Visiting Sundarban using Public Transport

Sundarban makes an ideal day trip destination from Kolkata. But a package tour to Sundarban from Kolkata starts at around 3000 Rs for day trip, more for 2-3 day plans. On top of this, single user supplements may apply if you are just one person and things not included in package-often camera fee, entry fee etc cost several hundred more. Thus one should factor a spend of Rs 4000-5000 for Sundarban package tours

When I decided to visit Sundarban I had no appetite to take a package tour. I wasn't going to spend so much money. So I researched a bit and decided to visit on my own using public transportation. My original plan was to spend 2 nights there and return. But situation forced me to abandon my plan and return same day. In this post I will explain about reaching Sundarban on our own, will write about rest of the experience in another post.

Reaching Sundarban using train+bus+boat+more!
The most popular way of reaching Sundarban is as follows
Stage 1: Take train to Canning from Sealdah South station
This journey takes about 1 hour to cover 45 kms, ticket fare is Rs 15 only. Trains depart at regular intervals- like once in 45 minutes from Sealdah station in Kolkata and reach Canning in about an hour.


The route is scenic, has several stops and train tends to get crowded. I took the 7.41 am train, reached Canning by around 9 AM.

Stage 2: Canning to Gosaba
From Canning, you need to reach any village on the edge of Sundarban forests. I had booked a hotel in Gosaba, so I headed there. Reaching Gosaba meant I had to first take a bus- fare Rs 25, took about an hour to wait for passengers and then reach a river in Gosaba

Above: The bus I took for Gosaba-waited for over 30 mins for passengers, had a different way of filling up diesel.

The location where bus ended its trip on the river bank near Gosaba and we were to board the boat had few travel agencies advertising Sundarban tour. But they were closed when I visited, probably because of off-season.

Stage 3: Cross the river on a boat-Rs 5
Some boats go direct across the river to Gosaba, few stop at other islands before reaching Gosaba

Boats are small, powered by an old diesel engine and there's no concept of life jackets. Some people even load a bike on this boat.

Stage 4: Last mile on a motor rickshaw
Once on the other side of the river, you need to reach your hotel or boating start point. Only mode of transportation is jugaad vehicles like this- a platform on which 10-12 people are made to sit, pulled by an old motorcycle modified and attached to it. Depending on where you would like to go, you might have to cover 5-10 kms on these kind of vehicles, unless of course, your hotel could arrange a better one. Roads were ok in some places, under construction in others and very bad in few spots. These vehicles have nearly no suspension, so almost all the impact of uneven road will be transferred to your body as is...

Godhkali Jetty seems to be one of the places from where you can begin your Sundarban boat rides.
There could be other spots/boat operators- you can figure out with help from your hotel staff or researching more on internet. You will face language problems if you can't speak Bengali- very few people speak Hindi/English. It is better to speak to your hotel owner or a known friend or do enough research to have a plan- where do you want to go once you reach Sundarban area.

You can either plan a day's stay in any hotel around Sundarban or do a boat ride and go back to Kolkata same day.

I returned the same day, it cost me Rs 15+25+5+17 = 62 one way or Rs 124 for the round trip journey from Kolkata to Sundarbans and back. Massive savings compared to 1000s for package tour/taxi, but it has its share of inconvenience like more time, more sweating. I was back in Kolkata by about 6.45 PM, after reaching all the way till Sundarban but without taking a boat ride in it.
Things to remember
-Lots of waiting time- buses won't leave unless they are full. You may have to wait for 20-30 minutes
-Lack of proper toilets- Toilet access is not easy. I requested one HP fuel station manager to give access to their toilet.
-Humid weather- in summer, the journey is not going to be pleasant. Plan your visit post rainy season (October to Feb)
- Finding decent food will also be a challenge.
Map reference to reach Sundarbans from Kolkata

July Update: Anuj Bhudkar has informed me that there's a direct bus service from Botanical Garden bus stop in Kolkata to Sundarban- you might want to explore that option if interested-might save the trouble of having to change between train, bus, boat etc.

Also please note that this post only illustrates how I reached Sundarbans area using public transportation- it was not the best of season and I didn't take a detailed boat tour inside the Sundarbans, so don't reach conclusions about the worth of visiting Sundarbans. 

18 comments:

  1. Interesting!!
    I only see the photos with human inhabitation. Are tourists are not allowed inside the National park?

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    Replies
    1. They are allowed. But I didn't take a boat ride inside the national park.

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  2. I wished to visit Sunderbans for romantic reasons. It doesn't look all that romantic!

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    Replies
    1. I visited in Wrong season and also didn't take long boat tour- so what I have shown above is not best of Sundarban. You might want to visit in right season to the right place

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  3. Wow very informative! Thank you for the details :)

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  4. This is quite a helpful post, Shrinidhi.

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  5. living so close to this place i had made several plannings and all those got cancelled, wish you would had informed me once.

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  6. Hi.. Truly an informative post for those planning to go to Sundarbans without spending an huge amount of money, although as you have rightly said this route will have its own set of inconveniences as clearly noticeable in your pictures taken, very real.

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