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Chennai Travel Tips

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As India’s 4th largest metropolis, Chennai’s an undeniably bustling city of tooting, honking, and chattering, but amid the urban chaos there’s a hint of cosmopolitan glam thanks to glitzy bars, luxury hotels, and swanky malls. In Chennai you can enjoy gloriously golden sandy beaches, a cooling sea breeze, and a delectable dining scene.

 

Best Time to Travel

 

Chennai’s swelteringly hot and sticky during the summer between March and May, so you might prefer to plan your trip during the winter months. Between November and February is widely regarded as the best time to visit, as it also misses the heavy monsoon season from June to August, and the tail end of the rains until November. There’s also a seemingly never-ending run of festivals and events in winter, including the colourful 4-day harvest festival of Pongal and the Chennai Open tennis tournament, both in January.

 

Getting around

 

Chennai International Airport’s just 13 kilometers from the city centre, providing direct flights to many domestic and international destinations. It can sometimes feel like you’re in a battle when travelling around Chennai. Auto rickshaw drivers can give you a hard time bargaining on price, as most don’t use the meter. Make sure to get local advice so you have some idea of the cost. Better still, call a taxi, as they are generally much more reliable, or jump on an efficient MRTS train that nips around the city’s stations, including Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore – the two primary long-distance terminals. From the airport, there’s a train that takes you to Central and Egmore.

 

Cuisine

 

If you’re vegetarian in Chennai you’re in for a treat as traditional Tamil cuisine is largely meat-free and overloaded with flavour thanks to an array of chillies, coconut, and curry leaves. With the city’s ever burgeoning cosmopolitan vibe, meat eaters won’t go without though, as Chennai’s brimming with top-notch gleaming restaurants offering delectable dishes, both Indian and international. For the real taste of Chennai, try a breakfast idli – a scrummy sponge-like rice cake dipped in sambar, or lentil broth. Doughnut-like lentil vadas are another favourite, while a traditional thali will show you the real taste of India’s southern kitchen.

 

Customs and etiquette

 

Although it’s a coastal city, Chennai is not Goa. Swimsuits and bikinis will get odd looks, and are inappropriate for the city’s beaches. Make like the locals and hitch up your trousers or skirt to splash in the shallows. The sea here has strong currents, so swimming isn’t recommended. Most people in Chennai speak Tamil, but English is widely used. So much so that it’s better to speak English than it is to practice your Hindi.

Fast Facts

 

Population: 4.7 million

Spoken languages: Tamil, English, Hindi

Electrical: India runs on 230V, 50 Hz current

Phone Calling Code: +91 44100