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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

Which are the tips one should keep in mind when travelling to Kolkata (Calcutta)?

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Smart planning will ensure you can make the most of your time, money and holiday in the City of Joy. Read up on the following tips and keep them in mind for your sojourn in Kolkata for an unforgettable holiday:

Cash

  • Make sure you are never carrying too much cash around in the city. Kolkata has a number of easily locatable ATMs where you can draw money, but it is always advisable to keep small amounts tucked away at different places while travelling.
  • If you are converting money in Kolkata, the procedure involves the declaration of the same on a receipt. This is called an Encashment Certificate and reads as follows, “This is to certify that I/We ... have purchased foreign currency today” and so on. You will also require your passport for the same.


Transport


  • Try using the metro as much as you can when travelling within the city, as it is the cheapest and fastest way to make your way around the city. Some of the popular attractions located close to the metro stations are
    Kalighat, Maidan, Rabindra Sadan, Esplanade and Park Street.

  • When hiring a taxi, make sure you insist on travelling by the metre and pay only after you have had a look at the fare chart. If a driver refuses to abide by the metre, let the cab go and take the next one that comes your way. You might have to shell out a few extra bucks in the night, try to negotiate as much as you can before coughing up the sum.

  • If you
    plan to travel in an auto, remember it can seat only 4 people and the fourth passenger shares his seat with the driver! Make sure you keep your kids close if travelling by auto and don't let them take their limbs out of the open spaces. The auto fare is fixed per person so you don't have to haggle before paying.


Stay


  • If you plan to travel to Kolkata in the on season (
    October to February) or during the Pooja time, make sure you have an advance booking for a hotel room. The city is packed during these times and it is not advisable to go without arrangements for a place to crash.

  • If you are staying at a low budget lodging, make sure you lock your luggage and padlock the same to bed posters or something sturdy before leaving the place. Don't leave valuables and important documents behind.


Sightseeing


  • If you are planning a short trip to Kolkata, it always comes in handy to plan which attractions you want to see and which ones you could give a miss. For example, if travelling with children, prefer a place like
    Nehru Children’s Museum or Nicco Park over something like the Institute of Fine Arts which they can relish.

  • Get a head’s up about the visiting times of the monuments that figure in your day’s itinerary from your hotels travel desk before you leave for the place. If you want to hire a guide, request for one at the ticket counter and make sure you always get a government approved guide.

  • When visiting religious places like Kalighat, steer clear of all over-helpful priests trying to lure you by saying you can avoid queues or for special pooja rituals. These episodes never end well and you might just be asked to cough up exorbitant amounts for nothing. Also, try to keep the gold jewellery you wear a minimum when travelling to these places.

  • Please honor the ‘No Photography’ rule.

  • You can also pick up the book,
    A Jaywalker’s Guide to Calcutta by Soumitra Das, for a different perspective on all that Kolkata houses in its narrow and forgotten lanes, turns and corners. Not only is the book a good read, it will also be your lively companion on the Kolkata sojourn.


General Tips


  • People with any breathing problems should keep their medicines handy, as the high pollution levels of the city can cause problems.

  • Travelling to Kolkata in summer is unadvisable as sightseeing becomes a pain in the sweltering heat. The monsoons see plenty of rain and humidity, and though the weather is pleasant it is cumbersome to travel around. Come prepared with a raincoat and rubber slippers if visiting during the wet months.

    Winters in Kolkata are enjoyable with the cool weather and you can travel light as light woolens are sufficient during these times.

  • Kolkata can be disorienting with street names and localities changing at every turn. But don’t worry, the locals here are very helpful. As soon as you stop and look around quizzically, someone will come by and help you out. No wonder, Kolkata is called a sweet city.


A city that will both shock your senses and charm you at the same time, Kolkata is a beauteous blend of contraries. From a rich cultural fabric finding expression in festivals, rituals and cuisines to being the intellectual capital of the country, Kolkata juggles all with elan. Head here for a very sensory holiday and more than anything else, be prepared to be
surprised!

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