Andaman Islands-Everything you need to know to plan your trip!
When I was planning this trip, I found it quite difficult to find all the information I needed online, so I knew I had to pen them down
How to Get There
Veersavarkar airport in Port Blair has regular flights from all over India.
Getting till Port Blair is straightforward, but what to do after you reach, is the difficult part.
If you are planning on staying back in Port Blair for a day or more, then there isn’t a problem, but if you are planning on heading to Havelock or Neil Island soon after you reach, you need to plan well ahead.
There are ferries to both Havelock & Neil Islands from Port Blair, but they need to be booked in advance, as they sometimes get booked out weeks prior to the date!
There are private and government ferries to get to both islands.
The government ferries are considerably cheaper, but they are open for booking only 2-3 days before the travel date, priority is given to the locals, and you have to stand in line for a long time to get your hands on it (if at all you do).
There are two private ferries that ply between Port Blair and all the islands- Makruzz & Sealink. Both ferries are extremely comfortable, air conditioned, with toilets and a snack bar on board.
Tickets can be booked directly from their websites.
The ferries leave from Phoenix bay jetty, which is around 20 minutes away from the airport, so plan accordingly if you plan to get on a ferry as soon as you land in Port Blair.
It is helpful to keep a timetable of the ferries to and from all the islands you are planning on visiting.
Connectivity in Andaman
Once you leave Port Blair, your phone won’t have data, so hope for fast wifi at your hotel!
Once voted the best beach in Asia, it truly lives up to the hype. It’s white sand beach with clear turquoise waters are a dream! The best thing about Radhanagar Beach is that there are only two resorts on it, which means that it isn’t crowded! Most of the day it is quiet, the handful of people who visit from other resorts come close to sunset.
It was also home to a domesticated elephant who was cared for by the Barefoot resort. It is his pictures that are all over the internet. Unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago, so those hoping to swim with elephants at Havelock, will no longer be able to do so.
A short walk from Radhanagar Beach is Neil’s Cove, a beautiful lagoon from which the view of the sunset is spectacular. But caution to those who go there- it is an area frequented by crocodiles! There is signage around the cove cautioning visitors, but the scariest part of the cove is that, the rock formations look similar to the hide of the crocodile, making it the perfect camouflage!
Sunrise & sunset take a lot of getting used to when in the Andamans- 5-5.15 AM sunrise and a 5.15-5.30PM sunset, after which it is pitch dark! (well, obviously, but even after 4 days there I couldn’t get used to it!-Imagine pitch dark at 630pm! )
Getting around in Havelock
For those on a budget, it is definitely a good idea to hire a bike for the time period of your stay in havelock. Else, you can rely on the public bus which starts from near the jetty.
Many people go to Elephant beach thinking they will be able to see elephants. Though there are two elephants that reside in the forest on the beach, they aren’t domesticated. At the time that they come to the beach to bathe, the beach is closed for visitors.
It is a fairly crowded beach, as all the water activities occur here.
Note: Due to a recent snorkelling accident, snorkelling is banned in Havelock. Snorkelling is allowed in Neil Island.
Scuba Diving in the Andamans
There are many providers that offer scuba diving in the Andamans; in fact, a lot of tour agents provide details of the same in their itinerary. A dive can cost anywhere between Rs.3500-6700/ person, depending on the provider.
I dived with Barefoot Scuba, a 5* PADI certified diver centre, and had a great time. At first the PADI certified diving instructor, gave me a quick lesson and guidelines on what to expect when underwater. Before the dive, we spent some time practicing the use of the equipment, and familiarising with the experience of being underwater, in the shallow end of the lagoon we are to dive in.
Why is India the best place for your first dive?
Apparently, everywhere around the world, the ratio of instructor to novice diver is 1:4, but in India, since the assumption is that most people do not know how to swim, and will panic underwater, the ratio is 1:1- so if you are scared of the prospect of being underwater for an extended period of time, India is the best place to try your first dive!
I went down to about 8ft with the instructor by my side at all times, and it was an amazing experience- seeing underwater life up close! The dive is for about 30 minutes, and it is a surreal experience!
At the end, PADI presented me with a certificate acknowledging my first dive- I still need an instructor with me to dive again.
They do offer certification courses for which I'm contemplating signing up for.
A must visit beach when in Havelock! It too has clear blue waters and a white sandy beach, but between 11am to 3pm, the colour of the ocean is spectacular! You will notice three different shades of blue in the water on a sunny day between these times-it is a stunning sight!
Kalapathar is quite far from Radhanagar Beach, and will take almost 30 mins to reach. It is a quiet beach, but it can get crowded in the evenings.
There are a few makeshift stalls selling snacks near the beach, but no restaurants in the area.
Food in Havelock
Food here is expensive compared to other cities around the country. All restaurants/shacks are priced like a fine dining restaurant elsewhere in the country, so come prepared.
Taxis in Havelock & Port Blair
It is expensive to hire a taxi in both Havelock Island & Port Blair. After getting used to Uber & Ola, having to pay 2-3times the rate on the mainland for a cab ride here, really is difficult.
There isn't much to do in Port Blair if you are there just for a few hours, killing time before your ferry to Havelock or Neil island.
Corbyn's Cove Beach is a nice place to get a taste of what the Andamans have to offer. There are a few water activities that are available here, like the jet ski and a boat ride to a nearby island and back.
I also visited the Cellular Jail, though I was completely OK with missing out on it, but I had 4-5 hours to kill before my ferry to Havelock.
I enjoyed the Anthropological Museum, learning about the different tribes that inhabit the islands, and their way of life. It is a must visit if you like to learn about a people that the world knows so little about.
There are a few other museums and an aquarium at Port Blair, but I chose to skip all of that, and try to find a good place to eat lunch.
But thanks to low connectivity on both Airtel & Idea, it was difficult to find any information online. So I suggest you download all the information you think is necessary for your trip before reaching Port Blair.
Having said that, I had an excellent seafood meal, at a restaurant we happened to pass by, close to the Phoenix Bay jetty.
Getting around Port Blair
I got a prepaid cab from the airport to a restaurant for breakfast, and then spoke to the driver about taking us around for a few hours till it was time for our ferry. If you are hiring a cab from outside, speak to a few cab drivers and negotiate to get the best rate.
Hope you found the information helpful, drop me a comment below if you have any questions.