Kolkata's Yellow Taxis
I love that in India as you go from city to city the taxis and rickshaws are different colors. In Kolkata the taxis are painted yellow (there are some rumblings that may change soon and I hope it's not true!). The taxis are mostly Ambassadors manufactured by Hindustan Motors.
The good news is that the drivers we encountered actually used the meters (unlike in other Indian cities). Rickshaws are a cheaper way (and a little less comfortable way to get around) but the taxis are best under certain circumstances (we were traveling with an elderly person and a child w/stroller).
You can get an idea of fares here...http://www.taxiautofare.com/taxi-fare-card/Kolkata-Taxi-fare/
Kolkata's airport - Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) - serves both domestic and international fights. The aiport's new (and much needed) terminal was recently opened which enables the airport to handle 5 times as many passengers as previously.
Although only about 18 kms. northeast of the city be prepared for an hour drive to the city center. It's best to take a prepaid taxi (cost about $8 to Sudder Street area). Pre-paid taxis are available 24 hours a day.
Good low cost domestic airlines serving Kolkata include: Spice Jet, Indigo, GoAir, and Jet Konnect.
Bus to the airport
Bus VS 1 goes from Esplanade bus terminal (near the Buthan bus ticket office) to the airport, 1 to 1,5 hours, 40 Rupies, last bus around 8 pm. VS 2 goes from Howra trainstation, it stops between platform 8 and 9. V 1 goes from Tollygunge Metro station, last bus around 9 pm. At the airport they stop between national and international terminal, the departure is left side of the national terminal.
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We took the highway to travel to the neighbouring district of Burdwan, exiting thru `Vidyasagar Setu' or the new Hooghly bridge. This is a 6 lane access controlled highway. A comfortable drive and it gets you to Burdwan in a little over 2 hours. The highway carries on towards Bombay/ Mumbai, via other prominent towns beyond Burdwan.
This is part of the new and improved look of Indias highways, and more and more stretches of highway are being upgraded, mosltly choosing to follow the access control/ toll road model.
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Taxi from Kolkata Airport
The taxis from Kolkata Intl. airport to downtown costs 400 Rupies (9 USD) at a fixed rate. You pay for a voucher at the taxi stall inside the airport hall, and then walk out to the taxi lane. I have heard that Indian people can arrange taxis without a voucher for half the price.
Anyway, I don't think 400 Rupies for a 30-40 minutes drive is a rip off. And you don't have to discuss and bargain the price in a place loaded with people.
One car takes 4 passengers and a 25 kg bag for each one. Extra bag costs 1 Rs pr. kg
For more info see the receipt from Bengal taxi (the last picture).
(Indian money comes in Rs500, Rs100, Rs50, Rs20, Rs10, Rs5, Rs2 and Rs1).
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In most major places like airport and train station you can find pre-paid taxi counter.
If you're a foreigner, this is the best fare you can get.
Even if you're very good at bargaining, those private cab owners won't give in at least double the fare of those from pre-paid counter.
The cabs also goes by fare, but you must make sure they don't bring you around to clock in more.
Oh, and their driving style is very exciting!
Sealdah train station
There are 2nd class and upper class waiting area here, but most people seems to wait at the platform itself.
Lots of chai (tea), coffee and puni (water) sellers, there are some shops and a restaurant as well.
The pre-paid taxi counter is outside, so don't believe what those private cab owners are telling you.
Whatever the price they're quoting you, the pre-paid counter fare is at most half of it.
I don't like this train station.
People throw trash everywhere, even the sweeper sweep the trashes into the train tracks.
It's not like there's no trash can, but I think it's just the bad habit.
Not only that, there are lots of beggars there.
In every 30 minutes or so 1 or 2 beggars will approach you.
But the ones that I really hate are the smaller ones, they're like 5-7 years old.
They will hug your leg and cling there until you pay up.
The government should really do something about this.
Netaji Subhash (DumDum) Airport
It's about 20 Km from the city.
If you need to take cab to go anywhere from there, please approach the pre-paid taxi counter.
This counter is very prominently located after the custom and before the exit.
Otherwise you'll have to bargain with the cab driver and if you're a foreigner, most likely they won't give in to any price at least double the pre-paid fare.
If you opt for the meter, they'll probably bring you around and around before getting to your destination. The extra fare might not be much, but you'll lose your precious time.
Anyway generally taxi fare is quite cheap there, and even much cheaper if you're a local.
For example the pre-paid fare from DumDum to Sealdah train station is 180 rupees.
If you're a local or if you speak perfect Bengali, you can prolly get it at less than 100 rupees.
So once you bought the pre-paid ticket, keep both your and the driver's copy of the receipt.
Only give him the receipt once you're sure that you've reached your destination.
There are some cases where the driver will drop you somewhere and tell you that your destination is just around the corner, but in fact you're halfway across the city.
The last rickshaws?
Rickshaws are a common mode of transport in India - or at least motor- or cycle-Rickshaws are. Kolkata is one of the last places where you will find rickshaws being pulled by a person running. I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of these poor men (they were all men as far as I could see), who looked very undernourished, pulling not only the weight of the cart but one or more people and luggage too. So I didn't use this form of transport - however, I do rather wish now that I'd taken a photo, as this is a custom that will probably not last too much longer, as the government of West Bengal has been talking about banning them totally.
Loads of rickshaw pullers hang around Sudder Street - it seemed likely that many of them slept there too, out on the street in their rickshaw.
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Kolkata's Metro system is fantastic! It may not cover a huge amount of the city, but it's cheap and easy to use for the places it does go to. We travelled from the Park Street station to Kalighat for, I think, 4 rupees, and didn't have any problems with working out what to do or what platform to be on. Very useful indeed, and we got to do a lot of people watching too!
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Taxi to Sudder Street
Once out of Howrah Station, we took a taxi to Sudder Street. Make sure you go to the pre-paid booth just outside, the price is much lower than that quoted at first by the taxi-drivers. We paid about 65 rupees.
For getting around elsewhere, just go up to taxis stopped on the street, or hail one - a good place for that is anywhere on Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Ask the price before you get in, if you don't like it, go to another taxi! The taxis waiting for tourists on Sudder Street will quote far more expensively than ones stopped on Jawaharlal Nehru.
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Train to Kolkata
The best way to come into Kolkata/Calcutta is to get the train, and arrive at Howrah Station - it's certainly an experience! We arrived from Raxaul at about 4.30am, and decided to wait until daylight before trying to get a taxi to a hotel, so we sat on the platform for a couple of hours just watching the world go by - and believe me, in India, the whole world really does go by in a train station! We weren't alone either, so many other people were waiting, for something, just like us.
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Rickshaws are human-powered transport the where runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats two persons. Some cities have forbidden rickshaws due to many traffic accidents. But it is still legal in Kolkata. Kolkata has the longest tradition in india with rickshaws. Other places have replaced it by bicycle rickshaws.
Motorcycle rickshaws (Tuk-Tuk) are not allowed to take people on guided tours. They are only allowed to drive as shared taxi on a predefined route. I stopped one motorcycle rickshaw who didn't speak english. I tried to explain that I wanted a short sightseeing in Kolkata. Many people stopped to see (which is normal for India), and one of them told me that I had to take an Ambassador Classic Taxi for the sightseeing, and gave me the reason as mentioned in this tip.
Airport Volvo & Green Jnnurm Buses of Kolkata !
Good new for visitors coming from abroad or other parts of India to the city of Kolkata. The Govt. of West Bengal have at last achieved something but not on their own. They had to be whipped by Calcutta High Court in August last year ( 2009). First, they had to scrap all buses and auto rickshaws which are more than 15 years old. Second, all auto rickshaws have to run on green fuel i.e. LPG ( Liquified Petroleum Gas) or CNG( Compressed Natural Gas). Third they will have to bring 1200 Green Buses for the city , which are of international standard used for both standing and sitting. Fourth, they have to introduce Air Conditioned Volvo buses for the passengers from Airport to the city.
So now they have at least introduced 39 Airconditioned Volvo buses from the airport to the city at a very affordable cost. A journey of 36 KMs from Dumdum Airport to Tollygunj will cost Rs.60/- only or USD$ 1.3!. It will take you from various points of the city, you can get down at the place of your choice. It has GPS, announcement system, luggage carrier, excellent seat and standing system. These buses are used in 40 developed countries of the world as city transport from airport.
Add on 15.02.10: Now at the time of editing this tip there are five routes plying from Airport to various places of Kolkata city, including Esplanade or Dharmatala. That means you are with in walking distance of Sudder Street, Chowringhee, where most of the tourists hotels are located and Backpackers prefer to stay. Enjoy your visit to Kolkata! Have a look at the video I have posted.
They start from 8.30Am in the morning and ends at 9.30Pm in the evening. The journey takes about 1.5 hrs from the airport to Tollygunj Metro station. The bus conductor will help you to get down at the place of your choice in case you are new to the city.( See pitures).
The bus leaves from the Domestic & International arrival terminal and ends at Tollygunj Metro station and Vice Versa.
The bus in green is JNNURM bus, which is a city bus, now there are about 600 hundreds of them soon the blue buses will be phased out.
See Video: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/32de/
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