Chennai

Chennai (Tamil: சென்னை), formerly known as Madras, is the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. With a population of 8.6 million (2011 census), Chennai's urbanized area is the most populous in South India and the fourth most populous in India. It is situated on the east coast of peninsular India.

Though Chennai traces its history to Fort St George and adjoining village of Madrasapatnam founded by the British East India Company in 1640, some residential districts of the city are older. The name Madras was changed to Chennai in 1997 by a special act of the Tamil Nadu legislature.

Chennai is well-connected by road, rail and air and is a staging point for tours to the 7th century Pallava temple of Mahabalipuram, an UNESCO World Heritage site, the Hindu temples of Kanchipuram, Sriperumbudur and Tirupati, the bird sanctuary of Vedanthangal and the Pondicherry ashram.

Chennai has an extremely hot and humid climate, and has heavy rains during monsoons (July to November).

Understand

History

The Horse and rider, Anna Salai.

Long the site of earlier coastal settlements, Madras was founded in 1639 when the British East India Company (represented by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan and aided by a local translator Beri Thimappa) was granted land to build a trading settlement by the local ruler (Nayak) of the suburb of Vandavasi, Damerla Venkatapathy Nayak. The document of the land grant is dated 22 August 1639, and hence Madras celebrates its birthday on 22 August each year as Madras day. Madras was one of the first outposts of British East India Company. Colonel William Lambton, superintendent of the great Trigonometrical Survey of India, started his journey of triangulating India from St. Thomas Mount. The British built Fort St. George (today the legislative and administrative seat of the state). Fort St George was completed on St George's day in 1640 (23 April) and hence was named after the patron saint. George Town then developed becoming the modern city of Madras, absorbing several nearby boroughs. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, is associated with Chennai. He is said to have come to India as an evangelist and died in what is now Chennai. Two suburbs, Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, are named in his memory.

In 1996, the Tamil Nadu government renamed Madras to Chennai providing the reason that 'Chennai' was the city's traditional name while Madras was one derived during colonial rule.

Madras is derived from Madraspatnam, a name given to the area when the British negotiated settling there. The origin of the name is uncertain. Tradition suggests that a fishing village near to the location of the British settlement was called Madraspatnam. Others think early Portuguese may have called the area Madre de Sois after an early settler, or Madre de Deus after an early church (of St. Mary).

Chennai is derived from Chennapatnam, a name with almost equally uncertain origins. Tradition has it that Chennapatnam was the name of a fishing village near to the location of Madraspatnam. However it is not clear if the village was there beforehand or grew up around the British Madraspatnam settlement. There are some suggestions that the name was given to the developing Indian settlement honor a local Indian administrator.

As the settlements grew, the exact location of both Chennapatnam and Madraspatnam became confused as the two settlements merged into a single town.

Under the British, the then city of Madras grew to be a major city, It was the capital of the Madras presidency, a province that covered the parts of Southern India that were not governed by any of the other princely states. After independence, it became the capital of Madras state, and when the states were reorganized on a linguistic basis, it became the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Chennai boasts of many well known people including Elihu Yale, whose liberal gift funded the construction of Yale University in 1718; Indira Nooyi CEO of Pepsi International; A.R. Rahman, the musical genius of "Slumdog Millionaire", Manirathnam the ace film Director, Vijay Armirthraj, Ramesh Krishnan and his father Ramanathan krishnan who were holding the Indian flag high in Tennis and chess wizard Vishwanathan Anand among many others.

Culture

Chennai is gateway to the South, and its culture is distinctly different from that of any other city in India. Tamil tradition and culture is essentially the celebration of the beauty, which is exemplified through dance, clothing, and sculptures. Chennai is both an orthodox and a modern cosmopolitan city; the culture of the city reflects its diverse population. The traditional arts, music, dance and all other art forms of Tamil Nadu grow and flourish here. The food is a unique blend of traditional, to fast foods and filter kaapi. It’s a land of temples and priests. The architecture ranges from ancient temples to modern high-rises. Music is classical and western, to the growing nightlife in the city. You can find a school for traditional Bharatanatyam or Salsa dance and for music a veena / violin or for Guitar/drums school in almost every neighborhood of the city. Chennai checks reflects its traditionalism every December when the music season is in full swing. Clothes are generally conservative but young people are contemporary.

Climate

Climate of Chennai is Tropical.

Chennai has mainly two seasons - summer (35-42°C / 95-108°F) April–June (Highest temperature ever recorded is 45°C / 113°F on 30 May 2003) and monsoon (Oct-Dec). It receives scanty rainfall from the south-west monsoon (Jun-Sep), but gets its bountiful rains from the north-east monsoon from October through December, thus amounting to about 125–150 cm (49–59 in) of rainfall annually. Rainfalls occur usually from October to December. During some seasons, Chennai gets ample amount of rainfall if there are depressions in Bay of Bengal.

December to February are the mildest months temperature - (19-28°C / 66-82°F).

Climate is humid pretty much throughout the year because the city is on the coast. Summers are very hot and humid. Be sure to take along light (not flimsy) clothing.

Read

Books on Chennai:

Fiction set in Chennai

Early morning city

Chennai is a good morning city where all restaurants, shops and public transportation facilities are in full swing well before 6 a.m. Traffic is in full strength well before 8 a.m.

Talk

Road sign on Chennai - Bangalore highway

Tamil is the most widely spoken language in Chennai and is the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu. However, English, is well-understood and considerably well known in the city, with most of the well-educated upper class being fluent in English. The dialect of Tamil used by the locals is called Madras Bashai and includes a disproportionately high chunk of the English, Telugu, Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu vocabulary and their derivatives. White-collared professionals use Tamlish, a form of conversational Tamil with a large number of English words. Both forms of Tamil are different from the dialects spoken in other parts of the state and are often viewed upon contemptuously by Tamil purists.

Telugu is spoken by quarter population of the city. Most Telugu-speakers are settled in the city for generations and are usually bilingual in both Tamil and Telugu. However, the Telugu script is far-less understood and very few are literate in the language. As the centre of anti-Hindi agitations from the 1930s and the 1960s, the city has historically cherished a deep-rooted animosity for Hindi. However, since the 1980s, when the much-politicized rhetoric against Hindi began to tone down, tolerance for Hindi has been growing. Consequently, native Hindi speakers will not run into any problems speaking Hindi among themselves. Nevertheless, Hindi is not widely spoken or understood by locals. Hence, you will be better off trying Tamil or English instead of Hindi when attempting to speak to locals.

Get in

By plane

Chennai International Airport

Airport to City connection

Using the pre-paid taxi to get to the city, each terminal has several booths for several taxi companies when you exit the airport, outside before you meet the crowd. Fast Track has the best rep, figure on around ₹560 to the city centre for a Toyota Innova or equivalent. The fares are different for the domestic and international terminals though the terminals are next to each other. You can either choose the standard Taxis (Black with Yellow tops) which are usually the ancient Ambassador cars or the private call-taxi (which can come in any model and in any color). It's better to keep small change in hand while paying at the counters. Note the taxi number written on your charge slip (one copy is for the passenger and the other is for the driver to collect the fare from the counter). Make your way to the taxi stand and get the taxi number allotted at the designated desk. The helpful drivers offer to take your luggage and guide you to the taxi that drives up quickly near the allotment desk.

A new cab provider named "Fasttrack" has started off their service and a pre-paid booth of them is available at both domestic and international terminals. Comparing with the rest of the taxis their fare and service is pretty much good. Depends on your need you can get from Maruti van to Toyota Innova.

Prepaid and yellow top taxis are not air-conditioned, are of vintages right from 70s and 80s, rickety, prone to stop midway, drivers exhibit rough behaviour, sometimes could be dangerous, demand exorbitant fares, pre-paid may mean nothing and they may demand more when you get down. Keep away from these types.

Aviation Express is massively overpriced.

The Chennai Metro is under construction and expected to open in 2014/2015.

By train

Chennai Central Railway Station
Chennai Egmore station

Trains that connect Chennai to major hubs like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi are usually booked out days in advance. If you plan to travel by train, consider making an advance reservation, the reservation opens 60 days before the day of travel. The AC compartments in the trains are preferable for new travelers as the sleeper class and sitting class compartments are generally very crowded. A 3-tier AC berth from Chennai to Bangalore or Coimbatore costs around ₹700 and that to Delhi around ₹2500 including meals.

By bus

Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT)

All buses terminate near Koyambedu but there are different stands for state owned (CMBT) and private buses (Omni bus terminus). The two terminals are near each other, and it is better to tell your exact destination to the taxi/auto-rickshaw driver. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. Feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.

Several private players also operate buses between most southern destinations. During the weekends most buses are fully occupied and it's better to reserve a ticket in advance. All buses terminate near Koyambedu but there are different stands for state owned (CMBT) and private buses (Omni bus terminus). The two terminals are near each other, and it is better to tell your exact destination to the taxi/auto-rickshaw driver. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. Feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.

By car

Chennai is very well connected and to other parts of India by road. Five major national highways radiate outward towards Kolkata, Bengaluru, Tiruchy/Madurai, Tiruvallur, and Pondicherry. With the progress of the Golden Quadrilateral project, driving down from Bangalore is an option too. There are many car rental companies available.

Get around

Getting around the heart of Chennai city often takes time, due to traffic and heavy congestion. So it is advisable to plan your journey accordingly. Travelling within Chennai is not so cheap by Indian metropolitan standards, and are quite cheap by European and USA standards.

By train

Chennai has a suburban train network. There are four routes:

Chennai suburban rail and bus interconnectivity map
  1.   Chennai Central Suburban Railway Station.
    •   Arakkonam Suburban Railway Station, Railway Quarters Rd, Arakkonam North (Near to INS Rajali Naval Air Station - West 60 km from Center of City). ;
  2. Chennai Central Suburban Railway Station (see above)
    •   Gummidipoondi Suburban Railway Station (North 40 km from Center of City).
    •   Sulurpet Suburban Railway Station, Sulurpeta, Andhra Pradesh State (North 84 km from Center of City).
    •   Gudur Railway Station (Telugu: గుడూరు, Newari: गुडूरु), Gudur, Andhra Pradesh State (N-NW 58km from Sulurpet).
  3.   Chennai Beach Suburban Railway Station.
    •   Tambaram Suburban Railway Station (Tamil: தாம்பரம், Code:TBM), GST Road, Tambaram (SW 29km from Chennai Central).
    •   Chengalpet Suburban Railway Station, State Highway 58, J C K Nagar (Southwestern shore of the Kolavai Lake. - SW 29km from Tambaram). ;
  4. Chennai Beach Suburban Railway Station (see above)
    •   Velachery (MRTS) Suburban Railway Station (Located near the junction of Velachery Main Road and Inner Ring Road in Velachery. North of Pallikaranai Marshland.).

The suburban trains are generally reliable and fast. The frequency of suburban trains is generally good and it is advisable to take a first class ticket during peak hours. Trains offer a reliable alternative to quickly reach your destination when compared to buses which might get trapped in traffic jams. The fare in Chennai suburban trains is the lowest in the country and you don't have to compromise comfort for the meagre amount that you pay as in other Indian metros. There is a separate ladies compartment in the suburban trains that are relatively less crowded even in peak hours. The lowest second class train fare is ₹4/-. However, you might need to wait even for almost half an hour in a queue for ticket during peak hours. So it would be best if you buy a card that is available at every station that can be used to buy tickets from a ticket vending machine that almost nobody uses. Always keep your baggage safe when you are traveling in the suburban railway system.

Chennai Metro Rail

The part of the new Metro Rail from Koyembedu to Alandur has opened. The fare between the two stations is ₹40 per person. Other lines are under construction and will soon be operational. They will connect the airport, the railway station, the CMBT bus station and most of the city.

By bus

Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses ply throughout the city. These are government-run and extremely cheap.

Normally Bus Fare in MTC range from ₹4 - ₹30. State corporation also has Deluxe and A/C Buses for Chennai Passengers. Fare for deluxe bus is almost two times as compared to normal bus. For same route, deluxe and normal bus have same number but deluxe buses are being run targeting long distance journey since it will stop at major bus stops only. So if you find normal buses too crowded, take a deluxe one. Non AC deluxe also have power gates and better suspension which you won't find in normal bus. If you have luggage with you, you might have to pay the cost of an extra person depending upon its size.

MTC Chennai operates AC bus service between important routes like Parrys - Tambaram, Parrys - CMBT, Chennai Central - CMBT, Chennai central - Tambaram, etc. Most frequent AC bus runs between CMBT towards Pondicherry and are known as East coast road (ECR) buses and is very popular for intracity travel too.

Daily and weekly bus passes are available for tourists costing ₹50 or ₹300. They can be used on normal and deluxe bus services (but not AC) on all routes within the city. It is worthwhile to purchase the daily pass if you plan to visit more than a couple of places in a day and it will save you from the trouble to maintain loose change. The daily pass can be purchased on the first bus you board from the conductor, while the weekly and monthly passes are sold at kiosks located in major terminus. Recently a hop-on hop-off tour bus has also been organized by the Government. The service covers many of the famous sights along the scenic East Coast Road up to Mahabalipuram.

Bus Route information for MTC Chennai is available online at official site and Jaanlo.

State Express Transport Corporation buses go to different parts of the state. Private carriers also run to other towns/cities in state. You can buy these bus tickets online at redBus or readIndia or RathiMeena.

By auto-rickshaw

Chennai has about 71,000 auto rickshaws.

The fares of Chennai auto rickshaws have been an enormous political topic for many years and has contributed to the perception that the city's auto rickshaw drivers never use meters and continually fleece passengers. However, despite the reputation, trips by auto rickshaw actually are quick, cheap and quite often based on the metered price.

In the autumn of 2013, the government and Chennai auto rickshaw drivers agreed to a new tariff structure for rides. The minimum fare was set at ₹25 for the first 1.8km and ₹12/km for every additional kilometre. Waiting charges were set at ₹3.50 for every five minutes and ₹42 per hour. Between 11pm and 5am, the fare is 50% higher than the normal daytime rate.

The government also announced at the time that it would spend ₹80 crore (US $12.5 million) to outfit auto rickshaw meters with GPS and electronic digital receipt printers. As of 2015, though, only a small fraction of autos actually have these features.

Both the government and the auto rickshaw drivers, through their organization Madras Metro Auto Drivers Association, hailed the 2013 fare hikes as a major agreement that would benefit drivers and passengers alike, and create a sense of fairness among all. However, the reality on the streets is different. In practice, the situation as of 2015 is for the driver and passenger to agree before the ride begins to a price of a) meter, b) meter + some additional amount, or c) a fixed price.

In theory, rickshaw drivers' permits should be cancelled if they charge more than the metered fare, but drivers' political strength is powerful and this provision is essentially never enforced.

Whether the auto driver will agree to a metered fare depends on many factors. Generally, many drivers will agree to a fare of meter plus ₹10-₹30 additional. But at busy times such as rush hours on weekdays, almost no drivers will agree to the metered price and will insist on a fixed price, or at a minimum demand a fare of meter plus 30-100. On the other hand, at slower times, for example Sundays, many drivers will agree to metered prices with no surcharge. Some drivers will simply never accept metered fares no matter what time it is.

The fixed prices which auto drivers demand is related to distance. They generally have a good sense for how much the fare would be for a given route and ask for fixed prices around double what it would cost by meter. For shorter distances which would cost 25-50 by the meter, the fixed price demanded is initially 100-150. For longer distances which would cost 50-150 by meter, the fixed price demanded will be 200-300. Depending on the situation, it's possible to negotiate down the initially demanded fixed price.

For short distances up to 1.8km, auto drivers as of 2015 very rarely will agree to the metered price of 25. Generally, ₹40-50 is the minimum most will require for any trip, although at off-peak hours, it might be possible with negotiation and speaking to many autos to find a driver who will agree to ₹30-₹40. For a typical trip in the city of 3-5km, many drivers will initially demand ₹100-₹150, but at non-peak hours a fare of ₹50-₹60 will usually be sufficient after speaking to a few drivers.

At all times, the price agreed depends very much on the passenger's knowledge of the distance involved and price it would cost by meter, his/her negotiation skill, and the time s/he is willing to spend asking auto after auto. In almost any central area, there are many autos around, so if you have the time, it's possible to save quite a bit by speaking to many auto drivers until you find an acceptable fare.

Many passengers now opt for Ola, Uber or other similar taxi-order services simply to avoid the frustration and time involved with negotiating with auto after auto.

Note that all autos in Chennai have meters, but at least a quarter of drivers have disabled their meter in some way in order to make it not functional and the passenger must agree to a fixed price if s/he wants to use that auto. For those meters which function, you can see the price, kilometers and waiting time, and thereby confirm that the meter is fairly following the official tariff structure.

Share autos have emerged in the recent years as an alternative mode of transport in Chennai. They are over-sized three wheelers running on diesel and charge slightly more than the bus. There are four wheelers known as meter taxis, which don't have a meter and are not taxis. Recently, yet another four wheeler, Magic (manufactured by Tata), has started running in and around the city, which operate similar to share autos and meter taxis. They are all over crowded and the drivers indulge in rash driving, owing to the competition. The only advantage is that it is cost effective.

On a side note - if you are fascinated by the idea of going around in an auto, think about all those foreigners, who are riding an auto from Chennai to Mumbai. A Chennai based event management company, Chennai Event Management Services, has been having these auto-rickshaw rallies from Chennai to Mumbai, or Kanyakumari, etc., and has developed a great fan following for the same. More info:

By taxi

Taxis (locally called "call-taxis" since they must be pre-arranged) are available by phone. They are mostly reliable, can be ordered air-conditioned, and have digital fare meters, although time-based hire is also possible with some companies. Most companies charge a minimum fare of ₹150/-, which is for 5 km (3 mi) and for every subsequent kilometre they charge ₹18/-. Alternatively, you can hire a car for a half/full day for around ₹800/1300. These figures are for basic non-AC Ambassadors, add about 50% if you want a comfier aircon Tata Indica. Waiting charges are included in the meter cost but you are required to pay parking and toll fees additional to the fare displayed in the meter. If your trip is time-sensitive, it's best to book your taxi a few hours in advance and call shortly before your trip to confirm.

Most prepaid taxi operators have choice of vehicles. Indica is the ubiquitous hatch back that can seat 3 passengers, but it is almost impossible to find one of these well maintained. Opt for a Figo or Liva instead of the Indica when you book the taxi, these are newer models and likely to be in better state of maintenance. If you prefer a sedan, choices are Etios, Maruti Dzire and Ford Fiesta. SUV models Innova or Xylo have more space and are suitable for small groups (up to 7). Innova has a well deserved reputation with travelers for airport transfers due to the reliability, spacious seats and capacity to carry more luggage.

Tourist Cabs - Are the best choice in case you want to tour the city all day or visit nearby places like Mahabalipuram, Tirupati, etc. Costs about ₹10/-₹ per kilometre and ₹100 per hour as hire charges. Also generally there is special price if you need to go Chennai Central or Chennai Airport.

Some radio taxi services are:

By car

It is generally not advisable for foreign travelers to drive on their own as they might be unaware of the traffic rules and congestion in the city. The roads in Chennai are better maintained than the average Indian road. The main highway is Anna Salai also known as Mount Road.

The complex road routes may confuse novice driver and it is sheer waste of time. If you choose to rent a car, it's highly advisable to hire a driver as well. Typical driver fee comes to around ₹250 for 4-hour shift and an additional ₹50 every hour thereafter. Outstation trips cost a driver fee of ₹750 for a 12-hour journey.

Foreign travelers should keep in mind that both diesel and petrol are used as fuel in India and it varies with the model of the car. Some cars have identical models with only a D badge to indicate diesel. Make sure you find out what type of fuel the car uses from the rental company.

ECR or East coast road is one of the very few places around Chennai that is best enjoyed by car. There are a lot of scenic views with many sightseeing options along the route. For most of the sights within the city limits, travelers would be better served by public transport or a taxi.

See

Churches

Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas
St. Anthony Armenian Church

Mosques

Big Mosque, Chennai

Temples

Gopurams of Kapaleeshwarar Temple
Universal Temple, Sree Ramakrishna Madh, Mylapore,Chennai

Other holy places

Memorials

Monuments

Fort St. George, is located on the banks of Bay of Bengal. It was (formerly known as White Town) was established as the East India Company's fortified foothold in Madras and it was from this small trading post (or 'factory' as it was then known) that British influence spread throughout India. The establishment of Fort St. George marked the birth of the new city that is Madras, in the year 1640. The fort was named after St George who is believed to have preached in the region. The British East India Company, after buying the land from the Nayak of Vandavasi in 1639, led the establishment of what was called the Madrasemen, the permanent settlement of the company. One year later they built the fort as a commanding post in the region. With the increased trade activities of East India Company the region soon developed into a popular trade and commerce centre. The British enjoyed the supremacy in the region till 1746, when the French attacked the fort and captured it. After three years, in 1749 the British regained the ruling power by signing a treaty with the French. In the meantime they fortified the base in order to sustain the invasion of Hyder Ali and the French. The fort is believed to be the first establishment of the British in India. It is a military architecture marvel, which was started as a trading post and later evolved to be the origin of modern Indian Army. St. George Fort holds great historical importance and is looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India. It has a number of other monuments within its boundaries. Inside the Fort is the Fort Museum is decorated with cannons of Tipu Sultan. There are a lot of interesting artifacts showcased in the museum like coins, artifacts and so on. Apart from the museum, the southern division of the Archaeological Survey of India is located here. The place is famous for its exotic collection of books in the library. Today, Fort St George is famous for housing the legislative assembly and is known as the secretariat building. The fort in its present form looks more like a mansion, rather any fort. Various Government offices function inside this building, including the structure which used to be the residence of Robert Clive called the Clive House. St. Mary's Church, situated in the fort, is one of the oldest surviving churches built by the British in India. The tallest flag pole in the country can be seen here, its height is 150 feet. The Pole is now made of metal was originally made entirely of teak wood. 10AM-5PM daily except closed on F. Fort Museum: For children below 15 years free. For Indians: ₹5/- For foreigners: $ 20.

Museums and Art Galleries

Do

Beaches

Chennai has several well known beaches:

Breezy Beach
Edward Elliot's beach

Parks

Others

Music and Dance

Chennai is famous for its concerts and performances that take place in various auditoriums and temples throughout the year, which are announced in the Hindu and other local newspapers. During the Tamil month of Maargazhi (December - January) there is a series of classical Carnatic music concerts and classical dance performances in various parts of the city, but the best are organized in various Sabhas (loosely translates to "concert house"). You will see mostly older celebrities, although occasionally there will be some world-class young virtuosos. Free entry passes are usually given out for debutante performances (called Arangetram in Tamil) and for performances held on weekdays (before 4PM when the crowd starts filling up).

Chennai is a major centre of Bharata Natyam with over 1000 dance performances a year. More dance forms are now encouraged and taught like Kuchipudi (Traditional dance form from Andhra Pradesh), Mohini Attam, etc. Some other dances like Odissi Manipuri can be found, but are rarer.

Cinema

When in Chennai, do not miss a chance to watch a movie. There are several new Tamil movie releases every Friday or to coincide with holidays. Apart from Tamil, movies in other Indian languages like Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam also get wide releases in Chennai. Many of the Hollywood franchise movies enjoy a huge fan following and are screened at some theaters (dubbed) in Tamil. Make sure to book your tickets in advance especially for the weekend, because most of the cinemas will be sold out. Chennai also provides best cinematic experience at lowest cost ₹120/- and lesser, which is very less compared to other metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Check out any local newspaper or websites to get to know the movies running in and around Chennai. Some of the cinema halls are

Sports

Chennai has been one of the prominent sporting location in India, with wide variety of sports played almost everywhere right from every street corners to big stadium matches.

M. A. Chidambaram Stadium (Famously known as Chepauk Stadium)

Cricket by itself is a festival in India,every TV in the Mall is tuned to cricket during the match season and the whole city would be tuned in to the sport some way or another. Chennai is an international venue for cricket and is also a home ground for the Chennai super Kings cricket team. While in Chennai it might be interesting to catch a game and enjoy the electric spirit of Indian cricket. Close to Chepauk there are several sporting goods stores where you can buy good quality cricket equipment at low prices.

Chennai Open. A prominent ATP250 tennis tournament that happens around January every year, the event has attracted lot of high ranked players such as Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moyá, Stanislas Wawrinka and Leader Paes. The SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam (a short walk from Valluvar Kottam) is the venue for the event since 1997. The event is well organized with details including ticket sales published online.

Learn

Chennai has dozens of different institutes of higher learning from arts to engineering. The city also offers plenty of opportunities to learn Yoga, Bhartanatyam, Carnatic music and the Bhagavad Gita.

Buy

Shopping malls

Chennai coffee shop
Chennai jasmine vendor at Pondy Bazaar

Books

Chennai has a wide selection of rare books and maps in the many second-hand book stalls.

For more current publications:

Book Fair:

Clothes

Crafts

Art galleries

Sarees

Jewellery

Musical instruments

In addition to these there are several exhibitions at Das Community Hall (Cathedral Rd), Shankara Hall (TTK Rd) where artisans display their work. Check the local newspapers for details and timings.

Eat

Chennai has numerous restaurants, offering an assortment of cuisine. The beach restaurants are well maintained and serve great food during the evenings. The eat outs in Chennai range from budget, midrange and to up-market. There are swanky star quality restaurants, plain open traditional vegetarian or non vegetarian restaurants- where you share a table with strangers, street stalls, tea kadais, fast food centers, western fast food centers, food courts, coffee shops, bakeries to exclusive specialty establishments. Vegetarian restaurants serve tiffin and vegetarian meals. There are also a number of restaurants that serve a variety of Tamil, Andhra and Kerala vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. Many of these restaurants have nowadays diversified and offer other Indian and Indianized Chinese dishes as well. Usually the check includes a service charge, written next to 'S.C.' If no service charge is added, it is customary to leave a moderate tip.

Budget

Typical Tamil lunch consists of white rice, vegetable fry, planatain, curd and papad.

All these budget eateries serve only vegetarian food and are very cheap.

Mid-range

North Indian

Seafood

Others:

Splurge

Afghan

Chinese

Coffee Shop

Continental

Grill and Indian Cuisine

Italian

Japanese

Korean

Lebanese and Middle Eastern Delicacies

Mexican

Multi-Cuisine

North Indian

Seafood Restaurant

South Indian

Thailand Delicacies

Drink

Chennai is a difficult place to drink. Government rule states that only establishments with a minimum of 21 rooms can obtain a bar/ liquor license. Hence there are no standalone bars or pubs here. All the bars that are around are part of some hotel or the other and in general overpriced. Government run liquor stores called TASMAC are all over the place but in general not at all a pleasant experience. They usually have rude staff, are filthy and usually never have the brand of your choice. Also they always tend to mark up each bottle by ₹5 to 10 over the listed price. Go for it if you want a one time war like experience in order to obtain some booze!

Nightclubs close at 23.00, even on Fridays and Saturdays, according to government rule.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Local specialities - soft drinks

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

The closest hotels to the airport are The Trident, Le Royal Meridian, Hilton and Radisson GRT Hotel all five star properties.

Stay safe

Chennai is generally a safer area of India in terms of crime, although pickpocketing, muggings, and robberies sporadically occur. Keep your doors and windows shut and locked at night and do not carry or display large amounts of cash if possible.

It is advisable for women, especially unaccompanied ones, to dress modestly and limit their interaction with unfamiliar local men. Foreigners are generally overcharged by autorickshaws simply because they are ignorant of the prevailing fares. It is necessary to confirm whether the driver knows the exact destination and to fix the fare before boarding. 'Autos', as autorickshaws are known in Chennai, are notorious for fleecing customers, tourists and locals alike.

Be alert to your surroundings and watch where you step, especially if you get caught in a large crowd where it is difficult to look at what is in front of you. Cross streets extremely carefully as traffic is generally heavy. On major roads, use the underground crossings (locally called "subways"). Avoid using underground road-crossing/ subways in the night or if you notice them to be empty. Traffic signals are frequently ignored by drivers and pedestrians alike, and it is not at all advisable for tourists to try driving in Chennai.

Stay healthy

While in Chennai it is advisable to drink bottled water keep a bottle handy as it is EXTREMELY HOT. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits that have sat outside in the presence of insects can also be unhealthy, although bananas and coconuts are usually safe because they are opened only immediately before eating. Hot drinks in restaurants such as tea, coffee, and other local specialties are safe, as are packaged/bottled drinks such as Aquafina water, Frooti (a popular local mango drink) and others. If you have access to a stove, boiling tap water before drinking is also an option. Chennai summers are humid and sultry; it's better to step out with an umbrella, bottled water and some oral rehydration salts (available from pharmacies, the brand name is Electral). These come in handy if you happen to get dehydrated.

Chennai is the medical capital of South East Asia.

Hospitals

Pharmacies

Connect

Landlines

BSNL and Airtel Reliance, Tata, are main providers of terrestrial telephone lines in Chennai. You can make long distance calls from one of the many booths that display NSD/ISD i.e. National Subscriber Dialling (National Long Distance) and International Subscriber Dialling (International Long Distance). Calling cards are also available with these providers which are considerably cheap.

Mobile Phones

Cell phone rates are one of the cheapest in the world. There are Ten GSM service providers:

You can buy a sim card with a photo and a copy of your passport. For making long distance calls Aircel is cheaper with ₹49 card calls to US and Canada will be ₹1.50/Min. this will work only in home network. For other destinations Please check with operator.

CDMA service providers are Reliance,TATA Indicom, Virgin Mobile and MTS.

Starter packs and top-up cards can be picked up from numerous outlets. Seemles roaming across the country is provided by all providers.

Internet

There are several Internet cafes from where you can access the internet for sending email or uploading your digital photos.

Apart from that you can access Internet provided in your hotel or if you are staying long you can buy Internet packs from all mobile providers.

Cope

ATMs

ATM cards issued by any bank will work with ATM of any other bank, but they may impose restrictions on number of transactions, amount per transaction and may also charge a small transaction fee of ₹20.

Money changers

Many hotels will change money for you at the front desk. However, they may not have the best rates.

It is best to change money at the city based money changers than the ones located at the airports. The ones at the airport offer much less for exchanging forex into Indian Rupees (₹) and sell forex for a much higher rate than the market rate.

Beauty parlors & hair salons

Gyms

Post & telegraphs

The telegraph office on Anna Salai (Mount Rd), near Higgin Bothoms accepts letters and parcels up to 8PM with a small late fee. Snail Mail in India is by a Post Card (25Ps), Inland Letter ₹5, or envelope ₹5. Speed Post facility allows you to send mail more conveniently than a courier service. They have a pan India coverage and also provide international service. International delivery is considerably slower than private competitors like FedEX or UPS but it is also much cheaper. Telegraph services have been discontinued from July 2013 citing very poor response.

Due to proliferation of mobile phones and VOIP, the public telephones are fast disappearing. Telephone Booths or public telephones in India can still be found near travel hotspots like the airport, railway station or CMBT and usually painted with the letters PCO (Public Call office,local calls), STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) and ISD (International Subscriber Dialling). All booths have electronic metering and you pay what's displayed on the meter (included in the metering is a nominal ₹2 as service charges). You'll also get a receipt if you insist on one. Coin operated phones ₹1 are located in many busy junctions (easily identified by bright yellow or red colour) but support only local calls.

Libraries & Cultural Centres

High Commissions

Go next

Even as recently as about ten years ago, the ECR, which was then known as the New Mahabalipuram Road, had nothing much to offer by way of entertainment, except for VGP Golden Beach and Romulus Whittaker's crocodile bank. Further down, the road led you to Mahabalipuram, and that was that.

The scenario that meets a traveller today is entirely different. The East Coast Road could very well be termed the entertainment highway of Chennai. The road is brand new, flanked by the sea on the left and dotted with amusement spots through the entire stretch. Driving down ECR is an experience. Really!

You can pick and choose from Amusement Parks, Water Sports Centres, Beaches, Eco Conservation, Cultural and Religious Centres, Restaurants or Resorts to spend your day in. The road caters to practically every type of pastime that one could think about.

Krishna's Butter Ball- Mamallapuram

Temples

South India is famous for its temples. Even if you aren't on a pilgrimage, these are worth a visit if you are interested in grand buildings and architecture. There are 33, 000 temples in and around Chennai. Some of them are -

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