Andaman and Nicobar Islands, once the infamous ‘Kaalapaani’, has now become a major tourist attraction because of its turquoise waters and relaxed way of life. It is also the most sought after destination for scuba diving in the country. Even though a lot of tourists intend to visit these pristine islands, more often than not they change their minds owing to the high airfares or the more attractive options of travelling to South-East Asian countries for the same airfare or sometimes even cheaper.
The hack to this problem is to travel smart and do your research. We Indians are not big on thoroughly researching a destination where we intend to travel to and instead rely more on word of mouth or holiday packages. Tour and travel operators make big bucks through this herd mentality. Tour operators charge up to double the amount for booking hotels, tickets, entertainment shows etc, knowing that the travellers are completely at their mercy when travelling to these remote islands. So the best way to plan your trip to Andamans is research, research and a little more research!
Here is a list of ways to avoid fishing into your pocket too often or too deep
1. Travel a Little Before or a Little After Peak Season
If you don’t mind a little heat or a little rain, travelling slightly before or a little after season cuts down your total expenditure by almost half! Hotels and home-stays double their prices during the season, which lasts from the end of September to the end of February. Airfares are also substantially cheaper during off season.
2. Choose Home-Stays Over Hotels
Home-stays are a much cheaper accommodation option than hotels. Some home-stays even let you cook your own food or give you the option of pre-ordering a simple, homely meal from them. Most home-stays here are clean and safe. A little research will go a long way in guaranteeing you a comfortable stay upon arrival.
3. Stay in Government Accommodations
Government accommodations (ones bookable through Andaman Tourism department ) have the best locations, are very economical and also comfortable. They get booked months in advance, so plan early.
You can find them here –https://www.andamantourism.gov.in/
4. Choose Mode of Travel Wisely
Use the Government ferry
The government ferries, although slower and less fancy, take you to Havelock and Neil Islands for less than half the price of private ferry services. If you have the time and patience, then government ferries are the way to go.
Hire a Bicycle in Havelock/Neil Island
and Neil are not very big islands and can be covered with ease on a rented bicycle for a person with medium level of fitness. They are definitely much cheaper than the local auto rickshaws, which are few and far apart. When going long distances, you can take a bus.
There’s no better way than exploring a place than on foot. When in doubt don’t hesitate to walk around, you never know what surprise awaits you around the next bend! Just make sure to always keep an umbrella or a raincoat handy!
Rent a Motorbike
If walking around the hilly terrain of Port Blair is too cumbersome for you then renting a motorbike is the next best option. It again costs less than half the amount as compared to renting a vehicle from a tour operator.
5. Eat Local
If you love sea food then try getting chatty with a local fisherman and ask them for some fresh catch at lesser price than the market. Fish and other seafood does fall much cheaper if you buy it directly from the fishermen.
And if you can convince them to cook up a simple traditional meal for you, what’s better than that! It will cost you much less than a meal at a restaurant and you get a guaranteed fresh catch.
6. Spend More Time at the Beach
This one goes without me having to pen it down; the white sands and clear, clean turquoise waters here are free for one and all. So slap on your sunscreen and spend a day or all of your vacation exploring the beautiful beaches in and around Port Blair or till however far your budget manages to take you.
7. Visit the Government Emporiums/Museums
The government Emporium in Port Blair sells souvenirs for lower rates than other private souvenir shops. The well maintained, Government run museums are also a wonderful, educative, interesting and very reasonable way to keep yourself entertained when in Port Blair.
8. Ask for a Discount
If you never ask, you’ll never know! Be sure to ask for a discount when souvenir shopping. Most souvenir shops here keep a large margin on the MRP, they usually give tourists a 5% discount and locals a little more.
9. Research, Research & Research
Depending on the amount of time you have prioritise your activities and travel accordingly. If scuba-diving is your prime interest then look up all the options and scuba sites available, which will be functional during your visit.
Don’t follow the tried and tested path that our friend went on, do your own research, you might just fall upon something better and cheaper. There are places other than Havelock that offer scuba diving at cheaper rates and you just might end up sitting prettier, more vibrant corals, as most corals in places with heavy tourist traffic are either dulling down or dead.
10. Book Directly From the Source
Eliminating middle-men is the key to smart travel. Do not book services from Travel Agents outside Andaman. Do it through a local. If travelling to Havelock then book your own ticket.
Nowadays many of the ferry services have gone online with their ticketing services, which gives the traveler the comfort of booking their tickets even before they reach here.
Hello! We’re a bunch of content enthusiasts writing about all things Andaman. Our blogs are the result of our immersive first-hand travels to the Andamans and the experiences of those we know closely. We keep a close watch on the travel space in the Andamans, so we can always bring to you the most updated information. Hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as we enjoyed writing it!