Below are a few things to consider while planning/ preparing your trip to the God’s own country.
- Brush your bargaining skills thoroughly before visiting Kerala. Don’t worry about the language barrier.
- Except for some rural areas, most of the population understand and speaks basic English. Nobody responds to Hindi questions.
- Dress codes are very strict and tedious at a lot of temples. E.g. At Padmanabhsamy temple, Thiruvanantapuram women are supposed to wear sarees. If you can’t manage that then you will need to wrap a Mundu (long white dhoty) around. Avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless clothes. For men, Mundu is a must. Men must also remove the shirt/ tshirt. The temple trust sells Mundu outside the temple. Carrying any electronics, camera, leather items is strictly prohibited and they do a thorough security check before allowing you into the temple premises. You can either keep these items in the lockers provided by the temple’s trust or better leave them in your vehicle/ hotel if possible. The temple staff is perpetually frustrated and talks rudely. We visited other temples in Kerala however this was the only temple where we spent more time outside the temple understanding the rules and depositing our stuff than inside the temple.
- In every other temple you will meet some priests asking you to pay extra and join the queue of offering devotees to avoid long general queue. Don’t do that unless you really are a highly religious devotee. General queues could be longer but they would be less suffocating.
- Most of the temples are closed during the afternoon hours which can seriously affect your travel schedule especially if you are trying to squeeze too many things in a day.
- Kovalam beach is good for water surfing. This area is more foreigner friendly, in fact so foreigner friendly that at a couple of cafes by the beach, we got a good taste of favoritism towards the foreigners by locals.
- If you are planning to visit Thekaddy then you must stay at ‘Stay Melody’ – a lovely homestay. It is clean, spacious and extremely homely. We had a great time staying here, interacting with the owner and indulging in the yummy dinner cooked by his mother. The owner (Fazal) is very friendly and helpful and will give you proper guidance on what could be done in Thekaddy apart from the normal touristy stuff.
- The best time to visit Kerala is end of Monsoon and winter. Summers are extremely hot and humid and are not tolerable.
- If Kochi is not on your list then add it because it is one of the most intriguing places in Kerala. The fort Kochi area which is a good 1.5 hours drive from the Kochi airport is full of old colonial buildings, pop up shops, art cafes and lovely peaceful streets. The antique shops in Mattancherry sell some really amazing brass artifacts that are way cheaper than what one would find in Mumbai (still bargaining works).
- The state transport connectivity is very good. The bus plates will be in Malyalam however feel free to take a help from any local or the staff. They will happily help you.
- Munnar is lovely round the year. However it is at it’s best in the monsoons. We visited it during February when most of the waterfalls were dry. There was ample of greenery and the weather too was pleasant however the locals suggested that we should visit again during or immediately after the monsoon once.
- In Allepey (Allapuzha) exploring the backwaters in a Shikara is a better idea than staying in a houseboat. The shikara being smaller than the houseboat rides through smaller canals providing glimpses of lives around these backwaters. Also if you are planning to visit the beach and other attractions in the town, it is best to stay on the land. Keep mosquito/ insect repellent handy wherever you go in Allepey.
13. Travancore and Kochi are famous for sea food and meat delicacies. But if you are a vegetarian like me, you need not worry. There are good vegetarian options available everywhere. You can check for ‘Sarvana Bhavan’ which is a vegetarian restaurant chain that provides excellent south Indian food and has a consistent quality across all the outlets. In Kerala, the food is generally spicy (since it’s the state of spices) so if you can’t handle a lot of spice, please specify it beforehand.
14. Before going for any Ayurvedic massage do check the authenticity of the place from some locals/ online reviews. There are a lot of good options in Thekaddy/ Kovalam.
Kerala is for those who are open to explore cultures, traditions and history. It is for those who respect the nature and feel at home in its company. Kerala is about being connected to roots. It is about breathtaking views and scrumptious cuisine. It is about banana leaves, coconut trees and cardamom hills. It is about vivid colors and sweet smell of Jasmine.It is about magnificent temples and grand villas. It is about gold and spices.
As I said earlier, Kerala is rich. Literally and metaphorically.
Kerala is for those who are hungry for experiences. Don’t be the ‘sightseeing’ kind of a tourist here. Because honestly, everything that you ‘see’ here is a sight, and if you are not used to observe or feel the place then you are going to miss most of the fun.