Transportation - Get In
- Chennai International Airport , GST Rd (Approx. 19 Kms South-West from Downtown), . is the third busiest in India (after Mumbai & Delhi). All international flights arrive at Anna Terminal, while the domestic flights arrive at Kamraj Terminal. The two terminals are on the same road and are 150 m (492 ft) away from each other. It is the second-largest cargo hub in the country, after Mumbai. Chennai is well connected to London, Frankfurt, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Middle East, New York City,Hong Kong, etc. - Avoid the cafeteria at the viewing area, as there have been cases of food poisoning in 2013.
- Europe and North America: Lufthansa (Frankfurt) and British Airways (London-Heathrow) fly nonstop to Chennai with connecting service from their European hubs to points in the United States and Canada.
- South-East Asia: Thai Airways offers nonstop service to Bangkok. Silk Air, Singapore Airlines and Tiger Airways connects you to Singapore along with many Indian carriers like Indian Airlines and Air India Express. Air Asia flies to Kuala Lumpur,Penang andBangkok with affordable fares while Malaysia Airlines offers nonstop service to Malaysia. India's very own Jet Airways flies non-stop to both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Cathay Pacific flies non-stop to Hong Kong. Air Mauritius flies non-stop to Mauritius. Air Seychelles flies nonstop to the Seychelles.
- Middle East: Nonstop services are available from Chennai to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai,Dammam, Doha,Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Qatar, Riyadh and Sharjah on Air Arabia, Indian Airlines, Air India Express, Oman Air, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian and Gulf Air.
- Sri-Lanka: Chennai is a hub for flights to Colombo with SriLankan Airlines, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Air India Express and JetLite. Chennai is the traveling hub for Colombo.
- Domestic: All the major Indian domestic carriers (Jet Airways, Spice, Go Air, Indigo) connect Chennai with multiple flights to points all over India and most use Chennai as a hub for flights to smaller cities in South India. Chennai is also a staging point for flights to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.
Airport to City connection
- Tirusulam Suburban Railway Station (located directly across the street from the domestic terminal. -Walk through the car park, cross the street and walk left until you see the station. Due to the distance from the airport [500m-600m] and high volume of traffic on the road, walking to the station is only advisable with limited luggage.). This is the most affordable option for getting into downtown Chennai. - The train stops at both Egmore and Chennai Park. To get to Chennai Central, follow the crowds exiting the train at Chennai Park station. - It is advisable to take a first class ticket if you happen to reach the airport during peak hours. The general compartments are often over-crowded as they transport commuters to/from work. In peak hours even the first class compartments may also be crowded. Regular ticket: ₹5. First class ticket: around ₹70 to/from Downtown.
Using the pre-paid taxi to get to the city, each terminal has several booths for several taxi companies when you exit the airport, outside before you meet the crowd. Fast Track has the best rep, figure on around ₹560 to the city centre for a Toyota Innova or equivalent. The fares are different for the domestic and international terminals though the terminals are next to each other. You can either choose the standard Taxis (Black with Yellow tops) which are usually the ancient Ambassador cars or the private call-taxi (which can come in any model and in any color). It's better to keep small change in hand while paying at the counters. Note the taxi number written on your charge slip (one copy is for the passenger and the other is for the driver to collect the fare from the counter). Make your way to the taxi stand and get the taxi number allotted at the designated desk. The helpful drivers offer to take your luggage and guide you to the taxi that drives up quickly near the allotment desk.
A new cab provider named "Fasttrack" has started off their service and a pre-paid booth of them is available at both domestic and international terminals. Comparing with the rest of the taxis their fare and service is pretty much good. Depends on your need you can get from Maruti van to Toyota Innova.
Prepaid and yellow top taxis are not air-conditioned, are of vintages right from 70s and 80s, rickety, prone to stop midway, drivers exhibit rough behaviour, sometimes could be dangerous, demand exorbitant fares, pre-paid may mean nothing and they may demand more when you get down. Keep away from these types.
Aviation Express is massively overpriced.
- Chennai Central Railway Station(code: MAS, former: Madras Central, சென்னை நடுவம்) (You can arrive at the prepaid taxi/auto stand and book a cab to transport you to your exact place of stay. - The main entrance is located at Park Town at the intersection of the arterial Poonamallee High Road, Pallavan Salai, and Wall Tax Road between the People's Park and the Southern Railways headquarters. The station premises is located on either side of the Buckingham Canal, formerly known as Cochrane's Canal, which separates the main station and the suburban terminus. - Connected with the Park railway station by subway.).
- Chennai Park Suburban railway station, Poonamallee High Rd, Poongavanapuram. 'South' Line. Take it to west to Central Beach or to South(west) to Tambaram passing Tirusulam station (a couple hundred meter away from Chennai International Airport).
- Chennai Egmore Railway Station (code MS) (You can arrive at the prepaid taxi/auto stand and book a cab to transport you to your exact place of stay. - One stop from Chennai Central railway station by suburban rail). The other main long-distance train station. It has trains which cover all the places in Tamil Nadu and also a few important places outside it.- Many long distance trains to Egmore stop at Tambaram (code TBM).
- Chennai Beach Station, North Beach Road, George Town (Near to Chennai Port).Serves the suburban services of the Chennai suburban railway (headstation of the South line) and Mass Rapid Transit System of Chennai and a few passenger trains.
- Perambur Railway Station (code PER), Perambur High Rd, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, Bunder Garden, Perambu (NW four km from Chennai Central). Serve the suburban areas of Chennai.
- Tambaram Railway Station (code TBM, தாம்பரம் இரயில் நிலையம்), Railway Station Road, Tambaram East (SW 29 km from Chennai Central). Serve the suburban areas of Chennai. - trains to Chennai Beach (Every five-ten mins), to Chengalpet (Every 10-15 mins) and to Kancheepuram (half hourly or so)
Trains that connect Chennai to major hubs like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi are usually booked out days in advance. If you plan to travel by train, consider making an advance reservation, the reservation opens 60 days before the day of travel. The AC compartments in the trains are preferable for new travelers as the sleeper class and sitting class compartments are generally very crowded. A 3-tier AC berth from Chennai to Bangalore or Coimbatore costs around ₹700 and that to Delhi around ₹2500 including meals.
- CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus சென்னை புறநகர் பேருந்து நிலையம்), CMBT Passenger Way, Koyambedu(Located on the 30 m inner-ring road (Jawaharlal Nehru Road) in Koyambedu between SAF Games Village and the Koyambedu Vegetable Market. - Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus metro station (opening 2014.Dec./2015.Mar.)), . (Enquiry)One of Asia's largest bus stations. Seven different state owned corporations drive buses to and from various destinations within South India. There are hourly buses for places like Tirupati,Pondicherry, Coimbatore,Tirunelveli. You will get the option of A/C or Non-A/C coaches for cities like Bangalore, Trivandrum, Hyderabad. - It has six platforms in three bus fingers with 180 bus bays
- Omni bus terminus (Chennai Contract Carriage Bus Terminus, CCCBT), Kaliamman Koil St, Virrugambakkam, Koyambedu (West to Kaliamman Koil St - Take bus to stop Arihant Towers Bus Stop. - CMBT Metro Station 400m away). This one is used by several private players whiches also operate buses between most southern destinations. During the weekends most buses are fully occupied and it's better to reserve a ticket in advance. - Omni Bus Booking: No:B-15, Ground Floor, Sriji majestic complex (right next to Omni bus terminus).
All buses terminate near Koyambedu but there are different stands for state owned (CMBT) and private buses (Omni bus terminus). The two terminals are near each other, and it is better to tell your exact destination to the taxi/auto-rickshaw driver. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. Feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.
Several private players also operate buses between most southern destinations. During the weekends most buses are fully occupied and it's better to reserve a ticket in advance. All buses terminate near Koyambedu but there are different stands for state owned (CMBT) and private buses (Omni bus terminus). The two terminals are near each other, and it is better to tell your exact destination to the taxi/auto-rickshaw driver. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. Feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.
Chennai is very well connected and to other parts of India by road. Five major national highways radiate outward towards Kolkata, Bengaluru, Tiruchy/Madurai, Tiruvallur, and Pondicherry. With the progress of the Golden Quadrilateral project, driving down from Bangalore is an option too. There are many car rental companies available.
Transportation - Get Around
Getting around the heart of Chennai city often takes time, due to traffic and heavy congestion. So it is advisable to plan your journey accordingly. Travelling within Chennai is not so cheap by Indian metropolitan standards, and are quite cheap by European and USA standards.
By Public Transport
Chennai has a suburban train network. There are four routes:
- Chennai Central Suburban Railway Station.
- Arakkonam Suburban Railway Station, Railway Quarters Rd, Arakkonam North (Near to INS Rajali Naval Air Station - West 60 km from Center of City).
- Chennai Central Suburban Railway Station(see above)
- Gummidipoondi Suburban Railway Station (North 40 km from Center of City).
- Sulurpet Suburban Railway Station, Sulurpeta, Andhra Pradesh State(North 84 km from Center of City).
- Gudur Railway Station (Telugu: గుడూరు, Newari: गुडूरु), Gudur, Andhra Pradesh State (N-NW 58km from Sulurpet).
- Chennai Beach Suburban Railway Station.
- Tambaram Suburban Railway Station (Tamil: தாம்பரம், Code:TBM), GST Road, Tambaram (SW 29km from Chennai Central).
- Chengalpet Suburban Railway Station, State Highway 58, J C K Nagar(Southwestern shore of the Kolavai Lake. - SW 29km from Tambaram).
- Chennai Beach Suburban Railway Station (see above)
- Velachery (MRTS) Suburban Railway Station (Located near the junction of Velachery Main Road and Inner Ring Road in Velachery. North of Pallikaranai Marshland.).
The suburban trains are generally reliable and fast. The frequency of suburban trains is generally good and it is advisable to take a first class ticket during peak hours. Trains offer a reliable alternative to quickly reach your destination when compared to buses which might get trapped in traffic jams. The fare in Chennai suburban trains is the lowest in the country and you don't have to compromise comfort for the meagre amount that you pay as in other Indian metros. There is a separate ladies compartment in the suburban trains that are relatively less crowded even in peak hours. The lowest second class train fare is ₹4/-. However, you might need to wait even for almost half an hour in a queue for ticket during peak hours. So it would be best if you buy a card that is available at every station that can be used to buy tickets from a ticket vending machine that almost nobody uses. Always keep your baggage safe when you are traveling in the suburban railway system.
Chennai Metro Rail
The part of the new Metro Rail from Koyembedu to Alandur has opened. The fare between the two stations is ₹40 per person. Other lines are under construction and will soon be operational. They will connect the airport, the railway station, the CMBT bus station and most of the city.
Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses ply throughout the city. These are government-run and extremely cheap.
- Broadway city bus terminus, NSC Bose Rd, Esplanade, George Town (Located in the heart of the city or its downtown - Parry's corner & Fort. - Very close to Chennai Central railway station. The nearest suburban railway station is Chennai Fort.). The largest city bus terminus of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai), Chennai. - It lies opposite the Madras High Court along the Esplanade in George Town. It is a connecting point to several areas in the city. The bus terminus is located at the southern end of Broadway.
Normally Bus Fare in MTC range from ₹4 - ₹30. State corporation also has Deluxe and A/C Buses for Chennai Passengers. Fare for deluxe bus is almost two times as compared to normal bus. For same route, deluxe and normal bus have same number but deluxe buses are being run targeting long distance journey since it will stop at major bus stops only. So if you find normal buses too crowded, take a deluxe one. Non AC deluxe also have power gates and better suspension which you won't find in normal bus. If you have luggage with you, you might have to pay the cost of an extra person depending upon its size.
MTC Chennai operates AC bus service between important routes like Parrys - Tambaram, Parrys - CMBT, Chennai Central - CMBT, Chennai central - Tambaram, etc. Most frequent AC bus runs between CMBT towards Pondicherry and are known as East coast road (ECR) buses and is very popular for intracity travel too.
Daily and weekly bus passes are available for tourists costing ₹50 or ₹300. They can be used on normal and deluxe bus services (but not AC) on all routes within the city. It is worthwhile to purchase the daily pass if you plan to visit more than a couple of places in a day and it will save you from the trouble to maintain loose change. The daily pass can be purchased on the first bus you board from the conductor, while the weekly and monthly passes are sold at kiosks located in major terminus. Recently a hop-on hop-off tour bus has also been organized by the Government. The service covers many of the famous sights along the scenic East Coast Road up to Mahabalipuram.
State Express Transport Corporation buses go to different parts of the state. Private carriers also run to other towns/cities in state. You can buy these bus tickets online at redBus or readIndia or RathiMeena.
Chennai has about 71,000 auto rickshaws.
The fares of Chennai auto rickshaws have been an enormous political topic for many years and has contributed to the perception that the city's auto rickshaw drivers never use meters and continually fleece passengers. However, despite the reputation, trips by auto rickshaw actually are quick, cheap and quite often based on the metered price.
In the autumn of 2013, the government and Chennai auto rickshaw drivers agreed to a new tariff structure for rides. The minimum fare was set at ₹25 for the first 1.8km and ₹12/km for every additional kilometre. Waiting charges were set at ₹3.50 for every five minutes and ₹42 per hour. Between 11pm and 5am, the fare is 50% higher than the normal daytime rate.
The government also announced at the time that it would spend ₹80 crore (US $12.5 million) to outfit auto rickshaw meters with GPS and electronic digital receipt printers. As of 2015, though, only a small fraction of autos actually have these features.
Both the government and the auto rickshaw drivers, through their organization Madras Metro Auto Drivers Association, hailed the 2013 fare hikes as a major agreement that would benefit drivers and passengers alike, and create a sense of fairness among all. However, the reality on the streets is different. In practice, the situation as of 2015 is for the driver and passenger to agree before the ride begins to a price of a) meter, b) meter + some additional amount, or c) a fixed price.
In theory, rickshaw drivers' permits should be cancelled if they charge more than the metered fare, but drivers' political strength is powerful and this provision is essentially never enforced.
Whether the auto driver will agree to a metered fare depends on many factors. Generally, many drivers will agree to a fare of meter plus ₹10-₹30 additional. But at busy times such as rush hours on weekdays, almost no drivers will agree to the metered price and will insist on a fixed price, or at a minimum demand a fare of meter plus 30-100. On the other hand, at slower times, for example Sundays, many drivers will agree to metered prices with no surcharge. Some drivers will simply never accept metered fares no matter what time it is.
The fixed prices which auto drivers demand is related to distance. They generally have a good sense for how much the fare would be for a given route and ask for fixed prices around double what it would cost by meter. For shorter distances which would cost 25-50 by the meter, the fixed price demanded is initially 100-150. For longer distances which would cost 50-150 by meter, the fixed price demanded will be 200-300. Depending on the situation, it's possible to negotiate down the initially demanded fixed price.
For short distances up to 1.8km, auto drivers as of 2015 very rarely will agree to the metered price of 25. Generally, ₹40-50 is the minimum most will require for any trip, although at off-peak hours, it might be possible with negotiation and speaking to many autos to find a driver who will agree to ₹30-₹40. For a typical trip in the city of 3-5km, many drivers will initially demand ₹100-₹150, but at non-peak hours a fare of ₹50-₹60 will usually be sufficient after speaking to a few drivers.
At all times, the price agreed depends very much on the passenger's knowledge of the distance involved and price it would cost by meter, his/her negotiation skill, and the time s/he is willing to spend asking auto after auto. In almost any central area, there are many autos around, so if you have the time, it's possible to save quite a bit by speaking to many auto drivers until you find an acceptable fare.
Many passengers now opt for Ola, Uber or other similar taxi-order services simply to avoid the frustration and time involved with negotiating with auto after auto.
Note that all autos in Chennai have meters, but at least a quarter of drivers have disabled their meter in some way in order to make it not functional and the passenger must agree to a fixed price if s/he wants to use that auto. For those meters which function, you can see the price, kilometers and waiting time, and thereby confirm that the meter is fairly following the official tariff structure.
Share autos have emerged in the recent years as an alternative mode of transport in Chennai. They are over-sized three wheelers running on diesel and charge slightly more than the bus. There are four wheelers known as meter taxis, which don't have a meter and are not taxis. Recently, yet another four wheeler, Magic (manufactured by Tata), has started running in and around the city, which operate similar to share autos and meter taxis. They are all over crowded and the drivers indulge in rash driving, owing to the competition. The only advantage is that it is cost effective.
On a side note - if you are fascinated by the idea of going around in an auto, think about all those foreigners, who are riding an auto from Chennai to Mumbai. A Chennai based event management company, Chennai Event Management Services, has been having these auto-rickshaw rallies from Chennai to Mumbai, or Kanyakumari, etc., and has developed a great fan following for the same.
Taxis (locally called "call-taxis" since they must be pre-arranged) are available by phone. They are mostly reliable, can be ordered air-conditioned, and have digital fare meters, although time-based hire is also possible with some companies. Most companies charge a minimum fare of ₹150/-, which is for 5 km (3 mi) and for every subsequent kilometre they charge ₹18/-. Alternatively, you can hire a car for a half/full day for around ₹800/1300. These figures are for basic non-AC Ambassadors, add about 50% if you want a comfier aircon Tata Indica. Waiting charges are included in the meter cost but you are required to pay parking and toll fees additional to the fare displayed in the meter. If your trip is time-sensitive, it's best to book your taxi a few hours in advance and call shortly before your trip to confirm.
Most prepaid taxi operators have choice of vehicles. Indica is the ubiquitous hatch back that can seat 3 passengers, but it is almost impossible to find one of these well maintained. Opt for a Figo or Liva instead of the Indica when you book the taxi, these are newer models and likely to be in better state of maintenance. If you prefer a sedan, choices are Etios, Maruti Dzire and Ford Fiesta. SUV models Innova or Xylo have more space and are suitable for small groups (up to 7). Innova has a well deserved reputation with travelers for airport transfers due to the reliability, spacious seats and capacity to carry more luggage.
Tourist Cabs - Are the best choice in case you want to tour the city all day or visit nearby places like Mahabalipuram, Tirupati, etc. Costs about ₹10/-₹ per kilometre and ₹100 per hour as hire charges. Also generally there is special price if you need to go Chennai Central or Chennai Airport.
Some radio taxi services are:
It is generally not advisable for foreign travelers to drive on their own as they might be unaware of the traffic rules and congestion in the city. The roads in Chennai are better maintained than the average Indian road. The main highway is Anna Salai also known asMount Road.
The complex road routes may confuse novice driver and it is sheer waste of time. If you choose to rent a car, it's highly advisable to hire a driver as well. Typical driver fee comes to around ₹250 for 4-hour shift and an additional ₹50 every hour thereafter. Outstation trips cost a driver fee of ₹750 for a 12-hour journey.
Foreign travelers should keep in mind that both diesel and petrol are used as fuel in India and it varies with the model of the car. Some cars have identical models with only a D badge to indicate diesel. Make sure you find out what type of fuel the car uses from the rental company.
ECR or East coast road is one of the very few places around Chennai that is best enjoyed by car. There are a lot of scenic views with many sightseeing options along the route. For most of the sights within the city limits, travelers would be better served by public transport or a taxi.
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