ICT Engineering – Gediminas

Practical placement in Kolkata, India

Getting around in Kolkata pt 1

"Hello there, stranger!"

“Hello there, stranger!”

When I came to Kolkata I was avoiding certain means of transport, because I didn’t know how to approach them. I decided to write a guide for people who would visit Kolkata and in two posts I’m going to cover the 4 most popular ways of getting around.

In this part I’m covering Auto-rickshaws and Taxi’s with details and instructions on how to use them.

Auto-rickshaw

Auto-rickshaw

“What? Is it the word Swastika on the side?”

Pros:

  • Fast (even when there’s busy traffic).
  • Cheap.

Cons:

  • Takes you only short distances.

Process:

First thing you have to tell the driver is which stop you get off and then you pay him after the trip. If you pay the driver in advance he might forget and ask you to pay again after the trip. The prices for each street are different so you’ll have to learn the prices of your most frequent routes by yourself, but generally, in Kolkata, the price shouldn’t reach 10 INR.

Safety:

Has no doors, no seat-belts and runs on three wheels, so during a zombie apocalypse this would be a very bad choice, but in peace times like this, it feels pretty safe and stable.

Taxi

Inside the front seat of a taxi

Buckle your seat-belts, because this might get confusing…

Pros:

  • Can take you any distance.

Cons:

  • Slow (due to traffic).
  • Sometimes too expensive.

Process:

First you tell the driver your destination and the he’ll either, nod his head (meaning you can get in) or tell you a price.

In the latter case, the price is usually several times the normal price, because he knows that foreigners have more money and don’t know the prices, so you should either bargain or get another cab.

If it’s the former case, then when you’re inside he should start the meter and if he didn’t, you should remind him to. The rates can be different on holidays, but in general there are two and recently they introduced a new variable which works like this: after the starting 10 of the meter you add 2INR for every 5 e.g. 15 = 2; 20 = 4; 25 = 6 and so on. The full rate is calculated as follows:

Time Day (08:00-22:00) Night (22:00-08:00) From the picture:
Calculation the top number*2 + 5 + variable
the top number*2 + 50 + variable 27*2 + 50 + 6 = 110

At night, you can consider yourself very lucky if the driver agrees to take you with the meter on. Most of the time they just ask you for double the normal price, because they want to be compensated for the fact that they’ll have to go back to the same spot with an empty car.

More info about the fares can be found here.

Safety:

There are no seat-belts, but the speeds that they drive in, are not that dangerous. Also, it might not be safe to take a taxi alone, at night, especially if you’re a woman. Furthermore, you have to look out for a meter that was tampered with. You will notice this when the bottom digits (distance and time) will be moving unusually fast. At this point it’s better if you ask your driver to stop and get another cab.

For Buses and Metro go here: Getting around in Kolkata pt 2

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