I have seen a lot of photographs of Calcutta online and most of the time it’s about the poverty that the city is experiencing. The images are often about the dirt and the grime and the beggars that seemed to have enveloped the whole city.
But I guess the city is changing for the better one day at a time. I stayed in Calcutta for a week and walked around the Chowringhee area. We also visited various areas in the Northern side of the city and as well as the central side and a bit of the South.
Poverty is still present and so is garbage but at the same time there are cleaner areas and well maintained parks.
Along Chowringhee Road
My visit to this city is another great eye opener for me.
Here are some helpful tips if in case you’re thinking of visiting Kolkata:
Most budget accommodation can be found in Chowringhee area specifically in Sudder Street with price ranging from 300 Ruppes for dorms and 500 Rupees and up for private rooms. Make sure that you’re clear with the inclusion (or exclusion) of the tax because it’s often not included in the published rates here.
Masala Dosa usually at 40 Rupees… My fave dish so far
If you eat local food, it’ll be very very cheap. A vegetable chowmein (noodles) cost 20 Rupees, vegetable fried rice at 20 Rupees and chai at 5 Rupees for a small cup. Chicken dishes at 60 Rupees for a single serving. If you go to restaurants it’ll definitely be pricier. Don’t eat just anywhere, check out shops that cook your meals as you order to ensure that the food is well cooked. Also avoid food stalls that are swarmed with flies.
Taxi has meter but we often negotiate the price prior boarding. Buses are very very cheap and so is the cycle rickshaw. Train towards far flung destinations are also unbelievably cheap. A sleeper overnight train to Siliguri (North of West Bengal) would cost you around 200++ Rupees if you book it yourself (online) and of course more if you book it through a travel agency. I’ll write a separate post about How to Book/Buy Train Tickets in India.
A ticket to the Victoria Memorial Garden cost only 4 Rupees and additional 150 Rupees if you want to go inside the museum. Belur Math and Dakshineswar temple don’t charge an entrance fee. One of the most coveted tour in Kolkata is a trip to Sundarban to see the tigers, unfortunately it was off season when we were there so we opted not to go anymore. Tours starts at 5000 Rupees from the travel agencies that we talked to in Sudder St. Ask around for cheaper packages around that area.
Most cheap hostels don’t have wifi which is a difficult situation for those working online like me. But you could always sign up with internet/phone companies in Park Street such as Vodafone, Airtel, Tata Docomo and others.
Walking around the streets of Calcutta felt safe for me especially in the morning, noon and early afternoon. I have never had any problems taking pictures using my dslr. I also saw single western women walking around the streets and taking pictures. Upon reading some online forums, they say that it’s a different story down south especially in the area of Kali Ghat. Always take necessary precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe.
We’ve also met a lot of friendly locals who are often greeting us and saying hello without bothering us to buy anything.
Calcutta during their summer can also get very very hot especially during the months of May and June according to the locals that we’ve talk with. It would be better to visit this city before those months.
Calcutta is a very photogenic city especially for those who love architectures. There are so many colonial buildings around the city and there are so many things going around. Check it out for yourself.