Best way to get from Boston to NYC
November 24, 2013 2:58 PM   Subscribe

We're trying to get from Boston to NYC with as little expense and aggravation as possible. What's the best way to do that?

We'll be visiting friends in Boston and need a way to get to NYC that's not too expensive or uncomfortable. We'll be traveling on a weekday morning and we're open to pretty much any option as long as it's affordable, not too aggravating or time-consuming, and safe.

There's a lot of conflicting info out there, which is why I'm asking Metafilter. For every person saying the Chinatown bus is the best option, there's someone else saying that the Chinatown buses are fiery death traps. Amtrak seems ridiculously expensive ($140 per person) and we're open to renting a car, but we're experiencing information overload now. We would just love to have some advice from reasonable people who have done this recently. Thank you!
posted by Colonel_Chappy to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: BoltBus.
posted by mynameisluka at 2:59 PM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I did NYC>BOS for $30 round trip on Megabus. Prices vary, but it's still cheap.
posted by greta simone at 3:05 PM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I live in Boston, and travel to NYC quite frequently. The most pleasant way of doing it is by train - but as you say, this is expensive unless you book a long time in advance.

I recommend Bolt Bus: it's cheap and the buses are always nice. (Comfortable seats, power outlets, sometimes WiFi ...).

You might be able to get cheaper tickets by travelling on a Chinatown bus - but these can be sketchy (e.g. the toilets are sometimes not clean).

I wouldn't hire a car: it's a stressful drive and I presume it would cost more.
posted by HoraceH at 3:06 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Amtrak is the best option if you can buy far in advance and you're not traveling on a peak day, but it sounds like one or both of those conditions is already ruled out if you're seeing prices of $140 per person.

Chinatown buses are a question of risk tolerance. I'm a risk averse person and I wouldn't take them. Of course you're overwhelmingly likely to make it to NYC safely, but I would still consider them the least safe of all of your ground transportation options (second only to, say, letting your tipsy friend drive you in their car).

I think Bolt Bus is the happy medium. You pay a slight premium for the brand name and safety record, but it's still cheaper than the train most of the time.

Depending on your comfort level with strangers, another option would be to check Craigslist rideshare postings.
posted by telegraph at 3:06 PM on November 24, 2013

Boltbus and Megabus are roughly equivalent (cheap, not as scary as the Chinatown buses, full of undergrads, have wifi that doesn't really work, leave from South Station and drop you off in Midtown). I have never regretted paying for Amtrak, but I usually book enough in advance that I can get the $50 tickets.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:07 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

BoltBus or MegaBus are definitely the way to go.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:08 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

+1 to either Bolt or Megabus. I, too, would not take the Chinatown buses because they are in fact fiery deathtraps, but Bolt and Mega are only slightly more expensive and a great deal less sketchy.
posted by athenasbanquet at 3:08 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

BoltBus and Megabus. Cheap and safe.
posted by ewiar at 3:14 PM on November 24, 2013

Nthing BoltBus and Megabus as good options; Peter Pan Bus and Greyhound are also perfectly fine. If you're staying either near Newton/Riverside station or Alewife station on the T, Go Bus may be slightly more convenient, as it departs from those two stations. But otherwise, the non-Chinatown buses are all very similar, and pretty cheap.

If your "weekday" morning happens to be a Friday morning, though, especially late morning, plan for delays. A trip that's usually 3.5-4.5 hours can take between 6-8 hours.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 3:18 PM on November 24, 2013

In my experience Bolt has been more reliable than Mega; both are certainly cheaper than the train. Regardless of whether you take the bus or the train, make sure you budget extra time; the trip is supposed to take 4:15 or something but I usually have delays. You might get lucky with a weekday AM, though, if you leave Boston after rush hour.
posted by mlle valentine at 3:49 PM on November 24, 2013

Nthing any of the bus options. For the return Greyhound runs later scheduled runs, except for holidays is unlikely to be over booked but a bit slower and slightly more expensive. (good backup option) The train is really comfortable, but if there's a storm can be incredibly slow. The chinatown buses seemed fine, a bit less comfortable but I never felt unsafe. Driving really isn't so bad, but do serious research into parking options ahead of time.
posted by sammyo at 4:06 PM on November 24, 2013

Due to unusual circumstances, I've done the New York to Boston trip via the Delta Shuttle, the Acela, and Boltbus all within the past week. Door-to-door times from midtown to my apartment in Cambridge were about 3:35 for the flight (including cabs on both ends), 4:15 for the train and 5:40 for Boltbus, or almost exactly what you'd intuitively expect.

Amtrak was the most comfortable -- definitely the best if you want to try and do work during those hours. Boltbus was the cheapest by a long shot and not bad comfort-wise either--the legroom on their coaches is pretty decent. However, I do wish they would put tray tables on the backs of their seats and as other have noted, your total transit time will be highly variable depending on traffic -- other times when I've used Boltbus it's been right on the nose at 4:15...but some times traffic getting into our out of New York can add hours onto the trip (as it did for me).

If you do do Boltbus, it is worth it to sign up for their free "My BoltBus" rewards program before buying your tickets. By doing so, this will put you in the "A" boarding group, and you'll be able to get the best seats by boarding the bus first.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Peter Pan/Greyhound is perfectly fine. You can book online, departures every two hours or so from South Station. Travel on weekends is more expensive, travel on holiday weekends even more so, like double. Free wifi.

When you book you'll be given a boarding number, ie, 1-20 boards first. You can pay extra for priority seating. It used to be $15 per ticket and now it seems to be $18 plus a $1 "booking fee". Arrives at Port Authority bus terminal at 40th & 8th Ave (unlike some of the other buses which let you out on the street corner) which is also perfectly fine. It's across the street from the new New York Times building.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:24 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is the thing about Bolt Bus: it is 90% of the time by far the easiest trip for the best money, but if you are traveling on a peak travel day, the departure for the return trip (NYC to Boston) can be an insane clusterfuck. The problem is that while it departs from and arrives in South Station, it leaves from a random street corner in NYC. There is no place for people to wait that isn't in the way, and if there is traffic and a couple of buses end up leaving late, the waiting passengers start to pile up, and suddenly there's a scrum of a hundred people shoved up against each other on the sidewalk, all carrying giant backpacks and all flipping the fuck out because they can't figure out if they're going to miss their bus or get on the wrong bus and end up in Philadelphia instead. It's a nightmare and I frankly can't believe that it's legal; the entire block turns into something like Times Square at midnight.

This has happened to me twice, most recently this Columbus Day, and the last time I literally thought, "I am too old for this shit." The $15 or whatever you save is not worth the money.

It's not entirely clear whether this is even an issue for you, but if there's a chance you'll be traveling during the holiday upcoming week (esp. Wednesday or Sunday, but I'd really be nervous most days) I would check out Greyhound, Peter Pan, or one of the slightly more expensive bus options that leave from the (relative) peace and quiet of the Port Authority bus station.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:36 PM on November 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I took the Chinatown bus to Boston last summer, and despite what I had been led to believe it was a perfectly fine normal bus. I was almost dissapointed.
posted by velebita at 8:46 PM on November 24, 2013

Buses make me sick. If traveling with others, I rent a car. Solo, I take the train.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:54 PM on November 24, 2013

The trains that leave at 6:55, 8:30 and 11 are $73. There's a discount if you have AAA and buy 3 days in advance.
posted by brujita at 11:02 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing BoltBus and Megabus as good options; Peter Pan Bus and Greyhound are also perfectly fine.

Fun fact - BoltBus, Peter Pan, and Greyhound are all the same company.

We used to take the bus to NYC from Boston pretty regularly, but I've found it to be pretty uncomfortable (and potentially disgusting if you have to sit near the toilet). I will happily pay the extra twenty or thirty dollars for a train ticket because you get a much more comfortable seat, reliable power outlets, and they've finally put wifi on the Northeast Regional trains. Also, yeah, it's much more comfortable to sit in the waiting area at Penn Station instead of hanging out on the street corner waiting for a bus, especially if it's cold outside.

Several of the Chinatown bus companies were shut down earlier this year due to safety violations; I'm not sure which ones are running again at the moment.

As hinted at above, if you can book far enough in advance then Amtrak is $50 per person, one way.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:27 AM on November 25, 2013

I've been taking Chinatown buses for the last fifteen years and I've so far never died. I take the MBTA regularly and have an ability to sleep anywhere, so personally I have a high tolerance for this sort of thing. This will vary for you. Convenience-wise they get you there pretty damn fast in the mornings and there are so many buses on the road you don't even need to show up on time; just be at the Canal St. stop at any point in the evening and you'll be on a bus within a half hour. Honestly the worst thing I've ever dealt with is other passengers messing up my sleep.

Having said that I haven't been on since last year and last I checked they were still shut down, so.
posted by Smallpox at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2013

I wouldn't take the Chinatown buses unless I had no other choice (as per backseatpilot's note), particularly because in the years I've spent traveling to and from NYC, I've seen at least three buses on the side of the road in flames. I know friends who do it, and I think they're just crazy.

I did the bus once and had the experience that pretentious illiterate describes, and then was jammed on a cramped space with crappy wifi with heinous delays. So yeah, I'm completely willing to pay for comfort and a better likely outcome.

Heck, I came back from NYC this weekend, and our trip home was delayed because a tree was blown across the tracks, hit a wire and burst into flames, and it ended up being a half hour delay. But the awesomeness of having (relatively) decent wifi and the option to sit at tables and visit the cafe car cannot be overstated.
posted by canine epigram at 7:01 AM on November 25, 2013

I've had a couple bad experiences with Megabus (mostly due to lack of air-conditioning in the summer), but Boltbus has always been reliable. I've taken it to Boston a number of times and it's usually been pretty good.
posted by soonertbone at 8:27 AM on November 25, 2013

I've had fine experiences on my many trips on Bolt Bus and Megabus (The Chinatown buses are much worse). The internet is not great, but it usaully works.

Amtrak is a nicer experience, but when it's $15 vs $120 I'd choose the bus. If it were $30 and $60 I'd take Amtrak.
posted by vegetableagony at 8:02 AM on December 5, 2013

Response by poster: We ended up taking the Bolt Bus and it was great. Right on time and the ride took 4 hours and 15 minutes. The seats were comfortable and had plenty of leg room. There were outlets at every seat and wifi, though it was slow.

I think next time we'll try to book on Amtrak farther in advance to try it out, but the Bolt Bus was so comfortable and the price so good that it will be tough to resist in the future.

Thank you for the recommendations, everyone!
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 6:31 PM on December 6, 2013

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