So you’re backpacking around South India, and you’re going from…
So when trying to confirm the correct bus to get on when you’re at the Pondicherry bus station, remember these 3 names when trying to get from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram.
…and ask about all 3 (say them in succession), just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding!
How to get from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram
The quick list:
- Arrive at Pondicherry bus station
- Look for bus to Chennai/ECR and get on that bus
- Enjoy the bus ride!
- Get off the bus at the Mahabalipuram bus stand
- Walk across the street/highway
- Find a rickshaw to take you into town, or walk!
- Visit Mahabalipuram!
Arrive at Pondicherry bus station
Look for bus to Chennai/ECR and get on that bus
Get off the bus at the Mahabalipuram bus stand
Enjoy the bus ride along ECR!
Walk across the street/highway
Find a rickshaw to take you into town, or walk!
When you’re headed to Mahabalipuram from Pondicherry…
Go to the Pondicherry bus station
So many buses!
And it’s pretty much all in the local language of Tamil!
So which bus to take?!
You’re looking to get on a bus going in the direction of Chennai, via ECR
There are different routes that buses take to get to Chennai, so you want to make sure to get on the bus that goes along ECR. That part is in English!
Look for a bus that says ECR on it. There are blue buses and green buses. Honestly I don’t know the difference. To get to Mahabalipuram I took a blue bus, to get back to Pondicherry I took a green bus – basically I just got on the first bus that arrived!
ECR stands for East Coast Road but you will probably hardly ever hear anyone refer to it in its full name. As the name indicates, the road basically runs along the coast.
The other bus route that goes from Pondicherry to Chennai (and the opposite direction, from Chennai to Pondicherry) is basically the “bypass” bus (that’ll be the name you’ll see on the bus), and goes more interior.
This bus route would not pass through Mahabalipuram, so you don’t want to get on the bus to Chennai that says “bypass.”
You don’t want to get on the bus to Chennai that says bypass… err bye-pass… when you’re headed to Mahabalipuram.
Once you get to the Pondicherry bus station, the best thing would be to ask someone that seems to be in-the-know about a Chennai/ECR bus so you can know where to go.
Since Chennai is a popular destination, people who are around the bus station a lot will most likely know where to go.
So when I first got to the Pondicherry bus station, I saw a huge sign that said “toilet” across the station.
Since the Chennai to Pondicherry bypass bus I took didn’t have a rest break time, I figured the ECR bus wouldn’t have a break either. So I decided to go to the bathroom before I got on the bus. (And it turns out that ECR buses do have breaks!)
And I made my way through the bus station…
Public toilets in India are generally pay-to-use. The toilet at the Pondicherry bus station cost 3 rupees (US$0.05).
This was among the cleanest public toilets I’ve seen! And there was a bleach smell to it, so I guess they clean frequently.
You may find that public toilets at bus stations and train station have squat toilets only (and with no toilet paper).
Okay, so now to finding the bus!
I started walking a bit and saw a bus that said ECR that was departing.
I asked some nearby people who seemed like they look like they’d be happy to help, and pointed at the bus, asking if it goes to Chennai and Mahabalipuram, to confirm.
So, I went to get on that bus.
Then once again, when I got on the bus, I confirmed that it was the bus to Mahabalipuram. (I like to confirm multiple times just in case!)
So with these types of local government buses, you’ll pay for your bus ticket once you get on the bus.
So you don’t need to buy a ticket ahead of time.
You can just head to the bus station and get on the bus to Mahabalipuram!
Shortly after you get on the bus, the bus ticket worker will come around.
At that point, you’ll tell him your destination is Mahabalipuram, and then he’ll tell you how much it costs.
How much is a bus from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram?
When I took this bus, it cost 91 rupees (US$1.50).
What are the bus timings?
Basically, you don’t really need to be concerned about specific bus timings when you are traveling from Pondicherry to Mahabalipuram.
It seems that there are very frequent buses that go from Pondicherry to Chennai taking ECR, which means you very likely won’t have to wait long for the next bus to arrive.
How long does the bus ride take?
So just to give an idea, these were the bus timings when I took this bus:
- 12:00pm – Depart Pondicherry bus station
- 1:30pm – Stop for break (20 minutes)
- 2:30pm – Arrive at Mahabalipuram bus stand
So, this bus ride did have a break. (This is not always normal on government buses.)
Generally, you won’t expect too much from these rest areas on the side of the road.
You can get small snacks here.
There are usually also toilets here, although again it’s best to not expect too much in cleanliness.
These toilets were again pretty good though.
These breaks will probably usually be around 10 minutes, although my bus was stopped for around 20 minutes.
The bus route from Pondicherry station along ECR to Mahabalipuram and to Chennai!
Once it seems like you’re getting near Mahabalipuram, you can ask the bus ticket worker about it so he can make sure to remember to request the bus driver to stop. (He whistles.)
I was following along on Google Maps with GPS (no data necessary) so I had an idea of when I was approaching the stop.
But the bus ticket worker also very kindly let me know it was soon time!
I think I was the only one that got off at the Mahabalipuram bus stop.
Arrive at Mahabalipuram bus stand!
So you have arrived at the Mahabalipuram bus stop!
You will basically be dropped off on the side of a major road.
If you look across the street, you’ll see a sign that points to the direction of Mahabalipuram town.
Actually it says “Mamallapuram” which is another name for Mahabalipuram.
So I crossed the street and started heading that way.
And then soon enough, I was approached by a rickshaw, and I decided to take it. I was told it would be 100 rupees (US$2). I had no idea what the appropriate cost was here, but I just took it.
He also tried to sell me a rickshaw tour of the top places in Mahabalipuram for 500 rupees (US$7) in case you are interested in that. I was not.
If you’re not immediately approached by a rickshaw, if you head a few steps towards town, there’s a rickshaw stand on the left side.
If you want to walk, it’ll probably take around 20-30 minutes to get to the tourist attractions.
HAPPY PONDICHERRY TO MAHABALIPURAM 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!