Locals Guide to Pondicherry

A Local’s Guide To Pondicherry – The Goa of South India

Spread the Word!

While we were in Chennai for about 2 years, Pondicherry was one of the destinations on our travel to-do list and a weekend getaway for many. Here’s sharing our experience after multiple visits and some information that’ll help you get the best out of this place.

Pondicherry offers lower taxes making it a favorite place for alcohol lovers and people who want to party. Also referred to as Pondy or Puducherry, it is a destination where you can experience the unique cultural blend of France and South India. This union territory is divided into two namely,

  1. An older French part (White Town or Ville Blanche) 
  2. A newer, quintessentially Tamil part (Black Town or Ville Noire).

Another interesting fact is that Pondicherry consists of four unconnected districts. Puducherry and Karaikal are located in Tamilnadu while Yanam and Mahe are located in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively. Pondicherry is also popularly known as the Indian Cote D’Azur and the Riviera of the East.

Explore Pondicherry – The French Colony of India

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Pondicherry is between October and February. The climate in Pondicherry is generally humid and it gets quite hot during summers.

Languages Spoken

Tamil and French are the two official languages of Pondicherry. English is widely spoken and understood. However, an amusing thing is that Tamilians speak French and foreigners speak Tamil.

Network Availability

As a popular holiday destination, Pondicherry has good connectivity provided by all network operators.

How To Reach?

By Air

Puducherry Airport (Airport code: PNY, 3 Km) is connected to major domestic cities that include Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Vijayawada, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, and other cities. SpiceJet is the only airline that operates flights and services to and from Puducherry Airport.

The proximity international airport is the Chennai International Airport (Airport code: MAS, 177 Km). From there, take the metro to reach the CMBT bus terminus and hop on a bus to Pondy which is available at all times.

By Train

Puducherry (Station code: PDY, 4 Km) is connected by daily trains to Chennai and Bangalore. While in Mumbai, Pondicherry is connected by a quad-weekly train. Other cities like Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, New Delhi, Mangalore, Nagpur, Agra, Bhopal, New Delhi, and Kanyakumari are connected by a weekly train.

Another option to reach Pondicherry by train is to get down at Villupuram (Station code: VMF, 37 Km). Villupuram is well connected to major Indian cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, and Pune. From here, frequent public transport is available or you can even opt for a taxi.

By Road

Pondicherry is best connected by well-maintained motorable roads. From budget hop-on-hop-off buses to luxury air-conditioned buses, Pondicherry is well connected to Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad with buses that run every day. Those traveling from Chennai are in for a visual treat as the East Coast Road (ECR) leading to Pondicherry is a picturesque highway, having sand dunes on one side and the sea on the other.

Commute Around Pondicherry

Transport to explore Pondicherry

The cheapest and the best way to explore Pondicherry is to rent a motorbike. Another option is to hire an auto-rickshaw or tuk-tuk for sightseeing. Pondicherry Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) offers full-day city tours which can be booked from their official website.

Note: Ola/ Uber service is not available in Pondicherry.

Where To Stay?

This popular tourist hub has a wide variety of stay options ranging from budget hostels to luxury resorts. One of the budget options is to stay in guest houses maintained by the Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Auroville. Bookings can also be made from their main office. Staying near the new bus stand is recommended as most of the tourist attractions are close by. Other budget hostels inside Auroville are the WoodPacker Hostel and the Time Travellers Hostel.

Here are a few recommendations.


Where To Eat?

French restaurants, situated in the White town serve a variety of French cuisine. Beachfront view, Le Cafe is popular for lasagne which is open 24*7 on all days. Surguru is a famous veg restaurant with a reasonable price. Many small not so popular restaurants have got really tasty food.

Note: You can order food online from Zomato or Swiggy and get them delivered to your doorstep.


This Union Territory town offers super cheap low-tax alcohol. There are numerous lounge bars and pubs to enjoy the nightlife in Pondicherry. Some of the nightclubs include L’Aqua, Le-Space, Kofi Bar, Toxic, Le-Club, and Bay of Buddha. 

Note: All the clubs and bars are closed by 11 PM.


Shopping in Pondicherry

Thanks to lower tax rates, shopping in Pondicherry will not burn a hole in your pocket. Drive to Mission Street and Auroville to buy clothes, home decor items, souvenirs, leather products, and handicrafts at reasonable prices. Nehru Street, Serenity Beach Bazaar, and Sunday Market at MG Road stand out for street shopping where one can buy products, daily consumer goods, and clothes at as low as 50 bucks. Make sure to check the quality before you purchase them though. 

Some of the popular shopping places in Pondicherry include Sund’art, Habitart, Kalki, Casablanca, Anokhi, Sri Aurobindo handmade paper factory, Saram China market, and Auro Woodworks. Timings and other information can be found here.

Must-Visit Places In Pondicherry

The Promenade or Rock Beach

Rock beach or Promenade
View of Promenade from Light House

The sea-front 1.5 Km long stretch promenade is the pride of Pondicherry. There are several landmarks along the Promenade including Le’ cafe, Duplex’s statue, the old Lighthouse (closed for tourists), and the iconic statue of Mahatma Gandhi, surrounded by eight exquisitely carved monolithic granite pillars located right in the middle of the Promenade. Right opposite the statue, one can see a statue of Jawaharlal Nehru.

You can also visit the nearby Bharathi Park and the French War Memorial which comprises four stark white columns with a life-size statue of a soldier leaning on a rifle. This remains to be a memorial for the French fighters of India who died for the country in World War 1. The memorial is beautifully illuminated on Bastille Day which is celebrated on the 14th of July, every year.

Enjoy early morning or evening peaceful walks as vehicles are only allowed from 7:30 AM – 6 PM.

Chunnambar Boathouse and Paradise Beach

Paradise Beach

8 Km away from the city, along the Cuddalore road, Chunnambar Boat House, also known as Nonankuppam boathouse or Sankaraparani Boathouse, is the gateway to reach Paradise Beach, the dreamy island for kids and family. Accessible only by a ferry through the backwaters, Paradise Beach is well-maintained with restaurants, restrooms, and free dress-changing rooms. It also offers fun activities and water sports like jet skiing, banana rides, speed boats, rain dances, fish spas, trampolines, etc. at an additional cost.

  • Chunnambar Boat House Timings: 9 AM – 6 PM 
  • Entry fee: Rs.5 for adults, and Rs.3 for children. Additional charges of Rs.15 and Rs.40 for still and video cameras respectively.
  • Parking charges: Rs.5 for two-wheelers/auto, Rs. 15 for cars, and Rs.25 for vans/buses.
  • Paradise Beach trip timings: 9 AM – 4 PM
  • Boat charges: Rs. 200 to 300 approx. per adult (subject to change) to take you to the Paradise Beach
  • No network is available once you reach the paradise island
  • Contact number: 0413 2602444

Note: Chunnambar Boat House is crowded during weekends and holidays. So, plan accordingly.

Auroville and Matrimandir

Matrimandir, Auroville

The universal township of Auroville is to realize human unity in diversity. Aurovilians come from 35 nations, from various age groups, social classes, backgrounds, and cultures, representing humanity as a whole. At the center of the township, lies Matrimandir (The Golden Dome) and its amphitheater with the Urn of Human Unity that contains the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states.

The soul of the city, Matrimandir means “Temple of the Mother”. Inside Matrimandir, the spacious inner chamber in the upper hemisphere is covered with white marble walls. At the center, a pure crystal-glass globe suffuses a ray of sunlight which falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere. It is a place where one can find consciousness. It is said that one has to be silent and focus within to understand the extremities of spirituality and materialism.

  • Timings: 9 AM – 1 PM and 1:30 PM – 5 PM, closed on Tuesdays.
  • The time required: 2-3 hours (about 2 Km walk to reach the viewpoint of Matrimandir)
  • Meditation timings inside the inner chamber: 9:35 AM – 10:05 AM, the last entry allowed into the inner chamber is 9:45 AM. The free shuttle is available for the people who have got passes for the Matrimandir.
  • Entry fee: Free
  • Parking: Available
  • Restaurant: Available inside the premises.
  • No ATM inside Auroville. Bring enough cash.

Note: The Matrimandir viewpoint is free of cost. Booking passes to Matrimandir should be bought seven days in advance by each individual as the number of vacancies is limited. Also, you can’t book your passes through email or phone or by agents, guides, or tour operators. All required information can be gathered from the information desk available at the visitor’s center or you can also check out their official website. Cameras, mobile phones, bags, and Children below 10 years are not allowed inside the Matrimandir and you can keep the belongings at the access office of the Matrimandir.

French Quarters or The White Town Heritage Walk

White Town or French Colony

The best way to explore the French Quarters is by walking. This colorful grid-patterned town portrays European architecture which makes you feel like you are in France. International French school (Lycée français de Pondichéry), The Romain Rolland Library (Bibliothèque Publique), Notre Dame Church, The French School of the Far East (École française d’Extrême Orient), Alliance Française de Pondichéry are some of the notable buildings in the white town.

New Lighthouse

New Light House Pondicherry

The White and black hexagonal tower stands tall facing the Bay of Bengal. Situated in the south of the city, the new lighthouse is the only place to witness the entire promenade and the city from such great height.

  • Opening hours: 3-5 PM every day
  • Entry fee: Rs.10 per adult
  • Parking: Available

Note: The old lighthouse, situated right opposite the Gandhi statue on the Rock beach is not open to tourists.

Churches of Pondicherry

Churches Of Pondicherry

Pondicherry is home to some of the most beautiful architectural wonders. Our Lady of Angels Church (also called Église Notre-Dame des Anges, White Chapel, and Kaps Koil) is the only church that offers mass in three languages namely French, Tamil, and English. Situated at the corner of two famous streets – Surcouf and Dumas, it houses the marble statue of Joan of Arc in the front.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an oriental specimen of Gothic architecture contains spectacular glass pictures of twenty-eight saints, the great devotees of Jesus Christ. Right beside the Archbishop’s House, Immaculate Conception Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry.

Aurobindo Ashram

Aurobindo Ashram Puducherry

If you wish to find solitude, Aurobindo Ashram is the right place for you. It attracts a lot of spiritual guests every year and has interesting exhibitions on the lives and teachings of the enigmatic, Sri Aurobindo. The Ashram has a huge courtyard, in the middle of which lies the “Samathi – the final resting place”, of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The ashram is a center for the practice of yoga and offers activities like agriculture, art, and culture. Photography is prohibited and one is requested to maintain silence inside the Ashram.

Weekday ashram tours are conducted at Rs. 50 per person which begins at 8:30 AM with a film about the Aurobindo and the Mother.

Puducherry Museum

Puducherry Museum

For an artsy and historical person, the Pondicherry Museum is popular for its collection of rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties and the artifacts excavated from Arikamedu, an ancient port that had trade links with the Roman empire. The museum also has a collection of handicrafts, coins, burial urns, church relics, and French furniture and transport.

Photography inside the museum is not permitted.

  • Opening hours: 10 AM – 5 PM (except Mondays and National Holidays)
  • Entry fee: Rs.10 for adults, Rs. 5 for children, and Rs. 50 for foreign nationals.

If you are a fan of the famous Tamil poet-patriot, Mahakavi Subramani Bharathi, you can check out Bharathiyar Museum which displays essays, poems, photographs, and letters written by him. You can also check out Ananda Rangapillai’s house, an 18th-century architecture. He is a famous diarist of Dupleix’s time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days are required to visit Pondicherry?

Pondicherry is an ideal weekend getaway. Two to three days are sufficient to bask in its beauty and explore the place.

Is alcohol allowed in Pondicherry?

Drinking and smoking in public places including parks, beaches, and museums are strictly prohibited. Also, any kind of narcotic drug is illegal in Pondicherry.

Is Pondicherry a safe place to visit?

Yes. Pondicherry is quite safe for all, even at night. As a precaution, avoid secluded places.

Is alcohol cheap in Pondicherry?

As a Union Territory, Pondicherry has a low tax rate when compared to other states of India and is known for its super cheap alcohol.

Can anyone take home liquor from Pondicherry?

Police checkpoints are located in the city limits of Pondicherry. One cannot take liquor/alcohol outside the city limits. Policemen do random checks on all the vehicles including public transport and seize the bottles if found.

Save it for later!

You may also like

Leave a Comment