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Two people walking along a park hemmed in by a wrought-iron fence, and there’s snow on the ground. Boston Globe via Getty Images

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10 things every Boston-area newcomer should know

Here’s undiluted advice on getting around, getting out, getting a place, and more

For those taking the plunge in 2020 and relocating to the Boston area, here are 10 things to know right away to make settling in a lot easier.


Traffic is as bad as they say. Vehicular traffic in the Boston region is some of the worst in the nation, if not the world, in terms of the time it consumes. Much of this is due to steady population growth, higher housing costs in the interior, the rise of app-hail services such as Uber, and aged roads in many areas.

The region is also full of supercommuters—those residents who travel at least 90 minutes one way to work. See above—especially the bit about housing costs—for the reasons.

Commuters waiting for the Blue Line in Boston. Shutterstock

The T isn’t much better unless you live and work close to a reliable line or route. Don’t get us wrong, the Boston area is lucky to have such a tentacular mass transit system. There are larger metropolitan areas (think Houston or Phoenix) that have nothing comparable.

But, while things are improving incrementally, the T currently suffers from often-antiquated infrastructure that a historic dearth of both funding and political will continues to exacerbate.

The bike infrastructure isn’t there yet, but it’s getting there. The Boston region is definitely one of America’s more bikable, a reputation that the growth of bike-shares has only enhanced. But any regular bicyclist will tell you there are challenges galore when it comes to routinely biking for work or leisure.

Chief among the challenges right now is establishing continuous bike lanes through some of the area’s busiest commercial districts. The region’s density and its patchwork of municipal governments—the City of Boston is but the largest of dozens of municipalities here—has made this connectivity difficult.

A cobblestone street with leaves on it. Shutterstock

Meanwhile, the region really is eminently walkable. The pedestrian-friendly reputation of Boston and its environs is well-earned, especially compared with the sprawl of many U.S. cities. But safety is a serious issue nonetheless.

The cost is comparable to New York City and San Francisco. If you’ve decided to relocate here, you probably already know that Boston and its immediate surroundings are comparable in cost to NYC, the SF Bay Area, and maybe a few other places nationwide (D.C. and San Jose spring to mind).

Pretty soon after settling in, daily realities such as $2,400 for a one-bedroom apartment and $40 for a day for parking will all seem so normal.

A contemporary art museum with gigantic windows and a prominent overhang lighted up at night. Shutterstock

There is plenty to do here outside of the colleges and universities. Yes, the area is home to dozens of universities, colleges, and community colleges. But they are not as institutionally dominant as you might think.

Start with these sundry attractions. And these. And these. Also: Get a library card.

There is plenty to do here with kids. The Boston area brims with fun, safe seasonal stuff to do with the wee ones.

“Boston” will suffice. The region is a dense, reasonably well-connected quilt of dozens of towns and citiesat least one estimate pegs that total at more than 100, though it depends on where you draw the boundaries for “Greater Boston.”

You and a lot of the people you deal with are going to be from X or Y, and not necessarily from the City of Boston. And that’s fine as long as you know the rules.

Two people trudging through a blizzard in Boston. Shutterstock

Don’t be in a hurry in January or February (or September). Winter tightens its grip on the region sometime in late December and doesn’t let go until March-ish. So sidewalks and bike lanes will be narrower and icier because of the snowfall and the temperatures; roads more treacherous and the traffic worse; and flights and trains will just be cancelled. Plus, it gets dark around 4:30 every afternoon. Alas.

As for September, the early part of that month is Allston Christmas (a.k.a. a rolling moving day for the collegians).

Escape is easy. History and geography have left the Boston area at the hub of a wheel of options for leisure, with spokes extending to similarly interesting metros such as Portland, Maine, and Providence, Rhode Island, never mind the rest of Massachusetts. Breathe.

Bonus advice. No one from here calls it “Beantown.” You shouldn’t either.