Getting There & Away -- At press time Pondicherry's long-awaited airport (which was due to open around Mar 2009) was still many months from completion due to the runway being washed away, but check if you'd prefer to fly; Kingfisher airlines will no doubt service this route. Until then, Pondicherry is best reached by road from Chennai, a 3-hour drive (140km/87 miles from the airport) along a mostly good quality two-lane highway; a taxi from Chennai airport here will run you around Rs 2,000 (Rs 1,800 if you're coming from Pondi). There are also regular buses (Rs 50-Rs 60) connecting Pondi with Chennai. To get here by train from Chennai (or Madurai/Trichy), you must first travel to Villuparam (VM) station, which is located an inconvenient 30 min. drive away from Pondi's beachfront (buses every 10-15 min. in peak time); the journey by rail takes 5 hours from Chennai.
Visitor Information -- Pondicherry's helpful Tourism Information Centre (40 Goubert Ave.; tel. 0413/233-9497; fax 0413/233-0532; www.tourism.pondicherry.gov.in; daily 9am-5pm) can help you with maps, brochures, and tour bookings. A good locally based travel agent is Travelmate (tel. 0413/420-0525; www.thetravelmate.com).
Guided Tours -- Guided tours and sightseeing trips can be arranged through Pondicherry Tourism ; Rs 250 for full day bus tour (9:45am-5pm) or Rs 150 for half day. Alternatively you can also pick up a very good Heritage Trail map, with two clearly indicated walks (covering The French Quarter and The Tamil Quarter), and explore at your own pace. Alternatively, for heritage walks with a guide, make direct contact with Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH, 14 Labourdonnais S.; tel. 0413/222-5991 or -7324; www.intach.org; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Interesting Dates -- Proof of its multicultural roots and current inhabitants are found in Pondi's annual calendar of important dates: Pongal, a Tamil harvest festival, is celebrated in January, while Masi Mangam, in which deities from 38 temples are taken to the sea for symbolic immersion, followed by their devotees, takes place during full moon over the Feb to March period. Bastille Day in July is the next big event, followed by Sri Aurobindo's birth anniversary on August 15, and the Fete de Pondicherry August 15 to 17.
By Taxi & Auto-Rickshaw -- Auto-rickshaws prowl the streets in some areas, actively soliciting fares. Overcharging is rife, but if you've got several miles to cover, it may be worthwhile to hire one; the minimum charge is Rs 30 for 6km (3 3/4 miles). Pondi to Auroville costs around Rs 250 by auto-rickshaw and Rs 350 to Rs 400 by taxi; two recommended taxi operators are Sarvanan (tel. 94420-68821) and Mr. Anand from Ganapathy Travels (tel. 94420-66853).
By Bicycle -- Parts of Pondicherry are immaculate and ideal for exploration by bike. You can rent a bike (Rs 35-Rs 40 per day) from the Pondicherry Tourism Information Centre . Ask about hiring the services of a guide who can cycle along with you. Alternatively, pop into Sri Manonmani Amman Cycle Store (tel. 98941-72244) on Mission street, opposite the South India Bank, for a wide choice of bicycles and scooters.