What if you had to pick one reason to come to Boston – just one thing that makes this city special? You would be hard pressed to choose. Certainly it is a historic town – the birthplace of American independence – where colonial and revolutionary sites line the cobblestone streets. But it’s also thriving in the here and now, as a center for academic and scientific research. Then there’s the flourishing cultural institutions, the triumphant sports teams, the rich ethnic diversity and the fantastic dining and drinking.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose only one reason to come to Boston. Just come – and experience the many facets of this lively city.
The historic heart of Boston, where the revolutionary rumblings began, is Downtown. These narrow crowded streets – former cow paths, they say – see the most tourist traffic. The Freedom Trail starts here. Travelers can follow the walking tour into the North End, now packed with Italian eateries and eonoteche. The walking tour continues into Charlestown, with its colonial townhouses and revolutionary battle site. Beacon Hill is another quaint and historic ‘hood, where elegant homes and fine boutiques line the cobblestone streets. These are the oldest parts of the city, where history lives and breathes, making vivid the storied past.
South of Downtown, the small but lively Theater District is a fabulous, flashy nighttime destination, whether to catch a show or to cut a rug. Nearby Chinatown is best for late-night noshing (or Asian food at any time of day). Across the Fort Point Channel, the Seaport District is a fast-changing neighborhood with glorious views of city and sea. Formerly home to the city’s fishing industry, it’s still a top spot for seafood – and all food – as it is emerging as a drinking and dining epicenter.
The South End is the hub of Boston’s local art scene, where former factories and warehouses now contain studios and galleries. Come during the seasonal Sunday Open Market or year-round First Fridays, when artists welcome browsers into their studios. Foodies flock to the South End on any evening of the year, in search of the city’s most exciting, experimental restaurant scene.
Further west, wide boulevards and stately plazas characterize the Back Bay. The architectural gems on Copley Square – the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church – are musts-sees inside and out. If that’s not enough to lure you, the trendy shops and galleries on Newbury Street should do.
Maybe your top priority in Boston is Kenmore Square, home of Fenway Park and the beloved Boston Red Sox. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts also inhabit the surrounding streets. From here, the green parklands of the Emerald Necklace unfurl west into the outlying neighborhoods, offering an urban escape for walkers, bikers and even birders.
Not enough time to explore all of this amazing little city? Start with our 48 hours in Boston itinerary.
Back Streets of Boston’s Beacon Hill … Atmospheric strolls, secret passageways and elegant architecture
Boston in 48 Hours … Compact neighborhoods perfect for walking and exploring
Boston’s Best Mountain Biking … 48 hours of great mountain biking in Eastern Massachusetts
Boston’s South End on a Sunday … contemplate the artwork, hobnob with artists, browse the boutiques
Literary Boston: Beyond Walden Pond … from Concord to Salem, from Emerson to Louisa May Alcott and beyond
Spend a Day in Boston’s Back Bay … upscale shopping and cafe hopping amidst Boston’s iconic architecture
Walking Tour of Boston’s North End … follow Paul Revere’s footsteps, then indulge in irresistible Italian cooking
January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
(not the same as Native American Day, which is only celebrated officially in two states, on September 25th)
November (11th): Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas
Boston is located in the Eastern time zone.
To check the local time in Boston, click here.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (on the second Sunday morning of March at 2 a.m.). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (on the first Sunday morning in November at 2 a.m.), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except Hawaii and most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), itâs probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If youâre traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, youâll probably want some coverage âjust in caseâ â¦ no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, itâs best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit cardâs issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly whatâs covered, as many have âstripped downâ coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As âshared spaceâ lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of âcash backâ when paying for your goods â this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the U.S.
Donât forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you donât do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card â which doesnât make sense if it is lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where youâll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that donât offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.
Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas â New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco â are moving to a no-tipping model in which service is included. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill, if you look closely for it.
Most bell staff receive $1 to $2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5 to $10.
Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day and about $5 per day in higher-end properties.
At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets around $10 to $20 per day. Concierge staff do not normally expect a tip for simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Car valet staff expect $2 when returning your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Sales Taxes, Lodging Taxes & Resort Fees
In Boston, the combined total for state and local taxes on all retail goods and services ?is about [##]% to [##]%. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.
Lodging tax ?is about [##]%. This tax applies whether you are staying at a private vacation rental, a bed-and-breakfast, or a full-fledged hotel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate. Neither are the mandatory nightly “resort fees” being charged by an increasing number of hotels. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that should be free. Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.