tips. Concierges may be tipped anywhere from $5 to $20 for exceptional service, such as securing a difficult dinner reservation or helping plan a personal sightseeing itinerary.
Laundry is available at most hotels, but there is a fee. Before you leave your clothes to be cleaned, please check the price list. There are also many dry cleaners all over the city.
Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, bars, arenas, public transportation, public parks or any other public places unless otherwise marked. Many hotels are now 100% non-smoking.
Keeping the CIty Clean
Please do not litter. You might see locals doing it, but do not follow their example. There are garbage cans on many corners. Thank you.
Public restrooms outside of restaurants, hotel lobbies, and tourist attractions are rare in Boston, but you'll find clean, well-lighted facilities at South Station, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and the Boston Common Visitor.