Pondicherry

Pondicherry (also known as "Pondy", officially called Puducherry, also Pondichéry), is a city and capital of the Pondicherry (Puducherry) union territory of Southern India.

French Memorial on Beach Road

Understand

Though very small, Pondichérry 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 in 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 rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est). If you've spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondichérry by land, you'll 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 from East to West of the central canal reveals two cities with very different characters.

Talk

The main language spoken in Pondichérry is Tamil, though French is also widely spoken. Telugu and Malayalam are the other two official languages, but their use is generally confined to specific districts.

English is spoken by most educated people, and is the lingua franca between people from different linguistic districts. If you know English or Tamil, you can survive your visit to Pondichérry. French alone will not help.

Get in

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

By road

Pondichérry is well connected from all sides. Chennai is situated 160 km north of the city. Getting to Pondichérry involves a three hour road journey from Chennai. One can get a bus from CMBT in Koyambedu or from Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. You can be sure of a seat only from CMBT in Koyambedu.

The ECR bus, which can be picked up at the Tiruvanmiur stop in Chennai, is the most economical way of getting to Pondichérry, costing less than ₹100. The ECR bus will drop you at the main bus terminal, and rickshaws will be outside waiting to take you the rest of the way. Rickshaws can be bargained down to ₹50 to get to the French Quarter.

You can also take a taxi from Chennai Airport. It costs ₹1,500 (c. USD35) (Dec 2009)

The road from Chennai to Pondichérry (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 (has a cool boat house), Marakkanam (contains large areas under salt pans), Kanagachettikulam/Kalapet etc. before reaching Pondichérry.

The other route that can be taken to reach Pondy is through the National Highway 45 (NH-45) famously called the Grand Southern Trunk (GST). This route passes through Tambaram, Madhurantakam, Melmaruvathur and Tindivanam before reaching Pondichérry. Both the major roads from Chennai are toll roads and take approximately the same time.

Pondichérry is about 320 km 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.

By 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. It is advisable to go by road rather than train to Pondicherry from Chennai as the journey is longer by train.

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.

By plane

Pondichérry has an airport with facilities for the landing of small aircraft like Dornier, Cessna, etc. Spicejet operates daily afternoon flights from Bangalore (with connections to/from other major Indian cities) since January 2013. Several airlines have shown interest in flying to Puducherry Airport. 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 135km 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.

Get around

By bicycle or motorcycle

The best way to see Pondichérry and its surrounding areas is by renting out a "pedal cycle" or a "motorcycle" or "gearless scooter". But as traffic increases, it is increasingly difficult to walk in many streets as they are crowded. 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. The Pondicherry tourism development corporation has daily bus services for tourists and it covers all the important tourist spots to be seen in Pondicherry. It is the best and most economic way to tour Pondichérry.

See

Gandhi Statue on Beach Road
Sri Auronbindo Ashram

It's a small beach compared to Promenade and other beaches in the town. You can find ice cream and snack vendors around the corner.

You can take a motorboat to Paradise beach from here.

There is not much to do at the beach if you are travelling solo but a perfect place for romance.

Also known as the area of 'Peace' is a well-built globe with reflectors. You need to make booking in advance between 9AM and 4PM if you are a first-time visitor. Entry is free but only allowed on Sundays, and the place is strictly used for meditation.

Churches

Temples

Do

There is not much one is expected to do at Pondichérry. You would understand this better once you get there and understand the pace of life.

You can also do some serious meditation at the Auroville, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, or going to Bharatanatyam performances that are often organized there by the Auroville Cultural Exchange in the local temples, or at major hotels.

You can also go fishing in a Catamaran or while away your evenings at the Rocky Beach. You can also hire mopeds and go on long drives for the sandy beaches that dot the coast line.

You can also experience staying in a traditional 'Parapachai' house - an affectionate name given by connoisseurs to traditional green colored houses. First class experience.

Massage courses

Buy

What to buy

Eat

Pondicherry is known for its wide variety of cuisines ranging from South Indian delicacies like idly and dosa to seafood like fried fish, prawn bajji and parota.

French influence can be seen to some extent in the local food. The best options are still the local delicacies; the excellent seafood. Good French food is available at restaurants around the French part of town.

Drink

Good branded liquor like Smirnoff, Bacardi and different Scotch whiskies are very inexpensive as there is no sales tax in Pondicherry. A good store owned by M/s. Vinbros & Co. with best choice of variety of brands is the "TOP KNOTCH" on Tail end of Beach Road - South Boulevard.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Always carry passport with you and put a sticky note inside it with phone number of your travel consultant. Never pay anyone upfront, especially to agents or drivers.

Never exchange money with unauthorized foreign exchange dealers. Ask for receipt after exchanging money with the broker.

Don’t get trap in the narcotics trading, as no one wants to end his journey in prison. Switch off your mobile phones while in museums, temples and churches or they will be confiscated.

Cope

Hospitals

Consulates

Pondicherry is allowed one French consulate as a special case, even though India's policy is generally to allow foreign missions only in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.