The historic city of Hyderabad is today of the most important urban centres of the country. A hub for many research centres, it also houses one of India’s leading IT sector hubs besides being a major industrial and services centre. The capital of Andhra Pradesh currently, it is soon to be capital of the new state of Telangana, while it will continue to also be the capital of rest of Andhra Pradesh, Seemandhra for the next decade.
Why should I visit? Hyderabad is the capital of Andhra Pradesh, and is one of the largest cities of India. It has a population of about 6 million. One of India’s fastest growing cities, it is a combination of past and present, and more unusually north and south India.
What should I know about Hyderabad? Hyderabad, one of peninsular India’s biggest urban centres, is situated on a plateau at an average altitude of 542 metres (1,778 ft). The city has a huge lake, Husain Sagar in the middle of the city. It was established in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, it was later part of the Mughal empire. In 1724, Mughal viceroy Asif Jah I started what came to be known as rule of Nizams. During imperial times, Hyderabad was one of the largest princely states in the country, with Hyderabad as its capital. Hyderabad also became the capital of the first state formed on a linguistic basis in India, Andhra Pradesh.
Today it is a rapidly growing city with expensive real estate. The urban infrastructure is above average for Indian cities, with availability of adequate water supply the main issue. The city is famous for its skilled crafts – pearl making, silverware, textiles, food. The city’s core is the old town, while newer sectors have established themselves in different suburbs. Most people today travel to Hyderabad for work, but there is a lot of history and tradition worth taking in too.
Where is it exactly? Hyderabad is situated far from many big city in India, well into the interiors of the peninsula. Coordinates: 17.366°N 78.476°E
What are the major landmarks? The most important landmark is the Hussain Sagar lake itself. The area around it is the central region of the city, affluent and stylish. South of this, and along the Musi river, is the old city, where most of the historical sites are. North of the lake is Secunderabad, an erstwhile cantonment town. In the west and north west are most of new IT suburbs, while most of the educational institutes are towards the east.
What is the best time to visit? The best time to visit is between mid-November to mid-February. Hyderabad occasionally can get very hot in summer. However in general, the weather is pleasant, with December and January as the coldest months. The city experiences heavy rains from the south-west summer monsoon from June to September.
What languages are spoken in the city? The main languages spoken in Hyderabad are Telugu and Urdu. However most tourism related sectors know English – levels may not always be high though. Hindi is also fairly well understood in markets etc. Note the Urdu spoken here is quite different from the Urdu in the north in its colloquial usage.
How far is the airport to the city centre? The city is served by the relatively new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, about 22 kilometres from the city centre. A fairly good and long elevated road covers a significant part of the distance.
How is the airport? The airport generally draws good reports, and is the top ranked Indian airport in the ranking of world airports for 2013 by Skytrax.
The airport is well connected to major Indian cities. There are a number of international connections, bulk of which are to the Gulf and south east Asia.
Immigration is level 1.
Only 11 nations have visa on arrival in India, rest need prior visas.
Baggage collection is after immigration. There is a lost baggage counter, in case baggage is missing.
For passengers needing assistance, there are facilities, just let your airline know.
Your bag may be security checked, especially as Indian customs is under orders to check gold smuggling. Especially for flights coming from Dubai.
There are information desks, money exchange counters, state and private cab counters. If arriving at night, beware of anyone trying to over helpful, and do not give your luggage to anyone till you are sure of their credentials. There are extra night charges in cabs.
There are cabs available just outside the arrival hall. There are also state run air-conditioned buses called Pushpak which to fixed points within the city. They run every 30 min from 0330 to 2300 and at intervals of an hour in the remaining period. There are prepaid cab counters and a police counter should you require help. Do not take cabs from anyone offering as you arrive – they will tend to overcharge significantly.
Departure is on level II.
You will need a printout of your ticket to enter the terminal and an identity card (passport preferably).
It is safer to arrive at least an hour before flight time for domestic flights, maybe two hours for international flights.
Security is right after the airline counters, not as you are entering the flight.
Money exchange counters are before security gates – they are not permitted inside. In case you already do not have Indian rupees, change some money here. You will need for transport as almost all do not accept cards.
Airline counters are generally modern, but ensure your documents (printout of ticket, passport) are in place.
Check hand luggage content and size rules. Some airlines check for size.
Where should I stay? Hyderabad has hotels across budgets, and has seen a growth in international chains making their appearance in the city.
Some of the 4 and 5 star hotels include:
Marriott Hotel & Convention Centre,
Novotel Hyderabad Airport,
Taj Falaknuma Palace,
Fortune Select Manohar,
How do I move about in the city? Road infrastructure in the city is fairly good, though the old part of the city witnesses frequent traffic jams.
Locals use privately owned yellow auto rickshaws. They are metered, though many will want to be hired for a fixed fee, far above what a meter will come to.
For tourists, cabs would be most advisable. The city has metered taxis, which however cannot be hired off the streets, but have to be pre booked. There are many radio taxi companies for hire. The state also has pre paid cabs from specific points in the city, which saves you the need to haggle.
There are car rental agencies as well, but they are not suggested for new comers to the city as driving in India requires local ‘skills’.
Within a locality, people often use cycle rickshaws.
The city also has state run APSRTC buses. There are many routes within the city. Public and private buses also connect the city to different cities in the region. There are different kinds if buses, with varied pricing, but it is best to be slightly familiar with the city before venturing on to them.
Hyderabad is a major railway junction. Trains from Hyderabad and Secunderabad stations connect to most of the country. MMTS light rail services connect Secunderabad and Hyderabad.
The Hyderabad Metro is to begin operations by 2015.
Which 5 things do I have to do?
♦ Walk through the old city, including Charminar
♦ Visit Falaknuma Palace
♦ Visit Golconda Fort
♦ Take a boat ride on Husain Sagar lake
♦ Eat Hyderbadi biryani
What should I do if I have more time? Hyderabad’s old city is regarded to be the most interesting part of the city. Composed largely of a maze of alleyways that expand outward from the Charminar, all of them are a combination of residential and commercial areas. They will take you back in time. Crowded, lined with old houses, selling a dazzling array of products, mostly unbranded, punctuated by overpowering smells of food cooking in the open and local perfumeries, you could get run over by a cow and assisted by a good Samaritan in the same lane.
Architectural highlights include the Charminar, the Chowmahalla Palace, the Mecca Masjid.
The Mecca Masjid was started by city founder Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah in 1617 and completed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1694. Chowmahalla Palace, situated near Charminar, was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty where the Nizam entertained his official guests and royal visitors.
Falaknuma Palace, built in 1872, was the most opulent of the Nizam’s palaces and is today part of the Taj group.
Golconda Fort was the capital of the Qutb Shahi kingdom. Huge, set on a hill, there are many architectural details to wonder at. There is also a light and sound show in English followed by Hindi after sunset lasting about an 1hour that tells the story of the fort. The English show runs November to February 6:30 PM daily and March to October until 7 PM daily. Also worth checking out are the Qutb Shahi Tombs, a little north of Golconda fort.
Salar Jung Museum is considered to have one of the richest museum collections in the country. Once belonging to the Salar Jungs, Prime Ministers of Hyderabad, the collection includes articles from medieval and modern times. It is famous for its collection of Nizam jewellery, though this is displayed only on special occasions. It is one of the best private collections and museums in India.
Moula Ali Dargah was place of worship built by the Asif Jahis.
The Osmania Arts College has an imposing facade.
Main retail areas include Necklace Road, Sultan Bazar (Koti) and Abids.
The hippest parts of town are Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills, which have the best hotels, markets, upscale malls, parks and restaurants.
Secunderabad, to the north-east of Hussain Sagar lake is a former cantonment area, which in India translates to more open, green areas. Also known for its restaurants.
The Hussain Sagar lake is an artificial lake built during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah in 1562 by damming the Musi. There is a walkable path right around the lake, also known as Necklace Road. At the centre of the lake stands a statue of the Buddha installed in 1992. Boat rides to statue are available.
Bagh-e-aam, actually surrounds the current seat of government. It has well laid out gardens and is surrounded by the State Legislative Assembly building, the Jawahar Bal Bhavan, the Health Museum and the State Archaeological Museum.
Shilparamam is a crafts village which has art and crafts shops. There is a rock museum which contains natural rock formations.
The city has a heritage walk organized by the AP tourism every Sunday morning.
The city has a fair number of lakes, gardens and amusement parks.
What should I eat? Hyderabad is known throughout India for its biryanis.
Paradise, the original cornerstone of those yearning biryani in the city. Now has branches, though the oldest in Secunderabad remains the favourite.
Hyderabad House is a chain of restaurants, serving traditional Hyderabadi food.
Shadaab is famous for its breakfasts of Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani and Jabda Gosht.
Malgudi serves food from all the southern states.
Taj Mahal Restaurant is an udupi style vegetarian restaurant
What should I buy? Pearls are the top buy for tourists. The city is full of pearl shops, but if you want real pearls, be careful while buying.
Traditional crafts include the distinctive Bidri ware, which actually is from Bidar region of Karnataka, and Hyderabad is the closest big city to it.
The city is also known for its glass work, especially brightly coloured bangles.
Where should I party? Hyderabad’s young urban professionals have meant a profusion of party places of late. Most are in Begumpet and Banjara Hills. All the big hotels have their bars and clubs too.
What should I be wary of? While Hyderabad is usually a safe city, it has been the target of terror groups. Avoid visiting the old city at night alone. Again, women are generally much safer here than in north Indian cities, but it is still best to careful about going out alone after sunset. Tourist areas can have scammers of every time – offering to show you around the city, leading you to fake museums, offering to buy you pearls, crafts, food. Beware of pickpockets in crowded areas.
2014 also sees Andhra Pradesh get split into two states, with Hyderabad as a shared capital. There might be occasional sporadic violence – check for that.
Who can I contact in an emergency?
Police Control Room 100
Medical, Police and Fire ☎ 108
Child Line Facility ☎ 1098
The city has a full range of medical facilities, from major hospitals offering specialty treatment to local neighbourhood physicians. Major hospitals include Apollo Hospital (Jubilee Hills), Medwin Hospital (Chirag Ali Lane), Owaisi Hospital (Kanchanbagh), Yashoda Hospital (Somajiguda, SP Road, Secunderabad and Malakpet), Osmania General Hospital (Afzal Gunj)
How do I call Hyderabad from outside? The country code for India is +91 and the city code for Hyderabad is 40. To call a landline in Hyderabad from within India, call 040-xxxx xxxx. To call a landline in Hyderabad from outside India, call 91-40-xxxx xxxx or 91-xx-xxxx xxxx for a mobile number.
You can easily get a prepaid mobile local number with a calling rate of 1 paise/second for a local/national call. You will need a photo ID proof and a photograph.
Hyderabad has services from the following companies – Cell One, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Com, Tata Indicom, Aircel, Telenor, Tata Docomo, Virgin Mobile, MTS
How can I access the internet? The easiest would be to access it on your phone. The local number you take offers data services too – check the prices. In any case, they are a fraction of the international roaming charge.
The city also has internet cafes almost everywhere that charge nominally – up to a dollar an hour usually, though top end hotels can be more expensive. For laptop, get a data plan from a service provider – usually the same as cellphone. There are limited free wi-fi areas.
Where can I change money? Money changers are available all over – especially in tourist areas and major markets. The airport has them too, though the rates are not as good.
There are many small forex shops that will offer better rates, even if they do not give a receipt.
Dollars are most easily accepted. Euros, British Pounds, and UAE Dirhams are also accepted widely. Count your money after the transaction.
Which are the main media? There are a number of nationally seen English and Hindi news and entertainment television channels that are available at hotels. For English news globally, the most common channels are BBC and CNN. Sometimes al Jazeera, Russia Today, France 24 etc are also available. Top hotels will have channels in French, German, Spanish. Of course many channels are available in local and other Indian languages.
The most popular daily newspaper is Eenadu, followed by Andhra Jyothy, both in Telugu. The most widely circulated English newspapers with local editions are Deccan Chronicle and Times of India. Indian Express and Hindu are also commonly available.
On which days is movement restricted?
National holidays –
January 26: Republic Day
August 15: Independence Day
October 2: Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday
Other holidays* –
January 13: Bhogi
March 31: Gudi Padwa
April 7: Ram Navami
April 13: Mahavir Jayanti
April 14: Dr Ambedkar Jayanti
April 18: Good Friday
May 1: May Day
July 29: Ramazan / Idu’l Fitr
29 August: Ganesh Chaturthi / Vinayaka Chaturthi
October 4: Dusshera
October 6: Bakri Id / Idu’l Zuha
October 24: Diwali
November 10: Kanaka Jayanti
December 25: Christmas
*major areas likely to be closed. Government establishments are closed on all government holidays.
What is nearby? There are comparatively limited getaways near the city. The Bay of Bengal coast is about 350 kilometres away.
Bidar (135 kilometres) in Karnataka has an old fort, a famous gurudwara, architecture and crafts
Nagarjunakonda (152 kilometres) is a historic site for Buddhism, is in a serene island amidst the Nagarjuna Sagar dam lake. Many relics of ancient Buddhism have been found here. There is also a 14th century fort, and a museum to local relics of Buddhism. There is a wildlife sanctuary nearby too.
Warangal (148 kilometres) a capital of the erstwhile medieval Kakatiya kingdom offers a major fort and temples. Bhadrakali Temple, built in 625 CE by King Pulakesi II of the Chalukya dynasty is still impressive. Another famous temple is the Thousand Pillar Temple at nearby Hanamakonda.
Bhadrachalam (312 kilometres) a pilgrimage town on the Godavari river, it has a waterfall and hot springs. There is an important temple.
Bhongir Fort (50 kilometres) a 10th century fort atop a monolithic hill, commands a good view and has extant parts of the fort
Ananthagiri (75 kilometres) has an old temple, and surrounding forests
Manjeera (70 kilometres) A small Dam, good place for bird lovers