Ancient Vedapuri was where the sage Agastya Muni had his hermitage in 1500 BC and in the first century AD Romans traded from nearby Arikamedu. The French renamed the area Puducherry in 1673. In 1742, Dupleix, newly named Governor of the French India Company, took up residence. In 1746 the British lost Fort St George in Madras to Dupleix but in 1751 Clive counter-attacked by capturing Pondicherry in 1761. Puducherry was voluntarily handed over to the Indian government in 1954 and became the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
Bike hire is well worthwhile as the streets are broad, flat and quiet. The best choice of mopeds and bikes is on Mission St between Amballattadavar Madam St and Caltisvaran Koil St. Day rates start from Rs 30 for a bike, Rs 100 for a scooter, Rs 200 for a motorbike, plus photo ID (some places ask to keep it) and Rs 500 deposit.
Local bus stand: T0413-233 6919. 0430-1230, 1330-2130. Main bus stand a few hundred metres west of the junction of Anna Salai and Lal Bahadur Shastri, T0413-233 7464, serves all State bus companies. Computerized Reservations: 0700-2100 (helpful staff). Pondicherry Tourism Corporation (PTC), T0413-233 7008, 0600- 2200, also runs long distance services. Left luggage, Rs 20 per 24 hrs, at cloakroom on Platform 5. Auto-rickshaw to town Rs 30-40.
Bengaluru (Bangalore): 7½ hrs, overnight Volvo service with PTC; Chennai: frequent Express buses via East Coast Rd, 3 hrs; Chidambaram: frequent, 1½ hrs; Coimbatore via Salem and Erode: 8½- 9½ hrs; Kanniyakumari: overnight service; Kannur and Mahé: 15 hrs; Karaikal: 4 hrs; Madurai via Tiruchirappalli: 6½-8 hrs overnight; Mahabalipuram: several, 4 hrs; Tirupati: 6½-7 hrs; Tiruvannamalai (via Villupuram or Tindivanam, 1hr, and Gingee, 2 hrs): regular buses between 0600-2000, 3½-4 hrs; Kottakarai, frequent service from Town Bus Stand.
One-way and round trips to many destinations can be arranged at roughly Rs 10 per kilometre, eg Bengaluru (Bangalore) (310 km) Rs 3250; Chidambaram (74 km), Rs 1000 return; Chennai (166 km), Rs 1700; Mahabalipuram (130 km), Rs 1300; Tiruvannamalai, Rs 1200. Also available for multi-day trips, eg Madurai, 2 days, Rs 3500; Ooty, 3 days, Rs 5300; Cochin, 4 days, Rs 6 000. Add 20% for a/c, plus extra charges for driver (Rs 200 per day), hill driving (Rs 350), tolls and parking.
Easiest to find along the canal. For local sightseeing, expect to pay around Rs 400 for 4 hrs (40 km), Rs 800 for 8 hrs (80 km).
Reservations: T0413-233 6684, Mon-Sat 0800-1400 and 1500-1900, Sun 0800-1400. Pondy has few direct express trains, but is connected by branch line to Villupuram, which has good connections towards Chennai and Madurai.
Direct express trains: to Chennai, Chennai Egmore Exp 6116, 0545, 4 hrs; Bangalore (Yeswantpur) Yeswantpur Exp 2256, Tue, Sat, Sun, 2200, 11 hrs. To Villapuram: 4 trains daily. 116, 0745; 196, 1340, continues to Tirupati (9 hrs); 118, 1600; 106, 1845. Also frequent buses, which drop off at the bus stop 100 m from Villlupuram station.
Express trains from Villupuram: Chennai several daily; Madurai: Vaigai Exp 2635, 1445, 6 hrs, via Trichy, 3 hrs, and Kodaikanal Rd, 5½ hrs. It’s possible to make computerized reservations from Pondy station to any other station, and there is a quota on major trains leaving from Chennai Central.
Many ATMS along Nehru St, Mission St and MG RdAndhra Bank, 105 Easwaran Koil St, offers cash against Visa. State Bank of India, 5 Suffren St, changes cash and TCs (Amex, Thomas Cook), 24-hr ATM. LKP, 185 Mission St. No commission.
French Institute, rue St Louis, close to the north end of Goubert Salai. Alliance Française, southern end of Goubert Salai for cultural programmes, Mon-Fri 0800-1230, 1500-1900, Sat 0830- 1200.
Embassies and consulates
French Consulate, 2 Marine St.
Coffee.com, 236 Mission St, plays DVDs, great coffee and real Italian pasta, but service and connection are equally slow. Shreenet, 54 Mission St. High speed, good computers, scanning.
General Hospital, rue Victor Simone, T0413-233 6050; JIPMER, T0413-227 2381. Ashram Dispensary, Depuis St, near seaside.
Head Post Office, northwest corner of Govt Place, T0413-233 3051. CTO, Rangapillai St. Useful contacts Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office, Goubert Salai.