Kolkata Travel Guide – Things You Need To Know

By Mark Wiens 65 Comments
Kolkata Travel Guide and Useful Information
Kolkata Travel Guide and Useful Information

Kolkata (also spelled Calcutta) was the first city I visited in India, and after traveling around for a few months, it happens to rank as one of my favorite major cities I visited in the country.

It’s India’s third largest city, so it’s certainly huge, chaotic, and disorganized – but somehow it manages to function – and it will probably leave you amazed at just how things manage to work. I remember one taxi ride from Dakshineswar Kali Temple back to Kolkata city center where we should have injured or killed thousands of pedestrians and others on the road, yet somehow we managed to not hurt a soul – Incredible India!

Along with having a wonderful array of Bengali food and Indian street food to enjoy, Kolkata offers quite a few interesting attractions, incredible religious temples, and some good shopping.

Below you’ll find my Kolkata travel guide, packed with lots of useful tips from my visit. Here’s what is included:

  1. Arriving and Leaving
  2. Where to Stay
  3. How to Get Around
  4. Things To Do
  5. Restaurant in Kolkata

Enjoy!

Howrah Railroad Station
Howrah Railroad Station

1. Arriving and Leaving

When I traveled to India, I originally caught a flight from Bangkok to Kolkata. Kolkata Airport is not the nicest or the most modern airport in the world, but it does the job. After you arrive and get your bag, you can exchange some money inside or you can head outside the gate to use an ATM.

Airport: The safest and easiest way to get into Kolkata city center (Sudder Street) is by taking a prepaid taxi (Bagasara Police Official Taxi). You pay upfront, get a ticket, then go outside and across the road to the taxi booth where you’ll get a driver. My ride from the airport to the center of Kolkata was 300 INR and I had no problems.

Howrah Railroad Station: I left Kolkata by train, from the Howrah Railroad Station, located across the river from main Kolkata. It’s a madly busy station, but once you can ask around and find your platform number, it’s pretty easy to navigate. If you book your train ticket yourself online, make sure you print your ticket before you arrive.

350 Rupee room at Afridi Hotel
350 Rupee room at Afridi Hotel

2. Where to Stay

Sudder Street – The main backpacker area of the city, where there’s always action, is Sudder Street. You’ll find plenty of accommodation options on and around Sudder street ranging from about 300 INR to 2,000 INR per night.

Afridi International Guest House – Recommended by my friend Wandering Earl, I stayed at the Afridi International Guest House. Though it’s located right between Sudder street and the New Market, it’s positioned on a small side lane so it’s quite quiet and provides a good home base while you’re in Kolkata. Also, while I was staying there, they opened a brand new additional branch to the guest house. They offer everything from private en-suite double rooms to older rooms with shared bathrooms. I paid 350 INR per night for a double room with a shared toilet, quite a deal!

Broadway Hotel – Broadway Hotel in Kolkata is a historical classic and a great place to stay. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and clean.

For many more places to stay in Kolkata, click here.

The omnipresent yellow taxi cabs of Kolkata
The omnipresent yellow taxi cabs of Kolkata

3. How to Get Around

Kolkata Taxis

The bright yellow ‘Ambassador Classics’ with comfy bucket seats are one of the things you’ll first notice when you travel to Kolkata – they are omnipresently available, affordable, and will get you most places you need to go. All you have to do is flag an empty yellow taxi down on the side of the road, negotiate a price, hop in, and you’re off.

Kolkata taxis do have meters, but I didn’t have much luck, as only a few drivers were willing to use them. That being said, I normally would ask a local what the normal fair price would cost and then just negotiate a fee prior to leaving (and taxis are cheaper in Kolkata than elsewhere I visited in India).

Auto Rickshaw – An ‘auto’ rickshaw in India is the tuk tuk equivalent, a small little three wheeler. As opposed to human powered rickshaws, or cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws have engines. Similar to a taxi in Kolkata, negotiate a fare prior to riding.

Human Rickshaw – As I read, Kolkata is one of the only major cities in the world that still has a large fleet of functioning rickshaws pulled by humans. Many of the human rickshaws congregate around the New Market and Sudder Street, and while I wouldn’t recommend a journey too long on the major streets, a short ride is a good experience.

Kolkata Metro – Though it’s not overly extensive like the Delhi metro, Kolkata does have a single line metro (but many other lines under construction, of course). I only took it a few times, once from Esplanade (near the New Market) to Khalighat Hindu Temple, and it was clean, crowded, and super cheap. I think the ticket cost just 6 INR, but the prices change according to distance. Metro can be taken a few places, but taxis in Kolkata are the more reliable option.

Serious shopping in Kolkata
Serious shopping in Kolkata

4. Things To Do

I wrote a complete list of what were my top things to do in Kolkata, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the main attractions you’ll want to check out when you visit.

New Market (Sir Stuart Hogg Market) – With an interesting history of being burned down a number of times, and being rebuilt, New Market (as it’s referred to) and the area that surrounds is one of the top shopping districts in Kolkata. You can find just about anything you’d need, and there is a lot of good street food and restaurants in the area.

Mother Teresa Home – Mother Teresa, though she traveled and worked all over India, spent much of here time in Kolkata. The home and mission where Mother Teresa lived, and also her tomb, is now known throughout the city as Mother House. After visiting her tomb, you can view a small museum, and then see the room where Mother Teresa stayed and even the exact bed where she passed away.

Victoria Memorial – The Victoria Memorial Hall is one of the most iconic landmarks which Kolkata is famous for. Dedicated to Queen Victoria, the memorial (which is now a museum), was built using a combination of English and Mughal design.

Kalighat Kali Temple – One of the oldest and most important Hindu Temples, dedicated to the Kali goddess, is Kalighat Temple. Though it’s chaotic and crowded, the temple is worth a visit. Be aware of the scams that are pretty common around this temple (see my things to do post for more explanation).

Mullik Ghat Flower Market and Howrah Bridge – Exploring the colorful energetic Mullik Ghat Flower Market and walking across the Howrah Bridge made some of my fondest memories of Kolkata – and it’s a great place to take photos too!

Again, have a look at these things to do in Kolkata for more suggestions and also watch my Kolkata attractions video.

Incredible street food in Kolkata
Incredible street food in Kolkata

5. Restaurants in Kolkata

Nizam’s – Located in the New Market area (across the street from Old Market to be exact), Nizam’s is the Karim’s (famous restaurant in Delhi) of Kolkata. It’s one of the oldest and most well known restaurants – especially credited with inventing the kati roll (see Kusum rolls below). The other food on their menu was also pretty good. Try the curry, the kebabs, and the fluffy naan.

Kusum Rolls – Just off a side lane from Park Street is a stall known as Kusum Rolls that serves insanely tasty Kolkata kati rolls. A piece of dough is flattened into a paratha and fried in oil before spicy chicken or mutton, onions, and chillies are added. It’s rolled up into a seriously greasy delight. There are lots of kati roll street stalls around Kolkata, but my favorite was Kusum Rolls.

Bhojohori Manna – Kolkata is situated in the West Bengal state of India, so there’s no doubt that there are some restaurants serving marvelous Bengali food. Bhojohori Manna was one of my favorites. Be sure to order the crab curry and the mochar ghonto (curried banana flower)

Deckers Lane (James Hickey Sarani) – This street at lunch includes a tantalizing selection of Kolkata street food – ranging from snacks to full meals of rice and curry.

Sher-e Punjab – There are a number of locations around Kolkata, the one I ate at a few times was on AJC Bose road. The restaurant specializes in take away food, but there are also a few seats where you can sit down and enjoy some tasty North Indian and Indian Chinese meals.

Blue Sky Cafe – If you’re looking for some Western food, stop by Blue Sky Cafe, located right in the center of Sudder Street. The pancakes, omelets, and even the fried rice were all pretty good.

Street Food around New Market – Kolkata street food is delicious and widely available. Though you’ll find tasty snacks all over the city, my favorite place to munch while enjoying the energetic scenery was the area around the New Market. From ghugni chaat and pani puri (known in Kolkata as puchkas), to veg chowmein and dosas, you’ll be extremely satisfied.

Here’s a quick overview video of the top things you’ll be seeing when you visit Kolkata!

(If you can’t see the video, watch this Kolkata video on YouTube)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Kolkata is one of my favorite major cities that I visited in India. While some things about traveling there can by frustrating (lack of space, loudness, touts, begging), at the same time nearly everything you see, do, smell, and taste is fascinating – and the energy of the city is enough to keep you constantly entertained.

Hope this Kolkata travel guide helps you during your visit!



65 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Robert Douglas

    5 months ago

    Hi Mark, I just returned from Kolkata & read your page. My trip was similar to yours. I stayed at the Astoria on Sudder Street, ate at Kusum Rolls almost daily & did the same nail biting taxi ride from Dakshineswar temple. I loved the monkeys at the temple. I live in Australia but I was born near Kolkata in 1966 & left India in 1971. This is my first trip back there in 45 years. I should have returned much earlier. I can’t wait to go back there. Anyway thanks for this page & the great Youtube videos.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 months ago

      Hey Robert, great to hear from you, awesome that you just visited Kolkata again after so many years. I really enjoyed my visit there! Thank you for your support!

  • JerryMouse

    6 months ago

    It’s one of the most awesomely written posts about kolkata I have ever came accross , so rich in content 🙂 Kudos !!
    For some Interesting Facts and Best things about Kolkata Read this Article

  • Mia

    1 year ago

    What a great extract of the information. I love watching your video alot and that make me to go & taste all the food you enjoy.
    Again, thank you so much for your hard work.

  • Hayden

    1 year ago

    Hey Mark, I know his is a bit of an old post, but I found it very helpful. I am spending a few months in The Northeast on mission and will be spending a few days in Kolkata when I am finished. I am very much looking forward to the visit. The north east is not nearly as developed, but there are definitely some beautiful places in the area and great food, like roasted duck
    Tribal style! Also, the Kolkata airport is a MUCH nicer place these days. They have invested in a lot of renovation the past two years and I had a nice experience there. Thanks again!

    • Mark Wiens

      1 year ago

      Hey Hayden, awesome to hear from you, and that’s great that you’ll be spending some time in Northeastern India. Hope you have a great time in Kolkata as well!

  • Rohit

    2 years ago

    Hi

    I am going to north east from Pune on 15 may and returning on 28th may.

    My plan is as below

    Reach Kolkata 15 may
    Kolkata to new jalpaiguri on 18

    Reaching jalpaiguri on 19th morning.

    Then return to jalpaiguri on 27 and take train to Pune.

    Please help to plan my itenary for
    3 days in kolkata ..what shall I see and where shall I eat and stay

    Then Darjeeling and Gangtok sight seeing how much time I stay there at each places what shall I see and how much will taxi cost for full day.
    Where shall we stay

    Things to be taken care and avoid.

    And how will be weather in May

  • Chan June whei

    2 years ago

    Very thank you to shown such wounderfull films,and introduced in details,let us to enjoying so good trip ,I am very welcome you to visit my home TAIWAN.

  • Deep Patel

    2 years ago

    I’m going to visit Kolkata next week. I read your blogs about foods and places to visit. I feel like i already know much (though i’m expecting unexpected!!).
    Thank you. Your blogs are delicious!! 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Thank you very much Deep, hope you have a great trip to Kolkata!

  • Navanita

    2 years ago

    Hey mark, thanks for ur review… yup kolkata has it’s own frustations, being third world country it’s hard to control the amount of beggers… but as u said kolkata has it’s own glow… i think u missed gariahat and dhakuria lake… and more than that i hope u’ll be able to come here at Durga puja in future, then u can see the real energy and glow,real kolkata… 😉 😀

  • alpana mansingh

    3 years ago

    hi mark ! when u coming to Kolkata again?

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Alpana, I’m not sure when, but I’d really love to visit Kolkata again in the future. Are you from there?

  • Subhojit Biswas

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    I like your posts and videos and following them for a while now. One thing I really like about your posts/videos is that they are so inexpensive, really pocket-friendly and very useful for people like us. We are always having a limited budget.

    I am from Kolkata and I am really touched the way you managed to cover the region. Do you have any friend in here?

    Please let me know if you ever plan to visit Kolkata again. If I get lucky I may see you one day.

    Many Thanks.

  • Nigel

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for this wondering guide of Kolkata, I am going to Kolkata and Darjeeling early November and I can’t wait to try the curry and rice in Singalila Restaurant that I saw in you video.

    I have to agree with you, India is a country that can teach us a lot and this is my 3rd visit to India, and I am very sure I will go back again and again…

    Cheers 🙂

  • Sk Rafiqul Haque

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark, I have enjoyed your video 🙂 and I have known my home city Kolkata by your video once more time. Thanks for visiting Kolkata 🙂 Comes Again…

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Thank you Sk, I’d love to visit again in the future.

  • Jahbel

    3 years ago

    Thanks a lot it helped me to know more about Kolkata as I intend to go there in few months to study

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hello Jahbel, good to hear that you’ll be going to Kolkata. All the best with your studies.

  • Debanjan

    4 years ago

    Hey, Calcutta (or Kolkata) does not literally translate to City of Joy. It is just an epithet given to the wonderful city. However, the origin of the name is a subject of wide argument. While there is an urban legend of some localities telling the first European settlers that the crop was harvested yesterday (‘kaal kata’ in Bengali), when asked what was the name of the place, the most accepted story is that it takes its name from Goddess Kali.

    Nice write-up, glad that you had a good time in the city. Sudder Street is quite the place to stay for backpackers. I would not recommend Blue Sky Cafe (although I have hung out there innumerable number of times) for the best Continental food. Park Street, only a few blocks away from Sudder, offers a wide variety of cuisines, albeit it being expensive.

  • Denes Bagi

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    Great blog ,really enjoyed the video too.Just one question:Did you fly one way to Kolkata?Did you have any problems with immigration?I just got a one way ticket to Kolkata ,flying on Sunday but someone told me that not having an onward ticket could be a problem.What do you think?

    Cheers
    Denes

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Denes, thanks a lot! Yes, I did fly one-way into Kolkata, and I had no problems at all. All the best!

  • Jen

    4 years ago

    Do you have info for Afridi Guesthouse. I’ve been trying to figure out how to contact them online. The only number I found doesn’t work. Just curious.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Jen, posted is the only phone number I have for Afridi. I also had trouble booking ahead of time, so I had to just show up when I was there. Hope you can get ahold of them!

  • Jouvary

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    Kolkata is also my favourite Indian city. Take a look at Google satelite view of Kolkata and compare with Mumbai. Kolkata has few extreme slum areas like Mumbai but on the other hand few rich areas like Mumbai, very revealing. One Place worth seeing in Kolkata which is rarely mentioned is Birla Mandir between Gariahat and Park Circus. It is a big, massiv stone temple (no pilots!) built in 1996 in traditional style. Clean, contemplative and in all respects the opposite of Kalighat temple. I also recommend South Indian style food at relaxed restaurant on Free School Street just 50 meters north of the crossing with Park Street. Take their cheesy Masala dosa!
    All the best, from Jouvary

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Jouvary, great to hear from you and glad you like Kolkata too – I’ll try your Google view idea to compare it to Mumbai! I enjoyed Birla Mandir as well, a very peaceful calm experience. Cheesy dosa sounds delicious too!

  • Joy

    4 years ago

    Hey Mark, its Joyjoyooo from YouTube! i love your this post and the thorough information that you put out! and i will def. have it look and do more research with my friends before deciding what we should do. =]

    Thanks !
    will sure to keep watching your videos for more food . =]

  • David Bennett

    4 years ago

    What a worthwhile content-filled article.

    I’ve been to India twice – spent almost no time at all in Kolkata on way to Darjeeling – but next time I’ll have this article to look at.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi David, good to hear you’ve visited India as well. I thought Kolkata was a pretty cool city filled with lots of interesting street life. Hope you can visit next time!

  • Mike

    4 years ago

    Brilliant guide, Mark. I’ve always wanted to visit India; I know it is a street photography paradise. I love the bit about the taxi ride! The drivers must certainly be masters at what they do and it’s best not to think about the possibility of crashing!

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Mike, thanks a lot. You’d have a blast in Kolkata or anywhere in India, taking photos. There are just so many events that take place every single second when walking around. Taxis are crazy in Kolkata!

  • Alexey

    4 years ago

    Hello Mark !

    Do I undestand correctly that it was your first visit to India. I am planning be there in April-May so was wondering if could find some uselful info about this country. Thanks !

    Alexey

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Alexey, good to hear you’re planning to go to India. Yes, it was my first time, and I really enjoyed it, despite a few challenges. I’ll be publishing lots more information soon. Hope you have a great trip!

  • Darrell

    5 years ago

    Thanks for Mark for the great tips. I look forward to traveling to Kolkata one day.

  • neale

    5 years ago

    Thanks Mark for the comprehensive post. I have always had a desire to check out India you make it look quite civilized and cheap to boot 🙂 I still cant believe how I crave Indian food and I’m not Indian..

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thanks a lot Neale, it’s definitely worth a trip just for the delicious food!

  • Owen Lipsett

    5 years ago

    Great guide Mark!

    Kolkata wasn’t at the top of my list for places to visit, but you have a knack for making places seem appealing 🙂

  • Tracy Z

    5 years ago

    Wow I’m so jealous you made it to Calcutta, I’ve always wanted to go!

  • [email protected]

    5 years ago

    “… we should have injured or killed thousands of pedestrians and others on the road, yet somehow we managed to not hurt a soul.” Ha ha MARK got a great laugh out of that one. I felt that way on more than a handful of occasions in India. Here in Riyadh I was in a crazy cab ride almost laughing while my coworker was freaking out. I was like: Dude, relax, I’ve experienced much more intense than this in India. 🙂

  • william

    5 years ago

    hi nice see your article. do you like Indian to travel. i asked about your personal opinion, not relevant to your budget. in my point of view, i had visited over 34 countries around the world with many Asian countries, India is the worst i ever visited. they dont know respect people, very poor culture, even they shit in the railway. i sow that near the south India,,not other areas any way i had meet some Kerala people..OMG i cant still believe they are in 21 century

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi William, I understand you thoughts, and while there are many frustrating things about traveling in India, yes I did enjoy it. It’s a country that teaches you a lot!

      • Rana

        1 year ago

        True.

    • Melissa kitty

      4 years ago

      Hello! I’m so so glad you said that! I am traveling in India now, and have also traveled to many other places and third world countries in the world – I lived in china for 6 years from 1991 – 1997 way before it was as developed as it is now, and have to say I completely agree with you! Yet everyone I talk to BEAMS about how great and beautiful it is!!! I just could not understand, and I’m so glad that there is someone who agrees with me. However I feel very lucky to be here, and appreciate all the great and wonderful things this country and it’s people have to offer but it really is my least favourite for all the reasons you have stated above.

      And I agree with you too mark! It does teach you many, many things 🙂

      • Mark Wiens

        4 years ago

        Hello Melissa, great to hear from you and thank you for sharing. Glad you enjoy Kolkata as well, despite it having its frustrations, it’s such a fascinating city!

    • A Real Traveller

      1 year ago

      So, from a few instances of behaviour, you conclude your generalisations about an entire bunch of people from a country? Which country do you come from, William? Then watch the fun as I generalise about you based on where you are from, you cretin.

      As for Kerala people, really????? You can’t believe they are in the 21st century? What made you conclude that? What your comment clearly shows is that YOU are the one I cannot believe exists in the 21st century. ….and this is after having visited 34 countries, mr bigshot. Obviously travel has not broadened your mind, or at least caused you not to make easy judgements.

      What a tool.