Boston to New York City train review

boston nyc train bridge

The best way to travel the East Coast

We’re lucky in the Northeast to have access to a variety of public transit. Travelers can get almost anywhere on the East Coast by train or bus without ever having to deal with airport delays and canceled flights. We’ve reviewed the best way to get from Boston to New York City or New York City to Boston by train.

Pros

  • Free power and wifi
  • No security
  • No lines, arrive 15 minutes before leaving
  • No overbooking with reserved seats
  • Large, comfy seats with room to stretch out
  • Plenty of room for luggage
  • Few passengers on the weekend
  • Same time as a flight
  • Quiet car ensures no noisy neighbors

Cons

  • Wifi can be slow or nonexistent
  • Train station locations can be sketchy
  • More commuter passengers during weekdays
  • Early transit to station can be difficult
  • You can’t choose your seat in advance

How much does it cost?

Round trip tickets are around $100 – $130 with tax through Amtrak. Greyhound is similar.

It’s much cheaper compared to a flight, which is around $200. The cheapest option is the bus at $30 to $40, but it will take a little longer, is more dependent on traffic, and you won’t get the same level of amenities and comfort.

How long is the trip?

It’s about 3-4 hours from Boston to New York, depending on the time of day. Delays seem to be rare, but you can sign up for travel notifications to stay updated on possible delays.

boston nyc train views

How do you get to the Amtrak train in the South Station?

Most trains don’t run before 6 am or so, so you may need to pick a later train or take a cab or Uber to the station.

It’s very easy to get to your track and not too busy in the station. Head straight into the ground floor central area where the cafes, restaurants, and bathrooms are. You can see all the tracks from here. Arrivals and departures are announced 15 minutes before departure over the loudspeakers and on the large signboard in the middle of the station.

You can also find luggage storage on the top floor of the station.

How do you get to the Amtrak train in Penn Station?

Most trains don’t run before 6 am or so, so you may need to pick a later train or take a cab or Uber to the station.

Penn Station is a little busier than South Station, but it’s still quite easy. Head down the escalators into the main entrance next to the Madison Square Garden entrance. Follow signs for Amtrak.

Multiple signs detail the next train departures and their tracks. When your track is announced, follow the line of people down another escalator to your train.

How early do I need to get to the station?

It’s a good idea to get there at least 15 minutes early to have enough time to get a good seat and get settled before the train leaves. This isn’t like a flight where you need to arrive 2 hours early, but you may need extra time to get there depending on traffic.

When do I need to have my ticket ready?

You’ll show proof of your ticket after the train gets underway. The staff will scan the QR code on your ticket and print a paper ticket, then place it above your seat so they know your ticket has been checked. If you decide to move seats, bring the paper ticket with you.

boston nyc train seatsWhere should I sit?

Your reserved seat in coach lets you pick any open seat. Reserved means you’re guaranteed a seat, not any specific seat or car. That means Amtrak won’t overbook a train and sell to more passengers than it has seats for, unlike airlines.

The quiet car at the back of the train is the best place to sit — no phone calls, no loud conversations, and no crying kids. For families and big groups, a handful of cars have seats grouped around tables, but those get taken pretty fast.

Avoid sitting near the bathrooms, which tend to be towards the front of the car.

What do I do with my luggage?

Much like a plane, there’s room for your bags above your seat and under the seat in front of you. Unlike planes, you can fit much larger bags that wouldn’t pass airport requirements. There’s even room between your legs and the seat if you want easy access to your stuff during the ride.

When buying a ticket, you’ll be asked how much luggage you have. This doesn’t seem to be an issue once you get on the train, since no one checks your luggage or how many bags you paid for. Many people travel light, so you should have more than enough space below your seat or in the overhead bins to fit extra bags. Light, tossable bags are much easier to maneuver than hard-sided rolling luggage.

How are the bathrooms?

Amtrak’s restrooms on the train don’t seem to be cleaned very often. At least they’re twice as big as an airplane bathroom, and there are twice as many, so no long lines. It’s also much better than the buses, which often don’t have a bathroom and make a pit stop at a gas station bathroom at the halfway point.

How’s the wifi?

Amtrak’s free wifi is good overall. However, it does get spotty when the train is underground or at a station. We had no issues using it during the week, but we weren’t able to use it reliably for basic online research or streaming on the weekend. Don’t count on being able to use wifi the whole trip and opt to bring a backup book or download an audiobook or ebook beforehand.

boston nyc train food menuCan I get food on the train?

The cafe car offers a wide variety of snacks, drinks, and alcoholic beverages you can purchase. And snack purchases also count as points towards your Amtrak rewards. Your seatback pocket has a menu of the snacks and drinks you can purchase from the bar car. Bring your food back to your seat or hang out at the cushy tables. The cafe car isn’t always in service, so bring your own snacks just in case if you know you’ll need to eat during the ride. There’s not much time at each station to grab a bite.

How smooth is the ride?

The ride is smooth enough to put a cup of coffee on your tray table or read a book. But you probably won’t be able to sleep on the train unless you’re a very heavy sleeper. You’ll hear squeaking noises the whole ride plus braking at stations and horn blaring at crossings. On busy days passengers are hopping on and off the train, and the staff members make regular announcements.

What can I do on the train?

  • Enjoy beautiful views. You’ll get everything from scenic coastal scenes to city skylines. The Connecticut and Rhode Island coast is full of charming downtowns and quaint farmsteads.
  • Have a snack. Get a snack or drink from the café car, or BYO snacks and drinks since you’re not limited to tiny airplane-size bottles of liquid.
  • Get some work done. Catch up on emails or your blog on the way. You might feel inspired by the change of scenery.
  • Plan your next stop. Heading to New York for the weekend or tacking on a few extra days in your vacation to see Boston? Schedule sights and activities for the next few days so you’re prepared by the time you get to the station.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely, the train is a much faster, cheaper, smoother, more comfortable ride between Boston and New York than taking a car or airplane. You can bring any food or luggage you like, it’s easy to get up and stretch your legs, and you won’t have to sit through airport security or a long rental car line. We highly recommend the trip if you need to get between these two great cities.

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