Assignment number seven allowed me to be a travel nurse in Boston, MA; a city that was on my “travel nurse” bucket list since I began traveling 2.5 years ago. While I enjoyed many lobster rolls, day trips to the quaint beach towns of Provincetown and Newport, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to people speak with a thick, Bostonian accent… Boston wasn’t quite what I expected. Neither good nor bad. Instead of sunshine and warm weather, I got rain and snow. Instead of being charmed by the people on the east coast, I got the cold shoulder more than once. And instead of being thrilled that I was finally in a “walking city”, I found out the hard way that Boston has a LONG way to go to get their public transportation more user friendly. And while I can’t say I’m dying to go back for a second assignment in Boston, I wouldn’t have traded my experience for anything.
So, now that I’ve spent 13+ weeks as a travel nurse in Boston, getting to learn the ins and outs of the city; I am sharing with you everything you need to know for a successful assignment in Boston. Hoping that you can acclimate quickly, get all of your travel nursing questions answered, and thoroughly enjoy Boston in the short time that you’re there.
Best Time to be a Travel Nurse in Boston
Located on the eastern side of the United States and on the eastern side of Massachusetts, Boston experiences all four seasons. The coldest month of the year tends to be January, and the warmest month of the year tends to be July. With a brief summer and fall, winter brings rain and snow, while summer brings sun and humidity.
Depending on what kind of weather you prefer – you may choose to sign a travel nurse contract in Boston during the colder months for more affordable rent costs. However, keep in mind that Boston is mainly a walking city. If you do choose to come in the winter, expect freezing cold weather and snow.
My experience: I signed a contract from March-June. While I knew that March and April can still bring snowstorms, I was optimistic that May and June would make up for it. Unfortunately, my entire stay consisted of cold weather and rain. I even had to wear my heavy winter coat for the beginning of May. If I were to do it all again, I would choose to visit Boston during the summer months. Preferably signing a contract from June-September.
Travel Nurse Guide to Living in Boston
While I had trouble finding good housing in Boston, I have since learned of a few good tools to use while searching. There are a lot of homes available on Furnished Finder – a site dedicated to “traveling professionals.” In my experience with Furnished Finder, there is a bit of room for negotiation. Keep this in mind before you agree to a price. You can also utilize Airbnb (if you’re new to Airbnb use my referral code for a $55 credit), although I found prices to be exorbitant for what I was searching for. Lastly, you could resort to the Facebook group, Travel Nurse Housing – The Gypsy Nurse.
For a more comprehensive guide to finding housing as a travel nurse, read Resources for Finding Housing As a Travel Nurse
Neighborhoods to Live in
There are over 23 neighborhoods in Boston alone, meaning there are endless places to choose from when it comes to living. When it comes to choosing where to live in Boston there are two important things to keep in mind. Do you plan to bring a car? And if not do you plan on walking or taking public transportation?
If you bring a car to Boston, you can live just about anywhere. (Make sure that where you’re living has a parking space available seeing as street parking is hard to come by). It’s important to keep in mind that the streets can get congested so expect traffic delays. And that parking at the hospital may be expensive. I suggest that in your interview you ask how much it costs to park.
If you don’t have a car with you you’ll need to know how far the hospital is, and if there is a train stop walking distance. When you’re looking for housing, I would suggest first asking how many miles the hospital is from where you’ll be living. Next, I would ask how far the nearest train stop is, and what color line it is. You can easily figure out how long the train will take to and from work, among other places, by using the Transit app.
The Boston neighborhoods that I thoroughly enjoyed during my 13-weeks in the city include the North End, Financial District, Seaport, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and Fenway.
My experience: I found an apartment on Facebook through Travel Nurse Housing – The Gypsy Nurse. It was located in East Boston, which I would not recommend. While there was a train stop nearby, Maverick, commuting to the Longwood area took close to an hour each way. I did not have a car so getting into and out of the city was expensive and inconvenient. If I wanted to save time and get an Uber to work, I was looking at nearly a $20 charge each way. On top of that, East Boston didn’t thrill me. While there were a few good restaurants here and there, most of my time was spent outside of East Boston.
Travel Nurse Guide to Transportation in Boston
Besides driving, the main way of navigating around Boston is by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, known as the “T”, or as I’d like to call it… the train. The T services all of Boston plus outlying areas and is a complex web of interconnected railways getting you from point A to point B. While Boston has a long way to go with their public transportation, I found the T relatively easy to use once I got the hang of it.
Whether or not you choose to bring a car to Boston (yes parking is hard to come by, streets are crowded, and hospital parking is exorbitant); you will undoubtedly be taking the T at some point in your stay. You can buy tickets at each train stop for a one-way price of $2.75. Or you can purchase a Charlee card and receive unlimited rides for $80/month. Charlee cards must be purchased at the train station from an employee. You can’t purchase a Charlee ticket from the machines themselves and the monthly rate cannot be prorated.
As I mentioned earlier, if you plan on navigating the T, download the Transit app. This app is free and will tell you each train and bus to get on and off in order to reach your destination.
My experience: I did not bring a car to Boston. I chose to live in East Boston, which is near the blue line taking me directly into Boston. While I wish I had a car due to where I was located; ultimately I would have lived in a different neighborhood altogether. Not having a car cost me nearly $100 per week in transportation costs getting to and from work plus in and out of the city on my days off. Looking back, I would have spent more money on rent to live closer to the hospital or in a more central neighborhood. Remember, Uber and Lyft prices are incredibly expensive in Boston. If you’re not coming with a car it may be worth it to pay extra money to live nearby the hospital.
I did not pay the monthly Charlee card fee of $80. The hospital I was at, BIDMC, did not offer discounts to travel nurses. I figured that I would be taking the T less than what would cost $80/month and I was right. However, if the hospital you work at does offer discounts to travel nurses, buying the unlimited pass would be worth it.
Hospitals in Boston
There are 30+ hospitals and medical centers serving the Boston area alone. From the group of Longwood Medical hospitals to Mass General, Boston has some of the top-rated hospitals in the US. There is almost always a need for a travel nurse in Boston from any number of specialties. While it took me 2.5 years to finally get to Boston, it wasn’t because of a lack of needs. Instead of being a case of timing.
My experience: I signed a contract at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. BIDMC is located on Brookline, near other major hospitals such as Boston Children’s and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The closest train stop is Longwood, giving you a short seven-minute walk to the hospital. Although I didn’t have a car, it’s important to note that the parking costs $38/day, $5/night. They did not offer any discounts to travel nurses.
Cost of Living in Boston
According to USA Today, Boston is ranked number 11 in terms of most expensive cities to move to. These factors in the cost of rent, moving costs, and income. Boston ended up being quite a bit more than anywhere else I’ve lived – which shocked me.
Where I’ve signed a travel nurse contract; ranked from most expensive to least expensive:
Boston, Massachusetts $$$
Santa Barbara, California $$$
Seattle, Washington $$
Austin, Texas $$
Phoenix, Arizona $
Omaha, Nebraska $
Prioritizing Your 13-Week Stay as a Travel Nurse in Boston
Whenever I arrive at a new destination, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed at the number of things to see and do. I think to myself, how in the world do I accomplish all that I want to accomplish without wasting any time in 13 short weeks? And that feeling didn’t escape me when I signed on to be a travel nurse in Boston. While there were definitely things that I did, the places I ate, and neighborhoods that I visited that I would not recommend… Boston is brimming with things to do! For that, I’ve made a comprehensive list of things to see and do, where to eat, and where to enjoy a cocktail or two.
Things to See and Do
Catch any number of sports games. Boston is home to some of the best sports teams in America. See the Red Sox play at the iconic Fenway Park, the oldest baseball stadium in America. Catch a hockey game, basketball game, or a football game! Boston has it all. (Note: If you work at BIDMC, you can get two tickets to a Red Sox game for $5/each. All you have to do is show your badge and wait 30 minutes after the game has already started to enter).
Learn the history of America as you walk along the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long and runs from Beacon Hill to Charlestown. While you can take a free tour, I followed directions from here and was able to make the walk on my own. I will say, however, that once you hit Paul Revere’s House, the walk seems to become bland. The most interesting history is at the beginning of the trail.
Visit Boston’s most picturesque street – Acorn Street. Acorn Street is located on Beacon Hill and is one of the most photographed streets in America. While it has recently become illegal to have a full-on “photoshoot” on Acorn Street, you’re welcome to bring your iPhone and snap a few pictures as you please. Keep in mind that people actually live on Acorn Street and to please respect their privacy.
Shop on Newbury Street. Newbury is referred to as the “Rodeo Drive” of Boston. Located in Back Bay, you’ll find a number of stores ranging from designer to boutiques, and cheaper stores such as Nordstrom Rack.
Spend the day at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. An indoor/outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment experience wrapped into one. While this stop is on the Freedom Trail, carve out a day to explore the marketplace in its entirety.
DAY TRIP! The best part about being a travel nurse is being able to explore the country! There are loads of day trips to take from Boston. My favorites included a day in Newport, Rhode Island, and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Things Not to See and Do
Do not waste your time on the Boston Duck Tour. While the guide was funny and informative, it was too much money for what you got out of it. While I felt well informed, I more so felt that my afternoon was wasted. Instead, opt for the Freedom Trail where you can learn just as much, for free, in a shorter amount of time!
Where to Eat
Pomodoro. Located in the North End, Boston’s “Little Italy”, Pomodoro is a small, quaint hole in the wall. With no sign above the door, Pomodoro is the perfect intimate setting serving fantastic Italian food. Note that it is cash only, with an ATM across the street.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 1730-2300
Neptune Oyster. Also located in the North End, Neptune Oyster is where you can get some of the best, and most fresh seafood in Boston. In my opinion, Neptune Oyster serves the best lobster roll in all of Boston. While you’re unable to make reservations, the wait is worth it.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 1130-2130; Friday-Saturday 1130-2230
Beehive. Located in the South End, Beehive is a lively restaurant with music every night. Make sure to hit Beehive for weekend brunch for live jazz.
Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 1700-2400; Thursday 1700-0100; Friday 1700-0200; Saturday 0930-0200; Sunday 0930-2400
Hojoko. Located in Fenway, Hojoko is a hip Japanese restaurant.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 1700-0200
Toro. A Spanish restaurant located in the South End, Toro is a hot spot on the Boston restaurant scene. Perfect as a solo traveler or for date night, Toro serves their food tapas style. While you can reserve a table for lunch, dinner is determined on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 1200-1500, 1700-2200; Friday 1200-1500, 1700-2300; Saturday 1600-2300; Sunday 1030-1430, 1700-2200
The Friendly Toast. With multiple locations throughout Boston, The Friendly Toast is your go-to place for brunch! Serving mimosa flights, bloody mary flights, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day every day, The Friendly Toast can conquer any craving.
Hours of operation vary between restaurant locations
Banyan Bar + Refuge. This Asian fusion restaurant is located in the South End. I especially enjoyed it for their quirky décor and fresh, fun atmosphere.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 1600-2300; Friday 1600-0100; Saturday 1100-0100; Sunday 1100-2300
Lolita. Located in Back Bay, this gothic decorated restaurant serves elevated Mexican food. Best for their innovative margaritas and the cotton candy served at the end of the meal.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 1600-2400
Citrus and Salt. Also located in Back Bay, Citrus and Salt is a Mexican tapas restaurant. With a quirky, edgy atmosphere, it’s a fun restaurant to sip on cocktails and enjoy great food.
Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 1600-2400; Thursday 1130-1400, 1600-2400; Friday 1130-1400, 1600-0100; Saturday 1100-1500; 1600-0100; Sunday 1100-1500, 1600-2400
Reelhouse. Located in East Boston, Reelhouse serves fresh seafood in a fancy feeling atmosphere. Situated on the harbor with views of the Boston skyline, Reelhouse is the perfect location for drinks or food outside on a nice day.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Wednesday 1100-2300; Thursday 1100-2400; Friday-Saturday 1100-0100
Where Not to Eat
Skip the tourist traps such as Mike’s Pastry and Modern. While most people will tell you to head there for their cannoli’s, instead opt for the grungy (but delicious) hole in the wall – La Famigilia Giorgio’s. Their cannoli are much better and not as “touristy”.
While you’re at it, skip Eastern Standard. What has been rated in the past as “one of the best brunches in Boston”, instead disappoints? With its limited menu and atmosphere that falls flat, instead, opt for The Friendly Toast or somewhere else. There are loads of brunch places in Boston, don’t waste your time at this one.
Where to Drink
Samuel Adams. Located in Jamaica Plain, Samuel Adams brewery offers free brewery tours every 15 minutes. With a lively and fun staff, the tour is interactive and different from your typical brewery tour. Stick around afterward to hang out in the bar area.
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 1100-2000; Sunday 1200-1800
Night Shift Brewing. Local craft beers in a lively atmosphere. Located in Everett, hang out at Night Shift more so for the atmosphere than the beer.
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 1100-2300; Sunday 1100-2000
Drink. Located in Seaport, Drink is a menu-less cocktail bar. Belly up to the bar and describe to the bartender what you typically like and they make it up for you! While Drink doesn’t have a cocktail menu, they do have a wine and food menu.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 1600-0100
Where Not to Drink
Don’t go to Trillium Brewery in Seaport. While they are well known for their IPA’s, which are delicious, every time I’ve been it falls flat. With subpar service, and a subpar atmosphere you’re better off spending your time at the other breweries in town. Please note, however, that there is a Trillium beer garden in the summertime that is worth your time.
Do you prefer visuals over words? Head over to my Instagram page/highlight reel for a visual look at Boston!