Getting There & Away
Hyderabad is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of very little else, so you're best off flying in. In fact, you might want to kick off your South India trip from here, with British Air flying direct to Hyderabad from Heathrow, and plenty of connecting flights to Hyderabad available through European hubs such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt, and also through Middle Eastern cities such as Dubai and Doha. There are also plenty of domestic flights connecting the city with every major destination in India including a number of daily (2-hr.) flights from and to Delhi as well as Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Tirupati. The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (Shamshabad; www.hyderabad.aero; tel. 040-66546370 airport; 1407 for Indian Airlines inquiries, 142 for recorded flight information) is 35km (22 miles) north of the city; a taxi into town should cost between Rs 500 and Rs 650. Trains to and from Bengaluru, Tirupati, Chennai, and Mumbai take at least 14 hours; book an overnight journey, and make it several days in advance (As a rule, air-conditioned coaches are preferable to the ordinary in terms of cleanliness and food but the latter are far more entertaining, if you can bear the smell). There are two main stations: Nampally (also known as Hyderabad Deccan) and Secunderabad, with most longer-distance trains arriving at the latter. Call tel. 1345 for specific information about outbound services.
For the lowdown on sights, tours, and events, visit Andhra Pradesh Travel & Tourism Development Corporation (tel. 040/2329-8456; open 24 hr.), on the corner where Secretariat Road becomes Tank Bund. Avoid Andhra Pradesh Tourism right next door; the stench that hangs in the air from the fish market nearby competes with the staff's incompetence; you could fare better by calling their 24/7 help line (tel. 040/2345-0444). The railway stations also have information counters. Big Hyderabad (Rs 30) is a monthly booklet listing a wealth of information about the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. CityInfo (www.hyderabadcityinfo.com) appears every 2 weeks and provides extensive information about hotels, restaurants, and current events, as does Go Hyderabad (monthly; Rs 15).
If you want to do some serious reading up on Hyderabad other than the brochures supplied by the Tourism Department, then try two of the bigger and better bookstores in the city -- Walden (6-3-871 Greenlands Rd., Begumpet; tel. 040/2341-3434 with a branch at Trendset Towers, Road No. 2, Banjara Hills; tel. 040/2335-1613; open daily) and A. A. Husain & Co. (5-8-551 Abid Rd.; tel. 040/2320-3724; closed Sun).
Useful numbers: For 24-hour pharmacies, call Apollo Hospital (tel. 040/2323-1380; www.apollohospitals.com) or Care Hospital (tel. 040/2323-4444; www.carehospitals.com). The local telephone search engine (tel. 040/2444-4444) is extremely helpful in providing phone numbers and addresses of almost everything in the city.
Actually comprising the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, Hyderabad is spread over a vast area, and its few sights are scattered, so you're best off renting a car and driver for a half- or full day. See SOTC (details below) for 24-hour car-hire service; or call Easy Cabs (tel. 040/4343-4343; www.easycabs.com); a half day tour costs between Rs 700 and Rs 1400, doubling for a full day extension.) Aside from this the Old City is best explored on foot.
Guided Tours & Travel Agents
The Andhra Pradesh Travel & Tourism Development Corporation runs full-day guided tours of the city (Rs 270) and 3-day trips to Tirupati (Rs 1,750 including a night's accommodations). There are also daily tours to Nagarjuna Sagar (150km/93 miles away; Rs 450; only on the weekend), where excavations during the construction of a dam revealed an ancient Buddhist site. All the salvaged structures and antiques are now housed in a museum on an island. SOTC (3-5-874 Hyderguda Rd.; tel. 040/6699-9922; www.sotc.in Mon-Sat 10am-6pm) can make all your travel, sightseeing, and car-hire arrangements. For alternate quotes, call Sai Bon Voyage (tel. 98-8562-8111 or 040/6684-3333; www.saibonvoyage.com).