If one is daring enough, the best way to get around the city is to perhaps rent a scooter or a motorcycle. If going to be in the city for a long period of time, one can even consider buying a second hand scooter.
Best to rent an automatic (without gear and clutch) kind of scooter.
Be equipped with a road map and helmet.
(Additional info added on 07 Oct 2011):
You can rent motorcycles/scooters in Chennai from SFA Bike Rentals (Mobile: +91 - 9952100400; email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
We rent Honda City during our vacation in India. We chose Car Rental Chennai for our holiday car hire (we knew them from internet research, http://www.carrentalchennai.com/). The car was delivered to us at our hotel. It’s really a good car, and the car itself was exactly as described on the website. We moved to many different parts of the city with this car. Nothing’s problem. Paperwork was completed very quickly and they are all very helpful there. Thanks for Car Rental Chennai for making our holiday fun!
Daily flights to Chennai are offered from about 20 Indian cities.
Airlines serving Chennai include:
Air India www.airindia.in
Go Air (*) www.goair.in
Jet Airways/Jet Lite(*) www.jetairways.com
Kingfisher/Kingfisher Red(*) www.flykingfisher.com
The budget airlines are denoted by a (*). All of them are very good. They sometimes offer excellent rates when booking far in advance, but you can easily book the same day and get a very good rate.
For a one-stop comparison of flights check www.cleartrip.com or www.makemytrip.com. I'd recommend booking directly with the airlines though in case you need to change your travel plans. I have had occasion to change my dates and have never had any hassles and never been charged any fees.
A 3rd class sleeper ticket from Chennai to Ernakulam cost 273INR (which was about £4 at the time). Very good value for an overnight journey.
I mainly wanted to say that Chennai Central Station is probably the nicest train station in the whole of India! It has ample seating for anyone waiting for a train, and best of all there are quite a few shops and food stalls - there was even a bookshop selling Penguin Classics!
Two hours on a plane will get you from (or indeed, to) Port Blair Airport on the Andaman Islands. The flight costs around 50GBP (maybe a bit less if you book well in advance). That's with Kingfisher, who are a pretty decent airline.
If you fly into Chennai Airport, there is a suburban train station nearby, from which you can take a train to Egmore (or in fact all the way to Chennai Park) for 6INR (as of Mar 2009). We stayed near Egmore.
I have used Fast Track's services every time i needed cabs at night. So far my experiences have always been pleasant. The cabs have always been on time. In fact, 15 minutes before time. The drivers have been reliable and trustworthy. It is even safe for single women.
They are very reasonably priced and economical compared to the regular cab services. The basic pay is Rs. 100 for the first 5 kms. For each additional km, it is Rs. 10. The basic charge could go up to Rs. 150 and Rs. 15 for additional km in case of bigger cars. There is an additional night charge of 25% for use between 11 pm and 6 am.
You will have to book the cab at least an hour or two in advance to ensure availability of vehicle. It is great for airport/train station pick-ups and drops, and for getting around the city as well.
If one doesn't have their own vehicle, then auto rickshaws are the most convenient, albeit expensive, mode of transportation within the city. For those of you who have not seen an auto rickshaw, they are like the tuk-tuks of Thailand. They are motorized three-wheelers, and are yellow and black in colour.
Like in most cities, when these drivers realise that a person is an out of towner and is not aware of the way around, they tend to hike up their price, take them all around town to get them to a destination near by, and try all other sorts of things to rip them off.
Hence, it would help to know the rough distance of the place that you need to go to and set your bargaining price to nothing more than Rs. 10 per kilometer. You can use google maps on your phone or use a city map to guage the distance. However, if you are using the auto for less than a kilometer or two you still pay the minimum of Rs. 20.
Tips to bargain:
It is better to wave down a running auto than to take a stationary auto from an auto stand.
Don't get in the auto without having settled on the price.
When you are bargaining let them know that you know how far the place is and mention the kilometers and that you are paying Rs. 10 per km which is more than fair.
If they refuse to come down to your price pretend that you don't need their services and start hailing the next auto that's coming your way.
Sometimes, when the autos are few and far between, especially in early morning or late nights or during rains, you may have to pay a higher price. Say around 50% to 100% more than the normal days.
Ladies, don't use them too late at night. You may as well use a radio taxi service. More on that in my next tip.
Also, check my tip on pre-paid auto rickshaws.
There are a few Suburban train routes in Chennai currently (Sept 2010). They are working on more routes.
Anyways, the route i'm talking about here is between Beach Station and Tambaram (the green line). Riding the train from one end to the other is a good way to spend an hour or two. You can purchase a return ticket and go till the end or get off half way. Some of the interesting stations to get and explore are
1. Mambalam - There is a fruit and veggie market right outside the station. Also, this is very close to T. Nagar, the largest shopping district of the city. It is fun to walk around in the crowd. You have platform shops and big air-conditioned shops as well.
2. Tirisulam - This is the airport station. There is a subway to cross to the airport. It is just nice to look at the hillock as you pass through the place.
3. Fort St. George & Beach Stations - You can walk to Parry's corner. Again, there are a number of shops that you can just walk past. The older part of the city, it has some nice architecture and some historical stuff as well.
4. Chengalput - Acutally, this is past Tambaram station and further south. But it is a small town that you can check out. Also, there is a beautiful lake by the station.
The queue could be long, and the trains crowded during peak hours. Unless you want to experience that, don't do peak hours - morning 8 to 10.30 and evening 6 to 8.
There are separate ladies' compartments. There are first class compartments too - means possibly lesser crowd.
You need to be quick to get on and off the train. Also, South bound trains come on the East side of the platform, and North bound trains on the West side. If in doubt, mention your station name and ask somebody.
Egmore Train Station with decorative domes is one of the prominent landmarks of Chennai. It was one of many buildings to be built by Robert Fellowes Chisholm in the early 20th century and was built in the Indo-Saracenic style.
Chennai is the headquarters of the Southern Railway. The city has two main railway terminals. Chennai Egmore is a terminus for trains travelling primarily within Tamil Nadu plus it also handles a few inter-state trains while Chennai Central station, the city's largest, provides access to trains to major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram as well as to smaller towns across India. For more info and train times, see the website below:
Having done this a fair bit of times, there are many possibilities depending upon the budget. my preferred way is to take Malaysian Airlines. But cheaper is Air India Express (horrible service, inedible food), slightly more acceptable is Tiger Airways from Singapore..there is Jet airways which usually has the highest price. occasionally you can get a good deal from KL to Madras via TG SQ but you will have to look around for it. Best value for the price certainly is Malaysian Airlines
I have flown many times between KL and Madras.. usually on the way over to somewhere or other.. but occasionally have spent a day here.
from KL to me the best way to get to madras is by Malaysian Airlines. I have taken Air India Express which is really bottom of the pile: no service and inedible food.
Air Asia has begun flying to Trichinopoli( Trichy) in the south and i am sure they might fly to Madras as well.
Jet airways is a good alternative but very seldom do they have sale fares. This last time one way ticket to Madras from KL (december 2008) was 940 MYR (3.5 to one dollar)
The Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus(CMBT) is a bus terminal in Chennai, India. And is the biggest bus station in Asia.
These buses will transport passengers to and from different destinations within Chennai. You can choose between A/C and non A/C coaches to travel to cities like Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Bangalore.
There are different bus stands for state owned (CMBT) buses and for private (Omni) buses. But all buses stop near Koyambedu. The private bus and the state owned bus are situated close to each other. the buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city.
The buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city. So, If you want to get down at your destination, you can always request the driver to drop you at the nearest point.
If you want to travel during weekends, do book tickets in advance, as most buses tend to be full.
I found that it was not easy to negotiate with drivers in Chennai. But, do persist and decide on the rate and destination before you get in. There are many to choose from, so if not happy, try the next one, they will surely give you a good price then.
As Chennai is so spread out, I did find it useful to hire a rickshaw and driver for a few hours to show me around and take me to specific sights.
Do make use of the pre-paid taxi service at the airport. There are about three operators to choose from; I made use of the Government-approved operator.
A trip from the airport to Egmore only cost Ind Rs 250 (January 2008).