Chennai India – Your Quick Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Chennai, the most developed metropolis in India, is a huge hub for all things food, religion and culture. The warmth and the madness in this city are totally unmatched. Summers are scorching hot here, but even that is not the reason good enough to skip it during your travel.
Why go to Chennai
Why go to Chennai? Locals and travellers alike love coming here to spend a relaxing evening at the Marina Beach and watch the gentle waves on the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. It is a great way to end the day after hours of shopping and sightseeing.
The city is a cultural hub and this is especially evident in the months of December & January when it hosts the annual music and dance festival. This is a unique opportunity for many to experience the positive vibe of the city.
Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is only a short ride away. The beautiful temples with the rock carvings are a real delight for shutterbugs.
Chennai is famous for one more thing which many people tend to ignore. Believe it or not, coffee is a pretty serious matter here. It is an integral part of the culture and one must taste concoction at least once to make the trip to Chennai worthwhile.
Chennai is also the place of origin of many delectable South Indian dishes like idli and dosa and one will find great food almost everywhere in the city at extremely affordable prices.
When to go to Chennai
The best time to visit Chennai is definitely between November and February. Summers are very hot and humid and temperatures can easily touch 45 degrees mark here. It can rain a bit in winter but the overall weather is just perfect for enjoying the city to the fullest. The Music & Dance Festival is held in the month of December; so those interested can surely come during this time.
Where to stay in Chennai
To find a decent place to lay your head in Chennai is not a tough task at all. There are plenty of accommodation options in the city that cater to all categories of tourists.
Hotel Savera is one of the oldest hotel in Chennai and the top choice for many returning travellers. With rates starting from INR 2100, it offers a great value for your money in the budget and mid-range price segment.
During our trip to Chennai we found a real gem – Old Woodlands. This is a relatively little known hotel but surely one of the best places to stay in Chennai. The main building of the hotel once served as the palace of Raja of Ramnad. The main hotel building looks majestic and is, at least, 100 years old.
Among the five star hotels, Vivanta by Taj and Ambassador Pallava both deserve special mention.
Where to eat in Chennai
Chennai has an astonishing number of good restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine.
The beach restaurants are a very popular choice for a low-key eating experience serving great food at affordable rates and these places are pretty well maintained.
Swanky star restaurants, non-vegetarian restaurants and the traditional vegetarian restaurants are all here in Chennai waiting to serve you the best fare, so getting quality food is never a problem in this city.
The most budget friendly choice for those who want to save some rupees are food courts, fast food centres and street stalls. The streets stalls offer great South Indian food during breakfast and dinner-time. The two former options are a good choice if you are not yet used to Indian street food – mmm – sanitary norms.
However, if money is not an issue then one can walk into one of the snazzy looking up-market restaurants that are found almost everywhere in the city or check out the buffet spreads at any of the luxury hotels.
How to get around Chennai
It is not recommended to rent a car and drive by yourself around Chennai, especially if you do not have any Indian driving experience – believe us, you will thank us for this tip. The city is notorious for traffic congestion and reckless driving together with violation of traffic rules is common. However, the roads in Chennai are definitely better maintained than in any other metropolis in the country.
If you still want to rent a car, many hotels have their own of associated car rental agencies. The car hire rates vary from one hotel to another.
Instead of renting a car, use auto-rickshaws for quick and short trips as they are cheap. Rickshaw drivers tend generally seldom use the meters very reluctantly thus you have to negotiate the price of the ride before you go.
The Chennai Metro Rail is one of the quickest modes of transport available in the city and this new underground system makes traveling much easier. The minimum fare is INR 10.
The network of local buses is extensive and quite efficient but taking into account the traffic buses are probably not the most convenient way to move around if you are on a short visit in Chennai.
How to get to and from Chennai
Reaching Chennai is not a herculean task as the city is well-connected with the rest of the country.
The Chennai International Airport lies 8 km from the city centre and handles international flights from Frankfurt, London, Paris, Colombo, Singapore and Muscat among other destinations worldwide. Flights are available to almost every destination in Asia and to all major airports in Europe. Etihad & Oman Air connect Chennai with the Middle East.
Chennai has 2 important railway stations – Chennai Central & Chennai Egmore. The latter is mainly used for regional trains while long-distance trains arrive at the Chennai Central station connecting the city to domestic destinations like New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore etc.
The city is also well connected with other parts of India by road. As many as 5 national highways connect Chennai with Kolkata, Bangalore, Madurai, Pondicherry and Tiruvallur.
There is also a port in Chennai but the only useful connection is with Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Is Chennai a safe place to visit?
Chennai is one of the safest cities of India in terms of mugging, pick-pocketing and robberies.
However, unaccompanied women should dress in a moderate manner and limit all kinds of interaction with the local men.
The streets should be crossed very carefully during rush hour as traffic becomes very heavy and subways should be avoided in the late evenings.
Traveling by Metro is the safest option and foreign nationals must exercise caution while traveling via auto-rickshaw as drivers have a tendency to fleece tourists.
New regulations and safety protocols are now in place in Chennai but it is always advisable to practice your common sense – and you will be absolutely fine in Chennai.