A Guide To Enjoying Boston On A Budget

Boston skyline
Boston skyline | © Rene Schwietzke/Flickr
Casey Campbell

For travelers and locals alike, expenses in Boston can add up quickly. Housing prices continue to be on the rise, and a family trip to the New England Aquarium can be over $100 for tickets alone. Especially for all you Boston college students out there, finding affordable ways to explore the city can be a challenge. If you’re on a budget, use this guide to get the most out of Boston without feeling like you missed anything.

What to Eat

There are a couple of tricks to finding an inexpensive, tasty meal in Boston. First, look for smaller hole-in-the-wall restaurants that you might not find in guide books. At Anna’s Taqueria, you can order a taco for as little as $3.35, and many say it’s the most authentic Mexican food in Boston. Another local favorite is Tasty Burger, where you can order a decent-sized burger for only $5.95.

Another great way to find bargain food is to seek out some food trucks. Food truck permits have exploded in Boston in recent years, and there are some unique finds. Some great meals under $10 include a local famous grilled cheese, bold and fresh Asian-inspired dishes, and even decadent desserts.

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese

What to Do

If you’ve ever been discouraged after finding out the price of a Boston Duck Tour, don’t be sad. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the city without emptying your pockets. Instead of paying for a tour of the Freedom Trail, download this free app and walk it yourself. Even better, this allows you to diverge off the trail when you want to. And of course, Boston is called a walking city for a reason. You can cover a lot of ground in one day if you’d just like to explore the city, especially through the Downtown area. Here you can relax on the Common, take a Swan Boat ride for only $3.50, and stroll down beautiful Commonwealth Avenue. Head over to City Hall Plaza where there are often free events in the summer. From here, you can explore the newly opened Boston Public Market and historic Faneuil Hall.

Spring in Boston Common

If you are still dying to go on a guided tour, or visit an expensive museum, there are plenty of ways around paying ticket fees. For example, on Wednesday nights after 4 pm, the Museum of Fine Arts is free (with a suggested donation of $10). The Institute of Contemporary Art does a similar deal on Thursdays, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is free on your birthday. Local students should check with their institutions, as many of these museums have partnered with colleges to grant students free admission.

Lastly, always be looking out for free festivals and events – they happen all the time. Boston Magazine and Boston.com are great resources for this, and they include everything from movie screenings and concerts on the Esplanade to which museums are hosting Free Fun Fridays.

The Institute of Contemporary Art

Where to Stay

It may be obvious, but staying in Downtown Boston is going to run you a higher bill than other neighborhoods. Boston is practically defined by its 23 neighborhoods, so explore them! If traveling to the area, compare Airbnb to hotel prices. Often young professionals are renting out their apartments for some extra money, and these can be just as comfortable as, or better than, a hotel. While it can be slow at rush hour, the MBTA is a pretty reliable and user-friendly system, meaning you can easily travel throughout the city.

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