Travel to Chennai (Madras)
Flying to Chennai (Madras)
British Airways operates direct flights to Chennai from the UK. Alternatively, there are numerous indirect options, including flights with Air India or Jet Airways via Delhi or Mumbai. There are no direct flights from the USA, but plenty of choices with one stopover.
Travel by road
Because of vast distances, variable road conditions and hair-raising driving, it is advisable to travel long distances by air or train rather than road. Bus journeys can be uncomfortable and tough on the constitution, although a journey of several hours is certainly bearable in a decent air-conditioned coach. It is unwise to attempt to self-drive if you haven't done it before in a big Indian city; hiring a car with a driver from a reputable company is a much better idea. Distances are vast between other major cities (Kolkata, Mumbai etc), so it is more advisable to catch a train or fly and hire a car and driver locally. During the rainy season, road travel out of town can be hazardous.
Traffic drives on the left in India and the minimum driving age is 18. If you do drive, you should bring an International Driving Permit. The Automobile Association of Southern India (tel: +91 80 2211 1561; www.aasindia.org) can provide more information on driving in the region. The maximum speed limit in India is 62mph (100kph) on highways.
Emergency breakdown services
Automobile Association of Southern India (tel: +91 80 2211 1561).
National Highway 4 (NH 4) is a major route leading from western to southern India from Mumbai to Chennai. The Grand Southern Trunk Road or National Highway 45 (NH 45) leads from the south to Chennai. National Highway 5 (NH 5) is the route to take to the city if travelling from the east.
The government bus company operates from the huge Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT), Koyambedu. Closer destinations include Puducherry (Pondicherry) (3 to 4 hours) and Mamallapuram (2 hours). There are also private bus companies operating opposite Egmore railway station.
Time to city
From Mumbai - 20 hours; Bangalore - 5 hours; Puducherry - 3 hours; Mysore - 8 hours; Hyderabad - 10 hours.
Travel by Rail
Travelling by train is one of the delights in India, although for longer trips it is advisable to buy seats in first-class and/or air-conditioned carriages. You can book tickets at major hotels and some travel agents (these invariably attract a booking fee), or directly from the booking office in Central Station. Tourists can get tickets via the tourist quota; it can get crowded so start queuing early. Chennai has two main stations: Central Station is the arrival and departure point for most major destinations in the country. Approximately 1km (0.6 miles) east is Egmore Station, dealing mainly with routes in the southern regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Trains are run by Indian Railways (www.indianrail.gov.in). If you plan to make many journeys, buy a copy of Trains at a Glance (available at most station news stands and some city bookshops) and also see www.seat61.com/India.htm for general information on train travel in the country. The Indrail pass, available in many countries, gives you unlimited travel for a certain period (for further details see www.indianrail.gov.in and click on the Information/International Tourist link).
From Mumbai - 25 hours; Bengaluru- 6 hours; Kolkata - 27 hours; Delhi - 33 hours; Madurai - 8 hours; Trichy - 6 hours.