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The Andamans - 5 smart ways to make it worth it

Updated: Feb 5

You’ve got a suitcase full of beach wear, a wide straw hat, fancy sunglasses, dreams of a beer on the pristine white beaches, and a photo gallery full of crystal blue waters. Yes, you will come back with all that, but also experience a lot more. After doing a full-blown trip to The Andamans this Jan, I’ve come home feeling misplaced in my expectations because what it has to offer is honestly a lot more. It needs a strong understanding of where you’re going and why things are the way they are. Here are 5 ways you can be smart about your trip to The Great Andamans and make it truly worth it. 1. Prioritize Nature For mainlanders in India, we can access a plethora of beaches - each with its unique coastline and countless activities. This however, isn’t Goa. You’ll see every tour package includes water sports, rides, activities, and the trick is to do what you can’t get anywhere else. Ditch the jet skis, banana boats et all which are priced cheaper, and go for the scuba dives, sea walks, and snorkeling. It’s important to pick a good location, I would recommend Elephant Beach, Havelock over Corbyn’s Cove, Port Blair. If you find yourself on Neil Island, nothing like it. Lesser crowd means better preserved nature and quality time spent with colorful fishes, shy corals, and curious marine creatures.

Boats on Elephant Beach, Havelock Island
Local Activity Boats on Elephant Beach, Havelock Island

Pro Tip: Each beach you visit will have timings (to allow nature its regenerative time) and not everything is open 24x7. Check the timings before you plan and also factor in the commute to make full use of your time at every spot. 2. Food & Beverages  The biggest, unexpected expense is the food, beverages, and alcohol in The Andamans. Being an archipelago, crates of veggies are shipped to the islands on a daily basis and having tourists all around the year has only made the demands worse. Catching a milk vendor on the street, I learned that one litre of milk costs INR 90 in Port Blair, because the cattle are reared 250 kms and beyond. Our cabbie informed us that one kilo of tomatoes is INR 250, 1 kilo of cauliflower is INR 450, and typically anything that doesn’t grow here has to be brought in from Chennai, on the mainland. Papayas, Bananas, Areca Nut, Mangoes - these you’ll see thriving along the roadside, but bye bye carrots and capsicums. Be mentally prepared for a decent meal for two to cross 4k with drinks, beer at INR 500-800, and limited breakfast spreads. They still do the best they can, but it hurts to see wastage and causal cribbing despite the efforts to make it available. 3. Accommodation Unless it’s an occasion, I wouldn’t recommend staying at the Taj, CGH, Sea Shells, Coral Reef etc. These groups of resorts have properties on the main islands and it’s better to book through a single name if you want to drive down the cost of accommodation on the entire trip to The Andamans. The rooms are all sized-somewhat the same, and there’s a rule that doesn’t allow the construction of ‘shacks’ right on the shore due to the unpredictable tides so you’ll never really get a full-beach view. The Taj at Havelock is set amidst a areca nut plantation (Bangaloreans, we’ve seen it all in our Coorg-Chikmagalur visits). Room service at these fancy stays will further drive up your bill, and for everything you actually need to do here, you’ll need transport. So be thrifty with the 3-star resorts that are in walking proximity to the beaches and save up for the bigger spends.

View from the room of a resort on Havelock Island
"Beach-facing, sea view" from Sapphire Suite, Coral Reef Resorts

4. Ferry Transfers Like I mentioned in the Preread for a Smooth Trip to The Andamans, the ferries are the trickiest part of the planning. There are a total of 7 ferries daily, between the government-recognized private operators such as Makruuz, Nautica, Green Ocean, ITT Majestic. The highest frequency of ferries lies with Makruzz (different vessels), although I found the fastest and comfortable one to be IIT Majestic. What you need to remember the most: These ferries are just like flights. You need to arrive a minimum of 1 hour prior to your ferry timing and the luggage will go through a security scan. Make sure to have your official name on your ferry bookings and pick your seats (24 hours prior if not while booking) for a good view. If you have even a trace of motion sickness, just close your eyes and pop an Avomine as the waters tend to get choppy no matter the weather. All ferries are completely closed, tinted, with the AC on. Claustrophobia? Just pop the pill.

view from a ferry in the Andamans
Comfortable seats with better views in ITT Majestic Ferry

Caution: Subject to the weather and the number of seats booked, your ferry ride might get shuffled a bit with another operator, but do not worry, there will be messages and counters at the jetty to help redirect you. Carrying coral without a certificate of purchase is illegal, so do not risk the scan. An interesting fact is that the route of the ferry goes from Port Blair, to Havelock, to Neil, and back to Port Blair. All ferries operate only in this direction, and you cannot get a ferry from Neil to Havelock directly. 5. Getting around Payments: Carry cash. Withdraw in Port Blair as mostly everyone and everything works on cash here. Cards and Gpay are limited to well-established places and even there if the network is patchy, it’ll all come down to the notes. Transport: There’s no Ola / Uber service in The Andamans and it’s rightly so for the kind of island life the locals lead. I will be delving into their day-to-day and slow living in another blog but for now, what you need to know is the lay of the land. Port Blair has clean, two-lane roads that are best navigated in an auto -- even with your luggage, the locals have a way of making the cost work out. Airport transfers are usually covered by your hotel so push for one in advance along with your accommodation booking. In Havelock, rent a bicycle or a bike to fully take in the beauty and explore every side trail. It can be easily covered on either as the entire island is only 18 kms in length with a main road branching off to all the smaller spots. The only thing is, it shouldn’t rain, in which case, be prepared with raincoats and carry on like the islanders do! 

Ready to dive into the deets of what your itinerary can look like? Read on here. 


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