The major domestic airlines serve Logan International Airport, which the locals call "Logan" (tel] 800/235-6426; www.massport.com/logan; airport code BOS).
Boston is an increasingly popular direct destination for international travelers, although many itineraries from overseas still go through another American or European city. Because of fluctuating demand, international routes and schedules are subject to change; double-check details (especially if you're traveling in the winter) well in advance.
Logan is in East Boston at the end of the Sumner, Callahan, and Ted Williams tunnels, 3 miles across the harbor from downtown. For a preview and real-time flight arrival and departure information, visit the website.
The airport has four terminals -- A, B, C, and E (there's no D). Each has ATMs, Internet kiosks, free wireless Internet access, pay phones with dataports, fax machines, and an information booth (near baggage claim). Terminals C and E have bank branches that handle currency exchange. Terminals A and C have children's play spaces.
Let's Make a Deal -- Major national carriers serve two airports less than 2 hours from Boston. They're not nearly as convenient as Logan Airport, but fares to either one can be considerably cheaper. For budget-conscious travelers, a quick check can pay off handsomely.
T. F. Green Airport (tel. 888/268-7222; www.pvdairport.com; airport code PVD) is in the Providence, Rhode Island, suburb of Warwick, about 60 miles south of Boston. The MBTA commuter rail (tel. 800/392-6100 or 617/222-3200; www.mbta.com) connects the airport station to South Station in Boston; the one-way fare is $8.25. Peter Pan/Bonanza (tel. 800/343-9999; www.peterpanbus.com) buses run to and from Boston; fares are $23 one-way, $42 round-trip. You can also take a cab or the local bus (tel. 401/781-9400; www.ripta.com) to downtown Providence and transfer to Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com). Allow at least 2 hours, and pack light.
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (tel. 603/624-6556; www.flymanchester.com; airport code MHT) is in southern New Hampshire, about 51 miles north of Boston. Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) runs buses to Boston's South Station and Logan Airport. The trip takes 60 to 90 minutes; fares start at $19 one-way, $37 round-trip. In addition, Flight Line (tel. 800/245-2525; www.flightlineinc.com) operates van service to and from destinations in Massachusetts, including the Sullivan Square Orange Line T stop and suburban Woburn; one-way fares start at $19.
Getting into Town from the Airport
The Massachusetts Port Authority, or MassPort, operates Logan Airport and coordinates ground transportation. The toll-free line (tel] 800/235-6426; staffed daily 7am-11:55pm) provides information about getting to the city and to many nearby suburbs, and the website (www.massport.com/logan) has an application that lets you specify an origin point, destination, and mode or modes of travel, then returns suggestions for getting where you're going.
The trip into town takes 10 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic, your destination, and the time of day. Except at off hours, such as early on weekend mornings, driving is usually the slowest way to reach central Boston. If you must travel during rush hours or on Sunday afternoon, allow plenty of extra time or plan to take the subway or water taxi (and pack accordingly).
You can get into town by bus, subway, cab, van, or boat. If you're taking the Silver Line bus or the subway, look for MBTA fare kiosks near the exits closest to the public transit pick-up area in each terminal. Paying your fare before boarding speeds up the trip for everyone.
The Silver Line bus stops at each airport terminal and runs directly to South Station, where you can connect to the Red Line subway and the commuter rail to the southern suburbs. It takes about 20 minutes, not including waiting time, and costs just $1.70 (with a pass or CharlieCard) or $2 (with a CharlieTicket or cash) -- a great deal if your final destination is near South Station or in Cambridge.
The subway (the T) takes just 10 minutes to reach downtown, but first you have to reach the subway. Free shuttle buses run from each terminal to the Airport station on the Blue Line of the T from 4am to 1am every day, year-round. The Blue Line stops at Aquarium, State Street, and Government Center, downtown points where you can exit or transfer to the other lines. The fare is $1.70 (with a pass or CharlieCard) or $2 (with a CharlieTicket or cash).
Just getting into a cab at the airport costs a whopping $10.10 (don't blame the driver -- that's $7.50 in fees plus the initial $2.60 fare). The total fare to downtown or the Back Bay usually runs $20 to $35, and may be as high as $45 in bad traffic. Depending on traffic, the driver might use the Ted Williams Tunnel for destinations outside downtown, such as the Back Bay. On a map, this doesn't look like the fastest route, but often it is.
The Logan Airport website (www.massport.com/logan) lists numerous companies that operate shuttle-van service to local hotels. One-way prices start at $14 per person and are subject to fuel surcharges as gas prices fluctuate. Reservations are recommended.
The trip to the downtown waterfront in a weather-protected boat takes about 7 minutes and costs $10 one-way. Service is available from early morning through early evening, with reduced schedules on weekends; at press time, all four providers operate year-round. The free no. 66 shuttle bus connects the airport terminals to the Logan ferry dock. Leaving the airport, ask the shuttle driver to radio ahead for water-taxi pickup; on the way back, call ahead for service.
Three on-call water-taxi services serve the downtown waterfront and other points around Boston Harbor: Boston Harbor Water Taxi (tel. 617/593-9168; www.bostonharborwatertaxi.com), City Water Taxi (tel. 617/422-0392; www.citywatertaxi.com), and Rowes Wharf Water Transport (tel. 617/406-8584; www.roweswharfwatertransport.com). The MBTA (tel. 800/392-6100 or 617/222-3200; www.mbta.com) contracts out scheduled ferry service to Harbor Express (tel. 617/222-6999; www.harborexpress.com), which runs to Long Wharf, behind the Marriott Long Wharf hotel.
Some hotels have their own shuttles or limousines; ask about them when you make your reservation. To arrange private limo service, call ahead for a reservation, especially at busy times. Your hotel can recommend a company, or try Boston Coach (tel. 800/672-7676; www.bostoncoach.com), Carey Limousine (tel. 800/336-4646; www.carey.com), or Commonwealth Limousine Service (tel. 800/558-5466 or 617/787-1110; www.commonwealthlimo.com). PlanetTran (tel. 888/756-8876; www.planettran.com) may be a bit more expensive, but all of its vehicles are hybrids.
Unless you need it right away, seriously consider waiting to pick up your rental car until you're starting a day trip or other excursion. You'll avoid airport fees, tunnel tolls, hotel parking charges, and, most important, Boston traffic.
Renting a car for a long trip will almost certainly be more expensive and less convenient than any other means of reaching Boston, and I can't recommend it. It's not that driving to Boston is difficult. But after you arrive, parking is scarce and wildly expensive, gasoline is pricey, traffic is terrible, and the drivers are famously reckless. If you're thinking of driving to Boston only because you want to use the car to get around town, think again.
If you have to drive, try to book a hotel or a special package that includes parking. If you pay for parking, expect it to cost at least $30 a day downtown, and build that into your budget.
Three major highways converge in Boston. I-90, also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike ("Mass. Pike" to the locals), is an east-west toll road that originates at Logan Airport and links up with the New York State Thruway. I-93/U.S. 1 extends north to Canada. I-93/Route 3, the Southeast Expressway, connects Boston with the south, including Cape Cod. To avoid driving downtown, exit the Massachusetts Turnpike at Cambridge/Allston or at the Prudential Center in the Back Bay. I-95 (Massachusetts Rte. 128) is a beltway about 11 miles from downtown that connects Boston to highways in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York to the south, and New Hampshire and Maine to the north.
Note: The Massachusetts Turnpike's FastLane toll-payment program is compatible with New York's E-ZPass; your regular transponder will work in designated lanes in all states that use these systems, including New Hampshire and Maine. If you have a prepaid device from another highway system, check before you leave home to see whether you too can zip (at the speed limit, 15 mph) through the special lanes.
The approaches to Cambridge are Storrow Drive and Memorial Drive, which run along either side of the Charles River. Storrow Drive has a Harvard Square exit that leads across the Anderson Bridge to John F. Kennedy Street and into the square. Memorial Drive intersects with Kennedy Street; turn away from the bridge to reach the square.
Boston is 218 miles from New York City; driving time is about 4 1/2 hours. The 992-mile drive from Chicago to Boston takes around 21 hours; from Washington, D.C., plan on 8 to 9 hours to cover the 468 miles.
In an emergency, you can call the State Police on a cellphone by dialing tel. 911. The American Automobile Association (AAA; tel. 800/AAA-HELP [222-4357]; www.aaa.com) provides members with maps, itineraries, and other travel information, and arranges free towing if you break down. The Massachusetts Turnpike is a privately operated road that arranges its own towing. If you break down there, ask the AAA operator for advice.
It's impossible to say this often enough: When you reach your hotel, leave your car in the garage and walk or use public transportation. Use the car for day trips, and before you set out, ask at the front desk for a route that avoids construction (it's everywhere).
If you must drive, or if you decide to rent a car for day tripping, budget for gas, tolls, and parking. International visitors should note that quoted rental-car rates in the U.S. almost never include insurance and taxes. Be sure to ask your rental agency about those additional fees, which can significantly increase your total cost.
Boston has three rail centers: South Station, 700 Atlantic Ave. (at Summer St.), near the Waterfront and the Financial District; Back Bay Station, 145 Dartmouth St. (btw. Huntington and Columbus aves.), across from the Copley Place mall; and North Station, on Causeway Street under the TD Garden arena. Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245 or 617/482-3660; www.amtrak.com) serves all three, and each is also a stop on the MBTA subway. From South Station, you can take the Red Line to Cambridge or to Park Street, the system's hub, where you can make connections to the Green, Blue, and Orange lines. The Orange Line links Back Bay Station and Downtown Crossing, where there's a walkway to Park Street station. North Station is a Green and Orange Line stop.
Amtrak runs to South Station from New York and points south and in between, with stops at Route 128 and Back Bay. Its Downeaster service (www.amtrakdowneaster.com) connects North Station to Portland, Maine, with several stops en route. The MBTA commuter rail runs from North Station to Concord, Salem, Gloucester, and Rockport, among other destinations, and from South Station to points south of Boston, including Plymouth and Providence, Rhode Island.
Especially on long trips, the train may not be cheaper than flying. Like the airlines, Amtrak adjusts fares depending on demand, so plan as far ahead as possible to get the lowest fares. Discounts are never available Friday or Sunday afternoon. Always remember to ask for the discounted rate.
Standard service from New York takes 4 1/2 to just under 6 hours. High-speed Acela Express service is scheduled to take just over 3 hours. From Washington, D.C., count on a grueling 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours for the slowest service, 6 hours for the Acela.
The bus is the only way out of many small New England towns. If you're coming from almost anywhere else, consider long-distance bus travel a last resort. The exception is the New York route, which is so desirable that numerous operators, including Greyhound and Peter Pan, offer service. It's frequent and relatively fast (4-4 1/2 hr.), and the price is about half the regular train fare.
For bargain-hunters, the trip from South Station to midtown Manhattan can cost as little as $1 -- if you book at exactly the right moment -- on BoltBus (tel. 877/865-8287; www.boltbus.com) and MegaBus (tel. 877/462-6342; www.megabus.com). Fares top out around $25, subject to fuel-price adjustments, and include on-board Wi-Fi access. Another option is the so-called Chinatown buses; the highest-profile operator is Fung Wah (tel. 617/345-8000 or 212/925-8889; www.fungwahbus.com), which connects South Station to Canal Street in New York's Chinatown for about $15 each way.
The bus terminal, formally the South Station Transportation Center (tel. 617/737-8040; www.south-station.net), is on Atlantic Avenue next to the train station. The major lines are Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222 or 617/526-1800; www.greyhound.com) and Peter Pan (tel. 800/343-9999; www.peterpanbus.com). Other operators include C & J (tel. 800/258-7111; www.ridecj.com), Concord Coach Lines/Dartmouth Coach/Boston Express (tel. 800/639-3317; www.concordcoachlines.com), and Plymouth & Brockton (tel. 508/746-0378; www.p-b.com).
Business-oriented LimoLiner (tel. 888/546-5469; www.limoliner.com) service connects the Back Bay Hilton, 40 Dalton St., to the Hilton New York, 1335 Ave. of the Americas (with an on-request stop in Framingham, MA). The luxury coach seats 28 and has Internet access, work tables, leather seats, and an on-board attendant. The one-way fare is $89, with occasional discounts for midweek, advance-purchase, and same-day round-trip travel.
World Wide Bus (tel. 888/457-9967; www.worldwidebus.reachlocal.net) steers clear of Boston traffic. From New York, it serves Riverside station in Newton, which is also a Green Line stop, and Alewife station in Cambridge, the northern terminus of the Red Line. One-way fares start at $15.
By Cruise Ship
Cruise ships arrive at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, 1 Black Falcon Ave., South Boston (tel. 617/330-1500; www.massport.com). Cabs are easy to find -- the drivers know the cruise schedule -- and a trolley shuttle operates when ships are in port. The terminal is about a mile from the nearest subway station, South Station; take the Silver Line SL2 bus from the Design Center Place stop if you don't feel like walking. Before heading out, make sure you have the number of a cab company programmed into your phone, and leave plenty of time for the trip back to the dock.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.