Kolkata (Calcutta) in detail

Getting Around

Tickets for buses, trams and the metro on most city transport routes cost ₹5 to ₹20. Men shouldn’t sit in clearly assigned ‘Ladies’ seats.

Note that between 1pm and 9pm, much of the city’s one-way road system reverses direction, so bus routes switch and taxis hailed on one-way thoroughfares may be reluctant to make journeys in the other direction.

Autos

Tuk-tuk-style autorickshaws (autos) operate as fixed-route hop-on share taxis with three passengers in the back and one (sometimes two!) beside the driver. Fares are typically ₹7 to ₹10, depending on distance.

Key routes:

Hazra–Bondel Runs along Hazra Rd, starting a block east of Jatin Das Park metro station, and goes to Ballygunge.

Hazra–Kiddepore Goes west from Jatin Das Park metro station, past the Kalighat idol-makers and on through Alipore.

Loha Pool–Dharamtala Starts from Park Circus using Park St (or after 1pm looping via Nasreddin and Karaya roads), goes up AJC Bose Rd (near Mother Teresa's Motherhouse), then along Elliot Rd/Royd St and finally up Mirza Ghalib St/RAK Rd (mornings/afternoons) near Sudder St. Loop reverses after 1pm.

Rashbehari–Gariahat This is the midsegment of a longer route, and connects the Kalighat metro station to the shopping district of Gariahat along Rashbehari Ave.

Bus & Tram

Buses in Kolkata come in different forms. The best are a limited fleet of shiny AC buses, but the standard quickly tumbles down to their non-AC variants (which are far greater in number) and crowded red-and-yellow minibuses, mostly run by manic drivers and motormouth conductors. A large selection of minibuses start from the minibus stand on the eastern side of BBD Bagh, including a service to Airport Gate 1 via Dum Dum.

Dinky but photogenic trams follow more predictable routes along select city tracks, and are immune to one-way traffic.

Car & Motorbike

Several private travel agents and car-rental companies in town can arrange multiday chauffeured drives out of town in air-conditioned sedans or SUVs. You'll find several of these agents around Sudder St. Expect to pay around ₹3500 per day, including fuel and driver allowance. If you clock more than 250km on any given day, you're looking at an additional cost, usually billed at ₹12 per kilometre.

If you've got plenty of sightseeing to do within the city in a rush, you can also book one of these cabs for about ₹1500 for an eight-hour shift.

There are no motorbikes available for hire in Kolkata. Some places in Sudder St may be able to get you one as a makeshift arrangement, but the city's mad traffic should be discouragement enough for you to consider riding one.

Ferry

Crossing the Hooghly River is generally faster and more agreeable by boat than by using the clogged road bridges, especially during rush hour. River ferries depart every 10 to 15 minutes from Howrah to jetties in central Kolkata. Convenient dropoff points include:

Chandpal For Babughat

Fairlie Ghat 1 and Fairlie Ghat 2 For BBD Bagh

Bagbazar For Kumartuli

Belur For Belur Math and Dakshineswar

Metro

Kolkata’s busy and crowded metro has trains every five to 12 minutes (fewer on Sundays). For Sudder St, use Esplanade or Park St. Some trains are air-con, although you pay the same fare for fan-cooled carriages.

Only one line (running in a north–south direction) is operational so far, but several extensions are planned. Line 2 linking Howrah to Sealdah and Salt Lake, and line 3 linking Esplanade to the southwestern borough of Joka, are due by 2020–21.

Theoretically you may not carry bags over 10kg. If you're staying in the city for a while, consider buying a multiride ticket to save yourself the hassle of queuing every time you ride the service.

Rickshaw

Human-powered ‘tana rickshaws’ work within limited areas, notably around New Market and some southern zones. Although rickshaw pullers sometimes charge foreigners disproportionate fares, many are virtually destitute, sleeping on the pavements beneath their rented vehicles at night, so tips are heartily appreciated.

Suburban Trains

Sealdah has suburban connections to Dakshineshwar, Dum Dum and Canning (for Sundarbans), with trains running roughly hourly. The Kidderpore–BBD Bagh–Bagbazar–Kolkata (Chitpore)–Dum Dum route (also called circular rail) is operational during rush hour only. Biman Bandar is the airport station, but only a couple of daily services shuttle from Dum Dum, so don't plan on taking a train to the airport if you have a flight to catch.

Taxi

Kolkata’s yellow Ambassador cabs charge ₹25 for up to 2km, and ₹12 per kilometre thereafter. Meters are digital and show the exact fare due. A few air-con taxis (white Suzuki D-Zire cars with a blue stripe) also use the same fare meters, with a 25% air-con surcharge on the displayed fare. Taxis are generally easy to flag down, except during the 5pm to 7pm rush hour and after 10pm when some cabs refuse to use the meter. There is a prepaid taxi booth at Howrah train station, and also at Sealdah train station and the airport.

Clean and cool Uber and Ola cabs currently abound in Kolkata, and can be accessed by updated versions of the apps on your smartphone. The minimum fare is around ₹70. Surge fares during peak hours can be many times the fare of a regular yellow taxi.