Kerala Backwaters - A cruise on budgets!
By beach. Created on Sep 15th, 2012. Last updated on Sep 29th, 2012.
All you need is some idea about where to (not to) go? And what to ask for?
It is a bit difficult to explain the whole of backwaters network in Kerala in a simple posting. The most popular ones are located at the southern districts viz. Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), Quilon (Kollam) , Alleppy (Alappuzha ), Kottayam and Kochi (Cochin) of kerala.
You need to book any of the cruises (Boat Service, as it is locally known) only after reaching the local towns. Pay in Indian Rupee locally. Do not book through the Internet from abroad. This will save you a lot of money and you will get the flexibility to explore the options locally. These are typically not the ‘ SOLD OUT ’ type of services. Always an option would be available for you .
The Regular Boat Service
This is the most inexpensive option available for a budget traveler. They are just like any of the city bus services with many stops in-between. Every now and then a boat leaves for its destination from the boat jetty. The local population for regular commute use these boat services. They are mainly the government owned SWTD (State Water Transport Department) and numerous privately owned services. No reservation required. Just get inside the boat and pay to the conductor for the destination.
Quilon boat jetty is adjacent to the KSRTC Bus station (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation).The Quilon Junction railway station is about 3 kilometer from the Boat jetty. Pay Rs15 for rickshaw from railway station to the boat jetty. Typical boat destinations from here include Guhananda Puram (1hour), Muthiraparambu (2 ½ hour), Peruman (2 ½ hour) etc. Just get inside one of the SWTD Services at Quilon boat jetty. Pay about 15 cents for the destination.Keep enough change. Leave your huge backpack at the local hotel. Carry a bottle of water and some snacks. You can get down at the final destination have a tea at a local restaurant and come back to the town by the same boat!
It is interesting to watch how they make tea in a local restaurant. The Kitchens of village restaurants are used to attract the customers. They are located at the front of the restaurant and the customers sit inside! You can see huge banana bunches hanging at the front of the shops. Can you believe they have mind boggling variety red, green and yellow colored bananas for sale!
The destinations are usually very small towns or large villages. People anywhere here are cooperative and pleasant mannered. You may even visit a local church or temple. Traveling by one of the state owned passenger boat is the best way to get a close-up of the local culture. After all in a chartered tourist trip you will get only a close-up view of the other tourist’s culture! Know the traffic flow. Morning the traffic will be towards the town (mostly students & employees) and in the evening the flow reverses. You travel in the opposite direction to avoid the rush.
These are large wooden motorized boats with benches for sitting. Catch a seat close to the side if possible even though the boats are not all the covered. The most interesting thing is that the driver who controls the speed sits at the engine room below the passenger area. He cannot see where the boat is heading to! Don’t be scared. The navigator sitting on top of the boat controls the direction and communicates to the driver through a bell. Try yourself to make out what each type of ring means! The boat travels at speed of about 15 kilometer/hour. There is a conductor inside the passenger area who collects money and issues tickets. There are two more assistants in the boat to help the driver during anchoring.
The most popular of the cruise are the Quilon- Allapuzha trip (about 24 hours!) & Allapuzha- Kottayam (about 2 ½ hours). These towns are about 80 kilometers apart by road. Well connected by frequent bus (2 hours) services also.
Kerala Backwaters - Guided cruises
There are many private & state owned operators. Check at your hotel for details. No prior booking required from abroad. But you need to book a day or so in advance depends up on the season. Each batch typically accommodates about 10 to 20 people and a guide. Duration varies from 3 to 6 hours depends upon the package. A typical guided tour includes visiting a local tile factory, village life familiarization, visit coir making center, country boat building yard etc etc. It cost you about 6 to 12 USD per head. You can travel between Quilon and Allapuzha by special tourist motor boats for about 4 to 6 USD also.
Kerala Backwaters - Chartered House Boats
If you want to travel king like go for it. Surely it will leave a hole in your wallet. Originally these huge boats were used to carry cargo across the backwater towns. Later on the road and rail took over this. You can see a large number of traditional factories on the banks. Presently local people converted them into tourist boats! You can get a variety of these services depends up on your options.
A twin room exclusive country boat can be hired at Allapuzha for about 100 USD for 24 hours. This includes the special kerala(spicey!) food & snacks. In a moonlit night being in one of them moving aimlessly in the quiet backwaters is a feeling you can never forget in life. So is watching the sunset from the boat. They are best suited for in a honeymoon trip. All the basic facilities (kitchen, toilet, wash basin….) are installed within. These boat services come with a guide cum navigator and an assistant cum cook at your disposal. The boat has communication facility and a speedboat can reach you in case of an emergency. The shore is always a few minutes’ sail away.
A larger version can be hired for group to travel from Quilon to Allapuzha for cost of about 130USD to 150 USD. Sharing among tourists is a common practice. Sometimes the operators themselves co ordinate to make a group for sharing. Checkout at many places before you pay. Explore. Explore . Explore.Do it localy to get the best price. People are decent.But they think that your huge backpack is jam-packed with money!! Do not do Internet booking for these as they may be premium priced in $$$. You will never miss the boat anyway!! These are really a world away from the tourist experiences you had at the northern states in India.
June, July & August are the typical monsoon season in kerala. Some people hate monsoon some loves it. I like monsoon.
Language may be a small problem in kerala as people speak only Malayalam. But everyone understands the numbers in English! So no problem in understanding the rickshaw fare, bus, boat schedules.. etc. You can use obvious simple common English words for communication with the local population. Don’t bother about the grammar!! Remember this is the 100% literate state in India.
Latest comments for Kerala Backwaters - A cruise on budgets!
- Join Date:
- Oct 2007
- Oakland, California, USA
you may have already seem this article. It suggests going north of Kannur, or south to Kollam. Both are away from crowds you'l find when you get your houseboat in Alleppey or Kottayam / vembanad Lake area.
Personally, i have not done houseboat trip in Kerala 9only in Kashmir)
I will be going on a one night houseboat cruise with my partner around mid December.
Last time I was in India I just went to and haggled for the price.
Do you folk feel for the busy season it's better to book online or go in person and haggle?
I am planning for a early Feb visit.Do you have any suggestions for pocket friendly hotels/homestays in Munnar,Thekkady,Ernakulam and Ponmudi.
Thank you so much.
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