Nobody likes to visit a hospital unless of course, you are a doctor or some way associated with the health care industry. A visit to the doctor’s chamber gives me a shiver and a thought of visiting a hospital was just not my cup of tea. With times things change and due to some medical condition within my family, a visit to the doctor as well as hospital visits became a regular affair. Initially, it was difficult but with time I and my family adopted to this new lifestyle.
Initially, we were visiting doctors and hospitals in Kolkata since we reside here but after spending a uncountable amount of money as well as receiving almost pole apart diagnostics along with complete contrasting applicable solutions we decided that we have had enough and need to look elsewhere. We tried a couple of outstation destinations but were either not convinced about their prescribed methodology or the price factor became too much for us to consider.
It is then that someone suggested going to Vellore for treatment. Vellore is almost synonymous with CMC – Christian Medical College and the town around the hospital has largely developed around the hospital and medical college catering to the needs of the visiting patients as well as the stationed doctors. Vellore has somewhat a repute within India as being one of the very best destinations for medical tourism. I am using the word tourism here which you will come to know why later.
The only reason why I was apprehensive about traveling all the way to Vellore from Kolkata was the fact that the distance was huge. We had to travel from East down to the South of the country. But with limited options, I had to take it.
How to Reach Vellore
Vellore is well connected by train, the nearest major rail head is Katpadi Junction. Many trains pass through Katpadi and stop for an average of 10 – 20 minutes. Katpadi is almost like the de facto train station for all patients coming to Vellore for treatment. So much so that the station has been modified to suit the needs of patients like having a ramp along with staircase for accessing the different platforms with overhead bridges. These ramps have direct access to the auto and taxi stands located outside the station.
Wheelchairs are also available at the station for free usage but for sure these would be managed by a porter (cooli) with whom you can negotiate for a service drop to the auto stand outside. A porter can be paid somewhere between Rs. 80 – 100 for this wheelchair service. Unless you are very athletic with good body strength I would recommend you to use this wheelchair service for the patient since pushing a wheelchair with a patient seated on it up on a ramp can be very challenging. If you bring your own foldable wheelchairs then also do consider taking a help of a coolie to push it around.
Other than Katpadi some trains also do pass through Vellore Cantonment and this is much nearer to Vellore hospital than Katpadi. However, train stoppage time is very limited with an average of 3 – 5 minutes thus do consider this when planning your journey.
If you plan to travel by air then the nearest major airport is Chennai. Alternately you can also come through Tirupati which also has an international airport. However, Chennai is a major hub is always recommended.
If you have reached Katpadi Station then come out of the station, there is only one exit and it’s very easy to spot. Once you reach outside you will find Autos, Vikram (larger auto) and taxis waiting. Almost all of them will pounce on you thus be prepared for few minutes of complete mayhem. Ignore and keep walking so that some of them leave you while some keep following you. Give them the name of the hotel or the locality and ask them how much would the one-way drop be. The day time rates are different from night rates, at night be prepared to pay somewhere between Rs. 150 – 200 depending on your negotiation skills. One best thing about Katpadi is that even at odd hours of the night you will find plenty of transportation options.
Remember that Katpadi is a different town and one would cross the river over a bridge to reach Vellore town. The auto journey takes around 15 – 20 minutes at night and during that day can be double due to traffic congestions.
Vellore Cantonment is located right in the middle of Vellore town very near to CMC Vellore Hospital and will take around five minutes to reach your destination from here. Autos are also available here and would charge around Rs. 30 – 50.
From Chennai airport, you can take tourist taxis (Car Hire) outside for a price band between Rs. 2000 – 2500. Similar service is also available at Tirupati airport almost costing the same. Alternately you can travel from Chennai airport to Chennai Central Station and avail many trains that pass through Katpadi Junction. Train options from Tirupati station toward Katpadi are available but limited in numbers.
Where to Stay?
It all depends on your budget and preference, to begin with. Ideally always try staying near the hospital and the options are galore. Bang opposite to the gates of CMC Vellore there are varieties of hotels with a range of Rs. 200 to 4000. The basic ones are more of a dormitory with shared toilets and if you go little higher you will get individual rooms with shared toilets. Some hotels allow cooking and these have a small enclosed area where you can cook.
The price of hotels or guest houses goes up when you opt for an attached toilet. It jumps further up if you are looking at air-conditioned rooms. This part of the country is very hot during the summer months thus plan accordingly.
Some hotels allow booking over the telephone while some only operate with instant booking options. There is a huge number of options and a quick search online will give you a full list. Alternately some prefer to stay at guest houses which are usually operated by NGO’s and other private organizations like a mosque, church or a temple trust.
If you plan to reach Vellore without a hotel booking then do not worry there are plenty of options you will surely find something or the other. Just reach the main gate of CMC Vellore and on the opposite footpath, you will find all these hotels. Most of the hotels are located on Gandhi Road, Sukkiah Vadhiyar Street, Babu Rao Street, KVS Chetty Street, Mitta Anandrao Street, Latif Basha Street etc.
Where to Eat?
The eating options are many; if you are planning for an extended period of stay then do consider home cooked food as it’s always hygienic. You do not have to carry any cooking utensils as all of them are available on rent near these hotels. Even gas stoves with small LPG cylinders are available which can be refilled from time to time. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are available at Babu Rao Street with numerous shops all around selling groceries.
If you prefer to eat from restaurants then the options are many. Vellore is a mini Bengal and numerous Bengali restaurants are available selling staple food like rice, roti, chapatti, daal, potato fry, mixed vegetables, fish curry, chicken curry, meat curry etc. South Indian cuisines are obviously available and there are quite a few of them.
The best thing about Vellore is that people from all across the country come here for treatment and business have grown to cater to specific regions. You will find some restaurants selling North Indian staple like rajma chawal, daal chawal, chole, phulka etc.
Vellore also sees huge patients from across the border especially from Bangladesh and you should not be surprised to find Bangladeshi restaurants and hotels. Bangla is like a second language here with some shopkeepers and even the auto driver speaking broken Bengali. There are many Islamic restaurants also selling Halal food like paratha, kebab, biriyani etc.
For snacks, you will find quite a few bakeries operating around Gandhi Street selling fresh cakes, cookies, puffs, sweets and other savories.
I would recommend that you carry some compact tiffin boxes so in the event you want to have food in your hotel room you can simply pack them and bring back to the room.
Try to buy bottled water as it’s much safer and many shops sell branded packaged water in 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 20-litre jars and the 15 & 20 liter jars can be refunded which will bring down the cost.
I personally have food at the CMC Vellore Canteen which operates mainly for the staffs of the institute and hospital but is available for general visitors also. There are two such restaurants one at the Hospital Annexe Building and the other at ISSCC Building. I prefer the one at Hospital Annexe building and they serve breakfast, lunch, evening snack and dinner. Options such as hot milk are available here.
These canteens operate on a fixed menu system which is rotated as per schedule which can be seen at the entrance. You would first need to pay at the counter and collect the coupon which you need to present at the delivery counter where the coupon will be exchanged for food plates. There is option for take away also at the cash counter which are additionally chargeable.
How to Make an Appointment at CMC Vellore?
This is the most critical section and thus do pay attention. Once you have decided to visit CMC Vellore you need to first register the patient online which is very simple by just filling up basic details like name, sex, address etc. basically the common details which you fill up anyway.
Link (New Patient Registering & Existing Patient Book Appointment) – https://clin.cmcvellore.ac.in/webapt/
The next step is to book the doctor and here you have two options to show in private or general. There is a slight price difference between the two and obviously, the main difference would be how you are checked by the doctor with private having a slight advantage. In case of private usually, the doctor after the first round of generic check-up will again give you additional visiting slot later in the day.
The obvious question is how to select the doctor, well for that first you need to select the correct department from a list and then depending on your section a list of doctors will be shown from which you can choose from. If you already know who to show then select the doctor and if you are unaware then you need to choose randomly from the list. Some do advise to always show the patient to the HOD (Head of Department) due to their experience but on the other hand, HOD’s often tend to be extremely busy thus it’s more of your judgment call.
Once you select the doctor you can see the available slots (date) in which he or she is available and then click on the selected slot and make the online payment. Once done you will receive the confirmation through email along with the Patient ID. Take a print out of this and carry it along to the hospital. Make a note of the Patient ID as this is going to be the most important for further follow-up and for any transactions at the hospital premises.
If you do not book online then you can physically book at the hospital itself but in that case, you will not know the availability of the doctor.
Visiting For the First Time
If you are visiting for the very first time then it’s recommended that you reach a day earlier and check things out just to get the hang of it. From your second visit onwards this is not required as by then you will get the whole idea. The first thing that you need to do on the day of your appointment is that you have to present the online appointment email confirmation printout at the counter which is located at basement counter at OPD block. Normally the counter starts taking the form by 8.30 AM and sometimes you might expect a queue here. You just need to show the appointment letter and the person at the counter will do the necessary paperwork and will write an expected time and room number on the appointment letter. The time provided is just a rough estimate and often delayed by hours.
Reach the designated room at the time provided and wait for your turn. The name of the patient will be called out one by one so wait for your turn.
What Documents To Carry?
During your first visit carry all the test reports, x-ray plates, MRI plates and every document possible. The doctor will see these initial reports and will for sure ask you to take additional tests at CMC Vellore itself. Usually, the doctor will ask you to get all the old test reports, x-ray plates, and MRI plates scanned and put inside the central system since CMC Vellore is a complete virtual online based system and all the medical records are saved in the central server against the patient id. Once done you do not have to bring them next time as these would always be stored in the system.
Tests at CMC Vellore
Once the doctor will see the patient he/she will order some tests (if) then the doctor will hand you a pink slip (online lab order). The doctor will already key in the tests required into the system so you just have to take the pink slip which will have the patient number to the cash or card counter. Both these counters are located in the basement itself. On payment, you will receive a computerized print out in multiples depending on the number of tests. For each department like x-ray, blood, MRI etc. you will get individual receipts and the cash counter person will write the room number with which you need to go to respective departments and produce the form. Depending on the queue you will be given a token and an estimated waiting time for your turn.
For the first time this might seem bit confusing but trust me this is just perfect and after your first visit, you will be able to understand a rough estimate on the time that will be taken by each department.
Tip: If you see waiting time at a particular department is high then you should take the token and proceed to the next test so as not to waste time and utilize the waiting time to complete other tests.
All test reports are directly fed into the central computer system and you will not be given any reports directly. However, you may request a copy of reports which you will get digitally on a CD.
Usually, after the set of tests, you are supposed to meet the doctor and the doctor will log into the system to directly see all test results. In case of private appointment, the doctor sometimes does call you a second time on the same day or another day in the event a particular test takes time to yield a result.
This all depends, sometimes the doctor do ask you to come another day which might be after a couple of days since each department has a set number of days when they operate thus for your first visit to have buffer time in your hand.
Unless of course, you have to get the patient admitted then the timeline drastically changes depending on the time as prescribed by the doctors.
CMC Vellore has its own chip enabled Patient Card known as CHRIS. You can get this printed at the Centenary Building ground floor. There is a separate counter for this. CHRIS card can act like a Debit Card also as you may fill in cash through online banking and redeem it at the counters for test etc. But this is not mandatory you can always pay cash and by bank cards at the hospital.
- Do not go for touts on assuring you quick appointments, entire CMC Vellore is an advanced computerized network based system and the availability of doctors can be checked online anytime.
- There is good mobile connectivity in the region, 2G, 3G, 4G & VOLte networks are available. However, network at the OPD basement sometimes goes off due to its location.
- Carry a bag with water bottle, hand sanitizer, and some wet wipes. These come really handy as you might have to stay long hours at the OPD.
- If you have children with you then it might be a good idea to carry a packet of biscuits or cakes. However eating inside the OPD premises is not recommended due to hygiene factor.
- Vellore can be extremely hot with an unforgiving sun and since you have to go from one department to the other it is advisable to carry a sun hat or an umbrella.
- There are numerous buildings with all the departments spread out within the CMC Vellore campus. So do ask the hospital security staff if you are unable to get the directions.
- Do not block seats unnecessarily if all the seats are full then offer your seat to a patient as they require it more.
- OPD operates Monday to Saturday. Sunday is a holiday. Also, the OPD remains closed on national holidays and some other religious holidays.
Tourist Spots around Vellore
Sometimes the next appointment dates fall after a gap of two to three days and since I am an avid traveler I always utilize this opportunity to look around the city and beyond. Vellore has surprisingly quite a few tourist spots which is highly recommended. Some of the tourist spots in the town which you can check out are as follows:-
Vellore Fort – Historically very important and at a walkable distance from the hospital. Read my blog to know more about this place.
Monument in Honour of the First Mutiny in 1806 – Contrary to the common belief there was a rebellion even before 1857 and there is a memorial to this. Read my blog to know more about this place.
Jalagandeeswarar Temple – This is a functional temple and possibly the oldest structure in the whole fort. Built in the year 1550 AD this is a Shiva temple built during the Vijayanagara Empire by Chinna Bommi Nayaka. Read my blog to know more about this place.
St. John’s Church – The church was built by the British during their reign in the year 1846. Read my blog to know more about this place.
Archaeological Museums (ASI) & Government Museum – These Museum have a vast collection of artifacts from this area from the various periods. You can see stone sculptors, cannon balls, weapons etc. Read my blog to know more about this place.
Golden Temple at Sripuram – Its gold everywhere at this temple. Book an auto for this trip as this takes a little more than half an hour to reach. Please note that men need to wear proper full-length pant or dhoti to enter. All electronic items to be deposited at the counter before entering.
Vellore is strategically located at almost center point between Chennai and Bengaluru thus you have an ample choice when it comes to outstation short trips. It makes little sense to spend two to three days paying the hotel rent and doing nothing whole day, instead pay the same hotel rent elsewhere and also have a change of scenery, a hospital environment can be really stressful on the mind so it’s always good to see something new and beautiful. I would recommend these as I have personally visited these places from Vellore:-
Pondicherry (Puducherry) – Read my blogs to know more
Churches of Pondicherry
Beaches in Pondicherry
Pondicherry – White Town
Pondicherry – Things to Do In White Town
Places to Eat In Pondicherry
Arikamedu – The Lost Roman Trading Port Of India
Belum – Read my blog to know more
Belum Caves – Travel Guide
Trichy – Read my blog to know more
Eight Places to Visit in Trichy
Velankanni – Read my blog to know more
I plan to expand this blog after every visit of mine thus do keep following this page for updates. I wish to update this page with a list of hotels and their approximate rate. Please feel free to contribute to this blog post and if you find any mistakes or think the information is not accurate then please do inform me.