Travel to Kolkata (Calcutta)
Flying to Kolkata (Calcutta)
Kolkata is a hub for domestic and international flights, including cheap flights by low-cost domestic airlines, and a good place to buy reasonably priced onward flights to other parts of Asia. Its domestic airport connects Kolkata to all major Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru (Bangalore).
There are no direct flights to Kolkata from the UK or the USA. Options with one change include flights with Air India, Etihad Airways and Jet Airways.
From London - 13 hours 5 minutes (including stopover); New York - 18 hours 40 minutes (including stopover); Los Angeles - 22 hours 10 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 20 hours 5 minutes (including stopovers); Sydney - 13 hours 15 minutes (including stopover).
Travel by road
Don't consider travelling to or from Kolkata by car or by coach unless you have too much time on your hands and a tough constitution. Distances from other major cities are vast, roads are potentially pretty bad and driving conditions worse. If you insist on driving, hire a car and driver via a reputable dealer or good hotel and don't drive yourself - any savings on the driver's salary will be more than overtaken by the additional insurance. All in all, it is advisable to get the train or fly and hire a car locally when you arrive.
If you are driving, you will need an International Driving Permit, and generally, for hiring a vehicle, you will have to be 25 years old or over.
Speed limits vary according to location and vehicle type, but a good rule of thumb is to stick to around 40kph (25mph) in urban areas, and a maximum of 80kph (50mph) outside town, and if conditions permit.
The main motoring organisation is the Automobile Association of Eastern India (tel: +91 33 2486 5131; www.uraaei.org).
Emergency breakdown services
Automobile Association of Eastern India (tel: +91 33 2486 6810).
Some of the more useful long-distance bus services include Siliguri (12 hours) for onward travel to Darjeeling or Sikkim, from the Esplanade bus stand at the northern end of the Maidan. There are also daily buses to/from Puri and Bhubaneswar, also around 12 hours, leaving from the Babughat bus stand just north of Eden Gardens Road.
Time to city
From Delhi - 25 hours; Darjeeling - 15 hours.
Travel by Rail
Travelling by train is an unforgettable experience in India, although for longer trips it is advisable to go first class and/or air-conditioned – prices, for Westerners, are not prohibitive.
There are two main stations in Kolkata. Howrah Junction, south of Howrah Bridge (the new official spelling is Haora Bridge) on the western side of the Hugli (Ganges) river, has the most connections to the rest of the country.
Trains from Delhi and the north, however, arrive at Sealdah station, east of the river. Although just a few kilometres north of the BBD Bagh area of the city, allow plenty of time for your taxi to get to the station as traffic can be severely congested in this part of town. The journey along Howrah Bridge is an unforgettable sight.
You can book tickets at major hotels and some travel agents (these invariably attract a booking fee), or directly from the central computerised booking office at 6 Fairlie Place, BBD Bagh. Tourists can get tickets via the tourist quota; it gets crowded so start queuing early.
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 Delhi - 17 hours; New Jalpaiguri - 8 hours; Mumbai - 26 hours; Chennai- 27 hours.