- Not to be confused with Kozhikode, formerly Calicut, a city in southwestern India..
One of the largest urban agglomerations in India and the capital of West Bengal, Kolkata (Bengali: কলকাতা, Hindi: कोलकाता) (formerly Calcutta) is an 'in your face' city that shocks and charms the unsuspecting visitor. Long known as the cultural capital of India and home to the so-called Bengal Renaissance, 'The City of Joy' (the sobriquet became more famous after the publication of a novel of the same name) continues to spawn generations of poets, writers, film directors and Nobel Prize winners. If your trip only allows for a visit of one or two of India's metropolitan cities, then definitely consider placing Kolkata on your itinerary. Kolkata is arguably one of the most socially, culturally and politically progressive cities in India. Love it or hate it, you definitely won't forget the 'City of Joy'.
For travel purposes, this guide covers the area of Greater Kolkata along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River. Greater Kolkata as a whole is a metropolitan area of nearly 1,886.67 km2 (728.45 sq mi) in Southeast Bengal, and there are 41 municipalities in the area.
|Esplanade (B. B. D. Bagh (Dalhousie Square), Bowbazar, Chandni Chowk, Chowringhee, Dharmatala, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), Park Street (Mother Teresa Sarani), Sudder Street)|
The colonial district is still the central business and administrative area and is considered the heart of Kolkata. Esplanade was also known as the "White Town" during the British period.
|Maidan (Elgin, Fort William, Dufferin Road, Hastings, Strand Road)|
The area consisting of the huge park and its surrounding neighbourhoods.
|North Kolkata (Bagbazar, Belgachia, Burrabazar, Chitpur, College Street, Cossipore, Jorasanko, Maniktala, Shobhabazar, Shyambazar, Ultadanga)|
The older area of the city, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old buildings. North Kolkata was known as the "Black Town" during the British period as it was home to the native population.
|South Kolkata (Alipore, Ballygunge, Bhowanipore, Chetla, Dhakuria, Entally, Kidderpore, New Alipore, Rash Behari)|
The posh and new part of the city.
|East Kolkata (Beleghata, Bidhannagar (Salt Lake City), EM Bypass, Kasba, Lake Town, New Town, Phoolbagan, Rajarhat, Tangra)|
Rapidly developing, especially the IT sector, and home to several malls. Many five-star hotels, theme parks, posh housing estates and technology parks are being built in this area.
|Northern fringes (Baranagar, Barasat, Barrackpore, Bhatpara, Dum Dum, Garulia, Halisahar, Kalyani, Kamarhati, Kanchrapara, Madhyamgram, Naihati, Panihati, Titagarh)|
The large industrial area to the north of the city extends up to Kalyani. The area boasts a large number of factories, including jute, paper, cotton, ordnance and chemicals.
|Southern fringes (Barisha, Baruipur, Behala, Budge Budge, Garia, Jadavpur, Maheshtala, Mukundapur, Pujali, Rajpur Sonarpur, Santoshpur, Taratala, Thakurpukur, Tollygunge)|
The rapidly mushrooming suburbs to the south of the city. This is a relatively newer part of the city where a lot of expansion is going on.
The name is derived from Kalikātā, the name of one of the three villages in the area before the arrival of the British. There has been much debate regarding the origin of Kalikātā itself. Some say the name derives from kālīkṣetra, meaning the "land of [the goddess] Kali". Others claim the name may have its origin in the indigenous term for a natural canal, khāl, followed by katta (which may mean dug). Another theory is that the place used to specialise in quicklime (kalicun) and coir rope (kātā).
The name was officially changed from Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001 by the then-left Government of West Bengal. However, the name "Calcutta" still survives in the names of institutions like Calcutta High Court, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, University of Calcutta etc.
Kolkata's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which arrived in 1690, and to British India, of which Calcutta became the capital in 1772. Job Charnock was widely known as the founder of Calcutta. There were 3 villages named Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. Later the village Kalikata became the city Kolkata. But some Indian historians have disputed this claim, arguing that Kolkata developed naturally over a period, centred on the ancient Kali temple at Kalighat and the port at Kidderpore.
Whatever its origins, Kolkata flowered as the capital of British India during the 19th century, the heyday of the Raj. The University of Calcutta, the first modern Indian university, was founded here in 1857. Kolkata became the centre of Indian arts and literature, and the national movement for independence got its start here. However, with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1911, the pains of the partition of Bengal in 1947, a violent repressive and feudal state machinery operational for nearly the first two decades after independence, the ideologically motivated Maoist movement (the Naxalbari movement) in the 1970s, followed by the Marxist rule has shaped the city to its present form.
Kolkata has become the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. The city's economic fortunes grew as the economic liberalisation in India during the early 1990s reached Kolkata during late 1990s. Kolkata is a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, with diversity from all over India as well as Europeans (including Germans, Armenians, and others) and other Asians (including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans). Kolkata is also notable for being home to India's largest Chinatown, which continues to be home to many ethnic Chinese residents whose families have lived in India for several generations.
In 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of the Communist and Marxist parties came to power and ruled the state for 34 years. This is reflected in street names and memorials in the city with names like Lenin Sarani and Ho Chi Minh Sarani. During this period, the various egalitarian approaches implemented at improving the living standards of the down-trodden has helped the city in bridging the wealth-gap and decreasing impoverishment.
Kolkata is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector companies setting up shops here. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and several new commercial establishments. Kolkata city has expanded into its suburbs, with Greater Kolkata stretching from Kalyani at the north to Jaynagar Majilpur at the south.
Once India's leading city, Kolkata experienced a steady economic decline in the decades following India's independence due to steep population increase and a rise in militant trade-unionism. From the 1960s to the late 1990s, several factories were closed and businesses relocated.
Despite this, the city's fortunes have looked up since the early 1990s, coinciding with the liberalisation of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The new metro city is characterised by popular spots such as multiplexes, theatres, clubs, pubs, coffee shops, and museums.
Kolkata is home to many industrial units operated by large public sector and private-sector corporations; major sectors include steel, heavy engineering, mining, minerals, cement, pharmaceuticals, food processing, agriculture, electronics, textiles, and jute.
Several industrial estates like Taratala, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba and Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantala. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialised setups like the country's first Toy Park, and a Gem and Jewellery Park have also been established.
Kolkata is also starting to become a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With the formation of New Town and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Kolkata is rapidly turning into a pro-IT city.
Kolkata is also famous for the film industry around Tollygunge, known as "Tollywood" (a blend of Tollygunge and Hollywood). From a beginning in the silent era in 1919 to the talking era in the 1930s and the golden days of the 1950s to the 70s has been a chequered history. It has seen renowned filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen.
Kolkata is in the eastern part of India and is spread along the eastern banks of the Hooghly River.
The city of Kolkata is huge, stretching from the industrial suburbs in the north to the mushrooming area in the south, a distance of almost 70 km (43 mi). The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has an area of 185 km2 (71 sq mi).
The city can be roughly divided into two sections along Mother Teresa Sarani (which was known during the British rule as Park Street). North of Park Street is the more congested part of the city. South of Park Street is the slightly better planned section of the city. South Kolkata is better planned with wider roads and better equipped police force for keeping law & order. The better planning in South Kolkata is because it was built much later. The North is the real, old Kolkata and most of the oldest families and buildings are situated there. Over the past several years the city has expanded to the south and the east.
The old Central Business District (CBD) is where the seat of the Government of West Bengal is located, along with many other government offices. Several banks have their corporate or regional headquarters around the B. B. D. Bagh area (named after the revolutionaries Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta who forced entry into the Writers' Building, the epicentre of the British Raj government in Bengal). Many of Kolkata's older business groups have their main offices here. The area is a mix of multi-storeyed office blocks and colonial buildings.
The newer CBD is around the south of Park Street, Camac Street and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road. Several high-rise office blocks including some of Kolkata's tallest commercial buildings, like the Chatterjee International Centre, Tata Centre, Everest House, Industry House, CGO Building, are located here. An even-newer CBD is now being set up in the Rajarhat-New Town area, lying between Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) and the Airport.
Maidan (meaning open field) is between the river Hooghly and J. L. Nehru Road (or Chowringhee Road). It is said to be the lungs of Kolkata. The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several sporting clubs. Kolkatans simply love to stroll in the Maidan.
In an effort to relieve congestion in the main city, many government offices have shifted to high-rise office buildings lining Salt Lake City's Central Park.
The residential buildings are mainly low-rise and comprise of older colonial buildings and numerous new four-storied apartment blocks. 10- to 12-storey apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in South Kolkata. The city has relaxed its rules on high-rise construction and 20-storey buildings are becoming more common. The tallest residential towers of eastern India, the four 35-storey towers of South City, are on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Heavy construction activity along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is changing the face of the city. Luxury hotels, a convention centre, speciality hospitals, condominium complexes, malls and multiplexes are coming up at a rapid pace. The city's expansion in the eastern side is spearheaded by the construction of a new satellite township called New Town adjacent to the well planned Salt Lake City. It is one of the largest planned urban developments in India. The neglected western side of the urban agglomeration has got a boost with the signing of an agreement with Ciputra, an Indonesian company to build the Kolkata West International City (KWIC). Another huge new township is in the proposal state in Dankuni.
Slums and dilapidated structures exist in many pockets of the city proper and house over 25% of the city's population (2001 census). Slum redevelopment schemes have helped improve living conditions by a small extent but there is huge scope for improvement in this area. Efforts to shift slum dwellers to newer developments have often met with resistance and failure because many of the slums are in prime areas of the city and the slum dwellers who are integrated in the social structure of the neighbourhood do not want to shift.
Many roads in Kolkata have two names in use: the old colonial name that is still commonly used by locals, and the official post-independence new name that you will see in maps and on road signs.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Kolkata has three main seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. Summer, from March–May, is hot and humid with temperatures touching 38-42°C. Monsoon starts in June and lasts till September or October. This is the time when heavy showers sometimes lead to waterlogging in a few areas. Winter is from November to February. This is the best season to visit the city, as the weather is very pleasant with temperatures ranging between 8 and 20°.
- 1 Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU IATA, Dum Dum Airport, Kolkata Airport, নেতাজি সুভাষচন্দ্র বসু আন্তর্জাতিক বিমানবন্দর), Jessore Rd (about 18 km (11 mi) outside the city centre), ☏ , , , fax: , email@example.com. Services on the airport: a newsagent, a duty free shop, a clothes outlet, a coffee shop, a music outlet, a couple of handicraft shops, a medical outlet, a sweets stall, a florist. Passengers facilities: trolleys (carts), telephone in security hold area, wheelchair, medical inspection room, child care room, assistance to physically challenged, airport post office.
The airport has a well-established facility of prepaid taxis and air-conditioned buses connecting it to the city centre. Parking facilities at the airport terminal include two underground parking levels accommodating 3000 cars, as well as an outdoor car parking which can handle an additional 2000 cars.
- State-run air-conditioned buses are available to get into the city. Cheaper, and hassle free, and since you can hail a taxi anywhere in the city centre to take you to your final destination, you do not need to worry. The buses are parked outside the arrival gate at the integrated terminal. Do not be dissuaded by the taxi touts, who would try and make you believe that the buses do not run anymore.
- However, in case you are arriving at the busy hours, it is better to get a prepaid taxi (₹150-250), which takes you directly to your destination. There is no practice of tipping taxi drivers anywhere in India. Moreover, app-based cab services (such as Ola and Uber) are also available from the airport.
Due to massive growth in air travel, the Behala Flying Club at the southern fringes of Kolkata is planned to be developed into a commercial airport.
- See also: Rail travel in India
Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to North-Eastern India. Also, there are two international trains from Bangladesh, the Maitree Express connects Kolkata with the capital Dhaka three times per week and the Bandhan Express runs from Khulna once per week. For train timings and tickets check with Indian Railways.
- 2 Howrah Junction railway station (হাওড়া জংশন রেলওয়ে স্টেশন) (in the adjoining city of Howrah, across the Hooghly river from the Esplanade district.). Howrah is the largest railway complex in India with over 600 trains arriving per day, including local trains of Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway. There is a Yatri Niwas (railway's travellers' lodge) with accommodation. Directly facing Howrah are ferries (₹5) that can get you to either Babu Ghat or Fairlie Place in the Esplanade district, from where you can arrange onward transportation with anything from taxis to public buses to rickshaws.
- 3 Sealdah railway station, Bepin Behari Ganguly St, Sealdah. It is amongst the busiest railway stations in the country with a huge number of people commuting to the city for work. There are 19 platforms. Never hire a taxi from the nearby taxi stand as they ask for higher fares for taxis. There are pre-paid taxis to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stands just outside the station's main entrance. The counter is under a tin shed.
- 4 Kolkata railway station, Belgachia. It receives a number of trains which used to terminate at Sealdah station. The station is linked to the Sealdah-Ranaghat Line and is served by the Eastern Railway for trains to Bandel, Kalyani Simanta, Gede, Shantipur, Krishnanagar, Dankuni, Kolkata Airport, Bongaon, Hasnabad and others. The number of suburban trains is lower than long-distance trains. This station runs many long-distance express trains including two pairs of Garibrath Express, and one long-distance passenger train - Lalgola Passenger. The station also has an International train. The Maitree Express, provides a direct link between Kolkata and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. There are five platforms, among them, Platform 1 & 2 is used by only suburban trains, and Platform 3, 4 & 5 are used by long-distance trains.
- 5 Santragachi railway station, Santragachi Station Rd, Santragachi (in Howrah, across the Hooghly River from the Maidan district). Most all Howrah/Shalimar bound express/mail trains stop here. Also serves local trains from Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Haldia, Contai, Midnapore and Kharagpur. A few trains from Ajmer, Porbandar, and Nanded, and a Vivek Express from Mangalore Central terminate here. There are taxi stands and bus stands, and a Volvo bus service to connect this area to Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport.
- 6 Shalimar railway station (in Howrah, near Vidyasagar Setu). A small railway station compared to Howrah station, which handles a few EMU trains and a few Express trains.
- The Eastern Railway serves local trains to Hasnabad, Bongaon, Gede, Krishnanagar, Budge Budge, Canning, Diamond Harbour, Namkhana, Tarkeshwar, Katwa, Bardhaman and numerous intermediate stations and mail/express trains to Central, North and North-East India.
- The South Eastern Railway serves local trains to Amta, Mecheda, Panskura, Tamluk, Haldia, Contai, Midnapore and Kharagpur; and mail/express trains to Central, West and South India.
- See district articles for individual bus termini.
Kolkata is well served by buses from destinations both inside and outside India.
- From Bangladesh, there are numerous bus options between Kolkata and Bangladesh. The most common way is the regular comfortable air-conditioned 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. Government organisations like West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) 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 7AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hr with a one-way fare of 550 or 600-800 Bangladeshi takas. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is ₹86 (2½ 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. 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 maths on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side there are some bus stands just behind the border, or you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for 5 Bangladeshi takas for the 2-km 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.
- From North-Eastern India via Bangladesh. Bus travel to some points in North-Eastern India is faster via Bangladesh (visas will be required for entry into Bangladesh as well as for re-entry into India). If you're heading to points in North -Eastern India (Tripura for example) beyond Bangladesh, then there is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, the 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 600 Bangladeshi takas. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call ☏ 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 from Kolkata through Dhaka may not be available, you can 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.
National highway numbers 12, 16 and 19, and the Grand Trunk Road radiate from the city providing links to most parts of the country.
- See also: Public transport in Kolkata
Kolkata has an extensive public transportation network, from the modern rapid transit system to the old heritage tram system.
Kolkata just wouldn't look the same without the plethora of yellow Ambassador taxis that ply on its roads. They're easily available, relatively cheap, and will use their meters, at least in theory.
However, Kolkata taxis sometimes refuse to go to some distant remote locations (like Behala, Bansdroni, Howrah) where they wouldn't get any passengers while returning. If they agree, they will demand high pay; be ready for such a situation. New taxis have been introduced, which are called "No Refusal Taxis", but sadly, these taxis are also no different.
Some of the new taxis are air-conditioned; usually, these will also have a "Same Fare" sign on them. There is a 25% extra charge if you want the air-conditioner to be turned on in such taxis. In Kolkata, it is a crime for taxis to refuse a request to go to certain destinations, and they can be fined, but if you threaten the driver with a complaint to the police, they will simply ask you to complain.
Cars by app-based services such as Uber and Ola are easily available (round-the-clock), reasonably priced, comfortable and have been embraced by citizens.
The oldest rail rapid transit system in India, the Kolkata Metro is the fastest, cleanest, most reliable, least crowded (though still rather crowded) and most efficient of all the transportation Kolkata has to offer. As of September 2022, the following lines are open:
- Blue Line (North–South Metro): Dakshineswar to New Garia (Kavi Subhash)
- Green Line (East–West Metro): Salt Lake Sector-V to Sealdah
Trains run every 5 minutes (rush hours) to 15 minutes (non-rush hours) from 6:55AM-10:30PM from Monday to Saturday and 9:50AM-10:00PM on Sunday. Fares range from ₹5-30.
The four-seat sections at each end of a coach are reserved for senior citizens and the physically challenged. The two middle seat sections, between the general seat sections on each side, are reserved for women. Smoking is also strictly prohibited on the metro premises. Violating any of these incurs a penalty.
Be aware that if you wish to exit at a station during rush hours, you will have to tackle your way through in order to get out before the opposite flow of passengers pushes you back inside. Don't be afraid of using your strength to push yourself out.
Other metro lines being constructed include the Purple Line, the Yellow Line , the Pink Line and the Orange Line .
Kolkata has the only tram service in all of India and the oldest surviving electric tram network in Asia. Though decommissioned in some parts of the city, electric trams are still one of the means of travelling between a few places within the city. Operated by WBTC since 2016, they move slowly on the laid tracks in traffic-jammed streets, but they are environment-friendly (no emissions on the street, only at the source of energy generation). The network includes 25 Tram Routes
Most daily commuters to Kolkata rely upon the electrified suburban rail network of the Eastern Railway (ER), commonly referred to as "locals". The network is extensive and includes the Kolkata Circular Rail or chakra rail. Depending on the route, local trains can be extremely crowded. It is less expensive to travel around by train as compared to private cabs or taxis. Men must not enter the Ladies compartment, even as a family.
The city has an extensive bus network (possibly the most exhaustive in the whole of India) and this is the cheapest, though not always the most comfortable means of transport. The routes are written all over the colourful buses in Bengali and also in English. The conductors call out their destinations to everyone he's passing and all you have to do is wave at the bus anywhere and it will stop, at times causing a small queue of other cars behind it.
Esplanade is a major bus terminus in Kolkata. Karunamoyee in Bidhannagar is another major bus depot. Some buses operate from the Babughat area in the Maidan as well.
Among the buses that ply the city streets, the deluxe buses run by JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) and WBTC (West Bengal Transport Corporation) are probably the better option. Air-conditioned buses (Volvo) are also available to many destinations.
There are four types of rickshaws in Kolkata: human-pulled rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, auto-rickshaws and electric rickshaws.
Rickshaws pulled by men are a common sight in Kolkata and they are mainly found in some old localities of Kolkata. These rickshaws usually operate over short distances and mainly run on narrow lanes and they are not allowed to ply over main roads. They take more fare than cycle-rickshaws.
The cycle rickshaws are the most convenient mean of transport in Kolkata. They are very cheap and can accommodate two adults. Unlike auto-rickshaws, they can go to any place in a particular region.
In Kolkata, there are shared auto-rickshaws, i.e. the auto-rickshaws don't ferry just a single person but four people at a time. Auto-rickshaws have a fixed route and a vehicle of that route travel on that particular route only. However, unlike taxis, they don't refuse passengers. The fare of an auto-rickshaw is much less than that of a taxi, with the minimum fare being ₹10. Be prepared to give the exact fare as they are very reluctant to give change.
Electric rickshaws, popularly known as totos or e-rickshaws, are battery-operated alternatives to auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws because of their low fuel cost and less human effort compared to cycle rickshaws. They generally operate in suburban Kolkata.
The fare of rickshaws are not set by meters, as fares are fixed by the respective rickshaw association. After 10PM, rickshaw drivers may demand an exorbitant fee and the same goes for times during natural calamities such as heavy rainfall.
The river offers a less crowded but slow traffic medium. There are several points (popularly called ghats and jetties) on the bank of the river from where you can board several regular routes of ferry services. Ferries can be fairly large launches to small improvised motorized boats. Even if you don't get any exotic manual boat like you get in Varanasi, the river transport of the city lets you go to several old spots near the bank in a hassle-free manner with an additional dash of the view of decadent river front of the city.
By rental carEdit
Privately owned rental car places are available throughout the city. Rates depend on the make, model, size and comfort level of the car. Agreements are flexible, for example, cars can be rented even for couple of hours at an hourly rate. Most rental cars are accompanied with a driver from the rental agency.
Except in Maidan and newly developed areas, much of Kolkata is not so pedestrian-friendly. In the more tourist oriented areas, you'll be constantly accosted by beggars and touts. Crossing roads often involves wading across multiple lanes of heavy traffic. Try your best to move in a predictable straight line, so vehicles can weave around you. Better yet, latch onto a group of locals and cross in their shadow. If you really want to walk around, these places would be good:
- Walk along the Hooghly River. There is a good promenade near the Eden Gardens.
- Walk along Chowringhee Road (officially Jawaharlal Nehru Road), which sets the pace as you unravel the rare beauty of this city. Across the road sweeps a huge, lush green, open parkland called the [[[Kolkata/Maidan|Maidan]], centring around Fort William, the massive and impregnable British citadel built in 1773. A rambling green 'lung of Kolkata', the Maidan is a hub of diverse activities.
Being in West Bengal, the native language of the people of Kolkata is Bengali. However, most locals also speak English and some Hindi. Many shopkeepers and taxi drivers are able to communicate in broken English, and government offices will typically have English-speaking staff on duty. Although it is generally not a problem getting by with English, learning some Bengali will make your trip much smoother.
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
Kolkata is known for its numerous attractions — palaces, parks and museums — built during and after the 190 years of British rule in India. The most notable sites are the Victoria Memorial (a memorial hall dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria), the Howrah Bridge (a cantilever bridge opened in 1943), Dakshineswar Kali Temple (a Hindu temple associated with Sri Ramakrishna), Science City (a massive science museum in East Kolkata) and the Indian Museum (one of the oldest museums in India).
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
Take a tram ride in Kolkata. The city has the only active tram service in India and has become an icon of Kolkata. They move slow on the laid tracks in traffic-jammed streets.
Several modern cinemas are dotted around the city, including INOX with several locations, Fame at Metropolis Mall in Highland Park, and RDB Adlabs at RDB Boulevard, Near Infinity Building in Sector-V, Bidhannagar, all showing Indian and American blockbusters. Kolkata also has many established theatre houses, which host events by international theatre groups frequently. Such events draw people from around the globe as it offers a unique opportunity to share culture and ideas.
Unlike most of cricket-obsessed India, football (soccer) reigns supreme in Kolkata, with the local clubs Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club being the most successful in India. They contest the Kolkata Derby biannually, which is considered by many to be the oldest and most intense football rivalry in all of Asia.
Durga Puja, a festival honouring the Hindu goddess Durga, takes place between September and October, depending on the traditional phases of the Moon. The biggest festival for Hindus in Bengal and Eastern India, Kolkata takes on an almost carnival-like ambience. Streets shut down for the construction of pandals, large stands that depict events from the Ramayana and crowds flock to the biggest and best ones. Durga Puja in Kolkata has been listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2021. A good time to visit, unless you have a fear of crowds.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the main club cricket league in India. It is one of the world's most widely attended sporting events, and if you are in Kolkata during the season (April–May), consider watching the home team (Kolkata Knight Riders) play at Eden Gardens.
The Kolkata Book Fair takes place from the last week of January to the first week of February. It is the largest book fair in Asia and is a significant event in the city.
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
Kolkata is a key centre of learning in India. The most famous universities and colleges in Kolkata are the Medical College and Hospital, Jadavpur University, the University of Calcutta, the Presidency University and Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. Apart from undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses, there are several training and diploma-level institutes and polytechnics that cater to the growing demand for skill-based and vocational education.
Volunteering is a real option here with several opportunities.
- Brother Xavier's New Hope. Home for orphans of Kolkata's red light district. A much smaller mission than Mother Teresa's which one man built from the ground up. Brother Xavier and the children always need volunteers and funds.
- Mother Teresa's Mission accepts volunteers to help in its multiple projects around the city. Enquire at the motherhouse.
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
Traditionally Kolkata had certain shopping areas or districts. The New Market area was considered the core of fashionable marketing. That was the marketplace for the British and later patronised by the more sophisticated Indians. There were large markets in Burrabazar, Hatibagan-Shyambazar, Gariahat and Bhowanipore. There were several specialised markets: electrical goods at Chandni Chowk, jewellery at Bowbazar, books at College Street, fish at Maniktala, flowers at Jagannath Ghat, the Maidan market for sports goods and so on.
The malls are a more recent addition. The South City Mall, one of the biggest in the city, is in its southern fringes. The Quest Mall is another large shopping mall at Park Circus, an old neighbourhood in South Kolkata. There are large number of malls in East Kolkata and new malls are being added.
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
Kolkata has old traditions about eating out. Wilson's Hotel (which later became the Great Eastern Hotel) is credited to have been the first western-style hotel/restaurant in Kolkata, serving what was then forbidden food for Indians, particularly Hindus. One could be treated as an out-caste if caught eating there, but the idea caught on and others followed. Many of the restaurants that line the streets in the Esplanade area have been around for more than a hundred years.
The joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam's (23/24, Hogg St), close to New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. For Mughlai dishes, there are several places to eat in the Park Circus area and there are others all over the city.
Besides Bengali foods, Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food. Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian Chinese dish of chilli chicken. The best place to have Chinese is to visit Chinatown near Tangra, East Kolkata. It serves the best of the Chinese dishes and you will find plenty of large, small & medium restaurants. There are some restaurants serving Thai, Mediterranean or Italian food.
Kolkata also has many excellent vegetarian restaurants ranging from budget to expensive ones. There are two types: those serving North Indian and those serving South Indian food.
For those looking for vegetarian street foods, one can find ubiquitous jhal muri (somewhat similar to bhel puri of Mumbai) a concoction of puffed rice mixed with various spices, vegetables & other ingredients available at street vendors all over Kolkata.
Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat. Mughlai Paratha (earlier it was a paratha stuffed with minced meat, but now the minced meat has been replaced by cheaper but tasty alternatives) is a Kolkata speciality. Fuchka, the Kolkata version of paani-puri, but very different from the ones found in Delhi, is available on the streets but be wary of the tamarind water. It never troubles the local people and outsiders can safely taste this delicacy as long as they don't take too much.
Earlier, the restaurants were standalone entities. A cluster of restaurants in a single mall is a comparatively new idea and has become popular.
There are plenty of places to buy alcohol around the city. Kolkata has many pubs and bars, which are frequented by youngsters as well as its older residents. Some pubs have live concerts or DJs. They include:
- Someplace Else (The Park)
- Roxy (The Park)
- Aqua (The Park)
- The Myx (Park Street)
- Olypub (Park Street), famous for the beer and the beef steak
- Mocha (AJC Bose Road)
- Underground (HHI, AJC Bose Road)
- Nocturne (Theatre Road)
- Shisha Bar Stock Exchange, The Factory Outlet (22 Camac Street)
- Chili's (Quest Mall, South City Mall, Acropolis Mall Kasba)
- Cafe Mezzuna (Forum Mall Elgin Road, South City Mall)
- Hoppipola (Acropolis Mall)
- Afraa Lounge (City Centre Salt Lake)
- Fairlawns (Sudder Street)
- Big Ben (The Kenilworth, Little Russel Street)
All pubs are supposed to shut shop by midnight or 1AM. So go early if you want to enjoy yourself in the club.
- Individual listings can be found in Kolkata's district articles
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. Sudder Street is centrally located and is well connected by public transport. Both the major railway stations at Howrah and Sealdah have many hotels around them. Most of them might be only licensed to accommodate Indian citizens. Be sure to not walk with a local "friend" or guide, unless you want to have higher prices. There are some hotels in Gariahat. The growth of the IT Sector and hospital facilities in East Kolkata has led to development of hotels in that area.
British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), and Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members.
Kolkata is one of the safest metropolitan areas in India, and the people are friendly and helpful, unlike in most of India's other large cities. Violent crime in Kolkata is more or less like any other large Indian city. One noted problem is the drug dealers around Sudder Street. However, as the dealers obviously do not want to draw undue attention to their activity, they are not persistent and rarely a threat. There have been rare incidents of chain, bag and mobile snatching in railway stations and empty roads.
Visitors outside the city are often magnets for beggars, frauds and touts. In South Kolkata, beggars often knock at the glass windows of cars. It does little good to get angry or to say "No" loudly. The best response is to look unconcerned and ignore the behaviour. The more attention you pay to a beggar or a tout, positive or negative, the longer they will follow you hoping for a donation.
The Kolkata Police is a white-uniform police force serving inner Kolkata and parts of suburban Kolkata. Most of the suburban areas are served by Barrackpore City Police (northern fringes) and Bidhannagar City Police (Bidhannagar, Kolkata Airport, Lake Town and New Town). While most police officers are honest and helpful, you may find some officers who may be corrupt and unhelpful. For emergencies, you can dial 100 for police assistance. For non-emergencies, or to report a crime, visit the nearest police station. See the district articles for police stations.
- Airport, ☏ .
- Fire, ☏ 101.
- Medical, ☏ 102.
- Police, ☏ 100.
- Railway, ☏ (Howrah Jn).
Air pollution is a major problem in Kolkata, with regular smog and haze. As of 2022, Kolkata is ranked as India's second most polluted city after Delhi, with pollution levels often in the "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" range. Anyone visiting the area should try to limit outdoor and exhausting activity. Have masks (single-use surgical masks are okay), tissues, and eyedrops ready when going out.
The area code for Kolkata is "33" (prefix "+91", if you are calling from outside India). Phone numbers are eight digits long.
Public call booths can be found easily throughout the city from where local, national, and international calls can be made. Else local SIM card can be used for connectivity.
Mobile phone coverage is excellent with all major mobile service providers offering their services in the city. It might be a good idea to buy a cell phone and use one of those prepaid plans to get yourself connected while you are in the city.
All mobile numbers are 10 digits long and begin with a "9", "8", "7" or "6". Do not dial the city prefix for mobile numbers. If you don't get through to a mobile number, try adding a "0" before you dial it.
Internet cafes are available in plenty and charges ₹10-25/hour. You need to show your identity card to use internet in those cafes. As a precaution, change your password after you use it at a cybercafe or do private/incognito browsing.
- 1 Bangladesh, Circus Ave (Just E of AJC Bose Rd), ☏ , , (After hours), fax: . Issues 15-day visas. Applications are received at window #4 M-F from 9-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos. As of December 2018, there seems to be a new policy: the application should be first filled online as directed on their website. You can use the payed services of the stands in front of the High Commission to fill the forms for you, just bring one or two passport photos. Beware that at least in some cases, the Kolkata office can be reluctant to issue visa for non-Indians, and the process requires assertiveness and patience.
- 2 China, EC-72, Sector I, Salt Lake City, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 10AM-12:30PM.
- 3 France, 26 Park Mansions, Park St.
- 4 Germany, 1 Hastings Park Rd, Alipore, ☏ , , , , fax: . The origins of the German consulate in Kolkata can be traced to before the existence of Germany itself, to the establishment of the consulate of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1851 and the Consulate of Prussia in 1854.
- 5 Italy, Alipore (3, Raja Santosh Road), ☏ , , fax: , email@example.com. M-F 10AM-noon.
- 6 Japan, 55, M. N. Sen Lane, Tollygunge, ☏ , fax: .
- 7 Netherlands, 5, Rameshwar Shaw Road, ☏ , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 United Kingdom, 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☏ , (After hours), fax: .
- 9 United States, 5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. It is the oldest diplomatic post of the U.S. in India, and the second oldest in the world (the oldest being in London). Benjamin Joy was appointed the first American Consul to Kolkata by George Washington in 1792, upon the express recommendation of then- Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. (Note that the ironic address was the result of a diplomatic snub by the then Marxist Bengal government during the period of the U.S. war in Indochina.)
Kolkata has a number of medical colleges and hospitals, with the oldest being the Calcutta Medical College (now Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata) in North Kolkata. See the district articles for medical colleges and hospitals.
Local newspapers can be handy and reliable sources for day to day updates about the city. The city has number of newspapers and other publication that list local happenings. There are different options for newspapers including daily, weekly and bi-weekly. Some of the popular newspapers are Bartaman (Bengali), Anandabazar Patrika (Bengali), The Statesman, The Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times and Free Press Journal. For the business updates, check Economic Times.
- Bishnupur — Famous for terracotta temples, clay sculptures and silk sarees.
- Darjeeling Hills — A mountainous region home to Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Mirik. When Darjeeling is your destination, you could travel the last 72 km (45 mi) by a combination of bus/train and the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
- Digha — A beach town in the southern part of the state. Buses from Esplanade Bus Station.
- Santiniketan — Famous for the ashramik school and university founded by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, the town is also known for its handmade leather crafts and kantha stitch sarees.
- Sundarbans National Park — Part of the largest littoral mangrove in the world, and home to the famous Bengal Tigers.
- Bangladesh — Tickets for buses running to the border and Dhaka can be reserved at Shyamoli Yatri Paribahan. 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.
- Bhutan — Tucked away in the corner of the bus station is a small Bhutanese Government kiosk selling tickets for buses running to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. Buses depart Tu Th Sa at 9PM, and the 18-hr journey costs ₹300.
|Routes through Kolkata (Asian Highway routes)|
|Bardhaman ← Howrah ←||NW E||→ Bangaon → Jessore|
|Routes through Kolkata (National Highway routes)|
|Krishnanagar ← Ranaghat ←||N S||→ Diamond Harbour → Bakkhali|
|Becomes ← Bangaon ←||NE SW||→ Ends at|
|Routes through Kolkata (State Highway routes)|
|Ends at ← Bangaon ←||E S||→ Jaynagar Majilpur → Ends at|
|Rural Hooghly ← Howrah ←||W E||→ Taki → Ends at|
|Krishnanagar ← Bangaon ←||N SE||→ Sundarbans National Park → END|