I wrote about the research for my Kerala vacation in the last episode of Kerala Vacation series. Armed with the research and having struck off popular places like Munnar and Thekkady, we were looking at beaches along the coast and the backwaters. So we decided to do a road trip along the coast line. Starting at Kochi, we were going to go all the way to Trivandrum and back. While looking at the map, hubby remarked how close we were going to be to Kanyakumari. On a whim, we decided to include the southern most tip of the country in our itinerary.
Kerala Vacation Planning – The Itinerary
Once the coastal road trip was decided, we zeroed in on the following stops –
- Varkala – We had a very early morning start from Mumbai and decided to make full use of the day. We would leave for Varkala immediately after landing and cover the 160 km distance by road. Varkala is known for its gorgeous beach and a spectacular view of the hill overlooking the beach.
- Kanyakumari – Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India is famous for its view of three seas meeting. Also known as the Triveni Sangam, you get to see the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal merging into the Indian Ocean. We would cover the 128km distance from Varkala in the morning on day two.
- Trivandrum – The third morning we were to drive about 100km and go to Trivandrum. We were going to spend the day at the Hawa beach and take a halt in Poovar on the way from Kanyakumari.
- Poovar – About 35 km away from Trivandrum, Poovar is a small backwater area that leads to the most glorious golden beach. It is also home to the floating resort if you intend to stay the night else a good enough option for a day trip or a halt.
- Alappuzha – Located 154 kms from Trivandrum, Alappuzha or Alleppey is one of the most popular back water destinations in Kerala. Gorgeous backwaters that are laced with houseboats and then open into the mighty Vembanad lake, it is a must do! We planned to leave Trivandrum early in the morning on day 4 and reach Alappuzha by afternoon.
- Kochi – The last leg of our journey was Kochi. Covering the 55 odd km distance between Alappuzha and Kochi, we dedicated the last one and a half day to Kochi and finally get some time to relax before taking the flight home. After the backwaters, I was most excited about Fort Kochi to click the setting sun through the Chinese fishing nets!
Kerala Vacation Planning – Hotels
Since this was essentially a road trip and we were going to be in the hotels only for a night each, we decided to opt for mid range hotels and not high end resorts. It seemed like a waste of money to splurge on a hotel with facilities if you were not going to use them. Also, we needed two rooms at each location so budget was a big consideration in zeroing in. The other factor was the proximity to attractions and main highway. We were keen on picking hotels that were close to these so that we minimise the time on the roads. We used portals like Yatra, Make My Trip and Trivago to book the hotels. Hubby would look at the places on these portals and check availability on our dates and I would read the reviews on tripadvisor. Once, I okayed the place, he would book them. We spent a large part of an entire weekend looking at hotels and booking them. At the end of the day, we were happy with most of our selections. My learning from the experience were –
- Book hotels that give you a buffet breakfast. If you are doing a road trip, then finding a good place to eat on the way is a hassle and often, a waste of time.
- Find hotels close to the attractions you plan to visit. It is worth paying extra for proximity.
- Research well and read reviews thoroughly. Look at the photographs of the property if possible. The most recent reviews are the most relevant. We had zeroed in on a great place in Kanyakumari but the most recent review stated it was under renovation. We called up the hotel to confirm and decided not to book it!
- Even though you are travelling with family, a business hotel is a great option. They are efficient and you will spend much less time checking in and out as compared to leisurely resorts
- Ask for upgrades! This is something the hubby taught me. We got upgraded to a suite at one location 🙂
- Check for elevators. If you are travelling with a kid or elderly, do check for elevators. We overlooked this and at one of the places, we were on the third floor. Dad had a tough time there.
Kerala Vacation Planning – Taxi
On a road trip, your vehicle is the most important thing. We decided to hire a chauffeured taxi so that we could arrive in comfort and then enjoy the places to the max. There were several leads we had from friends who had visited but none of those materialised. We then looked at the information board on the Kerala Tourism site and posted a request there. Eventually, we found the taxi from the references given on the forum itself. This was the biggest single expense for us on the trip. We were particular that we wanted a comfortable ride. So we booked an Innova. A few learnings on taxi booking –
- The taxi bookings work with leads. It is not necessary that the guy you speak to will be the one to pick you up. Be cognizant of that.
- The drivers there know English but some may pretend not to understand. This happened to us. So beware.
- If you are paying an advance, carry a receipt. Our driver was annoyed that we had paid an advance to the guy who took our booking. He expected us to pay the entire amount to him.
- If your friends or family have had a good experience with a particular driver or guide, call them and insist on booking them. Even if it means paying extra, a good chauffeur can make a lot of difference to your trip
- The drivers have an understanding at most locations. They would take you to the hotels or cruise operators where they can earn a commission. Since we had booked all our hotels before hand, our driver was highly annoyed with us. We shopped for cashews at the place he recommended but did not go for the massages and sari shops like he wanted. Robbed of the commission, he was very upset and his behaviour toward us deteriorated as the vacation progressed. Communicate to the guy before hand that you have your bookings in place so that he has the right expectations.
Kerala Vacation Planning – The Clothes
Kerala is a hot and humid place. Apart from Munnar and Wayanad, the whole of Kerala is pretty much like that. So pack comfortable, loose cotton clothes. On a few beaches like Varkala, swim wear is fine but at others I was more comfortable in regular clothes. The locals in Kerala are quite tolerant of tourists and western wear. Only if you plan on visiting temples, you need to be mindful of what you are wearing. At other places, dress for comfort! Also, carry lots of sunscreen!!! You can check out some of my Kerala Vacation Outfits here.
So that was all about planning. Next time, I will talk about my experiences in Kerala! Stay Tuned…
I am writing this as a series about my Kerala vacation. We took that trip in Feb 2015. My four year old daughter and 60 year old father in law accompanied us so this was an out and out family trip. Through these series of posts, I will share the experience of planning and booking for the trip and also details of how the trip was. I hope you will join me as I recount the journey yet again.