Kolkata, also known as the city of Joy, has everything you can ever expect out of a visit to India. It has history, culture, an amazing food scene, amazing sites and is often one of the more overlooked Indian cities.
When should I go to Kolkata? Kolkata, like the rest of India is located in the subtropics, so it is generally warm and humid all year round. The monsoon season in Kolkata is typically from June to September. The best time to visit Kolkata is around winter time, so from October to March. This is because the temperatures are typically the coolest and the weather is very pleasant.
What should I pack for Kolkata? Because of the warm weather, I would pack typical summer clothing like t-shirts, shorts and sandals. Also pack an extra pair of shoes just in case. A great tip on saving room in your suitcase is packing only a week’s worth of clothes and just washing them if your trip is longer than a week. Also, pack a small backpack for daily sightseeing so that you can carry water, snacks and your souvenirs. Lastly, pack any medications, toiletries, swimwear, and anything to make your trip as comfortable as possible. Just don’t overpack! Packing unnecessary things is just stuff you may have never needed to begin with.
- Do US citizens need a visa for India? Yes
- How can you get a visa and what are the entry requirements? US citizens can apply for an e-visa at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/. All you need to do is fill out the application, pay the fee and upload a copy of your passport and a picture of yourself. Please be careful when uploading these, the website is very, very specific on the size of the photos. The E-visa is valid for 1 year with multiple entries. Each stay can be up to a maximum of 180 days. Also, when you are approved for the e-visa (usually within 3 days), you will have to print it and show it to the Indian Border Police and at check in for your flight. If you travel to India frequently to visit family or just because you love it there so much, US citizens only are also eligible for a 10 year, multiple entry visa, but you have to fill out the application, print it and send it to the nearest Indian diplomatic mission in your area. With the 10-year visa, each stay is also up to a maximum of 180 days.
- Aside from the 10-year visa, other countries are eligible for the e-visa, but check the nearest Indian Diplomatic mission in your country
What should I budget to go to Kolkata?
- Flights – You can usually get a flight to Kolkata between 700-850 USD. Google flights is a good way to track flight prices and you can even set notification. My recommendation for airlines would be Qatar Airways or if you want to splurge a little more, Emirates.
- Daily spending budget – India is a really cheap country to eat, shop and do activities in, but I would recommend at least 50 USD/day. Also, you can go to the markets and if you want a nice deal on some awesome souvenirs, learning how to haggle really comes in handy. Just a little warning, attraction prices for foreigners are normally 10x the price of Indian citizens, so if you are of Indian origin, and can act like a local for a few seconds, then you can save some major money on attractions.
- Transportation– Kolkata has a metro, light rail, buses. You can haggle taxis and rickshaws for a good price, and there is always Uber. When haggling for a good fare, have an idea of where you are going so that you can estimate how much you are willing to pay to go to your destination.
- Accommodations– Airbnb and hotels are available depending on your preference.
- Budgeting tools– I recommend www.budgetyourtrip.com to get a good estimate on how much money to bring. Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring a little extra so that you have a cushion in case something happens.
How is the Culture/Language?
- Like any place, you can get around Kolkata knowing English without too many problems, but if you can learn some basic Hindi and/or Bengali, it will definitely go a long way. Also, the locals will show some mad respect that you have taken the time to learn their language and customs.
- Be respectful of any religious sites you may run into, like little Hindu temples, don’t tamper or obstruct them, you will get in huge trouble.
- Modesty is a huge thing in India. Wear comfortable clothing, but dress to the point where nothing is suggestive. Overall, just be respectful of others and yourself
How is the food?
- Being born into this culture, Indian food is definitely one of my favorite foods. My favorites are seekh kabob and Chili Chicken.
- Kolkata has a mixture of restaurants and street food. If you want the best street food stands and the best Chai, go to Russell St. You can get pani puri, sandwiches, Aloo Tikki.
- If you want to know if the tap water is safe to drink, it is not! Buy bottled water! Your stomach will thank you for it later.
What do you recommend doing in Kolkata?
Kolkata has something to do for every type of traveler that comes. It is a very diverse city with a lot to see.
A couple of the well-known sights are:
- Victoria Memorial: Located in the central part of Kolkata, this memorial was built in honor of Queen Victoria of England during when Kolkata was the capital of British India. The memorial is now a museum filled with paintings, and memorabilia from the times of British India.
- New Market: This bustling open air market has a lot of opportunities to shop and get amazing souvenirs at good prices and also another opportunity to sample the local street food.
- Other sights to visit:
- Park Street
- Also known as the “Food Street” of Kolkata. There are many restaurants, clubs, and pubs
- Fort William
- Fort named after King William III. Built in 1696 by the British East India Company. Entry is restricted, but it is still a magnificent site.
- Writers Building
- Built in the 18th century by the British East India Company. Originally was an administrative office for writers, then after India got independence in 1947, it housed the Chief Minister of West Bengal until 2013.
- Nicco Park
- Amusement park in Kolkata. There is bowling, rides, a water park
- Russell St
- Russell St has a lot of shopping and nightlife. Also, you can get the best street food and masala Chai
- Park Street
I hope that I have sparked your interest in Kolkata and thanks for reading!
-Jet Lagged Jaff