Getting around Chennai (Madras)
The suburban railway (daily 0500-2300) runs approximately every 10 to 15 minutes between Central Railway and the northern suburbs, from east to west, and from the eastern beach to the southern suburbs. Stations include Egmore, the airport (Tirusulam), St Thomas Mount, Lighthouse (Marina Beach) and the fort (Park Town).
Buses (daily 0500-2200) are extremely crowded and best avoided for longer journeys. Signs are mostly in Tamil so ask around for the correct route and destination. It can be a real leap of faith, but this is definitely the cheapest way of getting around. Auto-rickshaws are another mode of transport - agree the fare to the destination before you get in.
The Chennai Metro (tel: +91 44 2379 2000; www.chennaimetrorail.gov.in) is a light rail system which opened in 2015 and travels from Alandur to Koyambedu, with further stations and lines under construction. Preloadable smartcards are available.
Taxis are mainly seen outside large hotels, local taxi stands and some transport hubs. You can book taxis independently or through hotels and some travel agents (the latter two attract service charges). You should negotiate the fare at the start of each journey; tipping is optional. Taxi companies include Comfort City Cabs (tel: +91 44 4214 8555) and Fast Track (tel: +91 44 2473 2020).
Although the city's roads are better than average, driving in Chennai is best done if you have experience as it can get horribly congested and often traffic rules are routinely ignored. Those who hire cars often hire drivers too - it's pretty cheap and less stressful than driving independently.
Hiring a car with a driver is possible at the airport and from most hotels; many major international companies are represented. Avis (tel: +91 44 4221 2802; www.avis.com) and Hertz (tel: +91 44 4554 0077; www.hertz.com) are reliable options. Local car hire companies include Praveenn Tours and Travels (tel: +91 44 2485 2034; www.praveenntravels.com) and Express Travel Corporation (ETC) (tel: +91 44 2827 2279; www.expresstravelcorp.com).
Rates differ depending on quality of the vehicle and whether you opt for air conditioning or not. It is strongly recommended that you do not try to drive yourself - not only is it difficult to deal with the vagaries of Indian driving, but the cost of the insurance will probably outweigh the cost of a driver.