Kerala India – Your Quick Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Kerala sits neatly on the map between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea and is renowned for its unique geographical and cultural attributes that set it apart from the rest of India. It boasts a labyrinthine network of rivers, canals and lagoons as well as colonial architecture, bucolic settlements offset by sandy beaches, and unmatched hospitality.
Why go to Kerala
Often referred to as the Ayurvedic capital of India, Kerala's not only a place of exceptional beauty but also a place where travellers go to restore and relax. But this small yet densely populated state – with over 32 million inhabitants – has far more to offer besides traditional Indian wellness treatments.
It is also a bustling metropolis with many tourist activities and attractions. Foremost among them are the backwaters, offering spectacular views of lush green palm trees through shimmering waterways snaking into numerous lakes and rivers.
The tea plantations around hill-station towns, such as Kumily and Munar, are magnificent and worth a visit if trekking is on your agenda.
If you are, however, in search of culture and refinement Kerala has also plenty of that. The Hindu temple festivals, held between November and March, are a must-see for their spectacular firework displays and brightly decorated elephant processions.
Kochi (the historic old port) is also the only place in the country where you are guaranteed to see live Kathakali, a ritualised theatre performance, enacting the struggles between gods and demons.
Kerala itself is a vibrant mix of exotic landscapes and city attractions, offering the visitor a wide choice of both. It is the most developed state in India and this is reflected by its people, who are among the most educated, literate and politically conscientious in the whole country.
When to go to Kerala
The best time to visit Kerala is between January and February as from March onward humidity levels make travelling around a little bit uneasy. The monsoon season normally starts in early June and is said to be the most auspicious time to visit the state exclusively for Ayurvedic treatments.
Where to stay in Kerala
There are plenty of accommodation options in Kerala, a large number of which offer health and wellness treatments and holistic healing facilities. These type of resorts are dotted all around the state, inland as well as on the most popular beachside resort, but they are pretty pricey and bargaining is not an option.
There are certainly some impressive places to stay in Kerala, from colonial estates, luxury complexes, eco beach resorts to simple bed and breakfast inns and humble homestays, which are clean, affordable and will serve you well if you’re looking for something more authentic.
Home cooked meals are available at most homestays and are bound to make a nice change from eating out. Nowadays, most accommodation will also offer free wifi, laundry, taxi and ticket booking services and will be situated near local amenities.
It is worth remembering that accommodation in all categories is cheapest in Thiruvananthapuram, rather than nearby Kovalam or Kochi, but it is also worth spending a few hundred rupees more in order to get something decent as rooms costing around INR400 and below won’t guarantee you a working shower or a fan. A great number of budget lodges and hotels are situated about 10 minutes away from the Thiruvananthapuram City bus stand and railway station, in a district known as Thampanoor, which is convenient if you intend to spend a few nights in town before moving on. Prices start from around INR500, but what you spend on accommodation you may save on transport. Getting about Thiruvananthapuram city centre is best on foot.
What and where to eat in Kerala
Like most of south India, Kerala is renowned for its dosas, idlis, appams, and other traditional breakfast and brunch dishes. You will find these local delicacies on every street corner, in clean and presentable small and large eateries run by boisterous locals who will be only too happy to recommend something delicious off the menu.
Authentic Keralan style Thalis are also widely available around the state and are traditionally served on banana leaves, most often with second offerings at no additional cost.
High-end restaurants also offer European style cuisine, while the best seafood is to be found at beachside resorts but choosing where to eat on the beach is key to getting your money’s worth. We recommend you follow the locals to try some truly authentic Keralan seafood.
How to get around Kerala
Travelling around Kerala is relatively easy and hassle-free as the state is fairly compact and boasts various public transport facilities.
There are efficient railway services from the main coastal towns to the rest of the country, however, when travelling within the state we recommend you use local and tourist buses, rather than trains, as well as ferries, rickshaws and taxis.
As with everything else, transport prices in Kerala are higher than anywhere else. Therefore we suggest you hone your bargaining skills before you visit, and rickshaw drivers are always happy to accommodate an impromptu tour around town for a bargain sum.
Taxis are best booked through hotels and designated offices, to ensure you get a fair deal and reach your destination safely especially if you intend to venture farther out of town.
How to get to and from Kerala
Getting in, out and around Kerala is relatively easy.
Thiruvananthapuram is a populous urban agglomeration and is very well served by transport links and Beempalli Airport, just over 3 miles southwest of town.
Kovalam’s beaches, which are among the most popular with international visitors, are a mere twenty minutes from the city and are served by a local bus which costs around INR40. In fact, most major tourist destinations can be reached from Thiruvananthapuram by bus, but taxis, as well as rickshaws, are also widely available. They will, however, set you back three times the local bus fare.
Thiruvananthapuram is also connected to most major Indian cities by Beempalli Airport, as well as some international destinations such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Middle East.
The best way to get to and from the airport to the city is either by the airport bus, which runs regularly or a local bus which stops and starts from City bus stand. There are also plenty of rickshaws and pre-paid taxis that will get you to the city centre for around INR200 and INR350 respectively.
If you are set on travelling either by train or by local buses, Thampanoor bus stand and railway station are conveniently located across from each other on Station Road southeast of the city, a short walk east of Overbridge Junction.
If you are starting out from Thiruvananthapuram, most destinations will be reachable by either taxi or rickshaw, however, beware of scams and make sure to always bargain down the initial quote.
Is Kerala a safe place to visit?
As one of the most advanced and socially progressive states in India, Kerala is a relatively safe and secure place to visit. We do recommend, however, that while travelling around big cities you keep your traveller's cheques, money and documents on your person as pickpockets tend to actively seek out unsuspecting tourists.
It is also worth keeping in mind that while sightseeing, or venturing out on day trips it is best to keep your valuables in your hotel.
While crime is relatively low in Kerala, tourist scams and their perpetrators are rife as with most places in India.