Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Asia > India
Reload this Page >

Advice for traveling through Kerala, India

Advice for traveling through Kerala, India

Old Nov 28, 16, 5:41 pm
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Oakland, California, USA
Programs: AA PLT,AS,UA PP,J6,FB,EY,LH,SQ,HH Dmd,Hyatt Expl,Marriott Plat,IHG Plat,Accor Gold
Posts: 10,443
Question Advice for traveling through Kerala, India

My wife and I plan to spend from eight to ten days in Keraka in the second half of February. We certainly want to get to an upland/hill country area. In addition, we also want to get to get to a beach destination and/or a lagoon/backwaters destination. Please bear with me if some of my questions are pretty basic.

1. Am I correct in assuming that Kochi is the best airport to fly into (from Mumbai, which is where we'll start our India trip) for visiting a hill country destination like Munnar or Thekkady? If not, which airport/city is better?

2. Am I also correct in assuming that if we do get to Munnar or Thekkady, then going on to Kovalam from there will make for a very long travel day, and that we'd be better off going to a beach closer to Kochi? Or for that matter, if we go to Kovalam, we should find an upcountry destination other than Munnar or Thekkady (and what would that be)?

3. In terms of beaches, we like places where we can take long walks and eat outside of the hotel. Which beaches best suit the bill, regardless of whether they are closer to Kochi or Trivandrum?

4. Any particular hotel suggestions near any of those beaches? Our preferred budget is US $100-150/night, but we might go as high as $200.

5. What is the best way to arrange a car/driver to take us between the two or three destinations we'd go to? Set it up with the hotel to where we will be going? (I know that we can go through a tour company to arrange all this, but would rather focus on finding the hotels we'd most like to go to and then arrange the transportation, unless folks advice otherwise.)

6. About what should we expect to pay for a car/driver to get us between (just to use as an example), Kochi and Munnar?

7. If anyone cares to suggest a combination of destinations and hotels for an upland/backwater/beach combination trip, we'd welcome it. For what it's worth, we're both early 60s and active, like to walk, prefer quiet hotels, and like scenery, views and experiencing the culture through daily interactions even more than sight-seeing (though we're certainly not averse to that).

Thanks for any help in addressing any of these questions.
Thunderroad is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 2:06 pm
  #2  
Senior Moderator, Moderator: United MileagePlus, Carbon Conscious Travel, FlyerTalk Cares
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1.7 MM/Plat; AS MVP 75K; AA gold; Fairmont & Starwood platinum; Hyatt diamond; Kimpton IC Elite
Posts: 17,371
Please follow this in the India forum.

l'etoile
sr moderator
l etoile is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 2:19 pm
  #3  
Senior Moderator, Moderator: United MileagePlus, Carbon Conscious Travel, FlyerTalk Cares
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1.7 MM/Plat; AS MVP 75K; AA gold; Fairmont & Starwood platinum; Hyatt diamond; Kimpton IC Elite
Posts: 17,371
I just returned last week from my second visit to Kerala. I can address a couple of your questions.

I arranged my drivers while I was there. I'll look up the names of the companies I used and update this. They had online booking sites and accepted credit cards (see note below about cash). In general, they were less than half the price the hotels asked to book a car. My longest trip was from Kumarakom to Kovalam. It was about 4.5 hours and $80 in a sedan with a/c.

Info on car companies: I booked two trips through Mozio, which is an intermediary. They are located in the SF Bay Area. They booked me with HireMe taxi service, which I also booked directly for two other trips. Both have pretty easy websites. Mozio seems to only work from airports. HireMe worked for any location.

Check out Kumarakom Lake Resort. It might be a little above what you're looking to spend, and it is a beautiful. The grounds and setting on the backwater are among the most gorgeous I have seen. I've also stayed at Taj in Kumarakom and, while it doesn't compare, it's also lovely while being less expensive.

Be sure to read about the cash situation in India now. It only created minor inconveniences for me as I could use credit cards most everywhere, but I was only able to get about $20-25 in cash during the trip and that was from a hotel. They were limiting guests to that amount and were out of cash on most days I asked. An ATM or bank was out of the question since there were long lines and they quickly ran out.

Last edited by l etoile; Nov 29, 16 at 2:39 pm
l etoile is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 2:54 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Oakland, California, USA
Programs: AA PLT,AS,UA PP,J6,FB,EY,LH,SQ,HH Dmd,Hyatt Expl,Marriott Plat,IHG Plat,Accor Gold
Posts: 10,443
Question

Thanks so much, l'etoile! And my apologies for mis-posting in the wrong subform. Thanks for that correction, as well.

In any event, I appreciate your very useful suggestions. I hadn't been aware of the cash situation. A few questions regarding that:

1. You mentioned using the credit card frequently. I suppose, then, that using a cc in most establishments in India is ok - that is, no or little risk of cc fraud?
2. Should I try to get some rupees before even leaving the USA?

And while I'll read up more on my own re the following, any thoughts on these matters would be welcome:

3. Is the problem getting rupees an ongoing issue, or just temporary?
4. Any problems getting a visa upon arrival in India?

Anyway, thanks again.
Thunderroad is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 6:52 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: YUL
Programs: Skymiles Silver Medallion
Posts: 942
Originally Posted by Thunderroad View Post
1. You mentioned using the credit card frequently. I suppose, then, that using a cc in most establishments in India is ok - that is, no or little risk of cc fraud?
The vast majority of establishments in India do not accept credit cards. Higher end hotels and tourist companies catering to a more upscale traveller will accept them. Just about everywhere else won't.

Even if you stay at higher end hotels, eat all meals at hotels or restaurants that accept credit, and pre-arrange private transport on credit, you will likely still need some small cash for things like water, entrance fees at sightseeing places, tips, small shopping, tuk-tuks, etc.

2. Should I try to get some rupees before even leaving the USA?
You'll have a tough time of it, as the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been declared invalid, and even before that, it was technically illegal (though generally overlooked) for foreign residents to bring rupees into India. Your home bank or exchange office *might* have a few 100- and 50-notes... but I wouldn't count on it. They're getting a rush on demand from Indian citizens travelling or living abroad who are desperate to exchange their old invalid currency, too.

Having said that, I'd definitely recommend trying to find some before you go, as it will be extremely difficult once you get to India.

(You may find some new 2000 notes if you're lucky, and by all means take them with you if you do, but be aware that they're tricky to spend for small purchases as nobody has any change.)


3. Is the problem getting rupees an ongoing issue, or just temporary?
Depends on who you ask. The official government position is that it's temporary. The reality is that the impact will likely be much more far-reaching. Ultimately everything's temporary, of course. When are you travelling?

4. Any problems getting a visa upon arrival in India?
You cannot get a visa on arrival in India. Depending on your nationality, you can apply for an electronic visa (ETA) which must be obtained between 30 days and 4 days before your trip.

Definitely do a bit of reading before you book -- it sounds like you're at the early research phases.

For what it's worth, I was travelling in the north, and I heard from everyone I met that Kerala was the nicest part of India that they'd been to. If I go back, it's definitely at the top of my list.
segacs is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 7:00 pm
  #6  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Oakland, California, USA
Programs: AA PLT,AS,UA PP,J6,FB,EY,LH,SQ,HH Dmd,Hyatt Expl,Marriott Plat,IHG Plat,Accor Gold
Posts: 10,443
Thanks very much, segacs. Yes, I'm fairly early in the research phase. I'd been under the impression that India was introducing visa-on-arrival, but that was based on some casual checking a year or more ago. Perhaps I got it confused with the electronic visas.

FWIW, our nationality is USA and we'll be there the second half of February.

Kerala was indeed the nicest place I visited while backpacking through India and neighboring countries back in 1980(!). I imagine a lot has changed, though.
Thunderroad is offline  
Old Nov 29, 16, 9:50 pm
  #7  
Senior Moderator, Moderator: United MileagePlus, Carbon Conscious Travel, FlyerTalk Cares
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1.7 MM/Plat; AS MVP 75K; AA gold; Fairmont & Starwood platinum; Hyatt diamond; Kimpton IC Elite
Posts: 17,371
The electronic visa may be what you're thinking of as VOA. It's kind of a cross-breed. You apply for it online, submit your photos and pay. Mine was approved within 24 hours. On arrival, there is a bit more paperwork and fingerprinting. They were having some problems with the scanners reading the fingerprints so the process took maybe 10 minutes, but it worked. Be sure to have your hard copy. I wasn't certain they could find it otherwise.

I paid for most everything I needed with cc. Hotels try to get you some money, which I used for tips and some small purchases. I did pre-arrange my cars and pay online because of this situation. It began while I was there so I, like everyone else, was caught unprepared. I needed a cab at one point and he took my US$, but I paid more. I would not get big bills as no one will have change, otoh you can pay your hotel with them to get rid of them. When you arrive, immediately begin asking the hotel if you can change money. All of mine did not have cash daily and when they did have it they ran out early in the day. So maximize your chances by checking regularly.

Kerala is a little different than other parts of India I've been in. It's easier to get by without cash. I hope I didn't make this sound worse than it was. I originally got there and wondered what I was going to do without access to cash and ended up finding it was not a problem as $25 worth goes a long ways and even a little spice market I walked to took credit cards.

Last edited by l etoile; Nov 30, 16 at 3:09 am
l etoile is offline  
Old Nov 30, 16, 1:29 am
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: New Delhi, India
Programs: Bonvoy Ambassador & Lifetime Titanium, IHG Plat, HH Gold, Trident Plat, DL Diamond, AI Maharajah
Posts: 26,648
Originally Posted by segacs View Post
Depends on who you ask. The official government position is that it's temporary. The reality is that the impact will likely be much more far-reaching. Ultimately everything's temporary, of course.
i agree....its definitely not temporary....things are going to get worse after december 30th when the banks stop accepting the old inr 500 & 1,000 notes....i don't see this situation easing out for another 6 months at least....the government comes out with a new rule every other day....they are as confused about the whole situation as everyone else but they continue to try & put a positive spin on it....
Keyser is online now  
Old Nov 30, 16, 3:52 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: YUL
Programs: Skymiles Silver Medallion
Posts: 942
From yesterday's Times of India:

Cash woes leave Kerala’s tourists in dire straits

Most tourists echo the misery of not being able to spend their money at street shops, hire an autorickshaw or taxi, or even buy water! Some of the major international credit cards are also not apparently working in ATMs here.

Lin Be, a student visitor from Singapore, says, "I am making do with my cards as much as I can. But you know how far cards would help if you need a small cup of coffee or a curio from a local shop. Moreover, it's scary to be trapped in another country without enough money. The government should be putting up a lot more access points available to tourists, where they can exchange money. I am tired of spending way over my tour budget by checking in at hotels that accept cards."

Tour operators in the city point out that though the high-end tourism sector has not taken a hit, the budget travellers and backpackers, who are comparatively more, are reeling from the effects of "unplanned demonetisation".
segacs is offline  
Old Nov 30, 16, 4:10 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Oakland, California, USA
Programs: AA PLT,AS,UA PP,J6,FB,EY,LH,SQ,HH Dmd,Hyatt Expl,Marriott Plat,IHG Plat,Accor Gold
Posts: 10,443
Thanks for this useful information about this very odd "currency crisis," folks. What an odd turn of events.

I would think that the ramifications go way beyond the tourist sector, hurting many small (and even some large) businesses and inconveniencing many Indians in all sorts of ways that are annoying or worse. And I'd think that the government would need to do something soon to avoid a harsh political fall-out.

I'd thus hope that the problem gets fixed soon, even more for Indians' sake than for foreigners, but from your posts it sounds like that might not be the case.
Thunderroad is offline  
Old Dec 4, 16, 11:40 am
  #11  
889
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,022
As an American, you should pretty much automatically get a 10-year multiple-entry visa that permits a stay up to six months per entry if you apply at a consulate/embassy in the U.S. It runs about US$150. Yes, that's more than a single electronic visa, but it's nice to have for any future trips, and you won't have to worry about problems if something happens and you have to stay longer than 30 days in India. (It's still good even after your original passport expires.)

Kochi is still nice, but Kovalam is not particularly anymore. Varkala still has a very relaxed atmosphere and a great setting on a cliff overlooking the sea. But it's not a particularly upscale sort of place, if that's what you had in mind.

Compared with major Indian hilltowns like Darjeeling and Mt. Abu, Munnar is a tremendous disappointment.

The backwaters are very beautiful.
889 is offline  
Old Dec 4, 16, 6:47 pm
  #12  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Oakland, California, USA
Programs: AA PLT,AS,UA PP,J6,FB,EY,LH,SQ,HH Dmd,Hyatt Expl,Marriott Plat,IHG Plat,Accor Gold
Posts: 10,443
Thanks, 889. I very much appreciate the advice.

If you have any further recommendations regarding towns and/or hotels with backwater, hill country or beach locations, I'd welcome them. We're likely to be flying in and out of Kochi, if that influences the recommendations at all.
Thunderroad is offline  
Old Dec 5, 16, 5:04 am
  #13  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Watchlisted by the prejudiced, en route to purgatory
Programs: Just Say No to Fleecing and Blacklisting
Posts: 88,701
Originally Posted by Thunderroad View Post
Thanks for this useful information about this very odd "currency crisis," folks. What an odd turn of events.

I would think that the ramifications go way beyond the tourist sector, hurting many small (and even some large) businesses and inconveniencing many Indians in all sorts of ways that are annoying or worse. And I'd think that the government would need to do something soon to avoid a harsh political fall-out.

I'd thus hope that the problem gets fixed soon, even more for Indians' sake than for foreigners, but from your posts it sounds like that might not be the case.
Indeed. Amusingly, the Indian state capital city with amongst the least problems with demonetization is Srinagar. Kashmiris tend to be amongst the most banked Indians because keeping cash at home is way too risky when "civil" and "security" disturbances are a continuing fear and armed parties -- in or out of uniform -- are known for grabbing cash and other valuables. Going to SXR as a tourist this year? Not a very good idea even as demonetization hasn't been as much of a problem there.

I'm getting my small denomination notes as change for my Kerala visit this year or earlier next year from some of the seasonal Kashmiris in south India.

Last edited by GUWonder; Dec 5, 16 at 5:13 am
GUWonder is online now  
Old Dec 5, 16, 5:58 am
  #14  
889
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 2,022
Ernakulam, the urban counterpart to Kochi on the mainland, doesn't have much to explore. But it's got plenty of good Indian eating places, in all price ranges. Certainly a number of places to eat in Kochi as well, but they're almost all aimed at the tourist market and in my experience a bit disappointing food-wise. Besides, the brief ferry ride from Kochi to Ernakulam and back is great.

The backwaters tours normally start in Alleppey, and it's a good place to stroll around for a day.
889 is offline  
Old Jan 13, 17, 5:35 am
  #15  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Posts: 11
Places to visit in Kerala at the time of your Kerala Tour
1. Alleppey
2. Kumarakom
3. Wayanad
4. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
5. Munnar Hills
6. Kovalam
7. Athirappilly Waterfalls
8. Soochipara Falls
9. Palaruvi Falls
10. Meenmutty Falls
11. Thommankuthu Waterfalls
12. Thekaddy
13. Varkala
14. Kollam
15. Vembanad
ahana2607 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread