West Bengal was born with the partition and independence of India, with millions of refugees pouring into the state. It has since seen a lot of turbulence. Rich in culture and literature, immensely proud of a colourful heritage, it is a place where human values are still held high. A road accident immediately draws the attention and support of passers by. Naturally, such people are generally friendly towards others and in Kolkata, those from outside the state outnumber the locals. With all the variety of life, people coming to the state from outside should leave with a pleasant and favorable impression.
However, anyone visiting the state should realize Begalis proccupation with strikes (bandh). When these occur, all transportation (except train) stops and so travel is impossible. This sitution has not only severely hampered economic progress in the state, but is also a major disinsentment to tourism. Travelers flying from Kolkata need to take this situation into account and plan to arrive several days early.
The topography of the majority of West Bengal is flat, and as a major rice growing region it is characterized by its lush and green environment. However, with the notable exception of the towns located in the tea growing areas of Jailpaiguri (the area around Siliguri) and Darjeeling, the urban areas tend to be characterless jumbles of concrete boxes devoid of charm.
Bengali is the main language here. Apart from Bengali - English, Hindi, Oriya and Assamese are also widely understood by the local people. In the Darjeeling area the main language is Nepalese.
Kolkata is normally the gateway to the state but there are entry points all around. Two commercial airports are at Kolkata and Bagdogra. The state has a number of smaller airports. Railways link it with other states from all sides. Major road connections are NH 2 from Delhi, NH 5 from Chennai, NH 6 from western India and NH 31 from Guwahati. Major ports are Kolkata and Haldia. There are a number of smaller ports.
Within the state the main transport links are trains and buses. Apart from the mail and express trains coming from outside the state (they are generally very crowded), there are a number of fast trains within the state, large number of passenger trains and locals (mostly around Kolkata). Taxis and hired cars are available in most places.
The state stretches from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal and so there are many things to see. Some of the places of tourist interest are listed above. It has wonderful cultural heritage, particularly towards the rural sides. The northern side has beautiful hills and forests, while the south has some nice beaches.
Join a procession! You will find many of them.
Bengal is famous for fish preparations and sweet-meat but some of the vegetarian dishes are also a speciality. In olden times, widows were prohibited from taking anything other than vegetarian food (predominantly they still are but now rules are being broken) and they were principal chefs in large homes. They developed the vegetarian dishes extensively.
In a big city such as Kolkata one will get food as per choice of people from all over the country. Then one gets Chinese, Thai and continental. In most of the other towns it is Bengali cooking, plus Punjabi or North Indian preparations and some South Indian outlets. Mughlai dishes are popular.
There are plenty of bars across the state.
West Bengal serves as entry point for some of the neighbouring states, particularly Sikkim and the North East and also for Bhutan. Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also linked with it closely.