Getting around in Kolkata
The Metro is a good way of getting around in Kolkata. It runs through most of the important areas- and is quick, clean and trains arrive every few minutes. Security is tight- so its really safe.
We used it on a daily basis. It costs only a few rupees per trip.
Taxis are good - but make sure that the meter is switched on. The fares are cheap.
The only problem that we encountered with taxis was that the drivers SAY that they know where you want to go, then end up taking you to some other place! Maybe its a language problem- maybe not.But its very frustrating, sitting in the noisy crazy traffic of Kolkata, not having any idea where you may end up. We eventually decided to find someone,anyone, who could speak some English, and they would then explain to the Taxi driver where to take us. It hel[ed a lot.
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A FORM OF TRANSPORT TO PLEASE AVOID
I may be old fashioned-I may be naive. But I find the sight of another human being-barefoot,undernourished and often elderly, dragging a rickshaw around with more fortunate and prosperous people aboard , quite repulsive and sad. There has been much controversy about this form of transport in India, and I believe that Kolkata is the one city wherin it still flourishes. There are thousands in Kolkata.
I realise that this is a much needed job for thousands of Rickshaw-wallahs, and they are certainly the only form of transport during the monsoon, when Kolkatas streets become rivers.
These men are however, often exploited by the conglomorates that own the rickshaws.They are paid a pittance for a ride, and then have to pay the owners of the rickshaws so much per day for the use of the rickshaw.
I therfeore implore you- if you feel the necessity to use one- give a good tip, and do not wrangle about the cost. Its only a few rupees anyway. It is very hard work to drag people around the streets of Kolkata.
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Underground trains and the cabs in Calcutta
The best way to travel within the city is to take the underground trains. It is fast, very clean and very economic. It will definitely be more convenient for you to travel by metro if you are a foreign tourist. However, it will also be convenient for you to travel in and around the city in the yellow cabs or taxies. Kolkata is one of the four metros in India to have the convenience of the yellow cabs.
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GOING TO KOLKATA
Since Kolkata is one of the largest city of the world ( not in terms of modern ness and facilities) it is still very well connected with most parts of the world by air. it is also well connected with rest of India by air plane, train and bus. There are about 2000 train goes out of Kolkata and comes every day from different parts of India.
This is also the first city of India to have metro as main transport system. it is also the cheapest mode of transport in the world. The longest distance fare is only rs.8/- one side or about 12cents.
Calcutta also has the cheapest taxi compared to Bombay and Delhi. The minimum fare is rs.20/- for 1.6kms.
Local bus fare is also very cheap lowest being rs.4/- and highest rs10/-
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Rent a Private Car with Driver
Attempting to drive in Calcutta is not a smart thing to do. The amount of cars, rickshaws, trucks, trams, carts, etc., trying to squeeze thought the narrow streets is unbelievable. The one stop light in town is ignored. Police in small platforms in the middle of intersections are often ignored as well. The loudest horn driven by the craziest driver has the right of way.
The best way I found to get around the city is to rent a private car with a driver. For about $20 a day, he will take you where you need/want to go , wait for you, and take you on to the next spot.
A good rental agency we have used is Travel Cars.
I had heard from a friend that the Rajdhani Express was the way to get from Delhi to Calcutta. From their stories I expected wing back chairs and sterling silver service as we made out way from west to east across the subcontinent. After waiting in line at the Delhi train station for hours and getting nowhere, (those nicely saried ladies have sharp elbows) I went to the Soviet Student Travel Agency to get my tickets. Ended up with A/C first class standby. The day of the train, my name wasn't posted on any of the car rosters or even on the standby list. So ran back over the bridge across 16 lines of trains in 100F and 100% humidity and ended up at the same ticket counter I had been unsuccessful at earlier in the week. Finally got to the front and was told that a seat was available in car 2. Ran back, grabbed my stuff and hopped on Car 2 as it started to roll out of the station. No open seat.
After a long discussion, it was determined that a seat was open in Car 1. So back I went, gathered my stuff and found my seat.
No wing backed chairs or sterling service, but it was quite comfortable and the tea and food served just fine. We left Delhi at 1700 and were supposed to arrive Calcutta the next day at 1000AM. But something was wrong with the signal system and we had to stop at every cross track along the way, sometimes for a half hour - waiting and listening for another train before we proceeded. We arrived in Calcutta about 1800, just as the sun was setting. No beds, just kind of napped where you sat. Seats were like a yellow school buses - vinyl. And they were very proud of their air conditioning - seemed like it was 50F the whole time.
But while it wasn't as luxurous as I had expected, the views along the way and the conversations with my fellow passengers were very enjoyable.
I've learned since that the best way to get good seats at a reasonable price is to book ahead, either thru a travel agent or online.
Travelling to Calcutta from other parts of India
Calcutta is well connected to most of the places in India. It has daily flights to and from Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Madras(Chennai), Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, The North-Eastern States, Bhubaneshwar, Ahmedabad and to most of the other important places.
You can contact the airlines offices for more details. There are four main domestic airlines operating from Calcutta Airport. Their contact numbers are given below:
Jet Airways: +913339840000
Indian Airlines : +91331407
Air Deccan: +919831677470 / +913339008888
Indigo Airlines: +919910383838
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A Boat trip to Dakshineshwar temple.
Those who are willing to make a trip to both Belur Math and Dakshineshwar Temple in a short period, there ais a better option take the river ferry. The journey across the river takes about 20-30 mts and the fare is Rs7/- per person.
They take about 25 persons in each ferry. These are all country boats, fitted with motors for faster transport.
Those who are fancy free may try this option as many people take it everyday.
Dont' worry this is safe.
- Family Travel
Taxi's in Calcutta - NOT A TOURIST TRIP ... read!
I was recently in Calcutta and recently overheard a tourist screaming "Racists" at the taxi driver who refused to pick her up ...
Just a BIG note ... nothing like that. Taxi drivers in Calcutta (and India at large) are FAR from being racist. This is not New York or U.S. where such problems exist.
Refusal to pick up a passenger is usually because the destination is around the block ... or because the driver is headed towards her/his home and the destination is inconvinient.
While you can file a complain, I just want tourists to understand that this has nothing to do with racism ... its something we in Calcutta face as well :) !
Tollygunge to Dum Dum
Despite the fact that Mumbai is a much bigger and richer city, and more of a business centre it was Calcutta that opened the first underground Metro system in India.
This didn't stop the Mumbai residents carping about how Calcutta's metro was built. Take this typical example from a Mumbai-based website when considering building one there :
"Nor do we fancy a repetition of Calcutta Metro construction when whole roads sank under the 'cut', and the excavated rubble soared to form a new range of 'Metro Hills'. Had they risen any higher, entire Bengali families would have pulled on their monkey caps and spent their summer holiday there. "
In truth corruption, bad planning, rampant Marxism and Calcutta's love of a good argument all contributed to massive delays (whatever the official reasons). It also didn't help that a decision was made to dig out the track virtually by hand. This meant that whatever got dug out one year often collapsed back in during the monsoon.
Despite this, the North-south Metro is now operating, and is clean and punctual. It works. Also handy for tourists using the airport or heading down to Kalighat.
Calcutta trams-- they lend character to the city and are one of the things that go into defining the citys look. However, there is pressure to remove them as they are sometimes the cause of traffic jams. The one way they bring in the moolah these days is by donning the colours of advertisers and by ending up looking like moving billboards.
Buses of Calcutta are the cheapest mode of travel, not only compared to the other transport modes in the city but also in comparison to any transportation mode in any Indian city. A bus ticket for major distances within the city would cost you around Rs. 4.50 to Rs. 8, depending upon the distance. There are also chartered buses for some routes, which will cost you between Rs. 10 to Rs. 20. However, a word of caution here, the buses of Kolkata are well known for their rash driving. So while boarding on or boarding off, please take care. The driver might be in a hurry.
Calcutta does not have a very wide metro network but the single line from Dum Dum to Tollygunge is well maintained and everyday millions of people commute by them. During office hours there is huge rush, but during the rest of the day, the journey is comfortable. metro trains are generally on schedule and are clean.
Trams in Kolkata are one of the heritage things and although there are only a few routes still existing, we the kolkatans doubt whether this slow, traffic creating transport will ever cease to exist in kolkata. It is in the heart of Kolkatans. We love it. I particularly love the ride from Ballygunge to College street, and I take it often. There are chances of frequent breakdowns, coupled with the very slow pace of the trams that might irritate some people, but I feel that they still, are unique and very Kolkatan. If you have been in Kolkata and not rode on one, that will be a miss
Like every other mode of transport in Kolkata, autorickshaws have pretty low fares and being a foreigner, if the sharp turns of an auto does not scare you, you will enjoy the ride and the price. Autos generally take specific routes and are on shuttle systems which means that you cannot hire them, but share the journey with co-passengers.
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