Located on the eastern coast of Southern India along the Bay of Bengal is the small Union Territory of Pondicherry, which is also known to many as Puducherry. Pondicherry was the largest French Colony in India and till date has a very strong French influence.
There are multiple ways of getting to Pondicherry. By road this Union Territory is located 160 km from the nearest city of Chennai. Regular bus services are available all through the day from CMBT in Koyambedu, Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. A bus seat can be booked even on the day of the journey. The road from Chennai to Pondicherry is along a scenic highway and the journey takes about 3 hours.
Pondicherry is at a distance of 320 km from the city of Bangalore. The journey from Bangalore takes about 7 to 8 hours by bus. Buses from Bangalore leave in the night and reach Pondicherry early in the morning the next day.
Pondicherry is connected to Chennai by an electric broad gauge railway line through Villupuram. It is advisable to travel by road from Chennai as the journey is longer by train.
Pondicherry also has an airport which has direct connection from Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.
The local language spoken by the people is Tamil. French is still widely spoken and understood mainly in the French quadrant, which makes up about quarter of the town. English is also widely spoken and understood by most people. Refrain from speaking in Hindi with the locals since many consider it an insult.
The best way of getting around Pondicherry and its surrounding areas is by renting a bicycle or a motorcycle or scooter. There are plenty of rental shops all over the town. Walking on the roads becomes a bit risky as the day progresses and crowd increases as the traffic is pretty haphazard. The other options of getting around is taking the local bus or hiring an auto rickshaw for a day. Bargaining is a skill is very handy while negotiating with the auto rickshaw drivers.
The main attractions in Pondicherry are the churches which have a lot of French culture attached to them. Rocky beach also attracts crowds after sundown, since this place becomes a no vehicle zone. Auroville International city and Auro beach are both located at a short distance of 15 km from the town center. Manakula Vinayagar Temple is located in the heart of the town and is a popular pilgrimage site. Paradise beach is arguably the most famous beach and is only approachable by boat.
Pondicherry is heaven for the foodies and more so for sea food lovers. While in Pondicherry the Fish and Prawn Biryani are a must have along with the Fish Manchurian. Idli and Dosa are also very well prepared in this town. The restaurants which are located around the French town serve up some really good continental food as well. Since it is a Union Territory alcohol cost a lot less as compared to other parts of the country and wine shops are available at every nook and corner of the town.
Accommodation in Pondicherry is plenty and suits every traveller’s budget. There are budget backpacker guest houses and lodges which are located in close proximity around the main bus stand. Heritage hotels are located in the French part of town which is near Rocky beach.
The best time to visit this beautiful Union Territory is during the winter months from the end of November to mid-March since the weather is pleasant, unlike the rest of the year when the heat is unbearable.
Pondicherry is very much a town with a dual personality, crossing over from East to West of the central canal reveals two section of town with very different characters. It is an ideal place to just come, chill and relax on the eastern coast of Southern India.