“Detroit of India”.
Where is Chennai?
The city of Chennai also known as Madras is located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal on the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu State. Chennai is home to many museums, galleries, and other institutions, most of which are major tourist attractions and have free entry.
The city is known for Tamil classical music & dance. Also Kapaleeshwarar Temple & the colonial Fort St. George. The Fort Museum inside Fort St. George, is an important museum having a collection of objects from the British Raj. The first flag of India hoisted was at Fort St George after the declaration of India’s Independence on 15 August 1947. The flag is just one of the many artifacts on display in the museum.
Our journey from Alleppey to Chennai was local State buses and an overnight sleeper train.
During our time in Chennai, we chose to spoil ourselves as it was New Year and stay at the Taj Club House Hotel, booked through Booking.com.
Our room, a superior double, featured wooden flooring, a queen-sized bed, workstation, complimentary Wi-Fi for up to 4 devices, flatscreen television, and tea/coffee maker. The hotel has a swimming pool, gymnasium, and a spa. Buffet breakfast is included offering an ample choice. Along with excellent service that you would expect from a luxurious hotel.
Places of interest
A natural urban beach along the Bay of Bengal. Running from Fort St. George in the north to Foreshore Estate in the south, it is 6 km long, making it the longest natural urban beach in India. Primarily sandy, during summer months it can attract up to 50,000 visitors a day. Swimming is strictly prohibited due to dangerous undercurrents.
Fort St George
The first English fortress in India, founded in 1644. The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally an uninhabited land. Thus the city evolved around the fortress. The fort currently houses the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and other official buildings.
The Government Museum
Also known as the Madras Museum, it is a museum of human history and culture. Located in the Government Museum Complex. Started in 1851, it is the tenth oldest Museum in the World. Particularly rich in archaeological collections, having the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe.
Chennai is a congested traffic clogged city. Getting around can be a very time consuming process.
Chennai has a suburban train network that currently consists of four routes:
Western Line: Chennai Central – Arakkonam.
North Line: Chennai Central – Gummidipoondi-Sulurpet-Nellore
South Line: Chennai Beach – Tambaram and Chengalpet
MRTS Line: Chennai Beach – Velachery (MRTS)
Generally reliable and fast this network doesn’t lend itself to connecting tourist attractions. The frequency of the trains is good offering a reliable and quicker alternative to get to your destination than the bus. The fare on the Chennai suburban trains is low.
Chennai has a new Metro Network that has been in operation since 2015. Two lines are currently in operation.
The Green line from St Thomas Mount to Central.
The Blue line from the Airport to Central.
The first trains start at 0600 hrs with the last train departing at 2200 hrs. During the morning and evening rush hours, 0700 to 1000 hrs and 1800 to 2100 hrs, trains run every 5 minutes. They run every 15 minutes during the remaining off peak hours.
The use of the metro is low compared to government subsidised buses. Making it a far more pleasurable experience.
A Store value card is available for a refundable deposit of 50 Rupees. The minimum recharge is 50 Rupees and the maximum recharge is 3000 Rupees. The card is valid for 5 years from the time of purchase or recharge, whichever is later. The use of a Store value card will save 10% on the fare of every journey taken. It can be recharged at ticket vending machines (TVMs) and at any Ticket office.
Tourist cards are also available for 1 day and 30 days. The 1-day card costs 100 Rupees and the 30-day card costs 2500 Rupees. Both cards require a 50 Rupee refundable deposit.
These cards allow unlimited journeys and can be purchased at any time. The 1-day Tourist card is valid only for one day. The 30-day tourist card is valid for 30 days from the date of purchase.
A journey token can be purchased from the ticket counter or the automatic ticket vending machines. Located at each station.
Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses run throughout the city. With routes accessing areas that are not accessible by the suburban trains or the metro. These buses are government-run and subsidised. Making them extremely cheap.
Standard local bus, identified by a white display board.
Express bus, identified by a green display board.
Deluxe bus, identified by a blue display board or an LED display sign.
Standard local buses will be crowded. Deluxe buses less so.
Left hand seats are reserved for ladies and right hand seats are for men.
Daily and weekly bus passes are available for tourists costing 50 Rupees and 300 Rupees respectfully. These can be used on standard and deluxe bus services on all routes within the city. It is worthwhile to purchase the daily pass if you plan to visit more than a couple of sights in a day as it will save you the trouble of purchasing a ticket every time you board a bus. The daily pass can be purchased on the first bus you board from the conductor. The weekly and monthly passes are sold at all major terminus.
If you have luggage, you will have to pay an additional amount, depending upon its size.
Recently a hop-on hop-off tour bus has also been organized by the Government. This service covers many of the famous sights along the scenic East Coast Road up to Mahabalipuram. The buses depart from Mamallapuram every hour from 1100 until 1800 hrs.
The charge is 150 Rupees a day. The price includes travelling to Mamallapuram and back within the day. For a one-way ticket, the charge is 100 Rupees and can be bought at the stop.
Taxis and Auto Rickshaws
Taxis and auto rickshaws are the most convenient ways to travel around. The drivers of both will do their very best to overcharge you. They think that because you are a foreigner and travelling thousands of miles away from your home you can afford.
Always travel on the meter, no matter what they say. Believe us when we say, we were told some amazing stories as to why the meter couldn’t be used. If you are not travelling on the meter, agree to a price before you travel. Don’t be afraid to haggle, but be fair. Of course, it is entirely up to you how much you end up paying.
With us, it was the principle of overcharging tourists that we didn’t agree with. We always gave a tip to the genuine fair drivers, for being just that.
Getting around the larger cities is cheaper using the app-based taxi services Uber or Ola, both means of transport can be booked through these companies. No arguments over the fare and cheaper than ordinary taxis and auto rickshaws.
The destination is entered at the time of booking so no difficulty trying to explain where you want to go. The process of getting one can take a bit longer than just flagging a taxi on the street.
Our time in Chennai was primarily as a rest and to see in the New Year. Also used for personal family research, therefore not much sightseeing was done.