Auroville is close to Puducherry (also known as Pondicherry or Pondi), only about 6 to 7 miles away. After you arrive at the train station, you can proceed to the street outside and hire a rickshaw to take you to Auroville. Make sure you negotiate the cost of the trip with your driver and write down the agreed upon amount before you set out. Don’t pay up front for a rickshaw ride.
When we traveled to Auroville, we started our journey in Chennai by train. Actually, we started out from our apartment at 5:00 AM with a taxi driver transporting us across town to the train station (which took about 45 minutes). We sent this driver ahead of us to Puducherry (which is only about 2 hours away by car) while we took the train (which took about 4 ½ hours). We wanted to go from Chennai to Auroville as a daytrip so it was necessary to have a taxi driver return us to our apartment the same day. We figured we might as well hire our Chennai driver to meet us in Pondicherry rather than struggle to find a good driver to take us back to Chennai after we got there. Either way we knew we’d have to pay round trip for the service which was, by the way, very affordable (about $80 USD).
Of course, we could’ve just taken the taxi the whole distance from Chennai to Auroville. The difference in cost by taking the train AND paying a taxi round-trip was less than $2.00 USD though. And the benefit of taking the train was that we got to take the train in India, an iconic travel experience that everyone should try if they get the chance. Our Indian train travel experience was every bit as entertaining as Auroville itself. In fact, I would say that the train trip trumped Auroville.
The final stretch between “Pondi” and Auroville was fast and easy. A lot of people took rickshaws. Our driver was waiting right outside for us when we got there, which was a welcome relief after the heat of the train (our driver’s vehicle had air conditioning). Restrooms were available at the Puducherry train station as we were leaving. There were plenty of food stalls and fruit vendors between Puducherry and Auroville. Our driver took us through the French Quarter in “Pondi” as well as past the Bay of Bengal. Pondi is a laid-back city compared to Chennai. The streets are paved and relatively clean in comparison with other cities we’ve been in in India. We saw a fair number of other white tourists when we were there, which was striking after seeing exactly none for the two weeks prior in Chennai.