“What West Bengal thought today, India thought tomorrow”– this perfect proverb indicates the rich cultural heritage and intellectual legacy of West Bengal.
Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal. It was formerly known as Calcutta before 2001. The city remained the capital of British India for more than a century, and today it is one of the most popular and busiest business cities in India. It is also a pilgrimage of education.
Every year, people come to stay from different places to this vibrant city. Here I am going to jot down a few tips for them about living in Kolkata, the City of Joy.
Moving to Kolkata: Things to Know Before You Go!
The Cost of Living in Kolkata
Kolkata is one of the most budget-friendly places to live in India. You will be literally surprised sometimes if you belong to the costly city like Bangalore and Mumbai.
If you choose to live even in the suburban regions of Mumbai and Bangalore, you need to pay at least Rs 15,000-Rs 25,000 ($200 – $340 USD) for the rent for a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment. But in Kolkata, the same amount can cover everything – apartment, food, entertainment – the lot!
Accommodation in Kolkata
In comparison to the other metropolitan cities, rental accommodation is quite affordable here. There are many apartments and other accommodations available in Kolkata.
If you’re wondering where to live in Kolkata, it’s useful to know that central and north Kolkata are crowded in comparison with the south. Although during rush hours, the entire city faces traffic jams.
Accommodation for people living alone
The price of accommodation is higher in South Kolkata and some posh areas in central than the other places. Apartment cost varies according to the area and what the apartment offers.
Renting an apartment as a single woman is a bit tough in Kolkata, so if you are living alone as a female you may want to use a Woman Hostel first. Here, you may meet some other women, who you can rent a flat with.
Accommodation for couples or a family
The flat rent in Kolkata is noticeably lower than in the other metropolitan cities. If you are planning to move your family here and want to hire a 2 bedroom apartment, it will cost Rs 5000-10000 ($70 – $140 USD) only.
The transportation in Kolkata is well developed. There are lots of government and private buses running in the city.
The best way fast, hassle-free travel is The Metro. The Metros are clean and run from north to south – and now in the eastern regions too!
Rather than public transports, there are modern taxi firms to use in Kolkata. You can experience the century-old ‘Tram’ as a joy-ride too.
Besides cycle and electronic rickshaws, hand-pulled rickshaws also can be found only in North Kolkata.
You can also use cab apps like the Indian-owned OLA and Uber.
In comparison to the other metropolitan cities, you’ll be able to enjoy a lower transport fare too. You can limit your monthly transport expense to Rs 1500 ($20 USD), to cover them.
Kolkata is widely connected to all its suburban areas by local trains. ‘Sealdah’ and ‘Howrah’ are the two major operating stations. ‘Howrah’ station is situated in the adjacent Howrah town. Nowadays this area is considered to be Greater Kolkata.
The local-trains are 9 -12 compartment electric trains and are divided into eastern, south-eastern, and southern railways. The local trains act as the main commuter transport for Kolkata.
Kolkata is a popular tourist destination. The city offers various shopping opportunities. From roadside vendors to shopping malls, there are endless places to shop your favorite items.
There are several old wholesale markets like Burabazzar, Bagri Market, Chandni market as well as Wholesale Supermarket like Metro Cash & Carry.
Newmarkets, Gariahat market is famous for budget retail shopping. Along with these popular old markets, there are many posh shopping malls here for brand lovers.
There is a fantastic book market in ‘College Street’ in Kolkata. It’s the best place to pick up fiction, non-fiction, adult’s books, kid’s books – basically any book you can think of! It’s a book lover’s paradise!
There is a gold market in the Boubazar area of Kolkata. Here you’ll find all sorts of stalls, from heritage jewelry shops to the branded multinational chain like Tanishq.
Foods and Restaurants
Kolkata is the city of mouth-watering street foods. Phuchka, chur-mur, chat, special biriyani, Kathi roll, and many more dishes ensure that you are sure to fall in love with the city’s dining scene.
Besides street vendors, there are plenty of restaurants. These range from family-run small places, to luxurious eateries. If you’re not a fan of cooking, moving to Kolkata is a great option for you!
All the restaurants have their own specialties; a few of them are really wonderful to have their authentic Bengali cuisine. ‘Bhahohori Manna or ‘Ami Bangali’ is one of those few names to explore in their lives.
Child care cost
If you have to move into the city with your children, It is a good idea to have a look at the childcare expenses. These basically depend on the type of school, board, and environment you’ll choose for your children.
Schools & Boards
In contrast to the northern metropolitan cities like Gurgaon or New Delhi, the cost of admission to the pre-school or the medium school is much lower in Kolkata.
You may only have to spend Rs 3000 ($40 USD) for every month but if you want to get your child into the international branded school, then you can have to spend Rs 8000 to Rs 10,000 ($110 – $140 USD) every month.
The schools are here runs under either All India CBSE, ICSE, or by West Bengal Govt. Board. The mode of teaching runs in Bengali and English, and Hindi is generally considered as the second or third language in these schools.
If you want your children to be taught in English only, there are plenty of international schools in Kolkata, such as The Cambridge School.
The Cultural Heritage
Being known as ‘The City of Joy’ Kolkata has plenty of cultural heritage that you’ll love exploring!
The two different cultural differences are visually located here. The southern region of Kolkata is synonymous with modern metropolitan lifestyle.
In contrast, North Kolkata, including Shyambazar and Jorashanko, is where old charm and colonial architecture intertwine.
Fashion-wise, the ‘Saree’ is considered to be the most popular traditional attires for Bengali women. Likewise ‘Dhoti-Punjabi’ or ‘Pajama-Punjabi’ ranks top for the men.
Bengali people of Kolkata like to adopt their traditional wear during the major festivals like Durgapuja, Bengali new year or cultural days like ‘Rabindra- Jayanti.
The Weather in Kolkata
Before heading towards Kolkata, it’s important to understand its climate. It is situated in a tropical region, less than 100km from the sea. This means that the climate of Kolkata is extremely humid until October.
The summer season feels extremely hot and humid (45 degrees Celsius). It often faces heavy storms, named ‘Kalboisakhi’, during the afternoon.
In the rainy season, Kolkata experiences heavy showers. The streets of Kolkata get waterlogged if there is heavy rainfall.
The winter lasts for a very short period here. From the middle of December to the 1st week of February, Kolkata enjoys the cold weather. The weather in winter is ideal for day trips and exploring the city. Light clothes and layers are all you’ll need for Kolkata’s winter.
The Festive Season
Durgapuja is the greatest festival in Kolkata and the whole of Bengal. The festival starts officially from the 6th day of Navratri and ended on Dussera or Vijaya Dashami in West Bengal.
The city lights up and decorates with beautiful pandals, hoardings, and stalls. The people of Kolkata travel across the city, visiting the award winner pandals and Devi Idols. The five days long elaborated festival ends up after the immersion of the Durga idol in the Hoogly river at Vijaya Dashami. The festive vibe lasts long till Diwali. On Diwali, Kolkata celebrates the worship of Goddess Ma Kali.
However not only Hindu fastivals are celebrated in Kolkata. New Year and Christmas Eve are equally vibrant in the city. Bengalese people love to celebrate festivals!
This eminent, intellectual city is rich in historical and cultural treasures. Just a few to check off your list while living in Kolkata are:
- The great Cantilever Bridge ‘Howrah Bridge’
- Victoria Memorial Hall
- National Library
- Indian museum
- Birla Planetarium
- Science City
- Nicco Park.
- Kali temple of Kalighat and Dakshineswar, The Belur Math
Are you ready to move to Kolkata?
The gateway of eastern and northeastern India, Kolkata is one of the friendliest and safest cities in India. If you are preparing to make a voyage over here, The ‘City of Joy’ will welcome you!
About the author: Ruma Dey Baidya has been backpacking for the last 20+ years. She lives in Kolkata West Bengal with her family, including her 6 year old daughter. Photography and travelling has been her passion since my childhood. She prefers to travel in a group and on a budget! She realised that memories are not constant so she decided to document them and create her blog The Holiday Story.