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Pondichérry, though small in geographical size, was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence on the architecture of the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean-style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for a pleasant mix of the East and the West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est). If you have spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondichérry by land, you will very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine. Pondichérry is very much a city with a dual personality: crossing the central canal from the east to the west reveals two different cities with very different characters.
Planning a Trip
1 Get in 1.1 Car 1.2 Coach 1.3 Train 1.4 Plane Pondicherry has managed to retain its French flavour, as shown by this photo of a local traffic policeman on duty: Note the Charles de Gaulle-style cap Car Pondichérry is well connected from all sides. Chennai is situated 160 km north of the city. You can also hire a taxi from Chennai International Airport. It costs around ₹2,500 (c. USD35), as of August 2018. The road from Chennai to Pondicherry (the East Coast Road, commonly called ECR) is a scenic highway and a normal journey would take about 3 hours. Most tourists, however, cannot resist the seashore kissing the ECR and take a number of stops en route. This route passes through Mahabalipuram, Kalpakkam, Pudupattinam, Idaikkazhinadu (Alamparai or Alambara Fort), Mudaliarkuppam, which has a boat house, Marakkanam (contains large areas under salt pans), and Kanagachettikulam/ Kalapet. Another road from Chennai to Pondy is National Highway 45 (NH45), also called the Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road. This route passes through Tambaram, Chengalpattu, Madhurantakam, Melmaruvathur and Tindivanam. The ECR Road and NH45 are both tolled roads. The journey from Chennai to Pondichérry takes about the same amount of time on both roads. Pondichérry is about 320 km away from Bangalore. Drive down National Highway 7 (NH-7) till Krishnagiri, take a left off the main highway (road signs mark the route) and then take National Highway 66 (NH-66) to Pondichérry. This route passes through Uthangarai, Chengam, Tiruvannamalai, Gingee and Tindivanam. You can reach Pondicherry either through Tindivanam (via Gingee) or Villupuram (via Thirukovilur). Gingee Fort is also on the way to Tindivanam and worth spending some time at. It's an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Heritage site. The total travel time should be about 5-6 hours. Do pack some food or snacks for the way as there are no good restaurants en route. Pondichérry is well connected to Cuddalore, Chidambaram, Karaikal, Nagapattinam, Velankanni, etc. to the South by National Highway 45A (NH-45A). The road is well maintained till Chidambaram. Pondichérry connects to the GST or NH-45 in two places: at Villupuram by NH-45A and at Tindivanam by NH-66. Coach There are multiple coaches connecting to Pondicherry from a variety of cities. Getting to Pondichérry involves a three and a half hour road journey from Chennai by bus. One can board a bus from Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus (CMBT) in Koyambedu, Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. You can be sure of getting a seat on the bus only if you board it from CMBT in Koyambedu, which is the main bus terminus in Chennai. However, the cheapest way of reaching Pondichérry from Chennai is taking the East Coast Road (ECR) bus from Tiruvanmiyur. The fare from CMBT is around ₹150 depending on the bus service. PRTC (Puducherry Road Transport Corporation) operates Air Conditioned buses and the fare is ₹280. The ECR bus will drop you at the main bus terminal in Pondichérry, located on Maraimalai Adigal Salai. Auto-rickshaws are available from outside the bus station. The fare can be bargained down to ₹50 to go to the French Quarter. Nearly all cities in Tamil Nadu are connected to Pondicherry through cheap government buses that will stop at smaller towns and villages, though no centeralized timetable exists and departure times and routes must be obtained from the nearest bus station to where you are. These buses will almost certainly arrive at the Pondicherry Bus Stand. Private coaches will connect to Pondicherry from a variety of cities including Chennai and Bengaluru. The coaches along the ECR from Chennai are well frequented and a variety of coach types, from regular urban-city-bus to semi-sleepers and full-sleepers. There are long-distance coaches to Mumbai and other cities of India too. It is possible to find out which buses are available from redbus website. Train Pondichérry is connected to Chennai by an electric broad gauge railway line through Villupuram. There are 2 passenger trains running daily to Chennai Egmore Railway station and Tirupati and there is a weekly express train service to Bhubaneswar. In addition to this, there is also a daily express train to Chennai Egmore. Puducherry is also connected by weekly trains to Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai besides Mangalore, passing through Kerala. Bangalore Yesvanthapur(YPR) to Pondichérry(PDY) is connected by a 3-Tier AC Train called Garibh Rath Express. It covers a distance of 456 km in each direction however it takes 10 hours 5 mins when operating as train number 12255 at an average speed of 60km/h (excluding halts). It leaves Puducherry as train number 12256 on Saturday at 22:05 and at the end of 8 halts arrives at Yesvanthapur the next day at 08:25. It leaves Yesvantpur as train number 12255 on Friday at 23:15 and at the end of 9 halts arrives at Puducherry the next day at 09:20. Coach Composition comprises 16 AC 3 tier coaches and 2 luggage cum generator coach taking the total up to 18 coaches. 11.92504979.828141 Pondicherry station is centrally located along the South Boulevard. Plane Pondichérry has an airport with facilities for the landing of small aircraft like Dornier, Cessna, etc. Spicejet operates daily flights from Hyderabad (with connections to/from other major Indian cities). Flights to Bengaluru are also revived and operate on a daily basis. Cabs meet arriving flights at the airport, and charge ₹350 to the centre of town. You can also take a short (30 minute) auto rickshaw from the airport to the centre of town. The rate for taking an auto rickshaw from within the airport complex to the city centre is about ₹150, as of Apr 2013. If you walk to outside the airport complex and flag down an auto you may be able to negotiate a better rate. Chennai airport is the nearest international airport, which is approximately 135 km from Pondicherry. Chennai airport is nicely connected to major cities in India as well as abroad. A one-way cab ride from Chennai airport to Pondicherry is approximately ₹1,500, and takes around 3 hours.
Plane Pondichérry has an airport with facilities for the landing of small aircraft like Dornier, Cessna, etc. Spicejet operates daily flights from Hyderabad (with connections to/from other major Indian cities). Flights to Bengaluru are also revived and operate on a daily basis. Cabs meet arriving flights at the airport, and charge ₹350 to the centre of town. You can also take a short (30 minute) auto rickshaw from the airport to the centre of town. The rate for taking an auto rickshaw from within the airport complex to the city centre is about ₹150, as of Apr 2013. If you walk to outside the airport complex and flag down an auto you may be able to negotiate a better rate. Chennai airport is the nearest international airport, which is approximately 135 km from Pondicherry. Chennai airport is nicely connected to major cities in India as well as abroad. A one-way cab ride from Chennai airport to Pondicherry is approximately ₹1,500, and takes around 3 hours.
Bicycle and motobike Pondicherry has narrow streets reminiscent of Western Europe. It is highly advisable that you do not attempt to drive around in a car, and instead purchase or hire a two wheeled transport vehicle, such as a bicycle or motorcycle. It can however be difficult to ride smoothly in Pondicherry due to significant number of pedestrians on smaller streets, while roads would likely be used by cars and trucks. Pedestrians have right-of-way in the city. There are several rental outlets on Mission St and MG Rd. The prices as of January 2016 are ₹300/day for a gearless scooter, and ₹500/day for a geared motorcycle and ₹40-50/day for a bicycle. You will need to provide some identification document as collateral and an advance of ₹500 only in few rental service shops while rest of them provide without documents, advance,etc. Make sure you check the cycle thoroughly before taking it on rent. One traveller reported that a cycle they rented at Sri Durga Parameshwari rentals on Mission Street developed a puncture within an hour of riding it; they speculated that was probably due to a problem with the tube itself. Many of the rentals also provide delivery and pickup at the hotel which is very useful. (Note: Usually the number of days for these vehicles are calculated 09:00-21:00.) The motorbikes are easily available in a couple of two wheeler rental shops in Mission Street.