As a major metro city, there is more than one way to get to any place.
And that includes getting to Pondicherry and the French Quarter (aka Little France!)!
So, this is just one way that you can get from Chennai Airport to Pondicherry.
The way I did this seemed the simplest from the information I had found at the time I did this trip.
Well, the absolute simplest would be getting a taxi from Chennai airport to Pondicherry.
So aside from taking a taxi, the way I did it felt like “easiest” way to get to Pondicherry.
And, if you’re just looking to go from Chennai to Pondicherry, and not specifically from the airport, you can just skip the first airport part, and it’s one way to get from Chennai to Pondicherry!
This is the best way to how to get from Chennai Airport to Pondicherry:
- Pre-paid taxi from Chennai Airport to CMBT Koyembedu bus station
- Bus from Chennai bus station to Pondicherry bus station
Or this is what seemed seemed to be the best way to me at the time anyway!
Also it might be important to note that there seem to basically be 2 routes to get from Chennai to Pondicherry by bus:
- Mainly along ECR road
- Mainly on bypass roads (more interior)
This will only be something you’ll need to further look into if you’re looking to get off somewhere between Chennai and Pondicherry.
But if you’re headed to the bus station in Pondicherry, then it shouldn’t really matter which bus you take, as long as it’s a bus to Pondicherry!
And once you’re in Pondicherry, a day trip you might consider is taking the bus from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram!
How much does a taxi cost from Chennai airport to Pondicherry?
According to the Pondicherry hostel I stayed at, the cost to get to Pondicherry from the Chennai airport would be around 3,000 rupees.
Things to remember to go from Chennai Airport to Pondicherry
If you decide to do it the same way I did!
The quick list:
1. Get a pre-paid taxi from airport to CMBT Koyembedu
2. Go to area of platform 1 or 2 at bus terminal
3. Get on the bus to Pondicherry!
Bus timings for Chennai to Pondicherry
The bus timings seem frequent enough that I don’t think you really need to be all that concerned about exact bus timings if you’re traveling during the day.
It seems that there are plenty of buses that go the route of Chennai to Pondicherry.
To give you an idea of how my timings were for this journey:
- 4:10pm – Departed Chennai airport to bus station by taxi
- 4:40pm – Arrived Chennai bus station
- 5:00pm – Departed bus station to go to Pondicherry
- 8:40pm – Arrived Pondicherry bus station
Places to stay in Pondicherry
Have a look at the map below (partner website) for hotels in Pondicherry’s French Quarter and beyond.
A bit more of the details on how to go from Chennai Airport to Pondicherry
Is CMBT Koyembedu the best place to get the bus to Pondicherry?
It does seem as there are many places from which you can get a bus to Pondicherry from around Chennai.
From what I read, these seemed to be mostly be places along the side of the road.
And not knowing Chennai well (or… really not at all…), I didn’t want to be waiting on the side of the road (even if it is a main bus waiting area) and wondering if each passing bus was the one I should be getting on… or even trying to figure out where these main waiting areas are.
Although, if you do decide to do this, Puducherry (another name for Pondicherry) is written on the bus in English. (From what I’ve seen, many local government buses in Tamil Nadu only have the destination written in the local language of Tamil.)
But to me, it seemed the easiest to board the bus from the bus terminal in which the bus originates.
The bus to Pondicherry will basically be sitting there waiting for you.
And it seemed easy to be able to go “CMBT Koyembedu bus station” as you can also find this on Google Maps, so it’s pretty clear where you need to go.
So I went for what seemed easiest to me based on the information I could find at the time.
If you find other information and feel confident on how to get there… go for it!
Pre-paid taxi from Chennai airport to bus station
So it does seem there are other ways to get from the airport to the bus station. (It seems you can get there by public transportation by taking the metro or taking the bus.)
In this situation, especially because of luggage, I felt the easiest would be to get a taxi to the bus station from the airport… and specifically a pre-paid taxi so I didn’t have to deal with the chaos of finding a taxi upon exiting the airport.
I arrived to Chennai on an international flight, and I went to the pre-paid taxi counter before exiting the secure area (and right after you pass through customs).
There’s also an ATM in the baggage claim area, so if you need cash, this could be a good place to get some money! (There are also foreign exchange desks before the exit.)
I told the guy at the pre-paid taxi counter that I wanted to go to the CMBT Koyembedu bus station and was told the fare for an AC taxi to Koyembedu was 500 rupees (US$7).
So I paid the taxi fare at the counter. (This means that unlike the pre-paid taxi from the Goa airport in which you pay the driver directly, from the Chennai airport, you actually do pay before you get in the taxi!)
So after I paid, I made my way to the exit, and since I was holding the pre-paid taxi receipt, someone approached me immediately to lead me to the correct spot.
You can expect this guy to ask for a tip. I gave him 20 rupees. I know nothing about tipping, sorry.
I arrived to the bus station pretty easily!
It was about a 30 minute drive, in some Chennai traffic.
Arrival to Chennai bus station
This Chennai bus station is pretty expansive, so there are a number of points you may enter from.
There was a sign at the place I was dropped off by taxi.
And that will take you into the bus terminal.
And then basically, you are looking for the area of platform 1 or 2. This is where you can find the buses to Pondicherry.
From where I entered, it was at the far end.
If you have doubts and see the “enquiry” counter first, you can ask there for direction.
I went to this counter, the guy there appeared to be happily chatting away with his good friend on the phone. The only way to get your question answered seemed to be to interrupt him, and he did not seem to mind.
How to find the bus to Pondicherry
So once you get to the area of platform 1 or 2…
You can find someone who looks like they work for the bus system and ask them…
Or you can keep walking until you find a sign for Pondicherry (Puducherry)…
This is one of the only destinations that’s written in English!
Or you can look at the front of each individual bus for the sign that says Pondicherry…
Or you can listen for someone who’s repeatedly yelling out “Pondy Pondy Pondy”!
Get on that bus to Pondicherry!!
How to buy the bus ticket
So with local government buses like these, you pay for the bus fare once you get on the bus.
At some point after the bus departed, the ticket worker came around.
The cost of the bus ticket from Chennai to Pondicherry was 130 rupees (US$2).
Enjoy the bus ride to Pondicherry!!
Or try to anyway. 😉
To start with, you will be going through loud Chennai city traffic.
And then you’ll be on some faster roads too.
This turns into a full bus.
That’s another one of the perks of getting on the bus where the route originates.
You will likely be able to find an open seat!
You can generally find a spot to put your luggage at the front of the bus if it won’t fit with you in the seat or on the luggage rack if it’s available.
I was sitting in a one-seater at the very front of the bus, so I felt pretty comfortable for much of the ride!
Well, as comfortable as a bus ride like this can be. 😉
Arrive at Pondicherry bus station
And then there are rickshaws right at the bus station that you can take to get to your hotel!
Now, unfortunately, there are some rickshaw drivers here (not all) that will try to take advantage of tourists ($$).
So it’s a good idea to try to figure out how much is appropriate to pay before you arrive. (Like asking the hotel you’re staying at.)
The first time I took a rickshaw from Pondicherry bus station (after arriving from the airport), I was quoted a price that was around what I was told. Well 30 rupees (US$0.50) extra, but that’s okay – 100 rupees (US$1.50) instead of the 70 rupees I was told.
When I returned back to the Pondicherry bus station (coming back from Mahabalipuram), this time a rickshaw drive told me 200 rupees for the same destination. (So double the previous time.)
“Night charge” he said. Um, no. The first time I took a rickshaw, I arrived later and it was the weekend!
Then he asked me how much… I said 70, he said 100, and that was that! (I don’t like having to “bargain” like this… but double is a bit ridiculous!)
Where to stay in Pondicherry?!
See the map below (partner website) for prices of hotels in Pondicherry’s French Quarter heritage district and beyond.
If you don’t see a map, see some Pondicherry hotel deals here.
Also have a look at heritage hotels in the French Quarter of Pondicherry.
Where to go from Pondicherry?!
HAPPY CHENNAI TO PONDICHERRY BUS RIDE!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
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Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!