South India has a lot to offer and Kerala has a lot to offer to anyone traveling here. Kerala is a perfect destination for a first-time foreigner traveler to India. If you are an Indian traveler and traveling to south India for the first time than Kerala is the best place. Kerala, which is also known as God’s own country has something for every traveler. In this post, I am going to write about the most important travel tips for Kerala.
Kerala has hill stations and tea plantations, national parks with wild animals, palm-fringed beaches and backwaters. Other than these there are ayurvedic retreats and yoga centers. Traditional dance forms and martial art form Kalayyaripatu. The food in Kerala is full of spices but mild on the palette. All these things provide a unique Kerala experience. After traveling to God’s own country for around more than 3 weeks, I have compiled this list.
Checkout my other post about best time & best places to visit in Kerala with their location on the map and with the distance between cities.
Things to know before you travel to Kerala for the first time
Kerala is safe
This is the first question that comes in every traveler’s mind. Yes, Kerala is safe. If you are traveling as a solo female traveler than it is one of the best places in India.
How to travel to Kerala
Kerala is very well connected with other parts of India with Indian railways. There are several direct trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Goa, and several other cities. There are 18 main railway stations in Kerala. Here are the details. Check these tips for traveling by train in India and safety tips.
Kerala is well connected with neighboring states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharastra, and Goa with national highways. There are several direct buses for all major cities of Kerala. You can also make advance ticket booking through MakeMyTrip and Redbus’s website or app.
There are 4 international and domestic airports in Kerala .i.e. Cochin, Trivandrum, Kozhikode (Calicut) and Kannur airports.
Cochin airport is the biggest airport with several flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Trivandrum, Guwahati, Nagpur, and Lucknow. There are many international flights for Gulf countries and Southeast Asia.
Trivandrum airport is the second biggest airport with direct flights from Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kozhikode. It is also well connected with major Gulf and Southeastern countries.
Calicut and Kannur airports are relatively smaller with limited flights to all major cities in India and few Gulf countries.
If you are traveling from other parts of India then a ticket to Cochin will cost you lesser in comparison to other airports because there are more flights.
Interestingly Cochin is the first green airport in India and it operates on solar power.
How to travel in Kerala
Travel between cities
If you want to travel between different cities of Kerala then trains are a fast and most economical way of transport. There are several long and short distance trains connecting all major cities of Kerala.
Kerala state road transport operates buses between different cities and these buses are very economical. You can also book tickets through Redbus as they operate luxury buses between all major cities.
The waterways or water highways running through backwaters of Kerala are another interesting way to travel from Alleppey to Kollam. This way you can travel as well see the backwaters of Kerala.
If you have a budget and want to travel comfortably then taxis are the best option. Most of the taxi charges 9 to 12 INR per km for a minimum of 250 Km per day. Ola and Uber also have a presence in major cities like Cochin and Trivandrum, you can use these also for travel.
Traveling in cities
For traveling in the city from one place to another autorickshaw (Tuk-tuk) are one of the best options. The auto-rickshaws charge according to the meter and during my last year’s trip, I used them a lot. None of them overcharged me or negotiated the price before journey which I normally experience in Delhi and a few other Indian cities.
If you want to travel in comfort then use a taxi. Most of the taxi’s charge approximately 1800 to 2000 INR for full day city travel. App-based cab operators like Ola and Uber are also a good option.
I don’t recommend using the city bus service for traveling from one place to another. The city buses are not crowded because most of the bus drivers stop taking passengers after the bus gets full. The main reason for not recommending buses is the language issue. It is difficult to identify the right bus and the right bus stop because most buses have the name of destinations written in Malayam (Local language).
What to wear in Kerala
It is one of the safest places to travel for a solo female traveler as well as for a foreign traveler visiting India for the first time. Also, check a complete guide for what to wear in India.
Still, I recommend that one should dress a bit conservatively while traveling in Kerala. It is advisable to wear clothes which cover your shoulder and calf. For women, it is better if they don’t wear cleavage showing tops and dresses. Women can wear a bikini if they are on the beach
For visiting, temples women should wear saree or Indian salwar kurta or full-length skirts. Men should wear “Mundu”, which is a wrap-around dhoti. There is a basic dress code for temples and everyone has to follow it.
In some old monuments, you may have to remove shoes when going inside, in that case, a pair of socks is very helpful if you don’t like walking barefoot.
These are some of the best places for solo female travelers in India.
Alcohol in Kerala
Wine and beer are available in all liquor shops across Kerala. There are enough shops in Kerala as local people love their drinks. Though liquor is easily available still it is served only in five-star hotels.
Money in Kerala
There are ATMs all over Kerala and money can be easily withdrawn anywhere. The banks remain open between 9.30 AM to 3.30 PM on all weekdays.
Accommodation in Kerala
If you are traveling on a budget or if you are going on a luxury holiday. There is a perfect accommodation for every budget. Kerala was the first state in which started the concept of homestays. If you are not looking for a luxurious stay and on the budget than stay in a homestay. Most of the small hotels and homestays are family-run. These are a good place to experience the culture of Kerala.
Shopping in Kerala
Some of the famous items are various spices, tea, coffee, banana chips, and aroma oil.
Coconut and coir products, handicrafts of seashells, and decorative masks.
Traditional dress of Kerala and sarees in silk or cotton. These are available in traditional offwhite colors.
People of Kerala love gold, so if you have a budget then buy some traditional gold jewelry.
Must experience things from culture of Kerala
God’s own country Kerala has a rich culture and traditions. Kerala has an influence from Dravidian culture but everything here is unique and different from other parts of India. Kerala’s diverse culture has influence from Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. People of different religions live here in harmony. A good example of this is the Onam festival, which is celebrated with equal enthusiasm by people of all religions.
* Watch the Kathakali performance. Also, see how artists apply makeup before the performance.
**Watch the Martial Art of Kalaripayattu show. This shows the fighting spirit and techniques of warriors from Kerala.
* Watching Theyyam performance is equal to watching god’s performance. It is believed that God or Goddess enters the body of the performer. It’s performed at night and before sunrise.
** The food of Kerala is unique, to experience the essence of traditional food eat Sadhya. There are usually 24 items served in a Sadhya.
* A trip to Kerala is incomplete without exploring backwaters. You can use different modes to travel and experience backwater. It can be in boats, Shikara, Tourist boats, canoe or living in KettuvallamHouseboat.
* Get an Ayurveda massage done by an expert. Maybe consult an Ayurveda practitioner to know your body system.
** If you drink alcohol then visit a Toddy shop. These shops are very popular across Kerala. Other than drinking toddy these shops serve freshly cooked meals at economical prices.
* Try your hand at Chinese fishing nets by paying a nominal amount to the fisherman operating these nets. If you manage to catch fresh fish then get it cooked from the small restaurants/shops.
** Take a boat ride in the Periyar lake reservoir in a wildlife sanctuary and see the wild animals on its shore.
* Visit the spice plantations and see how different spices are grown. In these spice plantations, you can see the spice plants but they don’t offer food and other experiences like spice gardens of Goa.
** Elephant rides are very popular among travelers to Kerala but I don’t know how many of these are ethical and if they treat the animals nicely. This is one thing everyone can decide personally.
Check out some unique experiences in India.
Food to eat in Kerala
The traditional food of Kerala is diverse. It is easier to get a vegan dish, vegetarian dish or a nonvegetarian dish in Kerala. People of Kerala take pride in their cuisine and you can get all kinds of nonvegetarian food here. It is easier to get chicken, lamb, mutton, beef, pork and a wide variety of seafood dishes in Kerala as compared to other parts of India. Rice is the staple food of Kerala.
Other than Sadhya one must eat some of these dishes in Kerala.
Puttu & Kadla curry, Appam & stew, Dosa & sambar, Idiyappam & egg curry, Beef fry & Malabar Paratha, Biryani, a different type of Theeyal, Kerala style fish & chicken curries. Payasam is a must-have dessert from Kerala.
Here is the complete guide of the traditional food of Kerala.
These are some of the most important things to know before traveling to Kerala for a memorable trip to God’s own country. These travel tips for Kerala are based on my personal experience. I had traveled with family as well as solo female travelers. If you have more tips than please add in your comments.