Pondicherry—also called Puducherry—is where you'll find a sliver of Europe in India. Once a French colony, the foreign flair is still ever present here in the architecture, the language, even the cuisine (one word: quiche). This southeastern city is 809 miles (1,302 kilometers) from Mumbai, on the opposite coast, but you can travel between them fairly quickly by plane. If ground transportation (and saving money) is more your thing, though, you can spend a little extra time taking the slower-but-cheaper direct train, a bus, or a car.
|Train||25 to 35 hours||from $8||Minding a budget|
|Bus||29 hours||from $15||When the train is booked up|
|Plane||5 hours||from $150||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Car||18 to 24 hours||809 miles (1,302 kilometers)||Private, flexible transportation|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Mumbai to Pondicherry?
The cheapest way to get from Mumbai to Pondicherry is by train. Indian Railways operates a direct 11005 Chalukya Express train that costs as little as $8, but—here's the kicker—takes nearly 34 hours. The good news is that you won't have to deal with messy transfers. The Chalukya Express departs from Dadar railway station (one of the primary and central train stations in Mumbai) at 9:30 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays, and will get you to the Pondicherry railway station around 7:15 a.m. two days later. That means you'll save money on two nights of accommodation as well. The cheapest ticket would be for a general sleeper, but there are also second and third AC classes available for up to $40. It would be wise to read up on Indian Railways' class system before you book your ticket.
To slice off some time from the trip (about 10 hours, actually), you can take the 11017 Mumbai LTT-Karaikal Weekly Express to Villupuram Junction, then hop on another hour-long train to Pondicherry. Another option: Take the 16351 Nagarcoil Balaji Express to Tindivanam, then take a 40-minute bus to Pondicherry. Either way, the trip should take between 25 and 27 hours and cost about the same as the longer, more direct train.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Mumbai to Pondicherry?
Fortunately, because Pondicherry has an airport, lengthy ground transport is not the only option. Still, though, air travel from Mumbai to Pondicherry isn't the easiest thing in the world. There are no direct flights, for starters, but even with a layover in Bangalore or Hyderabad, you're looking at a total travel time of about five hours (five times faster than the fastest train). SpiceJet is a popular budget option that offers regular flights out of Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport and into the Pondicherry Airport. Tickets start around $150.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
Driving the 809 miles (1,302 kilometers) between Mumbai and Pondicherry could take anywhere from 18 to 24 hours. This is in part because some of the road is rough or unpaved. Besides a few unkempt patches, it's all highway, flanked by farms for miles on end. It's not what most people would consider a scenic trip and because it's not advisable to self-drive long distances in India, traveling by car is not a popular option for tourists.
Is There a Bus That Goes From Mumbai to Pondicherry?
RedBus operates a 26-hour route from Mumbai to Chennai, where you can transfer to another RedBus or Parveen Travels bus (the former takes four hours, 45 minutes and latter takes three hours) to Pondicherry. The entire trip takes 29 hours at best, not including transfer times, which is only slightly longer than the shortest train ride. It's a good, reliable backup plan for when the train is full (say, around Indian festival times like Holi). Tickets cost, in total, $15 to $25.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Pondicherry?
The best time to travel to Pondicherry is before or after the sweltering summer season, which is also prone to monsoons. March and October temperatures tend to keep between 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and with peak tourism season being November to February, you might find that it's quieter, too. Note that fog can sometimes affect travel within India in the wintertime. And try not to book bus or train travel around religious holidays (Diwali, Dussehra, Ganesha Chaturthi, Holi).
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
Unfortunately, there is no public bus or train that connects the Pondicherry Airport to the city center. A taxi takes about 15 minutes and typically costs less than $5, though.
What Is There to Do in Pondicherry?
Pondicherry (Pondy, for short) is a coastal destination known for its rainbow building-lined beaches and French flair. You can feel the European influence in the architecture, the accents, and the food of this area. But like most Indian cities, its primary attractions are centered around religion. There's the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Hindu Temple, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Pondicherry is known for its famously cheap booze, too, so take advantage of the low liquor prices while you're here.