Kolkata - Getting there & away, getting around
Kolkata - Getting there & away
Kolkata is a good centre for competitive airfares to other parts of Asia, Europe and the USA's east coast. As well as its domestic routes, Indian Airlines also flies regularly to Dhaka (Bangladesh), Bangkok and Kathmandu. There is also a direct bus service between Kolkata and Dhaka and there are several useful bus routes to other towns in West Bengal for brave and steely folks, leaving from the Esplanade bus station. However, it's generally quicker and more comfortable to travel from Kolkata by train. It has two major train stations, both of them frenetic, and beware - they're a pickpocket's paradise. Howrah station, on the west side of the Hooghly, handles most trains into the city while Sealdah station on the east side of the river is for trains heading north of Kolkata to Darjeeling. There are also boats from Kolkata to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Getting around Kolkata
Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Basu International Airport is 17km (10.5mi) northeast of BBD Bagh and is still commonly referred to as Dum Dum (it was the site where explosive dum-dum bullets were once made). A public minibus runs from BBD Bagh to the airport. The efficient Metro line has an ultra-cheap bus shuttle between Dum Dum station and the airport terminal. If you're after a taxi from the airport, it's cheaper and more reliable to go to the prepaid taxi booth (after you clear customs), where you'll be assigned one.
Who needs the thrills of an amusement park when the local Kolkata buses are passenger-crammed mechanical monsters that travel at frightening speeds? For thrill-seekers, there is also a private minibus service. Both are dirt cheap. For those who like their transport up close and personal, Kolkata's public trams inject character to the city, but are like sardine tins in rush hour. Although they're pollution-free, there is pressure to abolish them because they are a major cause of traffic jams. Kolkata's Metro (India's first underground railway) is most clean and efficient. There are two types of taxis in Kolkata: the yellow ones have permits to travel all over Kolkata and West Bengal, while the black-and-yellow taxis are restricted to Kolkata. There are plenty of taxis, but shop around for a metered ride or a reasonable negotiated price. Otherwise, Kolkata is the last real bastion of the human-powered rickshaw. The city's rickshaw-wallahs rejected the new-fangled cycle-rickshaws when they were introduced elsewhere in India - after all, who could afford a bicycle? Although slow, they are often the only way to negotiate Kolkata's narrow lanes. A tip is heartily appreciated. The ferries can be a quicker and more pleasant way to get across the river than the congested Howrah Bridge and are a good means of getting to the Botanical Gardens.
Some city streets, particularly those with Raj-era connotations, have been renamed, which can make getting around slightly confusing. While many street signs still display the old names, some maps show new ones. Taxi and rickshaw-wallahs largely still go by the old (familiar) names.