Coming to intern in Chennai and questions!!

#1 May 26th, 2008, 22:39
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  • alib824 is offline
#1
Hello! I am an American moving to Chennai this summer to intern with an NGO in the city. I'll most likely be in the Kodambakkam area.

Can anyone tell me what the Kodambakkam area is like? Can I walk around quite easily or have to take autos everywhere? Are there any good restaurants or cinemas?

Is it safe for a single American girl to walk around? That is probably my biggest concern.

I'm trying to find a place for 3 months that isn't more than $500 USD including meals, but in a safe place. Are women's hostels worth looking into or are they restrictive (curfews, etc)? Or is it better to just rent a flat and live minimally? Or do any of the colleges in the area rent out dorm rooms during the summertime?

I also wanted to know about prices for renting a car/driver. My organization is saying $25 USD per day, which I can't afford. I've heard you can get a car/driver for less than that but I am wondering how to contact these elusive drivers? Or would call taxis be a better option? What do they charge per km?

Finally, I heard that Shiamack is running dance classes in Chennai now. When, where, cost?? Is it only for children or adults as well?

Nanri all! I look forward to coming to your city, will be a wonderful break from California!
#2 May 26th, 2008, 23:52
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#2
Vanakam, and nandri to you too for dropping in

(nb nandri has a 'd' in it).

Welcome to the site.

Kodambakkam is next-door to Nungambakkam, which is one of Chennai's trendiest and most expensive area. It is very central, you will be able to get anywhere easily. You won't be far from a selection of restaurants, from very cheap to expensive.

Most of Chennai is safe for a single girl to walk around. You can go shopping in the evenings, go to restaurants, or whatever, probably as safely as in your home town.

Generally speaking, autos are the easiest way to get around town, and to easily make that trip that is just a bit too far to walk. Cars are only useful for trips, over, say, half an hour or so --- you'll find your own tolerence.

Calling $25 Rs1,000, you would be hard-pressed to spend that much on transport in a day: there is only the need to book a car for the longer, remoter destination, or where you are returning late.

Most 'local' trips in an auto should cost you Rs30-Rs50; longer trips maybe 100-150. Its easier to pick them up and let them go; charging you for waiting around is a bit of a con.

For three months you may be better off in a guesthouse or cheaper hotel; I think a flat for such a short term will be hard to find --- unless the people you going to be working with have contacts with available properties.
~
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#3 May 26th, 2008, 23:53
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  • camelgirl is offline
#3
Welcome to India Mike !

I cannot answer your questions BUT our Chennai resident expert and expert resident Nick should be along soon.....

Nick? I think it's the middle of the night there.
#4 May 26th, 2008, 23:54
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Suggest that you use Google Maps, mapmyindia, Wikimapia, Google Earth, etc, to locate areas and get a feel for the layout of the place.

(and thanks, Camelgirl --- but we have members who were born and bred here! )
#5 May 27th, 2008, 00:02
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#5
Thanks so much camelgirl and Nick! So to hail an auto, just go out on the street and wave them over? I've heard that it's not like New York where there are an abundance of taxis to choose from. What are guesthouses like? Same thing as a hostel?

Yes, when I hear nandri pronounced I hear the "d" but in some of my books the transliteration of the word is without a "d!" So much to learn. Hope I can pick up a bit of Tamil while there...
#6 May 27th, 2008, 00:22
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#6
...you'll quite likely do better than me at that, and I've lived here for three years!

Yes... autos will find you, and hover, looking hopeful! You then haggle --- and yes, there is a certain hassle involved as they tend to try to rip off even the locals. This will happen to you until you get an idea of what the distances and the correct fare actually is.

Guesthouses are like small hotels, rather than hostels. Some will have AC rooms. How much are you thinking of spending on accommodation?
#7 May 27th, 2008, 00:24
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There is no 'd' when written in Tamil

Kodambakkam is a slightly crowded area. It is safe as long as you dont venture out alone in the nights. If you are working in Kodambakkam, then with your budget you can look for accommodations in nearby Numgambakkam. With 25$/day you can get a vehicle and a driver. I hope your budget is 500$ for 1 month, right??

If my memory serves right, I recall that a friend of mine was learning dance from Shiamak. Will send full details later.
#8 May 27th, 2008, 00:27
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by alib824 View Post So to hail an auto, just go out on the street and wave them over? I've heard that it's not like New York where there are an abundance of taxis to choose from.
I hope the NGO you are interning with will send someone to both pick you up at the airport and to spend a little bit of time with you to show you how to negotiate the basics--like getting a ride.

You probably won't ever have to go into a street (not recommended) as all sorts of vehicles will see you first and head your way!

If you click on my photo link in post #3 above, there is a short video called Jaipur 2006 which is at a major intersection showing the traffic. The only difference is there are no camels in Chennai, otherwise, I'd say it's pretty similar. You will see the motorized rickshaws which are an excellent and cheap way to get around town.

I haven't been to Chennai in about 6 years so if I'm being misleading, jump in an correct me!
#9 May 27th, 2008, 00:32
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#9
Oops sorry... I misread that your organization was giving you 25$ allowance...
#10 May 27th, 2008, 01:20
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#10
Hey, I'll also be interning for an NGO in Kodambakkam area starting in August! : )
#11 May 27th, 2008, 12:52
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I have done volunteerwork with an NGO two years ago, which was a very interesting experience!

Are they giving you an allowance for driving around with a driver?? It's not really worth it actually to hire a driver on a permanent basis. Auto's are abundant, and once you have learnt how to deal with them, they are the best thing. They know the way to any place you want to go. The only problem will be if you want to go out at night. Auto's are not really safe for single girls at night, so then you have to arrange something. Either make friends with people with cars , or rent a car for those nights. You can get a car with driver for 6 hours for about Rs. 600. Nightlife is pretty good in Chennai, so make the most of it! (if that is your kind of thing, of course...)

Good luck with all the preparations!
#12 May 27th, 2008, 13:08
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#12
Id say the nightlife in chennai is only ok, and it is really expensive.

Autorickshaws are the best way to get around, in the year I was there I never had a car, and it was rarely a problem. If you are going to be there for a few months its likely the auto drivers in the area will get to know you pretty well, and you will figure out who are the best ones.

Kodambakkam is a crowded area, I looked at a few apartments there, and they seemed to be pretty cheap, but still good quality. I like kodambakkam, if only because it is a fun word to say.
#13 May 27th, 2008, 13:20
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#13
Quote:
Auto's are not really safe for single girls at night
Evenings, and central trips is fine, but if you are travelling a long way then a car would be safer --- and long, empty, dark roads in the back of an auto tend to make one nervous, even if there wasn't really any need.
#14 May 27th, 2008, 22:17
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Thanks all--great info you've provided!

Camelgirl--when you say, "probably won't ever have to go into the street" do you mean, walking by myself on a street? I will have to walk at least 5-10 minutes to the NGO where I will be working initially from my hotel. Unless I hire an auto for that...the hard thing is that I just love walking everywhere so being confined to hiring autos to get around everywhere will take some getting used to!

I will be working my first month in a slum area I think, so probably I should consider a call taxi for that rather than an auto??

No allowance from my NGO--this is all purely my $ my time...wish I was getting some sort of stipend. Thus I need to be really careful how I'm spending my money. (ex. $25 a day to hire a personal driver is WAY more than I can afford)

Any recommended guest houses in the Kodambakkam/Numgambakkam area?

Oh, and yes I am getting picked up at the airport...
#15 May 27th, 2008, 22:57
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by alib824 View Post Thanks all--great info you've provided!

Camelgirl--when you say, "probably won't ever have to go into the street" do you mean, walking by myself on a street? I will have to walk at least 5-10 minutes to the NGO where I will be working initially from my hotel. Unless I hire an auto for that...the hard thing is that I just love walking everywhere so being confined to hiring autos to get around everywhere will take some getting used to!

No, I didn't mean you can't walk anywhere. You can walk wherever you want to ON A SIDEWALK. Or, on the edge of a street close to the sidewalk. Sometimes there aren't any good sidewalks.

I was strictly talking about walking into a street to hail a car/taxi/rickshaw. The traffic is frantic and dangerous (until you get the hang of it) and you won't want to be standing IN the street.

There are smaller side streets that are less frantic. You will get the hang of traffic/streets/walking in a few days.

We walked all over the area we stayed in Chennai, but it's a huge city and you will also use rickshaws and taxis.

You will spend less and less money as you find out ways to do things. Don't worry about spending a little extra in the beginning. And don't worry about walking to work. At first you'll have to fend off rickshaw & taxi drivers who want to take you but they will get used to seeing you and stop asking in a few days.
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