How to Travel From New Delhi to Kolkata by Train, Car, and Plane

Howrah railway station in Kolkata.

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Being the capital of India, New Delhi is a common starting point for travels in this South Asian country. From here, tourists often set off for the "Pink City" of Jaipur, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Those who want to get off the typical tourist track, however, head west to Kolkata. People frequent this city—formerly known as Calcutta—for a taste of authentic Indian art and culture and to see where Mother Teresa spent many years of her life. It's about 1,511 kilometers (939 miles) from New Delhi (a 20-some-hour drive), so many people choose to fly rather than take on India's often chaotic and dangerous roads. Taking the train is a much cheaper alternative to flying, though.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 17 hours minimum from $20 Traveling on a budget
Plane 2 hours, 12 minutes from $40 Arriving on a time crunch
Car Between 20 and 30 hours 1,511 kilometers (939 miles) An extended adventure

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From New Delhi to Kolkata? 

The cheapest and possibly the most popular mode of transportation between New Delhi and Kolkata is the train. Several trains run this route, in fact, with the quickest arriving in just over 17 hours. One convenient option is the 12302 New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express, which departs from the New Delhi railway station around 5 p.m. and gets into Howrah Junction—the station serving Kolkata and its twin city, Howrah—at 10 a.m. The fare is subject to dynamic pricing, but expect to pay about $63 for a first-class, air-conditioned sleeper. For more budget-conscious travelers, a third-tier option (which is still an air-conditioned sleeper) can be found for as little as $27.

This train, like many others in India, features a pantry car and meals that are included in the ticket price. Less ideal options include the 12260 New Delhi-Sealdah AC Duronto Express, which often gets delayed despite having only three stops, and the 12314 New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani; both arrive at Kolkata's Sealdah railway station after roughly 17 hours. The most in-demand of all is the 12274 New Delhi-Howrah Duronto Express because of its sleeper class option. Whereas the others do have beds, this one has rooms with wash basins and toilets. Tickets under the Foreign Tourist Quota can be booked in person (24 hours a day) at the International Tourist Bureau at New Delhi's railway station.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From New Delhi to Kolkata? 

The fastest way to get from New Delhi to Kolkata is to fly directly. Both cities have their own airports (the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata). According to Skyscanner, there are more than 200 direct flights to Kolkata per week, with the average flight time being two hours, 12 minutes. One-way flights tend to linger in the $40-to-$80 range depending on when you go and how early you book.

How Long Does It Take to Drive? 

Driving is the most time-consuming option, as it takes a minimum of 20 hours to navigate the roads between New Delhi and Kolkata. Oftentimes, it takes up to 30 hours to drive it. However, there is the lure of hitting Agra (to visit the Taj Mahal) and Varanasi (a good overnight stopping point mid-way through the journey) along the way.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Kolkata? 

If you plan to fly, you're likely to find the cheapest flights in September, according to Kayak. This is just before India's peak tourist season (October through March) begins, too. If you'll be taking the train, be sure to book an overnight ride to save some money on accommodation. Note that the aforementioned 12302 New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express runs via Patna on Fridays, which can add more than two hours of travel time to the journey. Drivers should do plenty of research on the notorious fog that plagues this area, often causing white-out conditions during winter.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport? 

The fastest way to get into the city center from the airport is to take a taxi, but if you prefer to save some money and take public transportation instead, you can hop aboard one of four West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) buses that stop at the airport. The fastest is Route VS1, which departs every 30 minutes and takes one hour, 15 minutes to get to the central neighborhood of Esplanade. A single-trip ticket shouldn't cost more than a couple of dollars. In 2021, Kolkata plans to open Metro Line 6, which will connect the airport to the neighborhood of New Garia via a rapid transit train.

What Is There to Do in Kolkata? 

Kolkata, the capital of India's West Bengal state, is known for its art, festivals, and colonial architecture. Among the major tourist attractions is the Victoria Memorial, a grand white building that serves as an art and history museum, the expansive Howrah Bridge, and the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, an ornate spiritual complex. Kolkata also has one of the best nightlife scenes in India, probably because it doesn't enforce a curfew like many other Indian cities. You can peruse Park Street looking for a party well into the night.

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