Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport(IATA: CCU) connects Kolkata with South East Asia and receives some flights from Europe. Most of the traffic towards Western hemisphere is handled by Emirates(Twice Daily) and Qatar Airways. New operators are coming soon. The domestic terminal, on the other hand, is among the best in India. It has undergone a major face-lift and expansion including a swanky new terminal,night landing facilities,etc to cope with the expanding bulk of air traffic and new airline companies popping up almost every month.
Take a prepaid taxi from the airport to the city. It is about 20 km from the city. Expect to pay about Rs. 150-250 depending on your destination. There is a new rail link connecting the airport to the Circular Rail station in Dum Dum, however very few trains actually operate on the line at present.
There are two major railway stations in Kolkata – Howrah (not in Kolkata actually, it’s in the adjoining city Howrah) and Sealdah. A new terminus station called ‘Kolkata’ has also started functioning since 2005, but presently it accommodates very few trains. Directly facing Howrah are ferries (Rs. 4) that can get you to the other side of the river either Babu Ghat or Fairlie Place from where you can arrange onward transportation with anything from taxis to public buses to human rickshaws. With the traffic situation this might actually save you time as well as money. The Foreign Ticket Office is on Fairlie Place (with the main GPO on your left, take the next left – the office is a few minutes walk on the left) – very helpful and efficient service.
Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to the North Eastern India. If you are coming to Kolkata by trains using Sealdah station, you may prefer taking a pre-paid taxi to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stand is just outside the station’s main entrance. Pre-paid taxis are reliable and will save you money and also the bargaining hassle.
You can find many cabs on the roads or you can always hire one from the numerous taxi stands strewn across the major cities. There are pre paid taxis also available at major railway stations and airports. You can also hire luxury vehicles from certain travel agencies.
To/from Bangladesh There are numerous bus options between Kolkata and Bangladesh. The most common way is the regular comfortable a/c buses from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private bus companies Shohagh , Green Line ,Shyamoli and others operate daily bus services on this route. Govt. buses run under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). WBSTSC and BRTC both operate buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30AM and 8:30AM, and 12:30PM while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs550 or BDT600-800, roughly $8-12. If you’re only headed to Haridaspur the fare is Rs86 (2.5 hours). The Shyamoli Paribahan ticket office is at 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), 2252 0693. Beware that several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border it’s best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the math on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for Tk5 for the 2km trip to the bus stand for onward travel – or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least half way.
To/from Eastern India via Bangladesh Bus travel to some points in Eastern India are faster via Bangladesh (please note that visas may be required for entry into Bangladesh as well as for re-entry into India). If you’re heading to points in Eastern India (Tripura for example) beyond Bangladesh — then there is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of India’s Tripura state. Two BRTC buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with the Tripura Road Transport Corporation vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of BDT600 ($10). There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call +880 2 8360241 for schedule. Other entry points to North-Eastern India through Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati / Haldibari and Banglaband border posts through Northern Bangladesh and Tamabil / Dawki border post for a route between Shillong (Meghalaya) and Sylhet in North-Eastern Bangladesh, and some others with lesser known routes from north-eastern Indian regions. Although scheduled bus-services to Shillong/Meghalaya from Kolkata through Dhaka may not be offered at present – it is still possible to get to those points via land routes going through Sylhet and then on to Tamabil/Dawki border outposts. Enquire at the Bus Service Counters for details.
Kolkata was famous for having the best restaurants long before Indians in other cities learned to eat out. Many of the restaurants that line the streets in the Esplanade area have been around for more than a hundred years (unfortunately, many also show their age!). Flury’s , on Park Street, was once considered the best English bakery in all of Asia and you can almost imagine Joe Stilwell and Lord Mountbatten arguing over who had command over the allied forces in Burma while enjoying tea, scones, and clotted cream!
But the joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam’s, in New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat and enjoy. Mughali Paratha (a paratha stuffed with minced meat) is a Calcutta speciality and can be found in various ‘cabins’ off Chowringhee Road. ‘Chops’, a sort of deep fried ball stuffed with beet and veggies is another peculiarity that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Puchkas, the Calcutta version of paani-puri, is available on the streets but be wary of the water!
Bengali sweets are famous all over India. Rasagolla (cheese balls dipped in a sugary syrup), Pantua – a fried variant of the same, Rosomalai- the same cheeseballs dipped in creamy sweetened milk, Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), Sandesh (several variations available). Try some shops like K.C. Das, Jugal’s, Bhim Nag, Nakur Nandy, Sen Mahasoy, Ganguram and not to forget Mithai. These are cheap and should be eaten fresh.
Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food (now making inroads in far-off New York!). Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian chinese dish of chilli chicken.
Bengali food is centered around fish. Macher jhol, literally fish in curry gravy, is a watery fish curry available everywhere and goes well with rice, but Bengalis everywhere swear by the hilsa fish (a variant of shad). Hilsa, lightly marinaded in mustard and steamed is up there with the best fish dishes in the world.
“Oh! Calcutta!” on the fourth Floor of Forum Mall, Elgin Road, serves authentic Bengali food. The specialities are the boneless Hilsa Fish fillet, steamed in a bannana leaf and served with a Mustard Gravy. Many expats, yuppies and affluent Kolkattans frequent this restaurant. The food is great, though bordering on the expensive, and portions usually small. Makes for an interesting evening out, accompanied by the incessant Bengali chatter, so characteristic of Kolkatta.
While it can be difficult to find a restaurant serving authentic Bengali food, today Kolkata has of as many 10 Bengali restaurants. One of the most authentic is Kewpies, situated behind Netaji Bhavan at 2 Elgin Lane. Here, food is served on terra cotta plates with banana leaves. There’s also “Aaheli” at Peerless Inn, or the more reasonably priced “Suruchi” at 89 Elliot Road. There is a wide choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with an emphasis on local fish. Thalis (platters) are also available. Still, being invited back to a local’s place for a home-cooked meal is the best way to sample Bengali cooking!
6 Ballygunge Place is stituated in South Kolkata and also offers an assortment of Bengali dishes. Bhjohori Maana has 6 outlets across the city. In South Kolkata, the Hindisthan Road outlet (Gariahat) is the best. Taroparbon is situated in Hindusthan Park, and has a large menu.
Kastur and Rahhuni are eateries, both offering Bangladeshi food and are situated off Free School Street, near Park Street.
Suruchi is an old eatery, which serves only lunch in simple surroundings, and is run by the destitute women of ‘The All Bengal Women’s Union’ at Elliot Road, off Free School Street.
For authentic Asian cuisine (Thai, Indonesian, Japanese) head to The Fifth Element in Chowringhee. It is a fresh entry to Kolkata’s epicurean culture and has gained quick patronage. Also, AC water is a must.
Park Street in Kolkata is a place for wealthy people to eat. It has restaurants like Magnolia, Peter Cat , Moulin Rouge, Bar-B-Q and Mocambo. They serve sizzlers, steaks, and kebabs as well as authentic Chinese food in Bar-B-Q.
Kolkata has long had a concentration of budget backpacker hotels in the Sudder Street area and many of these are colonial era gems, albeit decaying ones. Budget hotels can also be found around the station in Howrah. Sudder Street is more centrally located but both are well connected by public transport.
There are numerous luxurious and big budget 5 star & 4 star hotels around town. Such as ITC Sonar (near Science city), The Oberoi Grand (Chowringhee), Taj Bengal (Belvedere Road, Alipur), Hyatt Regency (off EM Bypass), The Kenilworth (Russel St), Hotel Hindustan Internation (AJC Bose Rd), The Park (Park St).
British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members. Tollygunge Club is the ideal place to chill out. Drink chilled draft beer, lie in the outdoor jacuzzi and dine in style at the Belvedere.
Hotel Aston, 3, Aston Road, Kolkata – 700 020, India, ☏: 091-033-24863145, Hotel Aston is strategically situated in the heart of Kolkata, India, close to the city center. It is 20 km from the Dumdum Airport and 6 km from the Howrah Railway Station. Designed to offer complete comfort without breaking your budget, Hotel Aston’s air-conditioned rooms are furnished with a television and telephone. Running hot and cold water is also provided. For anything else you might need, room service is available round the clock. ?.
Housez 43, 43, Mirza Galib Street, Kolkata – 700 016, India, ☏: +91 33 2227 6020 to 21, Housez 43 is a boutique hotel in Kolkata, India. It has 28 tastefully designed rooms that reflects fine aesthetics. Their dining room is cozy, and provides a perfect European experience.
Hotel Samilton, 37, Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata – 20, India., 3051, ☏: 7700 / 7777, The Hotel Samilton is in Sarat Bose Road, the commercial hub of Kolkata, West Bengal, INDIA. Kolkata is one of the major metropolitan cities of India.The Hotel Samilton offers all facilities of a Modern Hotel with homely comfort. The hotel is well equipped and provide the best of services. Rates start at Rs. 2595.00.
Hotel Roland, 28A, Rowland Road, Kolkata – 700 020, ☏: (033) 30517600, Hotel Roland is Situated in Central Kolkata, and the Maxmuller Bhavan is near by. It is around a 45 minutes drive away from the airport.The Hotel is located 8 kms. from Netaji Subhash Airport, 3 kms. from Howrah Railway Station and 1 km. from Esplanade Bus Stand. Hotel Roland offers 25 Air-Conditioned rooms with attached modern baths. Rates start at Rs. 1895.00.
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