Calcutta has a very elaborate public transport system, consisting of train systems - both terrestrial and underground (and soon to be joined by an aerial monorail), trams, buses, ferries and taxis. Quality varies from the state-of-the-art Metro, to the rickety (but very extensive) bus system, with everything from the overworked commuter trains, ancient trams and the very pleasant ferries thrown in between. There is hardly a place of any interest that cannot be reached by a combination of commuter train, metro, tram and ferry and we would like to recommend that visitors stick to these modes of transport. The bus system is complicated and uncomfortable, and can be avoided altogether with a little planning. Two kinds of taxi service are available, namely the ubiquitous yellow/black-and-yellow cabs, which are cheap in price and quality and the brand new Blue Arrow taxis, that are air-conditioned and at par with the best in the world.
If you have a PDA (Palm or a Pocket PC), it may be worthwhile to download the free MetrO application that helps you determine the shortest way to get between various stations/stops and attractions using Metro, commuter train and trams*.
Calcutta's sprawling suburbs are connected by a very extensive network of electric commuter trains. There are essentially, four commuter train systems, two operating in and out of Howrah, on the west bank of the Ganges, and two operating in and out of Sealdah in the city. In the last few years some railway tracks along the river that were formerly used by the port have also been opened to passenger traffic giving Calcutta's commuters direct access to the central business districts of Burrabazar and Dalhousie Square.
Click here to see a map of Calcutta's commuter train system.
Ferry services across and along the Ganges provide a hassle-free and scenic way to see many of Calcutta's top attractions. Most of the ferry piers (or ghats as they are called here) are conveniently located near railway stations or a short walk from other public transportation. Ferry services are run by two agencies - the state-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation and the cooperative Hooghly Nadi Jalpath Paribahan Samanbay Samiti (Phone: +91-33-2660 1148).
Click here to see a map of the Calcutta ferry system.
If you can afford it (and at the equivalent of US$ 0.25 per kilometer, it could be one of the cheapest in the world) the new Blue Arrow taxis are a treat at the end of a long and hectic day exploring Calcutta. Blue Arrow taxis cost Rupees 13.50 to flag down and the Rupees 10.00 per kilometer (there is a surcharge between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the first two pieces of luggage are free and there is surcharge of Rupees 10 per extra luggage). The cabs are custom-built Indicabs from Tata Motors Limited (the Tata conglomerate's office, Tata Center, on Chowrighee Road is a prominent landmark), and are air-conditioned. The digital meters are tamper-proof and print out receipts for your records. The drivers are required to know Bengali, English and Hindi and have very good knowledge of the city. The cabs can be hailed on the street, from the curb side or may be booked by telephone. The drivers do not refuse passengers.
The other alternative is the traditional yellow-and-black or yellow taxi cabs, almost always Ambassadors - the Indian-built Morris Oxfords, none of which are air-conditioned. They are somewhat cheaper than the Blue Arrows - Rupees 15.00 for the first 2 kilometers and then Rupees 1.50 per 0.2 kilometers. The taxi service may be quite tardy with refusals and overcharge quite common.
*Currently, only Metro information is available for Calcutta. Focus Calcutta Initiative, Inc. is working with the developers of MetrO to add information related to commuter trains and trams.
© Focus Calcutta Initiative, Inc. Contents may be used for non-commercial purposes without malicious intent. Last modified December 10, 2003