Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu on the Eastern Coast of India is a real unique gem. It’s a former French Colonial Town which means it’s full of nice architecture and lots of bread! Whilst there is not a huge amount to do in Pondicherry it is a nice place to visit for a few days of relaxing and enjoying cafe life on a trip to India!
I stayed in Pondicherry for 4 Nights and 3 Days, I spent 2 of these days mainly working on my laptop in cafes which Pondicherry was really good for however if you do not have work to do like most people travelling India I would say 2 days in Pondicherry is enough to cover all of these things:
To SEE Pondicherry, have a watch of my YouTube video here!
Things to do in Pondicherry
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA
If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!
DON’T GET SCAMMED IN DELHI
1- Go on a Walking Tour with Story Trails
Pondicherry is a fascinating place. It was ruled by the French until the late 50’s and before that although it was under their rule for a long time the British took it over many times before the French finally got it.
I did the Story Trails French Connection Walking Tour of Pondicherry at 4:00pm for 2 hours on my first day there and it was so great to get a real understanding of the town, its many impressive buildings and the many interesting characters that have called this place home in the past.
2- Wander the Streets of White Town
Talking of Buildings be sure to spend time really exploring White Town which is the heritage town close to the beach. It’s not called White Town because it’s white, it’s still known as that from its Colonial times when White people used to live there and there is a Black Town too. These days it’s acceptably called White Town by visitors and locals and although the whole area is not full of nice buildings a huge amount of it is.
Also be sure to go to Our Lady of Angels Church. This Church can’t be missed when in White Town because it’s easy to come across it when walking around and because it’s so so beautiful! I was in awe when I first saw it because of its colours and it’s pretty nice inside too so be sure to have a walk inside.
3- Go on a Bike Tour around Pondicherry
Biking is a great way to see Pondicherry because it’s so flat and although the roads in White Town are busy and typical Indian Roads, they aren’t too crazy. Look out for bike hire places in Pondicherry, ask your accommodation or join a bike tour like this with a local guide.
For more tours in and around Pondicherry to see it in the best way possible, there are lots of options on Viator here.
4- Cafe Hop in Pondicherry and Enjoy the French and International Food
The best thing to do in Pondicherry, in my opinion, is to enjoy the many cafes that are in and around White Town and if you are a bit over Indian Food at this point in your trip like I was, Pondicherry is a great place to get a Western Food fix.
Cafe des Art’s is one of the most popular cafes in Pondicherry with cool seating and a good menu offering International Food, it can’t be missed as it’s in a bright yellow building too. Coromandel Cafe is another nice and popular place to eat in Pondicherry. Coromandel Cafe is in a huge pink building and outside it has a laid back brunch and lunch vibe and inside is a bit fancier and proper and good for a nice dinner later on too.
I would say the best cafe in Pondicherry is Baker Street. It’s not as fancy inside as some others and is all inside but their food is out on display in the cabinets meaning you can see exactly what you order. They have a range of pastries and cakes which let me tell you, are amazing, and also plenty of savoury options like baguette, sandwiches, burgers and pizza. Also, the pizza here is incredible, they put a pesto type base on it which is not the norm but sooo good!
Le Cafe is a good place to get a drink in a cafe by the beach but their food is pretty poor quality.
5- Experience the nightlife in Pondicherry
I did not see any of the nightlife in Pondicherry but I saw plenty of bars and clubs around White Town which I did not expect offering cocktails and drinks specials. Also when I checked into my hostel they told me the rules around drinking, I wasn’t bothered but people must go there and drink and predrink so if you want a night out in India, Pondicherry could be a good answer.
6- Visit Pondicherry Museum
Pondicherry Museum is in the centre of White Town and a good place to go to get more of an understanding of the Town. It’s closed on Monday’s though.
7- Watch the Sunrise at Pondicherry Beach
Due to Pondicherry Beach being East facing it’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise. I did not get up that early but a few girls I met did and said it was really nice. Pondicherry is a town beach and not a sunbathing or relaxing beach at all so walking a long it during the day is the best way to enjoy it.
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
8- Go into Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram
Sri Aurobindo is an extremely interesting person, he is from India, studied in England, came back to India, was jailed for speaking out about India being part of the British Empire, moved to Pondicherry and became Spiritually awakened, started this Ashram and was also The Mother’s inspiration to start Auroville (more on that below).
The Ashram is open for visiting in the morning and evening. In the area you’ll see a lot of grey buildings and that indicates that they are all part of the Ashram which is still a working Ashram today with many members living there for periods of time.
The area you visit as part of the general public is only very small, silence is required which is nice seen as the streets outside are busy with sellers selling tourists all of their things. There’s not much there but it’s nice to sit on the floor and take in the quietness and the spiritual vibe. There’s also a bookshop selling many of Sri Aurobindo’s books for a surprisingly good price.
9- Take a Day Trip to Auroville
Talking of Auroville, Auroville is a town just 30 minutes from Pondicherry and is a very unique place to go as it’s an experimental community and township. I visited on a day trip from Pondicherry which was do-able and although I felt I didn’t get the best experience only visiting for a few hours I did enjoy it and was glad I went.
For more information on my visit and tips for your visit to Auroville, have a read of my Auroville Day Trip post here.
It’s possible to see Auroville and a good amount of Pondicherry in one day like I did or by doing it as a joint Pondicherry and Auroville tour with a knowledgable guide.
10- Take a Cooking Class in Pondicherry
Whilst you’re in the South, although a lot of the food on offer in Pondicherry is International and French specifically there is still the option to learn how to cook real South Indian Food. Book a Cooking Class in advance or look out for signs once you’re in Pondicherry!
For tours in and around Pondicherry to see it in the best way possible, there are lots of options on Viator here.
Accommodation in Pondicherry
There is lots of accommodation in Pondicherry but it depends on what your budget is to where you can stay.
There is just one hostel at the moment in Pondicherry – Micasa Hostel, this is where I stayed and luckily it is really good. The beds are so comfy with big, sturdy bunk beds, it has a kitchen and rooftop and was very clean.
If you have more money to spend, hotels in White Town in Pondicherry like Villa Krish and Hotel de Petit look very nice but are still reasonable in price, along with La Villa and Palais De Mahe which are luxury boutique hotels in Pondicherry.
Ideally, I would say to stay in White Town of Pondicherry or you will be out of the way and in an area that is more ‘typical India’ than ‘French Colonial’ and let’s face it, that’s what you’re going to Pondicherry for right?
Pondicherry on a Budget
I will say that Pondicherry is a bit more pricy than other places in India because it is a very holiday destination especially for French and Brits although it seems popular with Aussies too.
The best way to visit Pondicherry on a budget is to stay in Micasa Hostel as it’s the cheapest for accommodation in Pondicherry, use their kitchen to cook a meal or two and if you find the fancy cafes too expensive with the International Food, go to the local restaurants and Indian Dhaba’s which are around and easy to find.
HELP WITH YOUR INDIA ITINERARY
I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!
How to Get to and from Pondicherry?
If you are travelling along the East Coast of India from Chennai, reaching Pondicherry by Bus is a good idea. Pondicherry Bus station is only 10 minutes from White Town and from there there are many buses going to Chennai and Mamallapuram which is another popular place to visit before or after Pondicherry and where I went after Pondicherry.
I got a local bus from the main bus station which said Chennai Express ECR (East Coast Road meaning it stops at Mamallapuram) for 91Rs which took about 4 hours.
I got to Pondicherry from Madurai. Pondicherry does have a train station but not a mainline station. The nearest mainline station is Villupuram and from there it’s possible to get a local train to Pondicherry or get a local bus to Pondicherry Bus Station.
I hope this gives you ideas of things to do in Pondicherry. I really liked it and it was nice to see some different architecture in an Indian Town like this and enjoy the International Food!
To SEE Pondicherry, have a watch of my YouTube video here!
For more of my posts on India and Travelling see:
- All India Posts
- Visiting Auroville on a Day Trip from Pondicherry.
- Hiking in the Tea Plantations of Munnar, Kerala!
- Cruising the Backwaters of Kerala from Alleppey!