The Andaman Islands are the most beautiful forgotten treasures I have ever seen.
From Kolkata there are boats going on a very irregular basis and you need to be lucky that there is one on the time you want to go.
Better to check on following address:
Andaman & Nicobar Administration
Shipping House, No.13, Strand Road.
The trip takes 66 hours and will cost you about 1700 rupees (23 euros) for a dorm bed.
Their website is not up to date at all, but here is the link, just in case.
Even though my plan is to travel without taking any flights, I took one to Port Blair since my boyfriend gifted me the two-way ticket to paradise. Difficult to refuse.
Later on we’ve met someone who took the boat ride and his pale face staring in eternity promised himself to take a flight back. Four days was simply too much for him and unfortunately I cannot speak from personal experience to do or not recommend you the ride.
When you arrive in Port Blair, you want to get out of there as soon as possible. It’s just another Indian city with not much to see. Just spend one night to acclimatize from the mainland and book your ferry asap to Havelock or Neil Island. We stayed in Lalaji Bay View for about 10 euro per night for a private room: R P Road, Dignabad, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 744101, India.
It is possible to book a cheap(er) government ferry, but just take in consideration that you will wait an awful long time in the bleaching sun (even though if you go early in the morning) and the risk exists that you will get refused in order to let locals get their spot.
We’ve tried this twice, without any success. There are several cruise companies in the neighbourhood selling tickets for 300 rupees more, without waiting times and better service.
We took Makruzz (975 rupees) to go and Ocean View (900 rupees) to come back.
When you arrive in the port of Havelock, the rickshaw drivers will be numerous, all fighting for getting you in their transport. This gives you the advantage to pick the cheapest one to get to your accommodation. Don't pay more than 150 rupees.
Do not book your stay on Havelock online. Booking websites tend to ask almost double than the actual prices on the Island. Just pick a resort, go there and bargain the price.
Our all time winner in terms of price, quality and friendliness was Coconut Groove Beach resort (beach number five). We’ve rented a bamboo hut for 700 rupees per night with own bathroom, mosquito net, fan and we could even see a part of the sea through our back window 😉
Don’t go to Emerald Gecko! They are expensive, not friendly, bad service and have loads of bedbugs.
Bike rent will be 150 rupees per bike and for a scooter you will pay 300 rupees. The scooters are empty when you rent them, so they will force you to buy a bottle of gasoline at a higher rate than usual. Also, at first they will ask you 350 rupees, but you can easily lower the price if you tell them you will rent for several days.
There are big tide differences on the island. Beach number 5 is therefore not always swim-able, so also has the cheapest resorts. You can always swim on Radhanagar, Elephant Beach, Kalapathar and beach number 2.
The beaches are numbered because tourists can not pronounce the names.
Beach number 5 is where most of the action happens. There are loads of cheap resorts, bars and restaurants.
Fair prices of cabins range between 400 to 800 rupees. But there are also crappy resorts charging 1500 per cabin to naive fresh arrivals.
The all time cheapest resort is called Crystal Sand and is almost at the end of the main road along beach number 5 (left side). Their cheapest cabin with shared bathroom is only 200 rupees.
Radhanagar is the “most beautiful beach” of Havelock. It is the most (Indian) touristy one, but if you walk long enough to your left you can find yourself a nice and quiet spot without being stared at.
The beach has big waves, white sand, beautiful jungle around it and some nice snorkel places too.
Elephant Beach is the most difficult beach of them all. You first need to hike 20 minutes through the jungle before you reach a sports beach where speed boats with bananas and jet skies pollute the beauty of nature. Just keep on walking to your left, pass by the dead trees that were a victim of the Tsunami and there you have another pearl of nature. This beach is quiet, very snorkable and super private because most of the tourists are too lazy to do the hike before being able to put their asses down in the white sand. And if you are lucky, you will see some elephants too 🙂
Beach number 2 is close to the port and ideal to swim. Just be sure not to go during weekdays because there are scuba diving classes everywhere. If you go in the weekends and evenings, the beach is empty and the water deep enough to have good swim.
The Andaman Islands are the most cheap place on earth to get your Scuba Diving license.
Normally I don’t have any budget for this, but this opportunity was once in a lifetime.
I did a SSI course (the instructor had a PADI) for 247 euro, 5 dives included. Andaman Bubbles has a very easy going and understanding staff. So definitely recommend going there.
There is no way to be afraid to get a food poisoning on Havelock Island. The Island is so small and in control of the police that everything is according to tourist norms. Also, most of the people stay for a week or two, so the few restaurants can not permit themselves getting complaints from sick tourists all the time.
I would highly recommend:
Shakahaari = purely vegetarian small family restaurant.
Coco Anju = very good vegan Tom Yum soup and awesome Sizzlers.
Kayseys (Next to Fat Martins) = nice vegan burger and vegan Israelian breakfast.
Ocean Tree = the best Dal Tadka in the world! But, seriously.
Full Moon Cafe = has amazing Upma with coconut chutney. Yummyness for breakfast!
On the market you can get very very very good Samosa’s for only 10 rupees, so two of those has often been my quick and cheap lunch.