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Planning a trip to Andaman and Nicobar islands after the monsoons? Book NOW to get good rates on your travel and stay – check out these tips.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands are famous for their pristine blue beaches and white sands, and are home to some things which are unique only to the Andamans. Yet there is a lack of clarity when one decides on a trip to Andaman and Nicobar.
It is even more saddening when Indian people themselves lack knowledge of these islands. We the people of the Andaman have been asked weirdest of weirdest questions for example – Do we wear clothes? Do we speak tribal language? Do we need a passport to go home? Do we have the usual mode of transport within the islands etc.
So here are some answers to those basic questions that arise if one decides to travel to the islands.
I have been asked this question a hundred times. Does an Indian visitor need a passport and especially a visa to travel to the islands – it is shocking when a fellow Indian asks this question!
The answer is NO. Since Andaman and Nicobar Islands also BELONG TO INDIA, one does not need a passport or a visa to visit the islands if you are an Indian national. However for Foreigners (non–Indians), apart from the passport a RAP – Restricted Area Permit is needed to visit the island(s). And this can be easily obtained once you land at the Port Blair airport or the harbour.
The ideal season to plan your vacation to the islands is from October to May end. The weather remains perfect for an ideal beach vacation and therefore making it the ‘peak’ season as well.
Hence plan well in advance. I would suggest at least 3 to 4 months before so that even the flight fares are reasonable and do not stop you from making a trip to the islands. I have heard many of my friends say, “Why go to the Andamans for the same flight fares one can do a foreign country trip in?” I agree. So plan well in advance so that you get good fares.
Personal suggestion – go sometime in February. It is kind of the right time where the crowd is also not too much and you get ample time to enjoy all the places.
Port Blair is actually well connected to major cities in India by air. There are flights extensively from Chennai and Kolkata besides Delhi, Bangalore. The Chennai and Kolkata flights are direct non stop flights while others have a stop or layover. There are about 11 flights from Chennai to Port Blair alone in a day.
One can also choose to travel to the islands via a ship which is a three day travel. Five ships operate from Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata to Port Blair which run on schedules (and only cancel if weather conditions are bad specially during monsoons). You can check for the ship schedules from your tour operators if you wish to take this journey. Also to add, do not expect them to be the cruise ships that are shown in movies, yet they have basic amenities like theatre, cafeteria, deck canteen, recreation room, swimming pool etc.
Hmmm… my honest opinion – if you ever plan a trip to the islands please make sure it’s for a minimum of seven days (trust me even then you would miss out on few places). A week is at least needed to experience all the amazing things these beautiful islands have to offer you. If you do not want to spend so much time then I would suggest a 3 night 4 days trip so that you can go to Havelock and Neil Islands and spend time there after visiting the Cellular Jail and beach in Port Blair on your arrival day.
On the recent trip my friends made the plan was –
Day 1 – (arrival day) visit the Cellular Jail, city tour.
Day 2 – Ross Island and North Bay.
Day 3 – Neil Island stay the night there.
Day 4 – Havelock, my friends spent three nights there (we could have shortened it and seen the limestone caves but we were too much in love with the beaches of Havelock).
Day 7 – Back to Port Blair and city tour Day 8 morning leave islands.
Port Blair would offer you stay options for all budgets, but it gets a little tricky when you visit the other islands like Neil and Havelock since the infrastructure is limited. Also the food in restaurants in these islands are a little too pricy since majority of the food supplies like vegetables comes from Port Blair and to Port Blair from Chennai and Kolkata. Transportation costs are charged on food supplies. Even for locals like us, we pay high prices for vegetables and fruits. Thankfully, I am a sea food lover and fish and sea food is pretty cheap.
Its ideal to book places for stay well in advance to avoid any last minute problems during peak seasons. Also advised is to chose a place which is close to the sea.
There are both government and private run ferry services from Port Blair to the Havelock and Neil Islands. Other than the bad weather condition days, the ferry services operate regularly and on time. The tickets are availed from the counter and no online booking is available.
If travelling via a tour operator, all the inter island transfer fares are included in your package deal and hence you can avoid all the hassles and tassles. The private cruise – Makruzz is very famous these days as it gives you a personalized and luxurious feel.
– Cellular Jail at any cost. Not many places in India exist where you get to feel so close to the struggle of Indian Independence by the freedom fighters. The light and sound show in the evening is an added attraction to your visit to the National Heritage of India buildings.
– Whether or not you know swimming, scuba diving is a must! An experience of a lifetime, trust me this is coming from someone like me who does not know swimming even though am born and brought up there (which is very embarrassing) and still did my first scuba dive. You can do scuba diving for a nominal fare at North Bay or Havelock. Try Barefoot Scuba or Dive India. They have PADI ceritified divers.
– Other water sport activities like snorkeling, which is usually included in your travel package (if not ask for it), jet ski, banana ride.
– If you know surfing, then few of the beaches in Andaman are perfect for surfing.
– Ross Island – this is my favourite island, it does not have a beach but it’s an island right in the middle of the ocean and is usually called the gateway to Port Blair. There is something really nice about this island.
– Havelock and Neil if not any of the above.
– Limestone cave if you are staying for long or can fit it in your itinerary.
– If you are a sea food lover please try the Golden Spoon road side hotel in Havelock. You will thank me your entire life. If you are up for some fun, try the lobsters and crabs – yummmm! Highly recommended. Well for the vegetarians, there are quite a few vegetarian hotels on all these islands.
– Do not forget to shop for shells and corals from the Sagarika Emporium in Port Blair which is government run. You would also find such shops in almost all the beach side.
If you have been to Goa or Gokarna am sure you would expect something similar on a trip to Andaman and Nicobar islands. But sorry to disappoint you, the Andaman and Nicobar islands are a very calm and quiet place. In fact ideal for a digital detox cause in some islands there won’t be any cellphone network providers or wifi other than in the hotel’s specific areas. There are no shacks on the beach like the ones you see in Goa. Also there is no night life or party places in Port Blair and other islands. One can stroll through the islands or camp in their resort area.
Also its advisable to be a morning person for the few days of your vacation. The sun rises by almost 5am and sun sets by 4.45 – 5pm. Hence the earlier you rise, the more the chance to see the really breath taking sunrise by the sea, or you can go for a jog or yoga.
– Photography is not allowed when you land at the Port Blair Airport due to security reasons.
– Littering the beaches is a punishable offense
– Sun screen! I am sure everyone gets tanned including someone like me when I go on a trip, even though I have grown up in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
– Beaches/Areas where there warning signs like Swimming is Not Allowed need to be taken seriously. Sometimes there are chances that there is a possible presence of crocodiles, and hence its better to avoid such places and not ignore. There have been instances in the past where tourists have not taken these sign boards seriously and lost their lives. Do not spoil your vacation because of your carelessness.
– The islands are bound to have mosquitoes and other insects hence its highly advisable to carry mosquito repellents.
– For the inter ferry travel, if you suffer from sea sickness, please avoid eating too much or too spicy food. There are a few medicines which can be taken an hour before the travel so that you do not have sea sickness.
– If you are visiting the islands in a scheduled plan, kindly stick to the timings your travel agent/tour operator mentions, though there are chances that due to sudden weather changes the timings could be changed. Always try to book your tickets in advance specially during peak season to avoid any last minute surprise (other than the weather which one cannot control). So book NOW for this year’s season.
– Carry your ID proof for booking tickets and inter island travels.
– Book your water sports in advance to avoid last minute surprises and high prices.
– If travelling with kids and elderly please provide all necessary instructions to your tour operator well in advance.
– If travelling by flight, please please please make sure you take the window seat!! You would thank me for sure. While landing and taking off, the view is mesmerizing (if skies are clear).
On my recent trip to Andaman and Nicobar islands (my home), I went home a week earlier, and then a week later my friends came. Before getting their boarding tickets this was my first tip to them to book a window seat at any cost.
I generally give up my window seat for fellow tourists who sit along with me just so that they get a chance to see this beauty (as I am so used to the panorama!).
Published here earlier.
Images credit: Sneha Sasikumar
Header image source: Flickr, for representational purposes only.