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Kolkata (Calcutta) Travel Guide

Getting Here & Around

Dum Dum Airport is 15 km (9 mi) north of the city. Outside the baggage claim-customs area, you can hire a taxi through the prepaid-taxi counter; the ride downtown takes at least 40 minutes and costs around Rs. 135 (a third of what you might be charged by the hustlers outside the terminal). The unreliable airport coach (Rs. 50), goes to most of the upscale hotels and to the city center.

Howrah Junction, which sees tremendous amounts of train traffic every day, is divided into the neighboring Old and New Howrah stations. Getting to central Kolkata by taxi from here takes 20 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic. Once you get downtown, it's usually best to hire a car and driver, which you can do from the travel agencies and rental agencies. Expect to pay Rs. 750 for five hours and 70 km (50 mi), with an hourly and per-kilometer rate beyond that. Hailing a plain old taxi can be cheaper. Take a cab to or from the area you're visiting, then walk or find a sturdy cycle rickshaw.

Auto-rickshaws are cheaper than taxis but are best avoided. The three-wheel menaces are often operated by unlicensed drivers and work much like buses, picking up passengers along fixed routes. Many taxi drivers are unfamiliar with the roads, so expect frequent stops for directions. Adding to the confusion is the haphazard way in which many streets have been renamed. As for buses, they're slow, creaking, and unbearably crowded during rush hours. They will cost you next to nothing but will set you back in terms of time and comfort.

Kolkata is the only city in the world to still have hand-pulled rickshaws: they're an efficient form of transportation for short distances. However, for many travelers, being carried around by a poor, barefooted man may be unsettling. Rickshaw fares fluctuate depending on the distance and the amount of traffic; negotiate ahead of time, using Rs. 20 per 10 minutes as a guide.

Kolkata's efficient metro system connects the airport with Tollygunge, a South Kolkata locality that's the southernmost stop on the route. Tickets cost Rs. 5-Rs. 10 and are available from machines and windows in every station.

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