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THE BACKPACKSTERS

Planning a trip to Andaman

When we began planning for our six day trip to Andaman, the first thought that clouded our minds was about which package to chose and which tour agency to go with. But when we looked up the itineraries, we decided to try and do it ourselves!
 

The beaches of Andaman are nothing short of stunning!

 

From a couple of days of researching, we gathered all of this information below:

 

Weather:

  • Since it is in the tropical zone, Andaman has fairly good weather all year round, except when the monsoon season arrives. 
     
  • The best weather is obviously between September and April. November-December-January are the best months of the tourist season and it is quite cool and dry, but can get crowded. March-April-May will experience extreme heat. 
     
  • The June-July-August period is prone to heavy tropical rainfall, which is quite unpredictable. The weather is humid but is not very hot. This is the time when you get the best deals on everything! But it comes with the risk that some of your activities may get cancelled - but don't worry, there are solutions to that problem too! More about it later.
     

 

 

Getting there:

  • Flights operate between Port Blair (IXB) and most Indian airports and direct flights originate from Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Vishakapatnam. We flew on GoAir (BLR-IXB return) and it cost us about INR 34,000.
     
  • Ships sail between Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakapatnam and they normally take about two to three days to reach Port Blair. A one-way ticket can cost between INR 2,000 and INR 8,000 depending on the type of bunk or cabin you opt for.
     
  • Indian citizens do not need any formal permission to enter Andaman (many people ask if a Passport is required on the domestic route - No, it isn't)
     
  • Foreign nationals require a permit to enter Andaman. It is issued on arrival in Port Blair at the Immigration office.
     

 

Getting around in Port Blair:

  • Port Blair is like any other Indian city or town and is not too big. Taxis, Autorickshaws or tuktuks and buses are available for intracity travel.
     
  • Taxis hire charges are about INR 1,800 to INR 4,000 per day, depending on the number of passengers and the distance covered (tips are additional).
     
  • Autos charge INR 20 to 50 per kilometre depending on the location and time of the day, but it is quite reasonable and far cheaper than a taxi. Hiring it for a day will cost INR 750.
      
  • Buses ply on fixed routes and at fixed intervals of time, especially to places like Chidiya Tapu, etc. where buses are unavailable after sunset.
     
  • The cheapest way, of course, is to walk around and its possible to do so in certain areas around the Cellular Jail, Aberdeen Bazaar, the water sports complex, and other points of interest.
     
  • We suggest a combination of auto rides and walking if you want to keep the costs down. We spent an average of INR 100 a day with this idea. 
     
  • Getting to the islands is by way of Ferry. Besides the government ferry service, number of private operators sail some pretty comfortable vessels. Makruzz is a popular operator and they charge between INR 800 to INR 1,200 for a one-way ticket, depending on the destination. You can book the tickets online. Ferries sail from Phoenix Bay Jetty in Port Blair.
     

 

Getting around in Havelock:

  • Taxis and Autos are available and the fares have a slight premium over those in Port Blair. For instance, autos charge about 50 to 100 for short distances, but this is no surprise when you are in a remote island! 
     
  • Rental motorbikes (INR 500 per day) and bicycles (INR 300 per day) are available on nearly every main street in Havelock and these are good for exploring the island on your own.
     
  • Buses to Radhanagar Beach are readily available from the jetty where all the ferries dock. Keep in mind that these operate on scheduled timings. An AC bus is also available at a fare of INR 50. 
     
  • To get to Elephant Beach, speed boats operate from the jetty and they charge about INR 1,500 for a round trip and include a complimentary snorkelling session. An adventurous alternative is to trek from the entry point on route 4. The trail is a couple of kilometres long and it takes about 30 to 45 mins to get across to the beachside.
     

 

Getting around in Neil:

  • Neil island is about 5 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide which makes every corner of this island very easily accessible.
     
  • Taxis and autos are easily available and prices are quite similar to Havelock.
     
  • We recommend renting a scooter at the jetty. This way you can return it just before boarding the ferry when you leave the island. It costs INR 600 with fuel, for 24 hours.
     
  • The jetty is on the north side, whereas most hotels are on the south side. We walked from the jetty to our hotel, Silver Sands, since it was not too far away.
     

 

​Places to stay at:

  • Port Blair has a wide selection of hotels depending on your budget. 
     
  • If you are inclined to optimise your costs, its best to stay at a budget hotel, since your time in Port Blair is normally limited to the arrival and departure days.
     
  • We stayed in Port Blair at:
    • Guru International (budget) - INR 3,000 per night.
    • Coral cove (premium) - INR 6,500 per night.
       
  • ​Havelock has many beach front properties including homestays and resorts. Prices are normally between INR 5,000 and INR 10,000 per night for the premium properties and its best to avoid budget hotels there.
     
  • We stayed at the Symphony Palms Beach Resort on the Vijayanagar Beach.
     
  • Neil also has a good, but limited range of hotels and resorts, but if you are staying over for a single night we suggest that you go ahead and splurge on a premium beachfront property like the Silver Sand Beach Resort. It has access to a private turquoise beach, with mangroves on either side. The cottages were excellent and worth the money we spent. It normally sells at INR 9,000 per night.
     
  • When we booked our stay at all of these hotels, we used Goibibo and MakeMyTrip which normally offer some really good discounts (50% and more). Our entire hotel stay for the 5 nights was about INR. 18,000 which was a steal!
     

 

Very important for ferry travellers:

Sometimes, on account of turbulent weather/mechanical problems it is not uncommon for the ferries to cancel their scheduled trip from one island to another, which leads to travellers getting stranded. This is quite rare, but when it does happen, keep these points in mind:

  • The ferry operators offer a full refund on your ticket price (not very helpful when you have already paid for your stay and activities on the other island) or an option to reschedule your trip to the next available sailing slot.
     
  • Tour agencies with whom the passengers have booked packages are normally taken care of by their agency which arranges for alternative place of stay on the island they are stranded on. They even move around your sightseeing schedule to ensure that you are compensated for the time lost. In such cases the ferry operator announces to the passengers that they contact their tour agencies directly.
     
  • Most other passengers leave out of frustration, and the operator is left with fewer angry customers to deal with. Thats when the operator makes arrangements for the customers' stay in hotels which are at par/better than the ones they would have otherwise stayed at, had they reached the island they were originally supposed to stay at.
     

And thats exactly what happened to us. Our Port Blair-Havelock ferry (Makruzz) was unable to sail all the way and had to return to Port Blair in the afternoon. The management of the operator arrived and apologised sincerely for the inconveniences, and put us up in a wonderful hotel, and a special ferry ride was arranged for the next morning at 6 AM.


As frustrated as we were, we were glad that we were provided a premium hotel room and a taxi facility between the hotel and the jetty. When we reached Havelock the next morning, our next hotel provided an upgrade to a premium cottage to make us feel a whole lot better! Talk about kindness and good hospitality!
 

 

Activities & Sightseeing (with prices):

  • The government website is very informative. You can read up on a lot of interesting facts there.
  • Attractions in Port Blair:
    • Cellular Jail (day visit) - INR 30
    • Cellular Jail (sound and light show - every evening in Hindi twice, Mon-Wed-Fri 2nd Show in English) - INR 50
    • Samudrika Museum - INR 50
    • Aquamarine Museum - INR 10
    • Anthropology Museum - INR 10
    • Submarine ride - INR. 1,800
    • Ross island boat tickets - INR 50 (from Aberdeen Jetty)
    • Ross island (sound and light show) - INR 250
  • Snorkelling in Havelock/Neil - INR 500
  • Scuba diving​ in Havelock/Neil/North Bay island - INR 4,500
  • Certified scuba diving in Havelock - INR 17,000 and upwards depending on level of certification
  • Havelock:
    • Trekking to Elephant beach - INR 1,300 including guide and snorkelling
    • Speedboat ride to Elephant beach - INR 1,500 including snorkelling
    • Mangrove kayaking - INR 3,500
  • Rental bike - INR 500 onwards
  • We booked some activities through Experience Andamans, and their service is quite good.

 

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner:

  • Breakfast is complimentary in almost all hotels where you pay for the night's stay.
  • Average lunch/dinner for two can cost INR 400 in restaurants, much lesser in shacks.
  • At beachside shacks, snacks like ​Maggi, Samosas, Bhel puri, Tender coconuts are easily available. ​The shacks also double up as souvenir stores! 

 

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