As you can imagine, West Bengal’s capital city is supremely well connected to the rest of the country, with the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. Located in Dumdum, Kolkata, the airport welcomes flights from other major cities as well as from destinations around the world. Some of the popular airlines with flights to Kolkata include — IndiGo, Spice Jet, Vistara, GoAir, Air India and AirAsia India.
The duration of your flight will depend on the point of departure, since most cities offer a direct flight to Kolkata. From Mumbai, the journey takes about 2.5 - 3 hours, while from New Delhi it is just over 2 hours. It’s similar timings from Chennai and Hyderabad. While cities like Goa and Chandigarh offer direct as well as indirect flights, with a likely layover in Mumbai and New Delhi respectively.
With an air journey of just a few hours, most visitors to West Bengal opt to fly into Kolkata before switching to other means of transport. However, there are other smaller airports too, such as — Bagdodara Airport in Siliguri, Kazi Najrul Islam Airport at Asansole-Durgapore and one at Cooch Behar.
West Bengal touches the coastline of the Bay of Bengal, from its Gangetic Delta leading up to the border of Orissa. So, while there is some sea access to the state, it is rather rare for most to travel this way from other parts of the mainland. It is best to take detailed expert advice before opting for this mode of transport.
However, if what you’re looking for is an experiential journey, then we suggest that you club your visit to West Bengal with a trip to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Between the two destinations, runs a passenger service ship leading up to the Kolkata Docks and Haldia Docks. It is truly one for the bucket-list!
The Indian Railways is hugely connected to West Bengal, with the major stations being Howrah, Sealdah and Kolkata. For those visiting from the North East region, all trains depart and arrive into Sealdah. While those visiting from the south, central and western parts of the country will have their trains enter into Howrah Station. In fact, Howrah Station is the oldest and largest railway complex in all of India! So, it’s quite a historic beginning to one’s journey.
Other important stations within West Bengal include:
If you prefer travelling by road, there are many routes and national highways that lead to West Bengal from neighbouring states such as Bihar, Orissa and Jharkhand. You could choose to drive yourself or opt for a hired car service, taxi or bus.
For those driving themselves, you’ll need to get onto the NH2 from New Delhi, NH5 from Chennai, NH6 from the western parts of the country and NH 31 from Guwahati. If you’re hiring a car or taxi, your driver should know the best and quickest routes.
Buses to Kolkata are available from every major city across India, but the lengthy duration of the journey can be a drawback. Though compared to hired taxis and vehicles, buses are much more economical. Once you reach Kolkata, there are local bus and taxi services to get you to other nearby towns.
One of the quick and easy ways to travel between major destinations in West Bengal is by taking a flight. This is primarily only possible between Kolkata and Bagdodara Airport, which serves as an entry point to Darjeeling, Kalimpong and other neighbouring North-east locations like Guwahati, Sikkim and even Bhutan. If you wish to conveniently get from the south to the north of the state, this is the way to do it. You could also find some chartered flights to Cooch Behar.
Private vehicles, taxis, buses or rickshaws — the roads of West Bengal have them all. You can easily wave down a cab or book one on an app if you’re in a major city. Taxis and buses run daily to different parts of the state, though the cost and duration of your journey differs with both. The state transport buses are cheaper than private services. Similarly, taxis should be metered but if you hire one that doesn’t run by metre, make sure to settle on a fare before the journey begins. You can also hire a cab or sign up for a tourist bus when you’re in Kolkata for day-long sightseeing excursions. Auto rickshaws are very popular not just in Kolkata but around the state, which like taxis, can choose to follow the Meter or not. Always enquire before you ride!
India’s first underground metro began in Kolkata, with six main lines and others being developed. If you’re looking for ways to get around the city with speed and efficiency, there’s no better option. Trains arrive every 5 to 12 minutes, so the wait isn’t long either.
Taking trains between places in West Bengal is one of the most beautiful ways to see the state in all its glory. Stations are located at almost all big cities, urban areas as well as hill stations and towns. In fact, some of them are landmarks unto themselves, such as Howrah Station with the maximum platforms in India, Kharagpur with the world’s third longest platform, Belur Math & Dakshineswar with stations that architectural replicas of the temples they bring you to, Ghum Railway station in Darjeeling is India’s highest. New Jalpaiguri, Alipurdur and Naxalbari are other prominent stations. If you plan to take the trains locally, be sure to book tickets in advance during peak tourist season.
One of the most historic ways to travel within Kolkata is riding the Tram service, a colonial era remnant that transports you not just physically between places, but in your mind and imagination as well. In a city so densely populated, it is also a convenient, comfortable and passenger-friendly mode of transport that is safe, environmentally friendly and cheap. Remember to keep your phone fully charged so you can capture as many pictures of the experience!