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Boston on a Budget

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Let’s face it, Boston is expensive. But you can penny pinch your way to a great trip and do Boston on a budget. There are lots of FREE things to do and ways to save money in Boston. So pack your bags cause I am going to show you how to do Boston on a Budget!


Lodging is usually one of the top expenses on a trip. And you can save some money using these coupons.

Or you can stay right downtown at the Hostel International (HI) location in Boston, on a budget!

HI Boston, is close to Boston Common, Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail & public library; which I will tell you about in a minute. Plus it is a short metro ride away to anything else you would want to see.

HI Boston offers:

Great location near public transit and major attractions

Free daily tours & activities

Free Wi-Fi

Free continental breakfast

Luggage storage

Bike storage

24-hour reception

Laundry facilities


Not only is lodging affordable, starting out at under $40 for a bed in an 8 bed dorm room, it’s nice! While we have used hostels before it has always been in a private room. These run about $200 here, which is still cheap for downtown Boston but since I was by myself I figured I would try out the dorm room for the first time. And it turns out, it was fine. I mean, you don’t travel to hang out in your room anyway.

The dorm rooms were modern and clean and had built in privacy, with a closet/ locker for your luggage separating each bunk bed. Be sure and bring your own lock as they are not provided, although I didn’t have one and had no issues. Although the bed was a bit squeaky, it was made up upon my arrival, comfortable, and provided a good night's rest.

I was also given a complimentary towel, which was nice because some hostels charge for this. This is why you should always travel with a sarong so you can use it as a towel or blanket if needed. Each bed had a private little nook in the headboard with plugs and a reading light so you can charge your electronics and have room for a bedside drink.

I really liked the bathroom situation here. There were lots of private individual bathrooms located just outside the rooms; each with a shower stall, a sink, toilet, shower gel, hair dryer and bathmats. I never had to wait to use the bathroom and they were always clean.

The entire space is modern and welcoming with plenty of room to hang out outside of your room. There’s a couple of lounge areas, a library room, laundry, a TV area, and a massive kitchen and dining room. The kitchen is where you will find the free breakfast which includes bagels and toast along with all the toppings like cream cheese, peanut butter, honey, and jam. They also serve hard boiled eggs, two kinds of yogurt, porridge, cereal, fruit, cocoa, milk, juice, tea, and coffee.

Did I mention they have FREE tours and cheap activities everyday?!? Just check with the 24 hour staff or the activities board for information. If you have any doubts about staying here don’t. Be open to a new experience and be thankful this budget option is available in Boston. You can send the money you saved on something else on your Boston Budget trip.


Just a stroll away from the HI Boston you will find the Boston Public Library. If the weather's bad or you are just too tired you can easily take a LYFT. First time users will get a discount.

Stepping into this library I felt like I was in Europe. It’s no wonder as many European influences play a part in the creation of this magnificent building. Constructed between 1888 and 1895,the Central Library in Copley Square is a masterpiece. In designing the building’s façade the proportions of another notable library, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1850) in Paris were referenced.

Everywhere you look you will find art. The walls are made of pink Tennessee marble, which was a nice surprise since I am from Tennessee. Inside you will find the only mural outside of France by the French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. He was considered one of the greatest muralists of the 19th century. And the Central Library’s courtyard is designed after the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome.

The Boston Public Library offers FREE daily tours highlighting the architecture of its famed Central Library buildings as well as the art within. Tours are offered to visitors by trained volunteer guides and last approximately one hour and begin from the McKim Building vestibule, through the library's Dartmouth Street entrance. Tours happen at a different time each day of the week so it is best to check their website. You can also find information on self-guided tours there as well.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has FREE admission on Thursday nights from 5-9 PM. In addition, the last Saturday of the month (except December), admission is FREE for up to two adults accompanied by children 12 and under.This museum was founded 1936 as a sister institution to New York’s MoMA, and has helped pave the way for other museums of contemporary art.

Boston Children's Museum has a 100 year tradition of entertaining children. The museum has exhibits on science, environmental awareness, health & fitness, culture and the arts. Every Friday from 5-9 PM they offer $1 admission (almost free!) and kids 1 year and younger are free anytime.

Boston Fire Museum The Boston Fire Museum is in an old firehouse and contains fire alarm displays and artifacts, firefighting equipment, antique fire apparatus, and photographs. It is FREE during open hours on Friday from 5-8PM and Saturdays 9:30 AM-4 PM. By the way, this is very close to the children's museum if you want.

Boston Harbor The Boston Harbor Hotel provides FREE outdoor entertainment all summer along its waterfront location. Bands perform from 6 to 10 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights on a floating stage right on Boston Harbor. On Friday nights, they show popular movies after the sun goes down. Each night has a different theme from Soul to Blues, there is something for everyone and it is FREE. I told you Boston on a budget was possible.

FREE FUN FRIDAYS- 100 museums and attractions participate by offering FREE Friday admission each summer thanks to the Highland Street Foundation. Each Friday for 10 weeks during the summer 10 different museums and attractions across Massachusetts offer FREE admission. Everything from museums, the zoo, theater, concerts, and the symphony participate.

FREE Walking Tour of The Black Heritage Trail- The National Park service hosts a FREE tour led by park rangers on a seasonal basis. The Black Heritage Trail® explores the history of the 19th century African American community of Boston. The trail consists of 14 sites and is approximately 1.5 mile long. Learn about the Underground Railroad, the abolition movement, and the early struggles for civil rights in Beacon Hill from the late 18th century through the 19th century. The Black Heritage Trail Tours depart from the Robert Gould Shaw 54th MA Regiment Memorial on Beacon Street at 1 PM everyday.

Self-guided tours can be conducted at any time. Maps and site brochures can be obtained at the Abiel Smith School and at the Faneuil Hall Visitor Center during site hours.

Acorn Street/Beacon Hill - the most instagrammable street. Some say it is the most photographed street in America but the guy at the visitors center told me it was the most instagrammable so we are going with that. Made famous by row houses and a narrow cobblestone street, it is actually one of the last places to still have actual cobblestones as paving material.

Here you can feel as if you have stepped into a time machine back to colonial Boston. It was on this very street that 19th century artisans and trades people lived. Today the row houses are prestigious addresses in Beacon Hill. This area is one of the most interesting and historic parts of Boston.

Since this is such a popular area, it might be difficult to get a shot of the street without a lot of tourists but be patient. You can also try to go on a weekday in the late afternoon when the tourists begin to clear off. Try going at sunrise or right after or before a storm when the crowds are not as large. A bonus will be the glistening cobblestones.

Your Boston on a Budget trip has probably left you hungry so here are a couple of affordable restaurants in the area.


Galleria Umberto Located in the city’s historically Italian neighborhood you will find Galleria Umberto. This lunch spot has been located on Hanover St. for more than 50 years. Expect long lines so get there early when they open at 11 am as they close once they sell out. This is a no-frills, cash-only operation that serves authentic Sicilian pizza for less than $2 a slice along with a few other Italian specialties like calzones and arancini (amazing fried rice balls).

A healthy and affordable meal in Boston can easily be found at by CHLOE (this is not a typo but how they stylize their name) at one of three Boston locations-Seaport, Fenway and Back Bay. If you didn’t know better you would never guess everything is vegan!! Even the most picky eaters will find something on the menu which offers fresh delicious pesto “meatballs”, spicy seitan “chorizo” tacos; and creamy macaroni and cashew “cheese” with smoked shiitakes that are surprisingly a great bacon substitute.

For those on a budget the combo meal is the way to go. For just $13.95 you get your choice of burger, fries and a drink. For just $1.50 you can add or cookie or soup for $2.50. In downtown Boston this is a bargain! If you want to try something different than what you can find everywhere else then add by CHLOE to the list. I highly recommend the guacamole burger and fries dipped in yummy beet ketchup.

For those wanting to try the Boston must eats of Lobster Roll, Clam Chowder and Boston Cream Pie check out this post.

See there is plenty to do in Boston on a Budget. But if you are still looking for something interesting to do how about checking out all the haunted places in Boston. It is said to be the most haunted city.

You could easily spend a few days taking in all the FREE things to do in Boston. Using these tips you will have penny pinched your trip and done Boston on a Budget. Who knows?! You might have enough money left over to treat yourself to a Red Sox game or tour the Sam Adams brewery.

Happy Trails,

The Penny Pinching Globetrotter

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Ann Kykyri Schultz
Ann Kykyri Schultz
Nov 30, 2019

You always have such great articles, and this one is filled with great tips, thank you for sharing!


Thanks for all of this information. That hostel looked really nice. Also, I had no idea there was so much free stuff to do in Boston. I've wanted to visit for a long time, and now I have great info to get me started. :-)


Lisa Manderino
Lisa Manderino
Aug 19, 2019

This is great advice for Saving money in Boston. I would love to go back and visit this wonderful city!


Thanks for the great info! We're planning on going to Boston soon for the first time and now I have some places to go. I would love to see the library and CHLOE sounds so yummy!


Angie Scott Weldy
Angie Scott Weldy
Jul 20, 2019

Wow, great ideas! I haven't been to Boston yet and didn't know it's that expensive, so it's nice to know there are ways to make it more afforable!

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