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Boston, appropriately for a town that's home to Harvard, one of the world's best known universities, is a haven for student travelers and backpackers. With its great bars, parks and a range of free things to do, a trip to the city need not wreck your budget. And, whilst Boston hostels may not be particularly numerous, there's more than enough excellent budget accommodation to go around.

Budget Boston

Boston is many things: an intellectual haven, a melting pot of diverse cultures and lifestyles, an historical landmark, and a highly influential American city. And, whilst it's true that Boston is one of the wealthiest cities in the US, it also offers a surprising number of inexpensive restaurants and bars, hostels, and attractions.

Taking in all Boston has to offer doesn't have to be a wallet-breaking incident. My Boston hostel, the HI – Fenway, was on Commonwealth Ave., was at the center of the city's nightlife, and I was able to easily branch out and discover tons of cool things to do, all for next-to-nothing prices.

Getting Around the City

Once you've arrived in Boston, be sure to acquaint yourself with your surroundings and transportation options. While Boston is relatively small, it is connected by a series of districts and neighborhoods that could potentially make getting around a bit confusing. The "T", or subway, is quite easy to come to grips with and in no time you'll be zipping around the hub, taking in all Boston has to offer.

Depending on how long you'll be staying, you can purchase a one, three, or seven day pass, (known as a "Charlie Card"), for unlimited "T" and bus rides. All of the prices are reasonable and tickets can be purchased at any subway stop.

Cheap Eating and Drinking

Local specialties in Boston include lobster, clam chowder, and baked beans (though no resident ever actually calls Boston "Beantown" as some travel writers would lead you to believe). And while these dishes have made Boston famous, you're certainly not limited to them.

Make a stop in the North End, home to Boston's Little Italy. You can avoid big prices by ducking into one of several "holes-in-the-wall" – tiny, not-so-obvious restaurants with authentic Italian food for less. Be sure to check out one of many stellar bakeries in the area as well. It would be a sin to go to the North End and not indulge in a cannoli or Italian pastry.

Another excellent area to eat is historic Quincy Market, in downtown Boston. The bustling Market houses one of the best food courts in the world. The building is an old brick marketplace beautifully restored to contain a central seating area in the middle of the rectangular building. Two hallways extending left and right are completely lined with bars and vendors selling several varieties of delicious food and drink. You can find everything from clam chowder in a bread bowl to swordfish kebobs to pizza to some of the very best desserts around. The best part is, everything is cheap!

Boston has one of the largest Irish populations in the US so, not surprisingly, there are tons of great Irish pubs you can duck into to quench your thirst. Aside from that, the city also offers great, character laden bars in every district, especially near the old Boston Garden, where the Celtics and Bruins play. Visit www.bostonbarmap.com or pick up a free copy of "Stuff @ Night" or "The Weekly Dig" at various stands throughout the city for ideas on where to go.

Loads of Great Free Stuff!

Unfortunately, most museums and galleries in Boston to charge an entrance fee, but, with a little searching you can find plenty of free things to do. You should definitely check out the Samuel Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain, where you'll get a free tour complete with a great talk on the beer's history, insight as to how the beer is brewed, and, of course, a lengthy tasting session.

Another idea is to seek out the Hatch Shell, an outdoor concert venue on the banks of Boston's resplendent Charles River. During the summer months, popular films are shown here at night for free. Bring a blanket and a snack and choose a spot on the grass under the stars.

For those things that do cost money that you want to see, you might want to look into getting a Boston City Pass. The passes provide discounts, and, in some instances, free admission to many attractions in the city including museums and the famous New England Aquarium.

Outdoors Boston

Boston has a plethora of outdoor activities and parks, which are fun to visit no matter what season it is. For more information on all of Boston's parks, go to: www.boston-online.com/Recreation/Parks.

Boston Common, boxed in by busy Tremont Street, is a great place to have a picnic or toss a ball around in summer, or go ice-skating on Frog Pond during the winter months. The Common has been a meeting place in Boston since the 17th century, and continues to attract residents and visitors alike every day. You're bound to see a few entertaining street performers as well.

Another great outdoor option is the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, which is quickly becoming one of the coolest neighborhoods in Boston. The Arboretum's 265+ acres are open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset and offer dozens of walking paths that lead to breathtaking nature scenes. Spend an afternoon wandering around and getting lost; there's beauty around every corner in this extremely well-kept arboretum.

Sometimes referred to as "the Hub of the Universe," Boston welcomes millions of visitors to its city limits every year by offering unique cuisine, extraordinary museums and galleries, and a strong local character. From the imposing skyscrapers to the charming neighborhoods of Cambridge and Somerville to the thousands of acres of parks and gardens, Boston has something for everyone, especially the budget traveler.
About the Author
Before moving back to London and becoming a copywriter for HostelBookers.com, Ben Cooper traveled extensively throughout the northeastern United States, spending more than the odd night in a Boston hostel.
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