With a state this large, there’s lots to know. We’ve got the basics for you here: driving safety; Massachusetts holidays; sales, hotel and meal taxes; and applicable state laws.
- The speed limit on most major highways in Massachusetts is 65 mph/104 km; some sections are 55 mph/88 km.
- While most non-U.S. driver’s licenses are acceptable, it’s best to bring an international driver’s license.
- State law requires all vehicle occupants to wear seat belts.
- When entering a rotary intersection, yield to any vehicle already in the rotary.
- A right turn on red at a traffic signal is permitted after coming to a full stop and yielding to pedestrians and other traffic, unless a “No Turn on Red” sign is posted.
- To ensure your safety and that of others on the road, Massachusetts strictly enforces its drunk driving law.
- Fire, Police, Ambulance: 911
- State police: (508) 820-2300, *SP from a wireless phone in eastern Massachusetts, MSP in western Massachusetts.
- Highway Assistance
- HELP (Highway Emergency Locator Patrol) vans and tow trucks patrol major highways throughout the state, offering free roadside assistance. Twenty-two routes are covered during commuting hours in the Boston, Worcester and Springfield areas.
- Fast Lane Pass: Sign up for your FREE FAST LANE transponder today. FAST LANE is the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s Electronic Toll Collection Program. FAST LANE is operational on the Turnpike, the Sumner and Ted Williams Tunnels, and the Tobin Memorial Bridge. FAST LANE can also be used anywhere E-ZPass is accepted.
For a list of Visitors Centers in Massachusetts, click here.
Massachusetts celebrates the following national, state and local holidays. Banks and municipal buildings will be closed on many of these dates. Contact individual businesses for information about holiday schedules.
Massachusetts Public Holidays:
- January 1 – New Year’s Day
- Third Monday in January – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Third Monday in February – Presidents’ Day
- March 17 (Boston only) – Evacuation Day
- Third Monday in April – Patriots’ Day
- Last Monday in May – Memorial Day
- June 17 (Boston only) – Bunker Hill Day
- July 4 – Independence Day
- First Monday in September – Labor Day
- Second Monday in October – Columbus Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
- Fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving
- December 25 – Christmas Day
To find out more about holiday events in Massachusetts, check out our Holidays section.
State and Local Taxes
A 6.25% state sales tax is applied to all items except non-restaurant food and clothing under $175.
A 6.25% state sales tax is applied to all alcoholic beverages sold at retail.
A 6.25% state meals tax is applied to restaurant and take-out meals.
A local option meals tax of 0.75% may be applied.
Hotel rooms state tax rate is 5.7% (8.45% in Boston, Cambridge, Worcester, Chicopee, Springfield and West Springfield.)
A local option rooms tax of up to 6% may be applied.
For more information, please visit mass.gov/dor
- All vehicle occupants must wear safety belts. Children must be properly secured in child safety seats until they are age eight, unless they are more than 57 inches in height.
- Bicycle safety: All bicycle riders are urged to wear helmets. State law requires that children under 12 must wear a bicycle helmet; that child passengers between one and four years old or 40 pounds or under in weight be carried in an approved baby seat; and that no child under the age of one ride as a passenger on a bicycle.
- Vehicles from either direction must stop and remain stopped while the front and rear lights of school buses are flashing, except when approaching from the opposite direction on a divided highway.
- Massachusetts recognizes official disability placards, stickers and plates from other states for parking for persons with disabilities.
- The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. A Massachusetts driver’s license, Massachusetts liquor ID, passport or military ID are required for alcohol purchases.
- The unlicensed or unauthorized carrying of firearms is subject to a minimum compulsory jail sentence of one year. To obtain a Massachusetts gun license, call (617) 660-4780.
Massachusetts is in the Eastern Time Zone, five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. From the first Saturday in March until the first Saturday in November, Massachusetts observes Daylight Savings Time, and clocks are turned ahead one hour.
Tipping for Services
For meals, the recommended gratuity is 15 to 20 percent of your meal/bar bill. Some restaurants automatically add a gratuity for large groups. Other tips: 15 percent for a taxi; $1 to $1.50 per bag for airport porters and hotel staff.
Weather & Climate
Summers vary from comfortable 70s F (low 20s C) to the 90s F (up to 35C). The fall season ranges from 50F to 70F (0-20C). Winter temperatures usually hover around freezing and sometimes lower. Annual rainfall is between 40 and 48 inches.