FAQs on Kolkata
Arrival and departure
Airport: The safest and easiest way to get to Kolkata city center (Sudar Street) is a prepaid taxi (Bagasara Police Official Taxi). You pay in advance, get a ticket, then go outside the street and across the street to the taxi booth where you will find the driver. My ride from the airport to the center of Kolkata was 300 INR and I had no problem.
Howrah Railroad Station: I left by train from Kolkata, Howrah Railroad Station situated across the river from main Kolkata. It is a very busy station, but once you can ask around and find your platform number, it is very easy to navigate. If you book your train ticket online, make sure that you print your ticket before you arrive.
Where to stay
Suder Street - The city's main backpacker area, where action is always on, Sudar Street. You will find plenty of accommodation options on and around the Sudar road ranging from around INR 300 to INR 2,000 per night.
Afridi International Guest House - Recommended by my friend Wandering Earl, I stayed at Afridi International Guest House. Though it is situated between Sudar Street and New Market, it is situated on a small side lane so it is quite quiet and provides a good home base while staying in Kolkata. Also, while I was staying there, they opened a new additional branch in the guest house. They offer everything from private en-suite double rooms to old rooms with shared bathrooms. I paid 350 INR per night for a double room with a shared toilet, quite a bargain!
How to get around
Bright yellow bright ambassador classics with comfort bucket seats are one of the things you notice first on your way to Kolkata - they are ubiquitous, inexpensive, and you need to go to most places you need to go . All you have to do is fly an empty yellow taxi down the side of the road, negotiate a price, hope and you're off.
Kolkata taxis have meters, but I don't have much luck, as only a few drivers were ready to use them. That being said, I would normally ask a local what the normal fair price would be and then negotiate only one fee before leaving (and taxis are cheaper in Kolkata than in other places I've visited in India Huh).
Auto Rickshaw - An 'auto' rickshaw in India is equivalent to a tuk tuk, a small three wheel vehicle. Unlike human-powered rickshaws, or bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws have engines. Similar to a taxi in Kolkata, fares negotiate before taking a ride.
Human Rickshaw - As I read, Kolkata is one of the only major cities in the world which still has a large fleet of work-rickshaws pulled by humans. Many people from human rickshaws congregate around New Market and Suder Street, and while I would not recommend a very long trip on major roads, a short ride is a good experience.
Kolkata Metro - Although it is not as extensive as the Delhi Metro, Kolkata has a single line metro (but many other lines under construction, of course). I only took it a while, once from Esplanade (near New Market) to Khalighat Hindu Temple, and it was clean, crowded and super cheap. I think the ticket price is just 6 INR, but the prices vary by distance. The metro can be transported to some places, but taxis in Kolkata are a more reliable option.
Things to do
New Market (Sir Stuart Hogg Market)
With an interesting history of waterlogging at times, and being rebuilt, New Market (as it is referenced) and the area that surrounds the top shopping districts of Kolkata Is one of You can find anything you need, and the area has very good street food and restaurants.
Mother Teresa Home
Mother Teresa, although she has traveled and worked all over India, spent a lot of time here in Kolkata. The house and the mission where Mother Teresa lived, and also her grave, are now known as Mother House throughout the city. After visiting her mausoleum, you can see a small museum, and then see the room where Mother Teresa stayed and even the exact bed where she died.
Victoria Memorial - Victoria Memorial Hall is one of the most iconic sites, for which Kolkata is famous. Dedicated to Queen Victoria, the monument (which is now a museum), was built using a combination of English and Mughal design.
Kalighat Kali Temple
One of the oldest and important Hindu temples dedicated to Kali Devi is the Kalighat Temple. Though it is chaotic and congested, the temple is worth visiting. Be aware of the scams happening around this temple (see my talk for more details).
Mullick Ghat Flower Market and Howrah Bridge
Exploring the colorful energetic Mullick Ghat Flower Market and walking across the Howrah Bridge made some of my best memories of Kolkata - and it is a great place to take photos!
Again, for more suggestions take a look at these things to do in Kolkata and also check out my Kolkata Attractions Videos.
Incredible Street Food in Kolkata
I am sure you must have read our blog on Food Guide to Kolkata and have a fair idea of what to expect.
Restaurants in Kolkata
Nizam's - Located in the New Market area (right across the street from the old market), is the Nizam Karim (Famous Restaurant) of Kolkata. It is one of the oldest and most well-known restaurants - specifically credited with the invention of Kati Roll (see Kusum Roll below). The other food on their menu was also very good. Try curries, kebabs, and fluffy naan.
Kusum Rolls - Just off Park Street is a stall on a side lane known as Kusum Rolls which serves the Kati Rolls of Kolkata. A piece of flour is flattened as a paratha and the spicy chicken or mutton, onion, and chilli is fried before adding it to the oil. It rolled into a severely joyful bliss. There are a lot of cutie street street stalls around Kolkata, but my favorite was Kusum Rolls.
Bhojhori Manna - Kolkata is located in the state of West Bengal, India, so there is no doubt that some restaurants are serving amazing Bengali food. Bhojhari Manna was one of my favorites. Must order Crab Curry and Mocher Gharo (Curry Banana Flower)
Deckers Lane (James Hickey Sarani) - This lunchtime street also includes a tantalizing selection of Kolkata street food - from snacks to rice and curry.
There are many places around Sher-e Punjab - Kolkata, which I ate at some point of time was on AJC Bose Road. The restaurant specializes in taking food away, but there are some seats where you can sit and enjoy some delicious North Indian and Indian Chinese food.
Blue Sky Cafe - If you are looking for some western food, stop by the Blue Sky Cafe located in the center of Sudder Street. Pancakes, omelets and even fried rice were all very good.
Street food around New Market - Kolkata's street food is delicious and widely available. Although you will find delicious snacks throughout the city, my favorite place to enjoy the energetic scenery was the area around New Market. From Ghugni Chaat and Pani Puri (known as Puchka in Kolkata), to Chaumin and Dos, you will be extremely satisfied.