Madras is considered to be very moderate and conservative but that is really changing nowadays. The official language in the city is Tamil - one of the oldest languages in the world. Chennai is relatively safe compared to other parts of India. it is also called the Detroit of India due to the number of car manufacturers in and in the vicinity of the city.
Madras was of the first outposts of British East India Company. The city was founded in 1639 when the company chose Madraspattinam, a small fishing village, as its settlement. Fort Saint-George, built by the English, is today the legislative and administrative seat official of the state. George Town developed then becoming the modern city of Madras, absorbing several close boroughs.
Thomas, one of the twelve apostles is repetudedly associated with Madras. He apparantly came to India as an evangelist and died in Madras. Names of two suburbs of Madras, Santhome and St. Thomas Mount, are named in his memory.
Madras has an international airport. All international flights arrive at the Anna Terminal while the domestic flights arrive at the Kamraj terminal. Madras is serviced by most large European airlines - Lufthansa, British Airways etc. and also by many of the eastern sector airlines such as Singapore Airlines.
Oman and Gulf Air have daily flights from Muscat and Bahrain. Srilankan Airways connects Madras to Colombo with daily flights. Singapore airlines flies daily between Madras and Singapore.
Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Air Deccan connect Madras with Daily flights to most other Indian cities.
Important Telephone Numbers
Indian Airlines General Enquiry 140
Indian Airlines Arrivals and Departures (Recorded) 142
Indian Airlines Reservations 141/22561971
Jet Airways 28414141
Air Sahara 52110202/24980688
Air Deccan 9840377008
Use the pre-paid taxi to get to the city. The fares are different from the domestic and international terminals though both the terminals are next to each other. You can either choose the Government Taxis (Black with Yellow tops) or the private cabs (more comfortable and more expensive). It's better to keep small change in hand as the counter staff very often don't seem to have change! Note the taxi number written on your charge slip (one copy is for the passenger and the other is for the driver to collect the fare from the counter). Once out of the terminal you'll have a tough time warding off all the touts and taxi drivers soliciting passengers. Make your way through this crowd and across the drive to the taxi stand. Now its up to you to locate your taxi!. You can ask the other drivers (clothed in khaki shirts and trousers) to help you locate the vehicle which usually is parked out of view right at the back of the line of cars. Drivers will voluntarily offer to tow your luggage cart or help you put them in the dickey (trunk) but do it yourself to avoid missing luggage.
The closest hotels to the airport are The Trident, Le Royal Meridian and Raddison GRT Hotel all five star properties.
Madras is also reachable by train from other Indian cities. The central station is the hub for all trains reaching Chennai. There is another station called the Egmore station that is used for trains going to other parts of Tamil Nadu. There are daily trains from/to Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi and most other Indian cities. For train timings and on-line reservations (within India) visit the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation's website. For Railway enquiries call 131 0r 132
If you happen to arrive at the Central Station like at most Indian railway stations you'll have to handover your journey tickets to the Ticket Collector' waiting at the exit. You'll have a tough time warding off all the touts and taxi drivers soliciting passengers the moment your are out of the concourse. Make your way through this crowd and reach the 'pre-paid' autorickshaw / Taxi stand.
There are several buses that ply in and out of Madras from nearby cities like Bangalore. Coaches can be both air conditioned (A/C) and non-A/C. During the weekends these buses run full and getting a ticket can be a bit of a problem unless you book them in advance. KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, Sharma Transports, KPN, Parveen all ply buses daily from Bangalore. All state owned buses terminate at the Koyembedu Moffusil Bus Terminus while the private buses terminate at the Omni bus terminus at koyembedu. Both these terminus are close to each other but its better to know where exactly you want the taxi/autorickshaw to take you especially if you are travelling with luggage. Buses usually drop passengers at various points in the city before reaching the terminus. So feel free to ask the driver or fellow passengers the closest drop-off point to your destination.
You can reach Madras by road from other Indian cities but be warned about driving in India. It is especially dangerous driving in night, with all the lorry traffic clogging the highways.
Getting around in Madras is cheaper than most Indian cities.
Suburban Trains - There are three routes Madras Central - Arakkonam, Madras Beach - Tambaram and Chengalpet, Madras Beach - Thiruvanmyur (plans to link this line to the Tambaram line is underway)
Call Taxis - They run by the meter
Bharati Call Taxi - 28142233
Chennai Call Taxi - 25384455
Fast Tack - 24732020
Auto Rickshaws - Don't go by the meter (if they have one), the meter is rigged to show a higher fare (usually twice the normal fare). It's better to negotiate a rate with the driver beforehand. As thumb rule, it costs about 20Rs from Spencers to Amma Hotel on GN Chetty Road.
Tourist Cabs - Are the best choice in case you want to tour the city all day or visit nearby places like Mahabalipuram etc. Costs about 4Rs per KM and 30 Rs per hour as hire charges. The minimum hire is for 5 hrs or 50 kms. i.e. (30*5) + running kms * 4Rs. So if you run say 50 kms then (50*4). So you would end up paying 150 + 200 = 350 Rs.
Tiruvalluvar Travels - 24745807
Hertz, Counter at the Petrol Bunk (Gas Filling station) next to Spencers Plaza
Fort St. George, built in 1653 by the English Company of the Eastern Indies (CAIO), houses the Secretariat and the legislative Parliament of Nadu Tamil. There is a museum presenting of the objects of the time of the domination of the CAIO, and a banquetting suite going back to 1802 where the portraits of the governors of the fort are hung. The fort comprises also the oldest church Anglican of India, the church of St Mary.
Government Museum, on Pantheon Road, comprises an interesting archaeological collection and a room holding a significant and superb collection of Chola bronzes. The museum unfortunately suffers from insufficient maintenance.
Parthasarathy Temple, Triplicane
Kapleshwara Temple, Mylapore
Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar
Gundy National Park
St. Thomas Mount
Connamera Museum, Pantheon Road, Egmore
Valluvar Kotam, Nungambakkam
Crocodile Bank (On the way to Mahabalipuram)
MGM Resort (On the way to Mahabalipuram)
VGP Golden Beach (On the way to Mahabalipuram)
Maayajaal (On the way to Mahabalipuram)
Dakshinachitra, Muthukadu (On the way to Mahabalipuram)
Chennai is the capital of Bharata Natyam. If you are in Madras during the months of December - January then you are in for a musical and dance extravaganza. During the Tamil month of Mazgazhi (December - January) there is a series of classical music concerts and classical dance performances in various parts of the city, but the best are organized in various Sabhas. You will see mostly older celebrities, although occasionally there will be some world-class young virtuosos, such as Medha Hari. This year (2003-04) students of Colgate university (USA) teamed up with local talent to perform Silapadhigaram - "The tale of Puhar".
During summers it becomes hot and humid to venture out during the day. So go out for a stroll during the night (8-10pm) on the Marina beach. It's a nice idea to pack dinner and have a picnic on the beach as most locals do. If you happen to drive a car you can also consider taking along a few foldable chairs.
Stroll along the over crowded Pondy Bazaar and Ranganathan Street and try your skills in bargaining for stuff and knick-knacks.
Hunt for rare books and maps in the many second-hand book stalls. Who knows, you might end up with a rare signed first edition.
Alwar's roadside bookshop opp Kamadhenu theatre
Bookfield, Opp. LIC building on Anna Salai (Mount Road)
Vendors near the Central Station
Vendors on Mount Road outside Devi Theatre and the GPO (General Post Office)
Madras offers plenty of opportunities to learn Yoga, Bhartanatyam, Carnatic music and The Bhagavad Gita.
Victoria Technical Institute, Anna Salai - Handicrafts
Vimonisha Art Gallery, 12, Khadar Nawaz Khan Road - Handicrafts
Vinyasa Art Gallery - Handicrafts
In addition to these there are several exhibitions that happen at Das Community Hall (Cathedral Road), Shankara Hall (TTK Road) where artisans display there wares. Check the local newspapers for details and timings.
Madras has a fair share of stores selling organic food.
Naturagros - Aloe vera tooth paste and soap, organic fruit juice concentrate, vegetables, greens, Ph - 55850122
Naturally Auroville - Kombucha (a beverage made by fermenting tea and sugar using the yeast kombucha), Spaghetti, ragi, spirulina and bread Ph - 38330517
Sunday Shandy - Weekly fair of organic vegetables, milk and other farm produce, direct from the farm. Every Sunday 9AM to 12PM Ph - 24991203
The Eco Nut - sesame butter and homemade jams, Ph - 24919592
Madras has restaurants offering various types of cuisine. Usually the bill amount includes a Service charge easily identified by 'S.C', this is the amount that goes to the waiters as tips! Though not all restaurants resort to this sort of billing. Leave a tip, only if it is not already included in the bill. Its better to tip moderately.
Beach coast restaurants are well maintained and serve great during evenings. Elliots beach near Adayar is place to stroll and find few celebrities.
Aaavin, Near LIC, Anna Salai, Cuisine - Dairy (Flavoured milk, sweets etc).
Cafe Coffee Day, Ispahani Centre, Nungambakkam High Road, Nungambakkam. Cuisine - Coffee.
Cappuccino, Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101, Cuisine - Multicuisine
Cilantro, Le Royal Meridien, #1, GST Road, St. Thomas Mount, Ph - 22314343, Cuisine - Chinese
Dakshin, Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101, Cuisine - South Indian
Rose wood furniture, antique tanjore paintings, bronze idols, fresh water lilies and flower garlands create a festive mood. Live Carnatic Music. Excellent food - Starters include traditional fare like Kuli Paniyaram. Try the Idi Appam or Appam and Mutton Stew. Finish off with a Kulfi.
The Great Kabab Factory, Radisson GRT Hotel, #531, GST Road, St. Thomas Mount, Ph - 22310101, Cuisine - Indian (Mughalai)
The Patio, Taj Coromandel, Nungambakkam High Road, Nungambakkam, Ph - 55002827, Cuisine - Gourmet dining
The Residency, Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101, Cuisine -
Vijays, Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101, Cuisine - Multicuisine Sports Cafe
The Westminister, Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101, Cuisine -
The liquor trade in Chennai and rest of Tamilnadu is now run by the government. Most liquor shops have been taken over by the government. However bars and pubs in the city's major hotels are managed by the hotels.
ITC Chola Sheraton, Cathedral Road, Ph - 28110101, Poes Garden
Le Royal Meridian, #1, GST Road, St. Thomas Mount, Ph - 22314343(Near Kathipara Junction)
Raddison GRT Hotel, Radisson GRT Hotel, #531, GST Road, St. Thomas Mount, Ph - 22310101 (Near Kathipara Junction)
ITC Park Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Chamiers Road, Alwarpet, Ph - 24994101,
Savera, Radhakrishna Salai, Mylapore
Taj Connamera, C-in-C Road, Behind Spencers Plaza
Taj Coromandel, Nungambakkam High Road, Nungambakkam, Ph - 55002827
Trident, The, GST Road
BSNL and Airtel (formerly Touchtel) are the two main providers of terrestrial telephone lines in Madras. You can make long distance calls from one of the many booths that display NSD/ISD i.e. National Subscriber Dialling (National Long Distance) and International Subscriber Dialling (International Long Distance). Rates are cheaper during the nights: sometimes one-half of what its costs during the day.
Cell phone rates are one of the cheapest in the world. There are three service providers AirTel, Hutch and AirCel (RPG has been taken over by AirCel). Starter packs and top-up cards can be picked up from numerous outlets. Note that top-up cards generally only work within the home network: you can't use a Bangalore Airtel top-up card in Chennai, for example. Reliance and Indicomm, providers of WLL (Wireless in local loop) will soon be full fledged Cell phone Service Providers.
There are several internet cafes from where you can access the internet for sending email or uploading your digital photos.
Java Green, Spencers Plaza, Anna Salai (Mount Road)
Dishnet DSL, Above Murugans Super Market, Off GN Chetty Road, Tel - 28260190
While in Chennai its advisable to drink only bottled water. There are several brands that you can choose from: Aquafina (Pepsi), Kinley (Coco Cola), Bisleri, Hello. It's better to avoid brands that you don't recognise.
Chennai summers are humid and sultry; it's better to step out with an umbrella, bottled water and some oral rehydration salts (available from pharmacies, the brand name is Electrolyte). These come in handy if you happen to get dehydrated.
It's advisable not to venture near the beach areas during Kaanum Pongal day where the locals under the influence of alcohol congregate at various beaches.
Apollo Hospitals, Greams Lane, Off Greams Road, Nungambakkam Tel - 28293333
Aysha Hospital, Tel - 26426930
Balaji Hospital, Tel - 22345282
Bone and Joint, Tel - 26212137/1026
Child's Trust Hospital, Nungambakkam, Tel - 28277487
CSI Rainy Hospital, Tel - 25951329
Hindu Mission Hospital, Tambaram, Tel - 22262244
Madras Medical Mission, Moggapair
Shankar Nethralaya (Eye Hospital)
Apollo Pharmacy, , GN Chetty Road, T. Nagar
Health & Glow, Spencers Plaza (Phase 3), Mount Road
Health & Glow, , Nungambakkam High Road
ABN Amro, Opp Residency Hotel, GN Chetty Road
American Express, Near Anand Theatre, Anna Salai (Mount Road)
Citibank, Opp Spencers Plaza, Anna Salai (Mount Road)
HDFC Bank, ITC Centre, Anna Salai (Mount Road); Opp Residency Hotel, GN Chetty Road
Standard Chartered, Haddows Road
American Express, Spencers Plaza, Anna salai
Thomas Cook, Spencers Plaza, Anna salai
Beauty parlors & hair salons
Black and White, GN Chetty Road, T. Nagar
Green Trends, Taylors Road, Kilpauk
Green Trends, 13th Main Road, Anna Nagar
Jazzy, North Boag Road, T. Nagar
Limelight, Off Greams Road
Mahesh, Parsn Complex, Kodambakkam High Road, Nungambakkam
Salon Nayana, GN Chetty Road, T. Nagar, Ph - 28256064
Clean Living, Opp Hotel Palmgrove, Kodambakkam High Road
Clean Living, Near Ega Theatre, Poonamalle High Road
Mr. Pronto's, Spencers Plaza (Phase 3), Mount Road
Post & telegraphs
The telegraph office on Anna Salai (Mount Road), near higginbothoms accepts letters and parcels upto 8pm with a small late fee. Snail Mail in India is by a Post Card (25Ps), Inland Letter (5Rs) or Envelope (5Rs). The 'Speed Post' facility allows you to send your mail with the convinience compared to that of a courier service.
'Telephone Booths' or public telephones in India are available on almost every street usually painted with the letters local calls, STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) and ISD (International Subscriber Dialling). All these booths have electronic metering and you pay what's displayed on the meter. You'll also get a receipt if you insist on one.
Libraries & Cultural Centres
Alliance Francais - College Road, Nungambakkam, Phone - 2827 9803/1477
British Council Division - Anna Salai, Phone - 52050600 Ext 350/351