Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est). If you've spent some time in Tamil Nadu and approached Pondicherry by land, you'll very likely experience mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and good wine. Pondicherry is very much a city with a dual personality: crossing from East to West of the central canal reveals two cities with very different characters.
One can cover all main points of Pondicherry on a day-trip (about 8 hours) if you have private vehicle. Two days are more than enough cover all spots leisurely. Anything more if you want to take things very slow and enjoy the city.
Pondicherry is well connected from all sides. Chennai is situated 160 km north of the city (99 miles). Getting to Pondicherry involves a three hour road journey from Chennai. One can get a bus from CMBT in Koyambedu or from Thiruvanmiyur or Guindy. You can be sure of a seat only from CMBT in Koyambedu.
You can also take a taxi from Chennai Airport. Non-AC Indica seating 4 passengers will cost you about 3500 for one-way trip (as of August 2013)
The road from Chennai to Pondicherry (the East Coast Road, commonly called ECR) is a scenic highway and a normal journey would take about 3 hours. This route passes through Mahabalipuram, Kalpakkam, Pudupattinam, Idaikkazhinadu (Alamparai Fort also called Alambara Fort), Mudaliarkuppam (has a cool boat house), Marakkanam (contains large areas under salt pans), Kanagachettikulam/Kalapet etc. before reaching Pondicherry.
The other route that can be taken to reach Pondy is through the National Highway 45 (NH-45) famously called as the Grand Southern Trunk GST Road. This route passes through Tambaram, Madhurantakam, Melmaruvathur, Tindivanam before reaching Pondicherry. Both the major roads from Chennai are toll roads and approximately take the same time.
Pondicherry is about 320 km from Bangalore. Drive down National Highway 7 (NH-7) till Krishnagiri, take a left off the main highway (roadsigns mark the route) and then take National Highway 66 (NH-66) to Pondicherry. This route passes through Uthangarai, Chengam, Tiruvannamalai, Gingee and Tindivanam. One can reach Pondicherry either through Tindivanam (via Gingee) or Villupuram (via Thirukovilur). Gingee fort is also on the way to Tindivanam and worth spending some time. It is a Archealogical Survey of India (ASI) Heritage site. The total travel time should be about 5-6 hours. Do pack some food or snacks for the way as there are no good restaurants enroute.
Pondicherry is connected to Chennai by an electric broad gauge railway line through Villupuram. There are 2 passenger trains running daily to Chennai Egmore Railway station and Tirupati and there is a weekly express train service to Bhubaneswar. In addition to this, there is also a daily express train to Chennai Egmore.It is advisable to go by road rather than train to Pondicherry from Chennai as the journey is longer by train.
Bangalore Yesvanthapur(YPR) to Podicherry(PDY) is connected by a 3-Tier AC Train called Garibh Rath Express. It covers a distance of 456 kilometres in each direction however it takes 10 hours 5 mins when operating as train number 12255 at an average speed of 60 km/h (excluding halts). It leaves Puducherry as train number 12256 on Saturday at 22:05 hrs and at the end of 8 halts arrives at Yesvanthapur the next day at 08:25 hrs. It leaves Yesvantpur as train number 12255 on Friday at 23:15 hrs and at the end of 9 halts arrives at Puducherry the next day at 09:20 hrs. Coach Composition comprises of 16 AC 3 tier coaches and 2 luggage cum generator coach taking the total up to 18 coaches.
The best way to see Pondicherry and its surrounding areas is by renting out a "pedal cycle" or a "motorcycle" or "gearless scooter". Within city, walking is great option as many sights are within 2-3 kilometers of each other. There are several rental outlets on Mission St and MG Rd. The prices as of July 2010 were Rs.200/day for a gearless scooter, and Rs.250/day for a geared motorcycle and Rs 40/day for a bicycle. You will need to provide some identification document as collateral and an advance of Rs 500. Many of the rentals also provide delivery and pickup at the hotel which is very useful. (Note: Usually the number of days for these vehicles are calculated from 9.00 AM to 9.00 PM. The motorbikes are easily available in a couple of two wheeler rental shops in Mission Street.
Alternatively, buses and shared auto-rickshaws (tempo/tuk-tuk) are also available cheaply and frequently in daytime hours (about 8am-9pm). They charge roughly 5/- per two kilometer or so (as of August 2013).
Auto-rickshaws are common and easily available mode of transport too. However, they are on expensive side (compared to other Indian cities) and need to be bargained. They may start by asking for 40-50/- per kilometer but may come down to 30/- per kilometer. Anything lower and you are good!
The Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) has daily bus services for tourists and it covers all the important tourist spots to be seen in Pondicherry. PTDC offers full-day service (starting 9:30AM, all seven days) and half-day service (afternoon, not on Sunday). Charges are about 250-300 for NonAC/AC coaches for full-day service. It is the quick and most economic way to tour Pondicherry.
The main language spoken in Pondicherry is Tamil, though French is also understood. Telugu and Malayalam are the other two official languages, but their use is generally confined to specific districts. English is spoken by most educated people, and is understood by most of the people in the city and is the lingua franca between people from different linguistic districts. If you know English or Tamil, you can survive your visit to Pondicherry. French alone will not help.
Recently, there has been a great rise in the number of complaints about harassment of innocent tourists in various destinations around the country. The Ministry of Tourism has adopted a strategy of introducing Audio Guide Devices at various places of interest around the country such as the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, etc. to provide reliable and factual information to tourists. It is wise to hire such devices as you can avoid being ripped off or ambushed by desperate touts itching to make a buck. The Ministry of Tourism has also announced its partnership with AudioCompass, a company specializing in creating Audio Tours of all places of interest in the country including Pondicherry, etc in the form of Audio Devices available at the monuments and Smartphone apps that can be download from the App Store.
There is not much one is expected to do at Pondicherry. You would understand this better once you get there and understand the pace of life.
But you will find some activities to do thanks to local associations such as SITA Cultural Center, a Pondicherian association which offers you a whole range of activities for tourists and inhabitants of Pondicherry.
Inspired by the cultural mix of Indian and French cultures, SITA Cultural Center proposes Indian dance classes (Bollywood and Barata Natyam) but also dances from other countries like Ballet, Tango or Hip Hop.
SITA Cultural Center also offers you the possibility to take Indian cooking classes, Circus classes or KalariPayat (ancient martial art from Kerala), Singing Bollywood classes or Voice Yoga to improve your voice technics. You can also participate in Tanjavur painting workshops, initiations to Ayurvedic massages or reflexology, discover Kolams and Mehendi but also enjoy a fresh and funky and wealthy rides early in the morning thanks to cycle tours.
SITA Cultural Center also proposes different types of massages for wealth and well-being.
Openings: 9am-12am; 2pm-7.30pm
Sita cultural center
You can also do some serious meditation at the Auroville, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, or going to Bharatanatyam performances that are often organized there by the Auroville Cultural Exchange  in the local temples, or at major hotels.
Do keep in mind that Auroville is NOT a tourist place, and its best to go directly to the Visitors Center for more information instead of intruding into people privacy. It is also not a 'meditation center' even though everyone will tell you that. So please read up more about that place before rushing into and gawking at the place.
You can also go fishing in a Catamaran or while away your evenings at the Rocky Beach. You can also hire mopeds and go on long drives for the sandy beaches that dot the coast line. You can also experience staying in a traditional 'Parapachai' house - an affectionate name given by connoisseurs to traditional green colored houses. First class experience.
Wake Up Pondy Tour, 22 Candappa Moudaliar Street. From the colourful houses of the Muslim area to the Ashram and the French Touch' of Beach Road, come and enjoy the weak light.Some stops are organized to relax tired legs and make it possible for everybody to enjoy explanations. A bottle of water and a helmet are included, as well as the breakfast when you come back from the tour. Booking is required. edit
Artika Cafe Gallery, 1 Labourdonnais Street (Right accross the street from LB2 Lounge and Les Space). An unique trove featuring, quirky contemporary art by Indian and French artists located in the French quarters of Pondicherry.edit
Casablanca and Titanic, Mission Street. must see shopping. the latter is a factory outlet of the former.edit
French Quarter Architecture (as), the other side of the canal road to the coastline. edit
Le Cafe, Goubert Avenue. A 24 hour cafe towards the north.
La Casita, 147, Eshwaran Koil Street (near bharati street cutting), ☎ 7639405194, . La Casita is a facility created to enhance public understanding of Latin American Arts & Culture. You can try classes of Salsa, Tango, Capoeira, Bollywood, Acro Yoga. If you are looking for Fitness, Zumba Fitness Classes are held regularly as well. Spanish Language Class has been the new addition. Vertical Dance Workshops, Acrobatics and Circus Skill Workshops are held on demand. You may also check for time to time workshops on various dance and arts from Latin America. edit
The Healing Hands Center, . Classes in Ancient Massage / Thai Massage. Ten-day course and one-month professional course, runs every month and is recognized by THAI (Thai Healing Alliance International) worldwide and Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC).
Scuba Diving with Temple Adventureshttp://www.templeadventures.com/ in the oceans of Pondicherry. Diving is daily out in the sea from Pondy Harbour. Centre is located in the centre of town for easy access to divers. 1 day experience can be provided for non-divers and swimmers, and PADI courses offered for divers, or anyone to learn over 4 days, or as many as you like. Great marine life, reefs, fish, and company.
Scuba Jumping is one of the most thrilling and exciting feature of Pondi. The person will jump from a cliff straight into the sea which has a trampoline on the sea bed. This will push the person up and again he/she falls into the sea. That is Scuba jumping. You may be able to catch a fish or two during this and it is very very safe
You can go to Sita Cultural Center : Sita. This center provides cultural and artistic activities such as cooking lessons, yoga classes, Dance classes, initiation to Ayurveda, Kolam, Mehendi, Tanjavur paintings. Once a month an event is organised.
Cultural Sundays at La Casita  proposes Spanish / portuguese Langauge Movie screenings and Free Meetups / Workshops from tiem to time.
There are over 100 Bharatanatyam schools in Pondicherry as well as an Odissi dance school in Sri Aurobindo Ashram where one can learn classical Indian dance.
Pondicherry is known for its wide variety of cuisines ranging from South Indian delicacies like idly and dosa to seafood like fried fish, prawn bajji and parota.
French influence can be seen to some extent in the local food. The best options are still the local delicacies; the excellent seafood. Good French food is available at restaurants around the French part of town.
Andhra Mess (Andhra Tiffin), 192 Amballatudayar Madam Street (between MG road and Bharathi Street). Served on a banana leaf, it is one of the best meal in town,Rs. 60 for a meal. edit
Daily bread, 54, Ambour Salai (Upstairs), ☎ +91-413-2226302, . 7.30am - 10pm. A place to get your "french" breakfast. Good price quality ratio.edit
Indian Delights Veg. Restaurant, 493 Mahatma Gandhi road (opposite a hotel (the clock tower hotel)). Opens at 5 in the morning, delicious variety of typical south indian dishes. Very cheap, popular with locals, not touristy. edit
Surguru, 3 branches : 99 Mission Street, 12 Nehru Street or at the corner of Sardar Vallabhai Patel Rd and East coast Road, in the basement of the hotel. Veg south indian restaurant. Clean and good service. Has delicious Indian food, at breakfast time try the delicious poori or paper roast (paper dosai). edit
Udupi hotel, Chetty Street (Opposite Diva shop on mission street). All kind of south indian dishes (dosai, parotta, idli, uttapam), very good and cheap. They also serve a "special of the day".edit
Appachi (Chettinad food), 9 Rangapillai Street (, near Nilgiri stores on Mission street), . Authentic chettinad foodRs. 200 for a good meal. edit
Travellers Cafe at La Casita, 147,Eshwaran Koil Street (Near Bharati Street Cutting), ☎ 7639405194 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . ===Mid Range=== *Anjappar, Near Jeeva Theater Signal. Open every day. *Aristo, Nehru Street. Nice terrace on the roof of the hotel; good French and Indian food. *Artika Cafe Gallery, 1 Labourdonnais Street, Pondicherry (Right accross the street from LB2 Lounge and Les Space). All days, except Tuesday. Unique cafe set in a French art-deco house, featuring works of local and European contemporary artists. Serves one the best French and Continental food in town, with free wi-fi. Don't miss their heavenly Ginger cake with ice-cream.editedit
Atithi, Kamaraj Road, Shivajinagar (In Hotel Jayaram). All Days. Fantastic South Indian food. Very reasonably priced. Try out the 6 feet family masala dosa ghee roast.edit
Baker Street, 123, Bussy st (Lal Bahadur), ☎ 0413 645 8888. All Days. Really good french bakery but prices are expensive.edit
Batisto, ECR Road, Next to D Gowda Petrol Bunk, Behind Laloo's puntcher shop.
Cafe Xtasy, on Mission Street. Offers great pizzas; a place where large pizza is really LARGE; reasonable prices.
Don Giovanni, Mission St. Located at the rooftop of Hotel Corbelli on Mission St, this authentic Italian restaurant opened only in 2009. The chef is from Bologna, and the food is fantastic.edit
Hot Breads, Nehru St, A pleasant European bakery.
Hotel de l'Orient (Neemrana Hotel), 17 Rue Romain Rolland,, ☎ 0413 2343067, . French cuisine in a old colonial restaurant. Both food and building are impressive.500Rs and above. edit
Karai, 100 Feet Road ,Nellithope. Multi-cuisine restaurant, good for Chettinad food. Also, try the French onion soup.
Le Vietnam, No. 6, Bussy Street (Roman Rolland Street Cutting), ☎ 0413-2340111, . Claims to be the first restaurant in Pondicherry to serve Vietnamese cuisine. Also serve French, Arabian, Continental and Indian cuisine, excellent dining infrastructure, accompanied by fine wine.edit
Marine Drive, Periyamudaliyarchavadi, ECR Auroville. (opp to Auro Beach, on ECR, 5.5 km from Pondicherry), ☎ 0413-3199931, . 11AM-11PM. Multi-cuisine restaurant. Open garden and covered area with sea brees.edit
Pizzeria Trattoria, Auroville Rd (On the way to Auroville). This restaurant serves Pizza and other Italian delights. Seems to be managed by a French person, food was good. Prices are reasonable, but the quantities are smaller.edit
Punjabi Dhaba, 31 Mission Street, ☎ 9629032563. North Indian Restaurant.edit
Rendezvous, 30, Rue Suffren. Closed on Tuesdays.
Salad Bar IO, 13 Surcouf Street (on the canal, just behind the french lycee), . All Days. Fresh and tasty salad. Try the papaya salad, it is delicious ! Free wifi From 200 Rs to 400Rs. edit
Satsanga, 30, Labourdonnais. Open every day.
Touskilfo, No. 11A, Roman Rollad street. All Days. This labour of love of a local couple strives to retain the distinctly French feel with charming rooms, fresh flavoursome, authentic Italian food served with a personal touch, and an attached bistro style cafeedit
Villa Shanti, 14 Suffren Street, ☎ 0413-42 000 28, . 10 am - 11pm. Good Frech Indian fusion cuisine.around 500Rs. edit
Good branded liquor like Smirnoff, Bacardi and different Scotch Whiskies are very inexpensive as there is no sales tax in Pondicherry. A good store is "Costprice shop" on Lal Bahadur Shastri road.
Cold Kingfisher take out @ Rs 65
Le Club (French Italian Indian vietnamese), 38, Dumas St (Near Park Guest house), ☎ +91 413 2339745 +91 413 4210592. 7 AM--11PM. Wonderfull garden restaurant with high class bar and chill out atmosphere, but slightly overrated and quite expensive.edit
Seagulls, (Walk south down to the end of the beach. It's at the end of the first alley on your left.). Nice bar that organizes musical concerts occasionally. They sell imported beer. edit
on the beach road abutting the french quarter. enjoy fine dining in a good ambiance with continental and indian cusine, has a nice buffet on weekends. Mimicry artists will sometimes entertain you at your table.
ZUKA, Mission St. Small, cozy, clean chocolate shop on Mission St. Also features chocolate cakes, coffee's, etc. A bit on the expensive side.edit
Between MG Rd and HM Kasim St,on Ananda Rangapillai St there are a few budget guesthouse and lodges.
Club Mahindra Puducherry Resorts, Valluvar Medu, NR Nycer Factory, Manapattu Village, Bahour Commune Panchayath, Puducherry - 607402, ☎ 0413- 2616100, . From being a French colony, Puducherry is a charming place that's a great getaway. It's a small place that has a big history. Where else can you taste a French dish served with South Indian chutniedit
Rupantar Guest House. From Cnr of HM Kasim St and Ananda Rangapillai St walk along Ananda Rangapillai St its the 1st laneway on the right150Rs Basic Single, Share Bathroom. edit
Continental Hotel. Reasonable little place, quite well located for beach access / bars / wandering potential, and with a rooftop bar. Good selection of cheap beers: 80 rupees for an 8% Tuborg.450 for a single with fan, 200 for single without fan, 100 for fan without single, 50 for without single without fan, 550 for a single with aircon, 1000 on up for doubles. edit
Sri Aurobindo Ashram - II, (email@example.com), . Book in advance, if you don't want to be disappointed. The place is staffed by an elitist bunch who will only permit devotees inside the complex. A lot of pretense and little substance. The place is clean. Very strict too. No liquor, smoking, or eating. Park Guest House is on the beach with nice lawns looking upon the sea while Sea Side Guest house is on the beach road and most rooms have a nice sea view. A choice of Continental and Indian breakfast is free in both guest houses. There is also a nice new budget guest house very close to the beach, with a canteen. Shannon: Had a really shocking experience in 2010 wile trying to book in one of these Guest Houses..'Pretentious Spirituality' is the right word. Common courtesy is too much to ask for. You might try begging though. My Pondy visit was an eye-opener.Rs. 600 to Rs. 1200 per day. edit
Fullmoon Guest House (firstname.lastname@example.org), (E Coast Rd), ☎ 9600210094, . checkin: 12.00; checkout: 10.30. The guest house has seven unique AC Double twin bed rooms with attached bathroom. Five out of the seven rooms come with an equipped kitchen (refrigerator, electric stove, kitchen utensils, free wireless internet, free self-service washing machine, hot water, etc.) It is possible also to rent a room or studio apartment for weeks or months.800 Rs. edit
Sri Krishnas Guest House, 29/31 Rangapillai Street (3 mins west of GPO), ☎ 04132334477, 2221818, 2221010. checkout: 24 hrs after checkin. Large, clean hotel in the main shopping area. Rooms with TV with some English channels. French bakery 2 mins walk. Sea 10 mins walkDouble AC 2 per 900 1 per 750 , double non AC 2 per 600 1 per 500 , triple non-Ac 900 , Family non-AC 4 per 1100 , suit non-ac 7 per 1500. edit
Beach Guest House, Pondicherry to chennai ECR,near Auro beach, periyamudaliyarchavady, Auroville (2 mins walkable from Auro beach), ☎ 9944319891. checkin: 24 hours; checkout: 24 hrs after checkin. Large, clean Beach Resort which is situated in walkable distance from beach. All Rooms are with TV with English, Tamil, Hindi, and Kannada channels. Sea 2 mins walkRegular Single 350 AC,Duoble: 750 AC,. edit
MangoHill, Old Auroville Road, Bommayapalayam (10km North from Pondicherry), ☎ 041326554 91 /92 /93, . checkin: 14/1; checkout: 24 hrs. 24 rooms(Thai, Luxury and Standard), Spacious and clean hotel located on hills of planted with Mangoes and Cashew trees. Spa swimming pool and multi cuisine restaurant added.3500. edit
Ginger Hotels, . Excellent ambience and very professionally run hotel. Its more of an IT company like environment with atmost hygiene. Has a 24 hrs coffee shop too INR 1799. edit
Hotel Corbelli, 170, Mission Street (Near to Casablanca on Mission Street), ☎ 91- 413- 2225301 / 2225302 (email@example.com, fax: 91 - 413 - 2225303 / 2348731), . checkin: 24 Hrs; checkout: 24 Hrs after check-in. Nice and clean hotel with all the basic amenities. Centarlised A/C keeps the heat at bay. Morning breakfast buffet is included in the cost price.INR 1355. edit
Flora Beach Resort, ECR, ☎ 91- 09443249411 (firstname.lastname@example.org). checkin: 24 Hrs; checkout: 24 Hrs check-in. Nice and clean hotel with all the basic amenities, coconut Leaf cottages, owner is very interesting man, the best part , Sea shore is 100 mts walking only. A/c Rooms available.edit
Hotel Vijayentra, 108, Kamaraj Road, Shivajinagar (Half a kilometer from Nehru street(main street), 1km from the bus stand.), ☎ 0413-2245316. 24 rooms on two floors, conference facilities, restaurant.edit
Raj Residency, 26, Cheran Street, Mullai Nagar ((Opp New Bus Stand)), ☎ +91 413 220 220 1 (email@example.com), . checkout: 24 Hrs after check-in. A guesthouse with suites and rooms which are equipped with flat screen televisions, intercom and mini bars. Every room has an attached bathroom with hot and cold water facility and individually controlled air-conditioning.edit
Dumas Guest House, No 36 Rue Dumas, Pondicherry (opp alliance francaise gallery), ☎ 91-413-2225723/26, . The guest house has 7 comfortable rooms furnished in teak wood and it consists of a private garden and the terrace where the guests can relax.INR 2400. edit
DUNE, Pudhukuppam, Keelputhupet. ((via Pondicherry university)), ☎ (91)- 9364455440 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 1:00; checkout: 11:00. Wander around the 35 acre Eco Beach Village and Spa to discover the 50 thematic hidden bungalows and pieces of art spread around the property. Enjoy the private beach, the amazing infinity pool, the tennis court, the daily pottery and yoga classes, even milk the cows in the organic farm, Dune is a beach resort that offers many distractions. To top it all, the Paradise Spa provides Ayurvedic cures, western massages and Watsu. The two restaurants will treat the finest palets, serving healthy gourmet fusion food prepared using organically farmed vegetables. Feel better by shopping for a cause at the Artyzan Vocational Academy by the NGO Children of the World India. The Dune cherishes the spirit "to live in harmony with nature and men". For ages, swamis (Holy Men) from the nearby temples of Mahabalipuram used this scenic beach reserve as a place of pilgrimage and meditation.Tariff INR 5,500/- to 18,250/-. edit
Atithi, No.126 S.V. Patel Salai (Near Surguru), ☎ 0413 - 2345000, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 12:00. Hotel Atithi is a recently opened luxury hotel in the business center of Pondicherry. Atithi features 60 rooms & suites.4500. edit
Sunway GRT, . Cleanliness and service up to nice USA/European hotel standards. Not located in the center/touristy area of Pondicherry. You must arrange an auto-rickshaw (for approx Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 maximum) to get to the tourist area by the beach. Nice tasty buffet breakfast of South Indian foods for just Rs.250.(5250,)edit
Zest Big Beach, . One of the best resorts in Pondicherry. This resort is managed by the Mahindra Group. The resort is situated 11 Kms away from Pondicherry on the Cuddalore road. The resort serves great food and is the ideal getaway destination, especially during weekends.(6400,)edit
''Hotel Surguru'', 104, Sardar Vallabhai Patel Salai, ☎ +91(413)222-7290/233-4377/233-9022, . checkin: Upto 6PM; checkout: 24 Hours. Though not located next to or at the Promenade/Beach or near Aurobindo Ashram or in the French Quarter, it is close to all the places and is within 2km. It has its own parking lot, good rooms and suits, 24 hours coffee shop, one of the best South Indian restaurants among their features to top the reasonable rates it offers to its guests.INR 1,300 to 2,000. edit
Cozy Cool, Auroville Road, Pondicherry, next to Auroville, (email@example.com, fax: 00-000-00-0). checkin: Upto 12PM; checkout: 24 Hours. This is an absolute fantastic cozy cool place which is a beach property. The shacks come with centralised AC and this is the only place that hosts one of the worlds largest swimming pools after the beach....INR 900 to 1200. (12,25)edit
From the Pondicherry bus station, there are many buses (every 5-10 min in day time) to Chennai via ECR. Bus can stop on main road at Mamallapuram.
Regular bus from Pondicherry to Mamallapuram costs 75 Rs, 2h travel time (August 2015).