Kerala, a state in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is the most literate state in India, and a land of diverse religions, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala has much to offer the visitor.
The tourism department of Kerala boasts that the state is God’s Own Country. Once you visit, you will see where this claim comes from. The state really is blessed with great natural beauty, and diverse ecology.
The state is also considered to be one of the safest regions of India. Incidents of local people cheating tourists are almost non-existent. Kerala has high standards of living compared to its neighbours and other Indian states and has social lifestyle indices such as education and healthcare that are on par with developed countries . Therefore tourists can relax without being followed around by taxi drivers, touts, guides and similar. However still be prepared to put up with beggars who have migrated from poorer neighbouring states. Abundant rainfall means that you can find lush greenery that remains pretty much throughout the year. A holiday here is an opportunity for rejuvenation. You can get an Ayurvedic oil massage, spend a day or two on a houseboat with nothing to do but watch coconut trees pass by, or just laze around on Kovalam or Varkala beaches. Thus tourism is more experiential here, rather than being composed of superficial sightseeing options.
Kerala was named as one of the “ten paradises of the world” and “50 places of a lifetime” by the National Geographic Traveler magazine. Kerala is a state wedged between the Western Ghats on the eastern side and the Arabian Sea on the West, thus having a wide range of topography from high altitude mountains to golden beaches and is criss crossed by 41 rivers. The tributaries, unique backwaters, lagoons and numerous small islands provide many scenic attractions for visitors.
The most popular Hill station of Kerala – Munnar
Large parts of Kerala were not subject to direct British rule. Malabar was a district of Madras Presidency under direct British rule, but Tiruvithamkoor (Travancore) and Kochi (Cochin) regions were autonomous kingdoms ruled by Maharajas during the period of the British rule in India, and were known for their progressive attitude which resulted in various welfare reforms, particularly in the areas of education and health care.
Kerala was the place in India where European colonization first started. The Portuguese were the first to discover a direct sea route between Lisbon and Kozhikode in Kerala, and this marked the beginning of European colonisation in the country. Soon the Dutch, French, Italians and British were all lured by the wealth of spices and silk, and came with the intention of forming colonies. The defeat of the Dutch by the Travancore Army at the Battle of Colachel, and the decline of Portuguese Empire and French problems in Europe, resulted in the British gaining the full influence in country, and the annexation of the Malabar region into the British Madras Presidency.
However, the Kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore remained independent with little interference from the British, and they were staunch allies. After the independence of India, the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin choose to accede into the Indian Union, and were later merged into a single State of Travancore-Cochin. With the linguistic reorganisation of States, the Malayalam-speaking regions of Malabar and Travancore-Cochin were integrated into the State of Kerala on November 1st 1956. This realised a united Kerala, a dream held since the partition of the ancient Kerala Empire of Cheras in the eighth century. Today, people in Kerala live a largely traditional lifestyle, and much of the rich culture and heritage of the region is well-preserved.
November 1st is celebrated as Keralappiravi (Birth of Kerala) Day (also observed as Malayalam Divasam or Malayalam Day).
Kerala, being very close to equator, has a tropical climate. Kerala experiences heavy rains almost throughout the year, and is one of the wettest areas on the earth.
Kerala has three distinct seasons:
- Summer lasts from from mid-February to mid-May. The tropical sun is really hot and temperatures can go up to 35°C in the afternoons.
- The monsoon is in place from mid-May until early September. The North-East Monsoon winds bring heavy showers.
- Mid-October to early February can be termed a mild winter in the hilly areas, which can get cool and misty. The weather, however, remains hot and tropical on lower ground. Heavy rains occur from the last week of September until until early November, due to the retreat of the South-East monsoon.
When in Kerala, carry an umbrella no matter what time of the year it is. You can be caught in a sudden shower in summer which will leave you drenched if you are unprepared. The Kerala sun coupled with high rate of humidity can be unforgiving in the summer months.
The temperature averages around:
- 28°C – 34°C daytime, 24°C – 28°C at night in summer seasons of March, April
- 20°C – 28°C daytime, 18°C – 25°C at night for the rest of the year
Temperatures may drop down to 10°C or sometimes even little below during Winter seasons (November, December) in Hilly areas of Western ghats, especially at popular hill-stations like Munnar and Wynad etc, which results a misty days and freezing nights coupled with light cold showers. However in other places, the temperatures never drop below 20°C.
Recently summers have become hotter. Though the maximum temperature on summers has never risen higher than 36°C, the rising humidity has made recent summers difficult. The height of the Kerala summer is normally between mid-March and May. Wear only light loose cotton clothes during this season. Consider a trip to hilly areas where the temperatures never exceed 26°C.
Kerala experiences mild winds throughout most of the year.Thrissur Pooram, India’s biggest temple festival
Hinduism is the largest religion in the state. Hinduism in Kerala is bit different to other parts of India, due to assimilation of traditional Dravidian culture, and later due to the unique practice of Marumakathyam (matrilineal system) which made the society highly matriarchal unlike patriarchal values found else where in India. This also helped the society to be highly tolerant to cross-caste/religious marriages and co-living systems. Also Kerala is the only last place in world, where ancient Hindu Vedic Tantric rites are practiced widespread.
Kerala’s Islam is also unique. Its believed that Islam reached shores of Kerala around 700 AD, due to strong trading relations between Kerala and Arabia that time. This resulted in Kerala adopting highly liberal Shafi’i School of Islam like many Arab countries such as Oman and Yemen, and unlike the Hanfi school elsewhere in India.
Christianity too has made a unique mark in Kerala’s history. St.Thomas the Apostle came in 52 AD and spread the message of Christ. Kerala has the largest number of churches, of which many are considered very sacred, in India. Kerala is home for 2 Syrian Catholic churches,2 syrian orthodox churches and 1 independent church apart from several independent congregations. It is estimated that there is well over 5000 brick & mortar churches in Kerala across various denominations, and if other assimilated congregations were to be counted in, that number could be well close to 8000.
For thousands of years Buddhism was the most influential religion in Kerala. It was only in the 11th and 12th centuries that Brahmanism took hold in the state and Buddhism waned. Another religion, found in minority is Jainism, with limited number of followers in Wayanad, Kozhikode and Kochi. The presence of considerable followers of Sikhism, mainly those who have migrated from Indian state of Punjab, also brought the religion to Kerala.
Judaism has existed in Kerala for about 2,000 years, and today a minority of Jews live around Kochi, although there was a mass migration to Israel in 1950s following the founding of Israel.
Due to its strong socialist values and history of several communist movements, the state has a considerable number of people being atheists.
Hindus constitute about 56% of the population, Muslims 24% and Christians account for about 19%. Communal and sectarian tensions are rare. Kerala is considered as the most peaceful place in South Asia.
Sree Padmanabhapuram Palace- world’s largest Wooden palace, a specimen of Kerala architecture
Unique to Kerala, the Malayalee culture is derived from ancient Tamil-Dravidian practices combined with Arya-Indian culture, with influences from China, Japan, Arab countries, Portugal, Holland and even from the British. There are a lot of Tamil-Sanskrit elements, resulting in many unique practices and customs. Each community in Kerala has its own unique Malayalee culture which will not be found anywhere outside Kerala.
The Buddhist influence brought Ayurveda into a prominent position as well as Kalaripayattu (Kerala’s traditional martial art). While religious beliefs and its associated myths & legends are well rooted in the Malayalee psyche, the influence of communism and the Kerala renaissance has resulted in separation of religion from the daily routine of life.
Kerala architecture has lot of Tibetan-Chinese influence, due to its seclusion from other parts of India when the Western Ghats prevented Tamil influences. Most of the buildings have gabled, tiled roofs and a heavy use of wood with prominent slanting windows and ornamental flora designs. The Sree Padmanabhapuram Palace near thuckalay in kanyakumai, is a classic example of this style.
Dance, music, drama all have distinctive styles. Dances and music often attract large crowds.
A good way to experience the entire arts and culture of Kerala in one place is at the Annual Kerala State School Art Festival, normally held in December or January. The location changes between various district headquarters on a rotational basis. This was constituted by the government as a competition amongst school children to promote Kerala arts and culture. This is Asia’s largest festival according to the Guinness Book of records, with more than 82 art forms show-cased during its ten day duration.
- Kathakali (Malayalam: കഥകളി). Kerala’s celebrated classical ballad with use of large costumes and elaborate make-up. It is a dance drama, noted for wide range of characters, each character with special kind of costumes and make-up with special movements, particularly extensive expressions, refined gestures and innovative themes. The dance is accompanied with anchor playback music and precise drumming. The Kathakali Music is unique as it varies in accordance to expressions and reactions. Whilst traditional Indian epics constitute the main story-boards for the dance drama, many international versions like Shakespearian-Homer-Biblical works are now taken as themes.
Kathakali, the lone Indian classical dance drama, originated from Kerala
- Mohiniyattom (Malayalam: മോഹിനിയാട്ടം). This classical artform of Kerala is a subtle and graceful dance performed by women in traditional costume. Most of the themes are poems, unlike other classical dances which have an emphasis on Hindu mythology.
- Koodiyattom (Malayalam: കൂടിയാട്ടം). An ancient form of theatre with a legacy of more than 2,000 years. This is very stylised Sanskrit theatre and recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Most of the characters are noted for Sanskrit recitations and highly stylised movement, particularly eye expressions. Some parts of the stories are expressed only using the eyes.
- Theyyam (Malayalam: തെയ്യം). This is a ritualistic rite performed in the temples of Malabar. It is an ancient tradition, whereby worship takes the form of performance, rather than formal worship. While dressed in Theyyam costume, peformers are considered Gods and Goddesses. There are nearly 41 various types of Theyyam, each noted for its different legend and stories. A visit to any Malabar temples during Theyyam season (Dec-Mar), is advised.
- Chavittu Nadakam (Malayalam: ചവിട്ടുനാടകം). This is a highly colorful Christian classical art form originated in Gothuruth village,North Paravur, Kerala state in India. It is noted for its attractive make-up of characters, their elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the rhythmic playback music and complementary percussion. This art form highly resembles European Opera. Chavittu Nadakam is believed to be originated during the 16th century AD. This form of play is prevalent among the Christian community in the districts of Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur of Kerala.
- Margam Kali (Malayalam: മാര്ഗ്ഗംകളി). is one of the ancient group dance of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians.The Margamkali is a ritual folk dance in which twelve people dance around a traditional oil lamp (Nilavilakku). They represent the twelve apostles and Christ himself is represented by the lamp. They perform the dance wearing the traditional white dhoti and a peacock feather on the turban. Margamkali is essentially famous among the Syrian Christ of Kottayam and Thrissur districts of Kerala.
Ottamthullal(ഓട്ടന് തുള്ളല്) is another dance art form in Kerala. It is also known as the ‘poor man’s Kathakali. It was created by Kunchan Nambiar(one amongst the 3 celebrated ancient poets in Malayalam) in the 18th Century said to be based on the classical principles of Natya Shastra, a treatise on art originating in the 2nd century B.C.It usually is a poetic rendition on some social subject accompanied by a mridangam (a barrel shaped double headed drum) or an idakka (drum and cymbal)
There are more than 14-15 various Dance forms, all indigenous to Kerala. A detailed check with locals or web search, may help you to identify some others.
Kerala has its own indigenous music and orchestration.
- Melam. This is a percussion ensemble, with several variants differing in the number of percussive instruments used, as well as the style of playing them. Melam is extremely popular and is s mostly used during temple festivals, when more than six hours of continuous playing is the norm. Melam attracts large crowds and creates wonderful notes. The Thrissur Pooram has the largest Melam, with more than 300 musicians in the ensemble.
- Sopanam. This is Kerala’s unique classical music; slow, graceful rhythms. Most of the original versions are poems, and the music is coupled with poetic expression and style. Sopanam is now limited to regular performances at temple events.
- Mappila Songs. This music is associated with the local Muslim community. Traditionally, the songs were performed in Mappila Malayalam – a mixture of Arabic and Malayalam – and most tell stories of social systems and customs. Today, Mappila songs are popular amongst youngsters, using Malayalam lyrics. Mappila songs have a charm of their own as their tunes sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia.
- Poems plays a pivotal role in Malayalam music culture. Kerala is extremely for its various famous poetic traditions and large number of poems of high literarly value. Aksharaslokam (Poem recitations) is a common sight in many village temple platforms and during festival times, where poets recites poems and challenge other poets to start their recitation with the phrase, the former has ended his recitation
- Film Music. As elsewhere in India, film music is extremely popular, and Malayalam songs can be heard everywhere.
Kalarippayattu (Kalari) is believed to be one of the oldest martial arts in world. It soon became a major weapon of war. Kalaripayattu has many styles, the best known being Northern Style and Southern Style. While former is focused on using various weapons, the Southern style uses powerful strokes with the bare hand. The knowledge of vital spots, known as Marma, on the human body helped Kalaripayattu warriors, make blows that can freeze or kill a person.
The British Government passed legislation banning Kalari, considering it a potential danger, and this resulted in a brief decline. Today, it is a popular sport and exercise option which gets international attention. There are many cultural centres which showcase Kalari techniques as well as schools in Thiruvanathapuram, Kottayam and many places in north Malabar.
Drama was once a very popular medium in Kerala, and played a large role in the spread of Communist ideology and the social renaissance of the region. Due to the popularity of television soaps and cinema, the popularity of live drama has waned. However, some high-end dramas involving technology and innovative themes are gaining popularity in major metropolitan areas. JT Pac in Kochi and Tagore Theatre in Trivandrum regularly features dramas, particularly English and other vernacular features. Thrissur is the hub of Kerala drama, with many theatres hosting regular shows. Thrissur also hosts the annual International Drama Festival of Kerala, attracting prominent dramatists, from across the world. Most Kerala dramas are performed in Malayalam, and the stories based on social realities. Some temples offer dramas as part of their Temple festival programs.
Malayalam Cinema is a popular local entertainment option. It tends to focus on social realities, and avoids the glitz & glamour prevalent in the Bollywood and Tamil movie industries. If you want to watch a Malayalam movie in a local theatre, be aware that there is no sub-titling, except for those movies nominated for out of state awards. Trivandrum hosts the annual International Film Festival of Kerala which focuses on Asian and Latin movies, while Kochi hosts Kochi International Film Festival, mostly screening selection of world cinema and prominent Indian movies. Now a days several film societies do host regular movie festivals.
The traditional costumes of Kerala are called mundu and neriyathu, for both men and women. Sarees and blouses form the traditional costume of Kerala women. Kerala Mundu is very popular in the state and is worn by many men. Its a special white/cream colour dhoti worn across the waist. The dhothi has a golden thread work as a strip running down from the waist to bottom, and the width of the gold thread determines the cost. It is an elegant costume, mostly used for ceremonial purposess. The women’s Mundu Neriyathu is similar and has an upper shawl of same material. White colour is one of the most preferred in the state. Today different versions of Mundu and Neriyathu with different colours and motiffs is available.
The people of Kerala speak Malayalam (a palindrome when written in English). Most people understand basic English but cannot speak the same. Most of Kerala’s urban dwelling population are able to communicate in English and in ‘broken’ Hindi. But most of the rural population do not speak or understand Hindi. Most of the locals understand spoken Tamil with some difficulty. Kannada is only understood in districts bordering near Karnataka. Many Malayalees particularly in Malabar areas and among Gulf returnees, can understand basic Arabic and some can speak in a limited way. Almost all bus routes and other important signs including name boards are written in Malayalam and some are in English. Most City Bus destinations are prominently written in Malayalam, some having English signage represented in small fonts which is often difficult to read. All of the bus conductors and ticket checkers do understand English. Long Distance and Inter-state buses do carry English signage. Railways and other central government establishments use signs written in Malayalam, English and Hindi. Highway signs are normally in Malayalam and English. Most Kerala Government offices use only Malayalam signage and most Kerala Govt documents such as receipts and bills are in Malayalam. The only exception to this, would be Judicial Department and Courts, as they use English as official language for all its communications, even though the judicial transcripts are normally in Malayalam. Translation centers are normally seen near all court areas for the purpose.
Most of the signages of shops and other private establishments are normally written in English along with Malayalam. Most of the bills and other documents other than government’s will be in English.
Kerala Government Secretariat- The seat of Kerala Government
Kerala is a state in the Union of India. The state government has a cabinet of ministers headed by the Chief Minister. A Governor appointed by the Government of India has a titular role as head of state. Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) is the state capital and houses the Kerala Secretariat, the legislature house called Niyama Sabha and offices of various ministers and officials. The state is divided into 14 districts which are further divided into Taluks. Each district has a major city as its district headquarters, which houses offices of district administration. Each district administration is headed by a Government official known as District Collector. The Kerala High Court is located at Kochi.
Kerala is a traditional socialist leaning state, and has a strong communist movement. This was the second place in the world after San Marino where a communist government was elected to power through democratic means. Kerala’s communism today tends to be more like European socialism and which also focuses on a market economy and reforms. Kerala has a tradition of two major alliances: one led by the Communist Party of India called LDF (Left Democratic Front), and another led by the Indian National Congress called UDF (United Democratic Front). These tend to swing to power for alternate five year terms. The current government is lead by the LDF under the leadership of Pinarayi Vijayan who is the State Chief Minister.
Kerala has a strong decentralized government culture, by which local governments and district administration are empowered to take many decisions. Most of the government related applications and requests can be handled at local level. District Administrators known as Collectors do have wide range of powers being executive magistrates. Tourists can avail Visa related as well as immigration procedures either at office of the District Superintendent of Police (in smaller towns), City Police Commissionerate (in cities) or at the Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) in Trivandrum, Cochin (Airport) and Calicut.
Kerala Police has a specialized division known as Tourist Police with separate desks or aid posts to assist tourists over various issues.
Kerala has been through a period of strong growth with one of the highest per-capita income and poverty levels are extremely low compared to elsewhere in India. Most households have family members working somewhere outside the state, typically the Middle East, and their remittances make up for around 20% of the economy. Agriculture is highly focused on high value cash-crop cultivation such as rubber, tea, coffee, spices and coconut plantations. Tourism is now a booming industry in Kerala, and accounts for a significant part of the state’s economy. In addition, Kerala has a very powerful service sector such as banking & financial services, education, medicine & healthcare, entertainment, real estate, retail, logistics and trade etc which drives the economy in a very big way.
Famous for its heritage, spices, textiles and food, Malabar is one of India’s most notable historical regions
The largest urban agglomeration of Kochi, the cultural heart of Kerala-Thrissur, and food basket of Kerala-Palakkad are located here
Kerala’s backwaters,Ashtamudi Lake, and the land of churches, latex and literacy
Known for its mountains and hill stations, and plantations of spices, tea and coffee
Home to the capital city Thiruvananthapuram and various monuments, large temples, churches, and sporting events
The Napier Museum in Trivandrum
- Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) — The capital city housing the political administration, famous for its beaches, historical monuments and parks. The city is also famous for its temples,educational institutions, and research centres.
- Kollam (Quilon) — A tourist heaven famous for its Ashtamudi Lake, cashew & coir industries, surrounded by backwaters and lakes.
- Kochi (Cochin) — Kochi is a major port city and the largest urban agglomeration with unlimited shopping options. Kochi is the economic capital of Kerala. Kochi is very well connected with other cities of India. Known as ‘Queen of the Arabian sea”, the city’s heritage quarter- Fort Kochi is one of the most sought after destination in Kerala.
- Alapuzha (Alleppey) — popularly known as Venice of East due to its amazing network of canals, rivers, streams, lakes and backwaters, which doubles as both transport and leisure spots. The most sought destination for Backwater tourism.
- Kannur (Cannanore) — A historical town famous for its strong heritage, martial arts ‘Kalaripayattu’, temple art ‘Theyyam’, political movements, forts, beaches and spices/coffee growing hills.
- Kottayam — known for its latex, literacy and letters and as major educational centre. Munnar hill station is nearby.
- Kozhikode (Calicut) — Most prominent city of Malabar area,where Vasco da Gamma landed for the first time in India, and one of the world’s oldest thriving trade centres. A very clean city known for its friendly inhabitants and celebrated across the world in form of its vast array of cuisines.
- Palakkad (Palghat) — gateway to Kerala by land through the Palghat Pass in Western Ghats; known for its paddy (rice) fields, hills, traditional homes, cuisines and composite culture. Tipu Fort, Malampuzha Gardens, Silent Valley National Park are nearby.
- Thrissur (Trichur) — the cultural capital of Kerala and also famous for jewellery shops and silk sarees. Temple festivals with caparisoned elephants like Thrissur Pooram. Athirappilly falls, Guruvayur Temple are nearby.
The Chinese fishing nets of Kochi
- Bekal Fort — a massive coastal Portuguese fort in north Kerala
- Kerala Backwaters — Must Visit Ashtamudi Lake , Kollam, stretching across South central Kerala,
- Kovalam Beach — World famous beach near Trivandrum
- Kumarakom — backwater near Kottayam
- Munnar — Unspoilt hill station in tea growing hills and misty mountains
- Silent Valley National Park — rain forest with several endangered, protected species
- Thekkady — Periyar Tiger Reserve and elephant forests.
- Wayanad — Misty hills, caves, waterfalls and pristine forests
- Ponmudi — Hill station at Trivandrum, known for its beautiful scenery.
- Varkala — One of the busiest beach famous with foreign travellers.
Kerala is the only state in India that have two Indian Electronic Tourist Visa ETV (formely known as Visa on Arrival) entry ports for tourists at Kochi & Thiruvananthapuram  . The two airports have special desks for ETV passengers which can provide support to nationalities of Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Island,Chile, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand,Nicaragua, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Russia, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, USA, Vanuatu, Vatican City-Holy See, Vietnam 
For visa extensions FFRO (Foreigners Registration Regional Office) in Kochi, Trivandrum and Kozhikode as well as District Superintendent of Police are also empowered to do any changes related to visa area. Tourist Police stations do have help desks and support facilities for foreigners who want any visa change or visa extensions.
Cochin International Airport- Kerala’s largest airport
There are four International airports in Kerala, with flights to domestic and international destinations: Kochi(Cochin), Kozhikode(Calicut), Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum) , and Kannur(Cannanore) . The airports have several carriers operating international flights around the world.
- Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (IATA: TRV) Best connected to major cities in India and Abroad, Charter flights for tourism from London, New York and Moscow operate to Thiruvananthapuram.
- Cochin International Airport[] (IATA: COK) Europe and US bound passengers need to transit in the Middle East or Far East or Mumbai, though chartered flights are common during tourist season, mostly from Europe. There are regular Flights to most parts of India.
- Kozhikode International Airport (IATA: CCJ) is a major airport in Malabar with international connections to most of the cities in the Middle East.
- Kannur International Airport (IATA: CNN,ICAO: VOKN) is another major airport in Malabar with international connections to most of the cities in the Middle East.
In addition Mangalore Airport (IATA: IXE) and Coimbatore Airport (IATA: CJB) in neighboring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively are near to Kerala Borders and hence offers limited connectivity to Northern and Eastern districts of Kerala respectively.
There are 20 to 25 international carriers offering flights to Kerala. Apart from international carriers, Air India, Air India Express and Indigo offers international connections from the three airports. Domestic destinations accessible by direct flights from these airports include Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Agatti, Hyderabad, Mangalore, Pune, Goa and Delhi. There are daily flights to most Indian cities from airports in Cochin and Trivandrum by all the Indian carriers. Cochin has Air-Cruise turnaround program with chartered services.
Shuttles operated by KSRTC are available from airport to its respective city core and nearby towns. Taxis are the most popular for Airport-City connection.
Indian Railways  operates several trains to and from Kerala. More than 500 plus trains connect Kerala to all parts of India, including long-haul direct train services to cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata and Mumbai. Trivandrum Rajadhani, Ernakulam Durnoto, Kerala Express and Netravati Express are some of the most popular trains connect key cities across India.
Log on to the Indian Railways booking site  to book tickets online or you can walk up to any railway station to book tickets between any two destinations in India. Smart Phone/Tablets can view details via any apps 
Be aware that trains are the most popular method of transport and almost all trains in Kerala originate or terminate in Thiruvananthapuram or Kochi, and are usually heavily booked. Buy your tickets as early as possible. Another option is using Tatkal. You pay almost double, but have a chance of getting a seat. Tatkal is an emergency service, hence its booking is open just 24 hours before departure. Some travel agents have authorized booking quotas for certain trains.
Recently, the luxury tourist train The Golden Chariot has introduced a South Indian Rail Tour, which includes many parts of Kerala. This is a good option for those who want to visit the South Indian states on as tight schedule. The train starts from Bangalore and covers Chennai, Pondicherry, Trichy, Madurai, Trivandrum, Alapuzha, Kochi and back to Bangalore. The 7 night/8 day package tour, costs US$3,000-7,000 depending upon the class taken.
Inter-state private and government buses operates between neighboring states. Usually the journey is performed in the night so that you can escape the heat of the day. The most common inter-state bus is Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC-Karnataka) with daily bus from most of Major cities of Kerala to Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore. Tamil Nadu State Bus like SETC also operates regularly from Kerala. Kerala’s State bus- KRSTC-Kerala do have regular Ordinary bus to most of nearby places in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. KRSTC-Kerala also operates a few Volvo AC bus to Bangalore and Coimbatore.
However Private bus players to operate more buses than Govt options. Most of them are well maintained. Kallada, Shama, KPN are the major bus players, though recently Raj National and few others have entered with Pan India operations. Kallada, KPN, Shama etc have regular buses to Bangalore, Chennai and many other places in Tamil Nadu as well as Karnataka on various times
It is recommended that you consider booking long distance bus tickets on “air conditioned Volvo buses” operated by all operators as the quality of the other buses vary significantly.
Kerala is well connected by National Highways and recently it was renumbered. Both numbers are used interchangeably:
- NH 66 (Connecting Mumbai to Kanyakumari via Western coastal side of Goa, Karnataka and almost all coastal cities of Kerala like Kannur, Kozhikode, Kochi, Alapuzha, Kollam, Trivandrum etc) (Earlier known as NH 17)
- NH 544 (Connecting Salem with Kochi via Coimbatore, Palakkad, Thrissur (Earlier known as NH 47)
- NH 766 (Connecting Kozhikode to Mysore via Wayanad)(Earlier known as NH 212)
- NH 85 (Connecting Kochi to Ramaeswaram via Munnar, Madurai)(Earlier known as NH 49)
- NH 183 (Connecting Kollam to Dindigul in Tamil Nadu via Kottayam, Kanjirapally, Kumily and enters into Tamil Nadu at Kambam)(Earlier known as NH 220)
- NH 744 (Connecting Kollam with Madurai via Punalur, Shenkottai, Tenkasi)(Earlier known as NH 208)
- NH 966 (Connecting Palakkad with Kozhikode) (Earlier known as NH 213)
Most of the NH roads are two lane carriageways. Only NH 544 is currently 4 lane carriage with dedicated service roads. However its tolled highway. As vehicle density is very high in Kerala, accidents are common. You must be extra cautious while driving here. Watch out for potholes on the roads, road humps, jay walking and bikers overtaking you at high speeds from left. Seat belts are compulsory for car drivers and helmets compulsory for driver as well as the co-passenger
Kochi is a major cruise port and currently the most busiest cruise port in India. The port has International Cruise Facilitation Center and almost all major cruises that have global voyages have Kochi as port of call. All Lakshadweep bound cruises originate in Kochi and make return trips. There are also occasional tourist oriented cruises from Mumbai and Goa to Kochi
Also private yachts and other sea going boats regularly call at Kochi Marina. A few cruises call at Trivandrum.
Kerala is quite well connected with all modes of transport. The flat southern side is better connected than mountainous north. One of unique feature of Kerala, is its continuous urban and semi-urban areas across both sides of any road or rail. As a result, you might not feel you exited from village/city into another, being continuous. This helps in getting transport to travel around easily.
Unique to Kerala’s geographic feature, most of the key cities lie almost linearly on North-South axis, which almost are connected by one key Trunk road (NH 66) and one key rail route. Due to this advantage, its pretty easy to reach any major city by catching intercity/inter-state buses plying on these trunk routes.
Trains are good for long distance travel within the state. Most trains are long distance trains with stops at many of Kerala’s stations. Majority of trains enter into Kerala from Tamil Nadu on east side and Shornur being the major junction that divides rail line into Northern branch and Southern branch. Trains on Konkan route enters from Northern side of Kerala reach use Shornur to branch either eastward or southward. Trains on south route is one main line untill Ernakulam where it branches to Kottayam Line and Alleppey line and runs parallel to each other as Vembanadu Lake comes inbetween these places. Both the lines merges back at Kayamkulam and further proceed southward as one major line to Trivandrum and further southward to Kanya Kumari.
Short distance trains are mainly intercity passenger trains, connecting only major cities like Trivandrum, Kochi, Palakkad, Alapuzha, Kollam, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Kannur and Thrissur. The main Intercity trains are:
- Trivandrum-Mangalore Express which covers almost all major cities of Kerala on its west coast.
- Trivandrum – Kozhikode Jana Shatabdi Express is a fast services connecting via Ernakulam, Kottayam, Kollam.
- Trivandrum Guruvayur Intercity- very popular option for regular commuters working between cities.
- Trivandrum-Shornur Venad Intercity Express.
- Trivandrum-Palakkad Amrita Express.
- Kannur-Ernakulam Intercity Express.
Express trains are relatively faster, as they stop only at major stations and gets priority in event of crossing. Passenger trains stops at all stations in a route and can be held-up in event of an express train crossing, thus takes longer time. However latter is good option, if one needs to align at small village or town stations, not catered by express trains.
Railways have introduced MEMU services, between Kochi-Thrissur-Palakkad and Kochi-Kollam sector, similar to Mumbai’s Local trains, connecting all stations (small and big) on route, at increased speed.
Roads remain the primary popular options. Almost each nook and corner of the state is well connected by road. The primary roads are NH 66, NH 544, NH 85, NH 183, NH 744, NH 766 and NH 966 which all National Highways. The NH 66 is one of most busiest as it connects almost all cities of Kerala on West coast, especially connecting three major metros- Kozhikode, Kochi and Trivandrum which runs on North-South Axis. The NH 544 which connects Kochi to Coimbatore and further to Chennai and Bangalore is equally a very busy commercial route that connects on East-West axis and primary gateway route to Kerala.
The primary State Highway is MC Road (Main Central Road), which covers on the most scenic places in south Kerala connecting between Angamally, the Northern suburb of Kochi with Trivandrum, covering the high-land areas of eastern areas. However NH 66 cut the time at least by 1 hour for a travel between Kochi and Trivandrum as it uses the flat terrain of Alleppey coast on west.
State Highways connect to almost all parts of Kerala and Kerala has the highest density of roads in the country, connecting literarily every single village or part of the state. Most of the roads including NH are however bi-lane, so even narrow roads due to huge settlement on both sides of road and higher population density. Only NH 544 is 4/6 lane highway with dual carriageway, while rest all are 2 laned roads.
Signages are common everywhere, written in both Malayalam and English and sometimes in Hindi also. Roadside boards notifying the place name and speed are are well indicated in most of the highways. National Highways are written as NH within a Yellow/Green shield with the number, while State Highways are written as SH within Yellow/White shields. Roads without any shield indicates Panchyat/Local Municipal roads.
For NH (Non Urban areas)- 65 Km/Hr – 90 Km/Hr, For SH(Non Urban areas) – 50 Km/Hr – 80 Km/Hr, For Urban areas – Maximum limit- 40 Km/Hr
Most of the roads have radars and on-street cameras to catch speeding vehicles and fines bills will be send to licensee’s registered address via post.
Unless you seek adventure, its not advisable to drive a car. Narrow roads with bustling traffic with little driving discipline makes self drive not safe, especially those accustomed to western kind of driving. Most of Kerala highways are two-lane with no medians. Though many are recently upgraded to better standards with proper signages and markings, its equally common to see roads without these. Street lighting in most of highways and roads are non-existent, which makes night drive dangerous for people not accustomed. Driving is on the left, and all foreign drivers need a valid International Driving Licence attested by any Road Transport Office (RTO). Most of the bridges and few roads carry toll charges collected at manned toll plazas or checkpoints. Almost all tolls are uniformly charged separately for one/two way; 2 wheelers- Rs 3/5, 4 wheelers- Rs 5/10 and bus/minivans – Rs 15/25. Almost all the toll pass is valid for unlimited travel for a period of 24 hours, though a few bridges allow one time validity.
Car rental is not so popular among foreign visitors, particularly among westerners. Many car rental companies refuse to provide self-drive cars to Westerners. Normally a bank guarantee letter or security cheque/traveller’s cheque to the value of the car or a passport are taken as security for renting the car.
However chauffeured car rentals are available for visitors for daily or weekly or even monthly basis. No security deposit is needed if the car is chauffeur-driven. There are multiple car rental companies as well as call taxi agencies, operating in most of the towns. Equally in major cities, drivers can rented on daily basis, if you have a car availed from friends. Most hotels with three stars or more provide private cars for their guests at rates slightly higher than elsewhere.
Its pretty easy to travel across Kerala in tourist taxis. There is no formal color/livery for tourist taxis, but white cars with a taxi sign in black on the doors is commonly seen. Tata Indica, Toyota Innova and Maruti Swift Dezire are the most popular tourist vehicles nowadays. There is no meter system for any taxis in Kerala, while a few cab companies offers cabs with GPS facility. Equally, there are no cab top signs in these vehicles (however, according to state law all vehicles which are available for hire should have yellow number plates).
Regular taxis are normally available at designated taxi stands located at places such as railway stations, the airport, boat jetties, major bus stations and in front of important hotels. There is no need to negotiate prices, as most of them follow fixed rates. Regular taxis have tariff cards displayed on the dashboard. Call taxis have charges fixed by their respective companies (although they are normally uniform). It is more common to see such cabs mainly in cities. The standard tariffs are Rs 100 for first 5 km, and Rs 11 per km thereafter. Add 10% for a cab with A/C, and 25% at night. If taxis are operated for inter-city drop-off/pick-up etc, two way charges (both up & down) are needed to be paid, irrespective of whether its used or not.
Radio taxis are getting popular in major cities and several popular brands like Vayu Travels, Taxio, Fast Cabs, CelCabs, Bcabs etc operate there. Most of them are GPS enabled and many are monitored through control facilities. Uber and Ola, both app-based taxi services, are widely available in Kochi & Trivandrum and are cheap and safe options for intra-city travel within these cities.
Recently the state government introduced women-centric She-Taxis (lady taxis) in major cities like Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode and aims to cover entire Kerala by mid of 2016. The cars are exclusively driven by women and are a comfortable option for lady travelers and families. SheTaxis are GPS enabled modern fleet of vehicles that is constantly monitored from the control facility. This option is no available for single men and can be hailed only if there is at least one woman traveling. In other cities, lady taxis run by lady co-op societies like Kudumbashree are also getting popular though many are not GPS enabled.
In hilly areas, 6 seater SUVs (mostly of Mahindra, colloquially called ‘Jeeps’ or ‘Truckers’ ) are more common as taxis. The hilly terrains demand 4 wheel drive vehicles as taxis. However normal taxis from other parts do operate to such areas, though in some difficult areas, a change of vehicle might be required. One can find such trucker stands near the main junction of small towns in the region. The rates are usually higher and you might need to negotiate with the driver beforehand.
Many cab companies also offer full or half day services. Typical rates are Rs 1,100/1,500 for standard/AC cabs for a full day and Rs 500/750 for a half day. Evening rates with a hike of 25% is applicable after 8 PM and its common to pay driver an additional amount for an overnight stay during the trip known as bata.
There is no share-taxi system as such in Kerala, even though car-pooling among employees of same company or locality are getting popular. However, it is not uncommon to see taxi operators operating on the shared basis if the original hirer gives consent for so. Please be aware, such sharing of taxi is Illegal as per the law and if caught, the driver, owner and all the passengers in the taxi at the time are liable to be punished by fines. However, this is often unenforced and even if caught it usually gets overlooked as the passengers can claim each other as friends.
Motorbikes & Cycles
Some people point out that the best way to experience Kerala is on a motorbike. Riding a motorbike and travelling across state you get the closer look and feel of God’s own country with all the smells and sounds added. There are companies which organize packaged tours or tailor made tours for enthusiastic bikers and adventurous travellers for a safer motorbike experience of India with regular promotions mostly through online forums and Facebook.
Purchase of bikes among tourists are not popular, unless one plans to have an extended stay. There are several motorcycle clubs and rental agencies that provide motorbikes on rent even on monthly basis. Such agencies can be found in tourist areas like Kovalam, Varkala, Fort Kochi, Cherai, Alleppey, Kozhikode etc. A check with local District Tourist Office (DTPC) or local travel agencies/travel desks etc can help to identify the local agencies.
Off-recently bicycle rentals are gaining much popular in the state. Cycle safari tours in many cities are increasing to help tourists to get first hand experience. There are cycle clubs as well as cycle stands in many key cities like Kochi & Trivandrum. For local city explorations, cycles are a reasonable option, but be aware that there are very few (if any) reserved cycle paths available and you will need to negotiate unruly traffic.
By hitch hiking
Unlike other states, hitchhiking is not a very popular option in Kerala, especially for foreign tourists. Since Kerala does not have any deserted long highway, being a continuous stretch of urban areas on sides of any highway, its perfectly possible to get any form of public transport or services like auto-rickshaws.
However, hitch-hiking is possible in hilly terrains and plantation areas where farm vehicles or bikes do stop and help travellers on road.
Bus transport is most popular transport to travel within Kerala and ideal for budget conscious travellers. Kerala has an excellent public bus system operated by both government-owned Kerala State Road Transport Corp (KSRTC-Kerala) and various private operators. All fares are determined by Transport Department and uniform across the state in accordance to nature of buses. Typically, there are 6 class of buses
- Ordinary (ORD), which is a basic, no-frills services with covering short and medium distance areas with stoppages at all legal stops in its authorised route. The minimum fare is Rs 6 with 58 paise for every km
- Fast Passenger (FP), is better service covering large distances with limited stops, only at main villages or towns. Also known as Limited Stop Bus with initials LS/FP marked in red or white within a circle in its route board. The minimum fare is Rs 8 with 62 paise for every km.
- Super Fast (SF), also known as Express Services, connects only major towns and district headquarters. The minimum fare is same as of FP, however it costs 65 paise for every km.
- Deluxe Express (LF), also known as Super Express in some places, is a strictly point-to-point services, connecting major cities with technical stops only in major cities. This services uses larger air-suspension bus with comfortable cushion seats. The minimum fare is Rs 25 with 70 paise for every km
- AC Lowfloor Buses, operated by wholly owned subsidiary called as KURTC, this is a semi Urban-Highway connect service connecting small towns in a region to major cities. The buses are normally Volvo Low floor buses air-conditioned. The minimum fare is Rs 40 with 1.10 Rs per Km.
- SilverJet Fast, is a new pan Kerala service connecting Trivandrum in South to Kasargod in North as well as few major cities in central region to both the ends of the state. The air-bus are non air-conditioned, but offers push back fully reclinable seats, wifi facility, video screens and live monitoring. The buses has only very limited stops, limiting to one per district.
In addition, KSRTC operates air-conditioned premium buses known either as Garuda services, in a limited manner between major cities, as part of inter-state services. The fares of inter-city of such services are Rs 35 as minimum fare with Rs 1 to Rs 1.2 for every Km depending upon type of bus.
KSRTC brands all SF/FP operating in northern districts as Malabar and Venad for all South Kerala districts. Note for the initials, to differentiate whether its FP or SF. Though KSRTC services are not known for its comfort, its one of the most reliable services in the country, with punctuality at its top order. Whereas private bus services are not keen in punctuality, but keen in maintaining the bus and its comfort level. In some places, there exists unhealthy competition among private operators, in regard to the speed and time taken to cover the scheduled distance, making the services erratic.
While KSRTC has different liveries for each of class of service (red for Ordinary, green for FP, blue-white for SF), private operators has no uniform liveries and paint according to their choice. Most of the private bus services are known popularly among locals in the name of the bus company like Angel, Rajesh, Kallara etc. The name are normally written in super-size on top of the windscreen, mostly in English.
All KSRTC buses have its own bus depots or stations in major towns and villages and stops only at those stops that displays its logo. Whereas private buses do stop at any convenient part of towns and villages, though in few cities it has its own private bus stands and stations. Check with locals, to know where each class of bus operates. There is no route numbering for buses in Kerala. Destination will be written in bold on Windscreen as well as side of the buses in Malayalam and English (not in all cases), along with on-route places written below to it, mostly in Malayalam. Most of the ticket-conductors can help with basic simple English.
While KSRTC mostly issues e-ticket slips, private buses normally go for traditional paper slips with destination hand-written or color coded. Retain the ticket till end of the journey, as often ticket-inspectors may board in-between for surprise checks and in event of loss of ticket, you are liable for fine for a travel rate from place where the bus originated.
Most of the buses are crowded and travelers would do well to beware of pickpockets.
By convention, ladies and children occupy the front side of buses and single males towards back.
Also called autos, these three wheelers are a convenient mode of transport for very short distance travel. By law the auto driver has to start a meter for every journey. However at times this law tends to be overlooked. It is wise to ask the driver, politely, to ensure he starts the meter at the start of your journey or negotiate and fix the price of the trip before boarding, to avoid unnecessary arguments at the end of the trip. The general behavior of drivers varies places to places. While places like Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kottayam etc have some of the best friendly drivers who go beyond to help passengers, drivers in major cities like Kochi, Trivandrum etc are often reported to be errant. Must apply lots of common senses, especially when dealing with drivers in touristy places like Alleppey, Munnar, Fort Kochi, Wayanad etc, where they trend to appear helpful and drive the passengers to the places where they get hefty commissions or rewards.
Generally the fares of autos are higher than government fixed rates, citing unrealistic govt decisions and frequent rise in petrol/diesel prices. In most of places, an ad-hoc arrangement of rates fixed among auto-drivers are common.
Most of adhoc arrangement rates are Rs 20 as flagdown rate for first 2kms and Rs 12 per km and Rs 15 per km as evening/night rates (Govt fixed rates are much lower with Rs 10 as flagdown rate and Rs 7 per km). A check with locals will help to know the such rates, as the rates may go higher if they find the person who doesn’t know the rates or foreigners.
Most of the larger railway stations and all the airports as well as in key junctions of tourist places, have pre-paid auto-rickshaw and/or taxi stands. Just tell them where you want to go and you will get a slip of paper with the destination and amount written on it. Pay only that amount of money and nothing more. You can seek assistance of Tourist Police, deployed in touristy places.
Off late a hybrid form of vehicles known as Auto-Taxis are launched in the state. They are 4 wheeler Tata Iris vehicles, akin to Tata Nano. It has a D+1+3 configuration typical to standard taxis, but charge normal city autorickshaw rates. They usually ply in light green livery, though there isn’t an official standard yet. They are mostly available on call, if one knows the number of driver or can be hired from road or from Auto-Taxi stands mostly near crowded places like railway stations, markets/malls etc. As they usually have a pan-Kerala taxi permit, it can also be used to travel medium haul distances like a trip to nearby town or village.
The state government provides subsidies to women for purchase of Auto-Taxis as part of employment generation programmes. As a result of this there are many women driven Auto-Taxis in major cities like Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode etc. These are a good option as they tend to be driven safer and is appealing especially for women travellers.
Kerala has an extensive series of water bodies with rivers, backwaters and lagoons making travel by ferry an effective service. In some places, ferries are more popular and easier than road transport. Most of the places in Alapuzha-Kuttanad area is interconnected with regular ferry services.
The main waterways route, served by Kerala Water Transport Department boats are as follows
- (1) Ashtamudy lake – 200 sq kms, connecting various points in Kollam district.
- (2) Vembanattu lake – 52 sq kms, connecting between districts of Alapuzha and Kottayam and numerous of canals in Kuttanad
- (3) Ernakulam – Vypeen – Fort Cochin ferry (Cochin port & Harbour)
- (4) Muhamma – Kumarakom, connecting islands within Kottayam district
- (5) Vaikom – Thavanakkadavu , connecting Kottayam with Ernakulam districts.
- (6) Payyannur – Parassinikkadavu, connecting various parts of Kannur district.
SWTD charges tickets between places, which is pre-determined. Most of the tickets costs between Rs 3 to RS 11. Certain services, especially those operate between Alleppey-Kollam are Double Decker in nature, which has no-frills ordinary class at lower deck and premium class, mostly intended for tourists, in upper deck. Premium class costs inbetween Rs 200 to Rs 500 per trip.
The frequency of ferries varies from station to station. The average waiting time is 10 Mins. Services commences from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily, though in some places in Alleppey, Kottayam and Kollam districts, services are extended upto 10:00 PM, due to demand. Some ferries requires minimum number of passengers to operate.
In some places, RO-RO ferries operates known as Junkars that help ferrying vehicles. Rates for vehicles for RO-RO services vary for Rs 50 to 120 per vehicle, depending upon size of vehicle.
Most of the ferries vary from traditional wooden boats to modern fiber-glass built ones and considered safe in general. Expect heavily crowded during peak hours of morning and evening.
Helicopter and air-taxi services are available from Kochi and Trivandrum. These can be chartered for trips between these cities and a few tourist spots and some towns. Be prepared to spend a lot for this though.
Scheduled passenger airline services by the domestic carriers Indigo & Air India are available from Trivandrum to Kochi (3x daily, 45 minutes) and Kozhikode (1x daily, 1 hr), and from Kochi to Kozhikode (1x daily, 45 minutes). Do take into consideration that the Kochi airport is around 30km (1.25 hours) away from the city, Trivandrum airport is 6km (15 minutes) away from the city and Kozhikode airport is 27km (1 hour) away from the city. It might make more sense to take a train or travel by road depending on your situation.
A typical houseboat floating down the backwaters near Alleppey in Kerala.
Kerala is a long state by virtue of its geography and its advised to check individual cities and regions, to know local sightseeing attractions, restaurants, hotels etc.
Due to its unique geography, Kerala gets rain for at least 7-8 months of the year and the forests are classified as rainforests. There are many opportunities to trek, camp and see wildlife.
- Backwaters of Kerala are a maze of lagoons criss-crossed with rivers, shallow pools and canals, all separated from the sea by a narrow strip of sand banks. In many places, the backwaters connect to form large lakes. Backwaters are present throughout the state Astamudi Lake is highly unique due to its topography. This is the most beautiful backwater of Kerala
- The annual Vallam Kali boat races take place in the backwaters. The boats are large wooden canoes that can accommodate 60 to 100 rowers. The most famous race is for the Nehru Trophy Vallam Kalli, held on the second Saturday of August as a tribute to the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who had a keen interest in this sport.
- The Blue Mountains of the Western Ghats, popularly known as Nilgiris which has numerous hill stations in this area. The most popular is Munnar, the honeymoon capital of the state. The highest peak of the Western Ghats is located at Anamudi (2,695 metres) and is good for trekking. The area is also home to several sanctuaries and forest reserve areas.
- Several small and big Hill stations, spread in Eastern Districts of Kerala are highly popular picnic spots. Wayanad and Idukki offers several such idyllic picnic spots.
- There are more than two dozen waterfalls, both large and small, with numerous rapids and springs. The largest fallwaters are at Athirampally, where three milky waterfalls fall at great speed.
- Periyar National Tiger Park, Eravikulam Reserve, Silent Valley Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Reserves are some of the most popular tourist destinations, offering spectacular insights to the rich flora and fauna biosphere of Kerala. Many of these parks are well known internationally due to presence of exotic animals like Nilgiri Tahr, Gaur, Indian Muntjac, Sambar Deer, Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Dhole, leopard and the Indian Tigers, which many are endangered rare species. Some little known animals such as Nilgiri langur, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Indian Porcupine, Nilgiri Marten, small clawed otter, Ruddy Mongoose, and Dusky striped squirrel offers a visual treat to tourists. Wild elephant herds making seasonal visits to water bodies are also seen in many of these parks.
- Kerala also has several bird parks, with more than 132 species of birds on record. Thattekkad Salim Rajan Bird Park is one such famous destination along with Malayatoor Forest Reserves
- Mango Meadows Agricultural Theme Park is world’s 1st Agricultural Theme Park located at Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district. The park covers 30 acres with more than 4800 species of plants, including 1900 species of medicinal plants, 700 species of trees and 900 species of flowering plants. Main attractions in the Park are: Biggest Bible Statue measuring 25 ft by 25 ft; Bird Sancutary; Nakshatra Kavala, a pool of trees associated with each birth-star; Animal Husbandry; Sarppakkavu, the Sacred forests of Kerala; Mosque; World’s Tallest Statue of Parashurama of 35 ft in height and Telescope Tower.
- Many popular hill-stations like Nelliyampatty, Peechi Dam, Ranipuram, Vythiri and Kumarakom offers unique natural wildlife parks, with lots of rare flora and fauna to be explored.
The world famous Kovalam beach, well known for fun and frolic
Kerala has 650 km of coastline and numerous beaches. Some of the more notable are:
- Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum has a good bathing area, clean environment and plenty of accommodation. This was a centre of Hippy counter-culture in sixties, and is today well known for hedonistic beach parties.
- Varkala Beach in Thiruvananthapuram district – A long cliff makes the beach more natural (no restaurant behind you). It is long beach with natural springs from the cliff.
- Thirumullavaram Beach in Kollam district – A unique beach in the world where you can walk in the sea water for 1/2 KM because of its unique topography
- Alapuzha Beach and Kollam Beach are both well known for beach sports and tournaments.
- Marari is an upcoming location with quite a few resorts along the way and an hour away from Kochi.
- Cherai Beach near Kochi city has a large sand beach.
- Kozhikode Beach is where Vasco da Gama first landed in India, marking the start of European colonisation and the Age of Discovery.
- Muzhappilangadu near Kannur is the country’s lone drive in beach in Kannur district with lush greenery around. This beach has a naturally clean and closely packed sand which makes it drivable. Beach is very long 4-5 km and is a pleasant place to spend time. Lots of adventure activities like para gliding/ para sailing etc. are arranged in this beach regularly.
- The Palaces at Sree Padmanabhapuram located 30 km from Trivandrum are the largest palaces ever constructed from wood and granite in India. These were the Royal Headquarters of Travancore until early 20th century.
- The Hill Palace in Kochi, houses more than 200 artifacts including the highly valuable Cochin Crown as well as other rare Crown Jewels.
- The forts at Bekal, Palakkad and Thalassery date from the pre-British Raj era.
- The Cherman Perumal Mosque at Kodungallor is the world’s second oldest intact mosque and houses many rare artifacts.
- The “Dutch Palace” at Mattancherry built by the Portuguese by 1555.
- There are numerous museums, palaces and historical places in all districts.
Kerala Niyama Sabha- the legislature body located in Trivandrum
Kerala was the first state to formally embrace the eco-tourism concept in South Asia, and has made considerable strides in this respect.
- Akkalum Tourist Village in Trivandrum is set in a very clean and green environment. There is a floating bridge and beautiful landscaped gardens. Many famous statues and sculptures dot the area.
- Thenmala Eco-Tourist Village in Kollam is the first such place in India, with an intense focus on the natural environment. Exhibits include 27 rare trees, a butterfly garden, nature trail, a deer park, lotus garden, jasmine garden, many sculptures and a large musical fountain. Adventure sports, trekking, boating and fishing are some of activities offered.
- Kumbalangi Model Village for Sustainable Tourism near Kochi was once a sleepy fishing village. Today it is a popular visitor atraction with a planned focus on sustainability. There are many small homestays where visitors can interact with locals, understand their lifestyle, go fishing, learn recipes etc.
See Religious destinations of Kerala for details
Kerala is famous for its religious harmony. Keralites are very religious people and religious functions dominates all walks of life. However religion donot make the final word in anybody’s life here, thus its an very open society for debate and discussions about religions.
|There are two types of Ayurvedic establishments: Ayurvedic Hospitals and Ayurveda Resorts
Enjoying an Ayurveda Massage while in Kerala is always a priority for tourists. While the Ayurvedic Hospitals are for treatment of serious ailments, diseases and disorders, the Ayurveda Spas/resorts are more suited to rejuvenation combining hospitality along with traditional ayurvedic treatments.There are many popular Ayurvedic themed resorts which mix treatment with pleasure. Ayurvedic hospitals however are legally authorised medical centres and formally authorised to prescribe Ayurvedic medicines. Many Ayurvedic medicines and oils can be readily purchased without medical prescription as they they have an enduring reputation for being free of any significant known side effects. Indeed they are often sought out for that reason.Leaf RatingsGovernment of Kerala has made a rating system to be displayed at the reception of government authorized Ayurvedic centers. This is similar to a star rating for hotels and they are called Green Leaf and Olive Leaf ratings. Olive Leaf is given to small and mid-sized ayurvedic centers that meet the government criteria. While the Green leaf indicates larger ayurvedic centers having superior facilities. Unauthorised massage centres are mainly sex shops in disguise. While Ayurvedic medical clinics are included in Leaf ratings, no Ayurvedic hospitals are given a Green Leaf, as they are classified as medical centres. Most 3 star and above hotels have inhouse Ayurvedic spas, either olive or green leaf rating.
Travel planners like Vayu Travels can plan your itinerary and provide relevant details and bookings regarding various cultural and adventurous itineraries within Kerala
- A cruise on the * Backwaters of Kerala, is a popular visitor pastime. Try getting a houseboat from Ashtamudi Lake. An individual houseboat can be rented in 24 hour and 12 hour blocks. Rates differ according to the season and duration.
- Boating in Akkalum tourist village in Veli (Near Trivandrum) as well as in Astamudi Lake in Kollam, Kochi Harbour, Kallai River of Kozhikode, Malampuzha Reservoir in Palakkad, Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Neyyar Dam (Adventure because of its crocodile infested area) in Trivandrum, Thenmala Eco-Village in Kollam; offers some good sightings in these areas as well as offers a good pleasure trip worth for an experience
- Try using village canoe yourself in Canals of Ashtamudi Lake Its surely going to make you try again and again.
- Speed cruise in Akkulam Tourist Village in Trivandrum as well as Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam backwaters is a good choice. Akkulam has a wide range of speed cruise from Jet ski to Water Scooters and Speed Boats as well as Banana Boats.
- If you love adventure, try boarding any Fishing vessel, for a trip to High seas. Its something really adventurous. For more extreme adventurous person, a trip using traditional Fishing boat, is more thrilling due to use of narrow body boats without any machines, used by fishermen in coastal areas. You can experience the thrills of High seas.
- Kerala Shipping Corporation has introduced Kochi Cruise, that have 2 type of cruises covering both Kochi Harbour Backwaters and nearby High seas. The evening cruise is the most interesting, due to the experience of cruising while at sunset and sightings of several dolphins in the Kochi Highseas.
Pullikalli-Tiger Dance as part of Onam Celebrations
See Festivals of Kerala for further details.
Kerala is considered as land of festivals, with numerous festivals falling across the year. The national festival of Kerala is Onam, marking 10 day long festivities across the state, happening between August-September. Another big festival is X’mas due to large Christian population in the state, celebrated in grand zest in many cities, particularly in Kochi and Kottayam. All Muslim festivals are celebrated among the community in grand way, especially in Malabar where they form majority. Apart from major religious festivals, most of temples hosts annual festivals as part of anniversary celebrations, famous for large parade of decorated elephants, temple orchestration and fireworks. The most famous among them is Thrissur Pooram celebrated in the Thrissur town during April-May.
Other major festivals celebrated are Vishu (Malayalam New Year day mostly on April 14th), Thiruvathira (considered sacred for Hindu women celebrated during December) and Holy Easter Week. National secular holidays like Independence Day (August 15th), Republic Day (January 26th), Naval Week (December 1st week), Nehru Trophy Vallam Kalli (Snake-boat race in Alleppy on 2nd Saturdays of August) etc are celebrated in grand way in various cities.
Ayurvedic treatment, is the key USP of Kerala
- Kerala is world famous for the ancient healing art of Ayurveda. This 5000 years old healing tradition is known to heal chronic illnesses naturally. Hundreds of government run and private Ayurvedic hospitals and treatment centres are spread across the state that offer ayurvedic treatment for almost every health condition. Due to tourism boom, Ayurvedic Spas too have become popular for offering massage, and other traditional treatments. Ayurveda is a complete medical system which has cure for all kinds of health issues. Some diseases which are incurable in Modern medicine has remedy in Ayurveda, for example a genetic disease of the eye named Retinitis pigmentosa makes a person blind as his age advances for which Ayurvedic medicine offers cure. So in case of any serious ailment or for genuine ayurvedic treatment it is recommended to go to any of the famous Ayurvedic hospitals. Some of the most established ayurvedic centres in kerala are Kottakkal Arya vaidyasala, Samajam Ayurveda, Dharma Ayurveda, Vaidyaratnam, Abad Revival, Nambiaparambil Ayurevedic Hospital, MVR Ayurveda Medical College Hospital and Dr Veena’s Ayurmantra
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- Canoeing: Canoeing is a favorite sport among the tourists of Kerala and among the local inhabitants of the state. A canoe is a small 2-3 seater boat which is rowed by the sailors. Canoeing expeditions are undertaken in Kerala by groups of tourists and such sashays are often arranged by tourist operators on request. One can find many canoe races among tourists in Backwaters of Kollam.
- Catamaran Sailing: A catamaran is small often wooden vessel with twin hulls joined together. Catamarans are usually set sail across the backwaters of Kerala nowadays motorised catamarans are in vogue along with traditional oar propelled ones giving the tourists of the state more variety to indulge in. Catamaran sailing can be seen in Kollam Beaches and limited usage in Kozhikode Barbour. The government discourages this, due to absence of safety measures, hence such sporting options must be done under personal risk.
- Kayaking: Kayaking requires high levels of physical fitness. A Kayak is a small one or two man boat which the rowers actuate with twin paddled oars. Kayaking can be undertaken on rocky rapids (similar to white water rafting) or on calm sea waters. The backwaters of Kerala are extremely conducive to such sea kayaking. Kollam Backwaters, particularly Ashtamudi Lake has many good areas for Kayaking.
- Trekking is a good option. Lot of trekking options prevails in Palakkad and Kottayam districts, which are safer. Trekking in Idukki and Wayanad is also good, but is much more adventurous and not as safe. Do contact DTPC of these districts available at district capitals to know more about it. Kottayam mountains are the best for anybody to trek, whereas trekking at Iddukki is surely for the experts. Vagamon and nearby areas have lot of short trekking options.
- Rock Climbing – Popular in the Munnar mountains, which are more rocky in nature and have cliffs that make for a real adventure. Areas near Poojnar in Kottayam also have options for rock climbing.
- Mountain Biking – Popular in hill station areas, especially for racing. Ponmudi in Trivandrum, Munnar, Thekkady, Vagamon, and Nelliyampatty are main centres for mountain biking and racing.
- Mountain Hiking – is also emerging as a popular sport, to conquer the largest peak of Western Ghats- Anamudi in Iddukki district. Many Mountain hikers go in search of tall peak points, for hiking options. Need to check at Iddukki, Palakkad and Kottayam districts.
- Para gliding – Para gilding are available at Munnar and Varkala. A try is surely something you going to cherish, due to the natural beauty and the extreme thrill associated with it. Recently Vagamon has emerged as one of the popular centre for Para gilding, due to its less mountainous terrain and vast expanse of open space, coupled with scenic beauty. Recently it was chosen as permanent centre for Kerala Para-gliding Prix. ASSTA Kochi is one of the premier sporting agency in Kerala ((91)94472-88252, 98470-59735)
- Para Sailing: Parasailing is a water sport commonly indulged in Kerala’s beaches and sea side resorts. This highly recreational sport is one of the primary adventure sports in Kerala’s many beaches. Commonly seen in Varkala, Kovalam, Cherai beaches. Recently started in Kannur beach too.
- Scuba Diving: Scuba diving is deep sea diving with an oxygen pack fitted to the diving suit so that the diver does not need to depend on any surface supplied equipment. The deep Arabian Sea off Kerala shores makes scuba diving a veritable pleasure sport. The rich underwater flora and fauna attracts the diver over the risks involved in the sport. Mainly done in Kochi Backwaters and Highseas area. This yet has not emerged as a popular sporting in Kerala, though its popular in nearby Lakshadweep seas, from the Kochi Cruisers.
- Snorkeling: Snorkeling is a major tourist recreation at the beaches of Alappuzha, Kovalam and Varkala. It involved swimming at the surface of the deep sea equipped with a snorkel or a breathing tube and mask. It allows the diver to view the natural underwater bounties and the diversity of marine life.
- Wind Surfing: Windsurfing is skimming the water face on a surfboard with a revolving sail. The skill of the surfer is tested in maneuvering the craft amidst the high waves and tearing winds. Windsurfing is a sport that rouses much interest in the numerous beaches that fringe coastal Kerala. This is not as popular as other sports, though at Kovalam and Varkala, one can find some wind surfers.
- Oxen Racing:- Oxen racing is an adventure sporting, where the racer needs to drive two oxens tied to wooden boards and need to make 5 circles around the paddy field. This is a popular village-side sports, especially done before sowing season, to make soil ploughable, while providing an entertainment option. Traditionally tourists are not encouraged to take part in this sport, as it requires high level of skill and expertise, though recently many tour companies are catering this option to their adventurous guests.
- Tree Climbing:- Tree climbing is an adventure sporting, similar to rock climbing. After rock climbing and surfing, adventure travellers are turning to tree climbing in Kerala. For tree climbing, age and fitness levels are not a bar. The tree climbing sub-culture involves bestowing every new climber with a name, Jenkins is called Treeman and Kovar goes by the name Tengu. Climbing equipment, including a seat and pedal unit, are provided for safety.
- Much like elsewhere in India, lot of sport options exist in Kerala, mainly limited to Football, Cricket, Volleyball, Athletics. Malayalees are well-known for their passion for Volleyball and Athletics. Majority of great Indian Volley-ball players and famous athletes of which many are Olympians are from Kerala.
- Play Volley-Ball at Kerala’s beaches as many locals do play this in evenings. You can join them.
- Soccer is a passion for majority of Malabar people who love to spend whole day and night in various Foot-ball stadiums. You can join with them for a round of soccer or cheer soccer teams while in their play.
- Golfing is a good option, though a limited one. Traditionally Golf is considered as a Game for Rich in Kerala, hence one can find good Golf-Courses only in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Trivandrum Golf Course is the Oldest Golf-course in Commonwealth and a very good place to play with holes. The Bolgatty Palace Hotel in Cochin has a private Golf Course for its guests, which was the traditional golf-course once used by British Residents and Nobles of Royal English Residency of Cochin. Recently Cochin Airport has opened a state-of-the-art 18 hole golf course, which is good place to play as well as learn Golf. Munnar has a golf course called High-Range Golf Club which is a scenic place to play. There are few small golf clubs in Iddukki and Kottayam districts, which are mainly limited to its members, though tourists may be allowed to pay at slightly higher fees.
- Like elsewhere in India, cricket is the most hottest craze among youngsters and you can find most of them playing in very large open spaces and fields. Regular cricket tournaments are held in Kerala. Try a game with Bat and ball.
- Indoor stadiums are common in most of the large metros and district headquarters. Most of the indoor games are played at many clubs and tourist recreation centres. The popular indoor games are Table tennis, Badminton and cards. Think of such options in these areas. Most of the hotels do have large swimming pools, which are good places for swimming. Else the Kerala Water sports complex in Trivandrum and Indoor Sports Centre in Kochi, provides olympic size pools for various water games.
- Jungle Safari. Kerala has many natural rain forests, with lots of unique flora and fauna. A trek in the forests of Kerala can offer a unique experience. Many forests are protected and to enter in any forest area, you require permission from Forest Office. Guards from the Forest Office may be required to accompany you due to presence of wild animals and to liaise with local tribespeople in some forests such as the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Malayatoor Forest Division, Silent Valley Rain forest in the Nilgiri Hills of Palakkad district, Wayanad forest division and Nilambur Teak forests. A request is required to be made at the Forest Headquarters in Trivandrum or Range Offices at the entrance of each Forest division. Entering forests without permission is an offence and punishable with charges of trespassing. Hunting and environmental disturbance is also an offence. You don’t require Forest Guard protection services to enter Chalakudy Forest division a place very popular for use as a movie location. Agastyakoodam in Trivandrum is famous for high medical value flora. Nelliyampatty Forest division in Palakkad requires a prior check with local Range office or Forest office before proceeding. You need a Forest permit to enter any forest region and must assure that you do not offer anything to local tribespeople or disturb them in any way. Kerala tourism, in association with the Forest Office have organised some deep jungle safaris. Jungle lodges are available in outer areas of some of the forests. Check with KTDC or DTPC for more details
- Elephant Safari:- If you are in Kerala, elephants safaris are one of the best way to keep amused. Riding on top of an 8 foot animal, will surely make you excited and thrilled. Elephant safaris are common in many tourist places like Thenmala Eco-tourist Village and at Kodanadu Elephant Training centre near Kochi as well as in Periyar Tiger reserve area. Please note that the comfort and conditions the animals are kept in may not be exactly of a high standard.
- Bullock Cart Safari:- An experience of being in olden days in this modern era. A must try option while visiting any village in Palakkad or in Kuttanad in Alleppey or any Malabar side village, can surely make you feel the common man’s mode of transport of bygone era.
- Nilgiri Safari:- A safari by foot over deep forests, mountainous terrain, plains at Nilgiris, to enjoy the sightings and sound of lonely Nilgiris mountains, enjoy the company of protected Tahrs and deers, mesmerised with the beauty of golden plains. Surely Nilgiri safari has all these to offer.
Bank and money
Kerala has one of the best banking systems in India, thus cards (both debit, credit and cash cards) are widely accepted in almost all towns and cities. Banks, money exchange facilities and ATMs are widespread. Traveller’s Cheques are accepted in almost all banks. Credit and local debit cards are widely accepted in towns. Rural areas traditionally have a cash-based society, though credit/debit cards are widely accepted in tourist-oriented villages and areas. Foreign credit cards and debit cards (mostly Visa/Master cards) are accepted in almost all places. There is a cash limit that can be drawn per day, limiting to Rs 10,000 (US$ 200) when drawn thro’ ATMs. A surcharge of Rs 50 (US$ 1)is charged for transactions beyond first ten transactions in a month. Foreign currency can be converted into Indian Rupees at any authorised money changers or nationalised banks up to Rs 50,000 in value (in one transaction) and any amount above this, requires a bank account and Indian PAN Card. Foreign currencies are not accepted anywhere in Kerala, except in airports.
The largest Kerala bank is Federal Bank with its headquarters in Aluva,Kochi, with wide range of branches across the state. Major Kerala banks include, State Bank of Travancore, South Indian Bank, Catholic Syrian Bank, and Dhanalakshmi bank, apart from almost national bank brands. International Banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and CitiBank operate mainly in Kochi and Trivandrum.
Service charges are common in hotels and restaurants which will be normally included in your bill (standard is 10%, which varies depending upon the status and rankings, but not beyond 15%). In addition to this, tipping is common everywhere and its a social norm to pay tip in hotels as well as restaurants which is normally in between Rs 10 to Rs 20. In larger five star hotels or similar large restaurants, the tipping norm is normally 10% or 12% of your bill value. No tip is given for auto or taxi drivers, though over-night taxi drivers have to be pay bata (official tip) which shall be charged separately in your taxi bill.
Currency Exchange is very easy in Kerala, as there are many international money changers as well as forex players across the state.
Kerala is generally an expensive destination when compared to elsewhere in India.
Budget tourists normally require Rs 1,000 (US$20) per day for a decent stay including food. They can depend ordinary restaurants or road-side hawkers (called Thattukadas) for their food which costs less than Rs 40 (less US$1). Middle class tourists must keep around Rs 1,400-Rs 2,000 (US$24-US$40) per day a stay in pretty good hotel and for food in standard restaurants. For rich, Kerala is a destination that costs normally beyond Rs 4,000 (US$80).
Shopping is a national hobby in Kerala, with vast options in all metros. Do shop during Onam or Christmas seasons. Its going to be amazing rock bottom discounts, that make you mad with shopping. The best shopping during Onam is white goods and electronics, whereas its more of dress and jewelery shopping during Christmas, though you get discounts for all in these seasons.
To cash on Shopping Tourism, Kerala Government organizes Grand Kerala Shopping Festival , that aims to transform Kerala into one-stop shopping destination. Special events, huge discounts and mega raffles are the key highlights of the event. The Mega raffles of 101 Kg of Gold as well as daily and weekly draws, on-spot scratch win cards and mobile SMS based prizes, do pull large number of tourists. Kochi is the key hub of the festivities, while other cities have themed activities and shopping options through participating outlets. Almost every shop has a sale, starting in December and ending in January.
Apart from regular shopping, consider the following in your shopping list, as made in Kerala items.
- A wide range of coconut shell products can be found in Alleppey, most of them hand-made.
- While visiting Aranmula, a small town in Pathanamthitta, you will find for sale the famous Aranmula Mirror – a mirror made out of metal instead of glass, using a metallurgic formula which is a closely guarded secret. Very expensive option, but a truly unique souvenir.
- A visit to any emporium will reveal a lot of handicrafts. Kerala is famous for its wooden crafts, brass items models of cultural icons like vallam (snake boats), urus (sailboats), elephants in temple festival style, artifacts like traditional jewel boxes and so on.
- Showcase pieces like Nettipattam (The Caparison used for elephants) in Plastic mould and associated decorations like Peacock quill etc are popular with visitors. The God’s Own Craft, an organization based in Kochi has popularised the sale of such pieces in plastic, helping visitors to carry them home, while retaining the traditional look and charm.
- Coir wall hangings with beautiful pictures and fans made out of Lemongrass that makes natural scent while fanning etc
- Kerala’s traditional Handloom cloth, Mundu and Neriyathu, can be purchased directly from weavers mainly in Chendamangalam near Kochi and Balaramapuram near Trivandrum.
- Large stores in Kochi, Trivandrum and many other cities have good collection of worked sarees, Churidars, dress materials, salwar-suits, Indian men’s wear like Kurtha-Pyjama etc
Oils and spices
- Kerala, is well known for spices. Cardamom, pepper, cloves, turmeric, saffron and many others can be found when shopping in Kerala’s bazaars. Some of the recommended spice markets are Broadway in Kochi and Chalai in Trivandrum. At Wayanad, Idukki, Pathanamtitta, Kottayam and Kozhikode you can find first quality premium spices from many authorised spice centres. These places are famous for value-added spice products like curry masala powders, ready-to-use spice powders, spice essences, extracts, spiced teas and coffee. Rare spice oils and concentrates used as bases for perfume and scents can also be found.
- Many outlets sell unique natural cosmetic powders like mango, orange and papaya peel powder, turmeric powder. These and other spices, herbal powders and natural extracts are good for making face and body cleansing powders and soaps. Its worth to look around and investigate what is on offer.
- Try buying some lemongrass oil, famous for its rare scent. It can also be used on the skin to discourage mosquitoes. There are more than a dozen oils in Kerala, famous for maintaining a healthy skin glow and reducing blemishes and acne.
- Coconut oil is good to keep hairfall under control and nurture hair growth as well as for promoting a healthy glowing skin. Keralites put coconut into a multitude of varying uses. It is used as a high temperature cooking oil and scrapped powder and coconut milk is used in many local cooking styles. Roasted oil & virgin coconut oil are known to reduce cholesterol and are popular for good health. It is also used by expecting mothers for keeping their baby healthy.
Murals and paintings
Kerala is home to many famous national and international painters. The celebrated Kerala murals and oil paintings of legendary Raja Ravi Varma and many others, surely add more charm to your interiors. You can buy murals and paintings of all size and style, that fit to your budget, which is comparatively cheaper in Kerala.
Kerala cuisine is distinctly different from food elsewhere in India. The major difference that one can easily notice are dominance of rice as staple food and popularity of non-vegetarian dishes. Unlike other parts of India, the Kerala society do not emphasis on any religious dietary taboos or restrictions. Thus various beef and pork dishes take a key position in Kerala cuisine without any societal taboos. Seafood gets a lion’s share in typical Kerala’s cuisine and lavish use of coconut (in form of coconut oil, coconut milk, powder or paste) gives a distinct taste. Since spices are abundant, one can find its lavish use in most of dishes, making many fiery hot. Pepper, Cardamon, Cloves, Ginger, Chilies are common to most of the dishes.
Food in Kerala tends to include a variety of spices and most of them are extremely fiery. Kerala also has its own fair share of famous vegetarian cuisines and normally only vegetarian foods are taken during festival days, particularly Onam. However Jains & Vegans will find hard in vegetarian selections, as most of Malayalee vegetarian dishes comprises various tubular and root based vegetables as well as lavish use of beet-root, ginger, garlic and onions along with animal milk. Jains need to look out for Jain special food, normally available in key cities or near Jain temples very much limited in cities like Kochi.
Kerala’s cuisine is divided into four basic regional styles, according to ingredient availability and historical influence: Malabar, Central Travancore, Southern Travancore, and Central Kerala. Although all four styles can be found throughout the state, the food will be most authentic within each given region.
One of the favourite for any connoisseur of food would be Kerala’s traditional buffet, the sadhya. It is served especially during festive occasion and normally presented upon a plaintain leaf. It generally has up to 24 items and is accompanied by various desserts and savories.Kerala sadya
A typical sadhya consists of piping hot parboiled rice with popular Kerala vegetarian dishes like
- olan (a dish of pumpkin)
- avial (an assorted mix of all vegetables)
- injipulee (a ginger & tamarind flavouring)
- kaalan (made of yam and yogurt)
- thoran (pan-fried vegetables sprinkled with grated coconut)
- kichiadi (roasted cucumber in yogurt)
- pachadi (a sweet dish made out pineapple or grapes mixed with sour yogurt)
- erissery (pumpkin or beans cooked in thick coconut paste)
- mezhukkupuratty (Stir fries using marinated various vegetables, tossed with chilies )
- istew ( Stew curry of Potato or mixed vegetables cooked in thick coconut milk )
- kottukari (a mixture of few vegetables like raw bananas or pumpkin or potatoes, pan fried mixed with a spicy tomato puree curry base) etc.
In some sadhyas, options like masala curry, vegetable special curries are served.
The sambar (a watery all-Vegetable curry) and parippu (lentils, either mashed or curry form) along with ghee are served as the main entrée’. Normally 2 to 3 spicy pickles called as achar are served.
Other assortments include pappadam (fried Lentil-flour paper-thin bread), along with banana chips and jaggery sweet, served as main appetisers. Towards the end of sadhya, rasam (similar to mulligatawny soup made out of pepper and tomato water is served, which is good for digestion) as well as mooru or sambharam (spiced buttermilk) are served.
Bananas are also taken as a final note to end the elobrate sadhya’s main course. The desserts includes payasam (a sweet porridge-like, made of jaggery or sugar along with rice, cereals, fruits depending on what type of payasam) as well as boli, a sweet flour bread, which looks similar to an omelet, along with a banana and sometimes unniappam (sweet fried rice flour dumpling).
Normally sadyas are served on lunch time and normally will be pure vegetarian. Onasadhya (served on the Onam day) is the most famous, due to having more than 30 curries and an elobrate range of special payasams. Many leading hotels and restaurants now serve smaller versions of sadhya as part of a regular lunch offering. In Malabar, sometimes, fried-fish or chicken curry constitute part of the sadhya, as the Malabar sadhya does not have a vegetarian tradition.
Thalis/fixed price meals
Most of the hotels offer smaller version of sadhya called as thali or Meals(fixed or unlimited serving) as part of regular lunch. While an elaborate thali or meals normally has around 4 to 5 curries along with 2 pickles, pappadams and a payasam/any sweet dish, a normal lunch Meal served in most of small restaurants consist of 3 to 4 curries and 1 pickle and pappadam. Fish curry or fried fish (consists of fish of the day) are part of fish-meals, which are more popular.
Most of such meals/thalis would be served in steel plated with slots for curries. Thalis are also known as Onnu in local Malayalam.
Though Kerala donot have a concept of Veganism popular among locals, majority of ethnic Kerala Vegetarian foods are vegan in nature. Authentic Kerala Vegetarian recipes do not use animal derivative products in dishes. Milk based curries uses coconut milk as its base recipe instead of cow milk. And Coconut oil is common for cooking and frying purposes.
However vegans need to confirm as there are few popular Kerala dishes which has Yogurt as base which could be from cow’s milk. This is because Veganism isn’t a concept heard in Kerala, though majority of Kerala Veg dishes donot uses Animal product lines.
Seafood is available all over Kerala and is part of regular Kerala cuisine. In regions bordering the backwaters and lakes traditional cuisine includes fresh-water fish such as karimeen (black pearlspot), prawns, shrimps, kanava (squid) and many other delicacies.
Cooking styles include Pollichatu (spicy marinated fish, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed until cooked), roasted (pan stirred roasting method mostly with dry gravy tossed with spices), deep fried as well as curry boiled. Fish curries are extremely popular, where fish are cooked in medium thick gravy of tomatoes, chilies, spices, coconut milk and slightly sour due to mixing with a special kind of local tamarind called Kodampully, used mainly for fish curries. Alleppey Fish curry style is one of most popular among Fish curries. Fish Moilee is another popular fish curry, which is more mild in nature, cooked in coconut milk. Another popular dish is Chemeen Manga Curry, where tossed prawns are cooked in mango curry. In Northern kerala, Meen Mappas are extremely popular where fish are cooked in a very thick cashew based gravy tossed with ginger-garlic paste, heavily garnished with fried onions, cinnamon, cardamons etc. Fish Mulakkittathu which is cooked in thick pepper-chilly sauce is also a popular choice, especially in Toddy shops for fiery hot lovers.
In most of the parts of Kerala, various varieties of sea fishes are extremely popular and consumed regularly in afternoon lunch mostly fried or curry or both. Another popular option is fiery hot fish cooked in chilly curry served along with ‘kappa’ (tapioca) or rice. Steamed and mashed tapioca flavoured with turmeric served along with spicy fish curry or mashed chilly gravy is a favorite among Malayalees, particularly those in rural areas.
Kerala cuisine takes a greater emphasis on non-vegetarian note, with multiple cuisine styles for almost all kind of meat. While Chicken, Duck, Beef, Mutton are the most popular among non-vegetarians, pork and lamb meat are taken as special festive cuisine. Its not uncommon to see rabbit, pigeon and quail meat based cuisine in some parts of the state. All meat are normally marinated heavily with spices before cooking, mostly turmeric, chilly powder, pepper, salt, ginger-garlic paste, garam-masala etc. Pan stir frying (roast), deep fried and curry boiled are some of the popular cooking styles. Kerala is one of major state in India, which is extremely beef friendly, with no social/religious taboos attached to it. Beef is the most popular meat, followed by chicken and used widespread.
Normally most of the meat are Halal, though formal certifications are very limited and often not made. To a great degree, most of Kerala’s meat cuisine style are Jew Kosher friendly as use of animal milk/yogurt are rare in typical cuisines, while its substituted to coconut milk. However many North Indian influenced dishes do use milk as base.
Kerala is very famous for its elaborate breakfast food. It has been adjourned as one of the best breakfasts in the world, partly due to its high nutritional value and low oil content . Unlike other parts of India, few non-vegetarian items are available on Kerala breakfast menus. Some of the popular breakfast items are;
- Puttu, (steamed cake made of rice powder and grated coconut), taken along with kadala (a spicy curry made of black garbanzo beans chana), Pappadams and bananas. Various flavored Puttus are also now available.
- Idli, (steamed rice cake), a soft fluffy cake taken alone with chutney (paste made out of spicy chilly or mint or grind coconut) and sambar.
- Dosas, ( thin crispy fried crepe kind) having flavorings of butter, ghee, masala or plain. In some places, thick Dosas are made, with toppings of Onion, Tomatoes, beet-roots etc and more specialty ones with eggs, curries etc.
- Pidiyan, (dumplings made of rice and jaggery).
- Idiyappam, (string hoppers – also known as noolputtu and nool-appam), taken with spicy egg curry or tomato curry.
- Paal-Appam, (a circular, fluffy, crisp-edged pancake made of rice flour fermented with toddy or wine), taken with chicken stew (mild spiced coconut milk based gravy), or vegetable kurma (a mixed vegetable curry in coconut milk gravy).
- Vatta-Appam (kin to typical cakes made out of rice flour, steamed with dry fruits in it) taken with alone or sometimes with egg curry.
- Aval Velayichathu (Sweetened Rice Flanks) taken alone or with bananas
- Upuma (fried/tossed semolina/rava) taken along with bananas or with chutneys.
Dinner traditionally used to similar to Lunch in Kerala, though instead of rice, congee or kanzhi (rice porridge) used along with spicy raw chillies and roasted pappadams. However today dinner is more like North Indian style, with chappathis and parathas dominating the main course along with some vegetable or non vegetable curries.
Breads & rice
Kerala doesn’t have any indigenous wheat breads in its traditional recipes, though today most of the North Indian breads like naans and parathas are more popular options. There are also many more unique rice-flour made breads which are not often seen much outside Kerela.
- Rice breads – palappams (milk mixed in normal appam batter) and kallappams (palm toddy mixed in normal appam batter).
- Rice flour breads – pathiris (a fried rice flour bread), ghee pathiri (pathiri baked in ghee), poricha pathiri (fried pathiri rather than baked) and stuffed pathiris (anything like vegetables, fish or chicken). The Chattapathiris is the most celebrated one, much similar to a Lasagna, with leavened Pathiris with multi-layers of meat, vegetables, cashews and raisins intervened and baked.
- Kerala paratha (porotta) – a famous milled wheat weaved fried (or toasted) bread orignated from Malabar, popular throughout Kerala
- Rice – Kerala’s most favourite rice is called matta (a nutritious indigenous variety of rice grown in Palakkad district of Kerala). Normal boiled rice, served piping hot is a regular staple for lunch as well as dinner. Other popular options are ghee rice, fried rice, saffron rice, turmeric rice and biryani rice.
Due to the lesser influence of Arab & Central Asian food on Kerala, the use of sweets is not as widespread as in North India. Kerala does not have any indigenous cold desserts, but hot/warm desserts are popular. The most popular example is undoubtedly the payasam: a preparation of either milk or jaggery syrup as main base with coconut extract, butter, sugar, cashews and dry grapes. There are more than 18 varieties of payasam all having same base constituents and differs from others due to main ingredient. Some of the popular variants are paal payasam (made with rice grains), Ada payasam (with beaten rice flakes), Paripu payasam (made from lentils), pazham pradhamam (made from banana), gothambu payasam (made from wheat grain) or semiya (made with vermicelli).
Other popular indigenous sweets are:
- Unniappam, (a fluffy deep-fried rice-bread mixed with ripe bananas similar to the Danish Æbleskiver).
- Pazham-pori, (banana fritters).
- Kozhukkatta, (rice dumplings stuffed with a sweet mixture of molasses, coconut).
- Kozhikode halwa, a famous sweet confection.
- Adas, (rice parcels encased in a dough made of rice flour, with sweet fillings, steamed in banana leaf)
Typically there is no concept of desserts, other than Payasams which are normally part of Sadhya culture, to be taken after lunch or dinner, though many have imbibed the system from external influences.
Savories are extremely popular in Kerala, with fried banana chips as most preferred. Jack-fruit chips, chips made out of rice flour in various forms like achappam, kozhalappam, paka-vada, availose unda etc.
Malayalees consider tea-time (normally twice a day; mid-day and evening) as key part of socialization. Most of Malayalees take fritter snacks/savories during tea time and takes around 20 to 30 minutes to finish off, socializing with others. The popular snacks taken along with tea/coffee are Uzhunnu-vada (akin to doughnuts, made of fried mashed lentils), Parippu vadu, Undampoori (fried banana balls), Bonda (stuffed potato balls), Savala Vada (onion stuffed vada), Sugiyan (Green gram-coconut stuffed balls) and cutlets. </eat>
Most of the National and International fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, Domino’s pizza, Subway, KFC, McDonalds, Chicking, US Pizza, SFC etc can be found in many major cities of the state as well as on highways as drive-ins.
In addition, local fast food standalone restaurants, kiosks as well as drive-ins can be easily found across the state. Indian Coffee House is one such popular local Fast food, famous for its coffees, meals, biriyanis, dosas and quick sandwiches.
Cafes formats are rare in highways, though recently Cafe Coffee Days have launched such offering 24×7 refreshments etc. However roadside small teashops and quick bites kiosks are common, though they don’t conform to western hygiene concepts. Bakeries are common across Kerala, offering breads, savories and quick bites apart from few convenience provisions,
Tap water is generally not recommended for outsiders, as the quality varies unless its purified using a purifier. Mineral/Bottled water is considered better choice and widely available. It would be a pretty suprise to see pink or yellowish liquid being served as water for outsiders. Glass water served in wayside restaurants are generally safe as most of them uses an Ayurvedic powder called Pathimukam or Dahashamani which is an herbal product that used during boiling that gives water a distinctive pinkish color. This is prefectly healthy as stops dehydration rapidly and purfies water from bacteria. Many restaurants serves cumin water, which is boiled with cumin seeds that gives a pale yellowish color to the water, which is good for digestion and acidity.
Soft Drinks like Colas brands, branded juices are also widely available across stores. Tender coconut water (karikku), are available in even the smallest towns. Tender coconut water is extremely popular and along with this the sweet creamy pulp (Coconut meat) is an ice-cream like cream which can be eaten. Kerala Government also launched an indigenous natural drink called NEERA, the unfermented coconut nectar served chilled which is healthy and substitute as a natural health drink.
Coffee and Tea
Coffee (kapi) and tea (chaya) are commonly available. Unlike other parts of South India, in Kerala, tea is more popular than coffee. Its virtually impossible, not to find a tea stall selling tea. The famous tea of Kerala is the Kannan Devan brand originating from Kerala own Nilgiri teas. People generally take a strong dose of tea content and some even seek for double strong. In Kerala one can find Milma (a milk brand) booth selling tea with milk and snack eateries. Coffee is more popular in urban areas particularly in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram as a cafe drink. Popularly national brands like Cafe Coffee Day and many local cafes offer various flavours of coffees with western/oriental snacks. Kerala’s own traditional cafe is Indian Coffee House, which are old-fashioned pre-1970s styled coffee shops, offering Kerala coffee along with regular Kerala foods. Coffee shops and bakeries are booming across the key cities, offering various innovative coffee flavours and traditional Kerala snacks along with lite burgers.
- Juices and shakes, Kerala being a tropical state, tropical juices and juice cocktails are very popular. Almost everywhere, small juice stalls selling mango, orange, pineapple, lemon, water melon and other juices etc can be found. Milk shakes mixed with Ice-creams is very popular and one of the best way to beat the Kerala summer heat. sharja shake and chikoos are popular milk shakes mixed with various fruits and fruit flavour ice-creams. Kerala has its own popular lime mojito, known as Kulukki Sarbat which is extremely refreshing made of lime mixed with crushed ice and sweet syrup. Lime juice and Lime sodas are extremely popular in Kerala and available in most of places to refresh.
|WARNING: Kerala Excise and Narcotics Law stipulates that possessions of Alcohol/liqour by an adult (above 18 years old) more than 3 Litres, standard Beer Bottles more than 6 in number and 1.5 litres of toddy are illegal and can be punished by hefty fines or even jail term. Drinking inside moving vehicles or in presence of a child below 15 years old is also punishable offence. Drinking in public or encouraging others to drink in a public place is a serious crime, punishable for a 6 month term. These rules are generally strictly enforced.|
Kerala tops second in per capita alcohol consumption in India, despite the high rate of government taxation. Though alcohol consumption in public is frowned upon, the society is accommodating to drinking culture. Drinking in general, is highly associated with men and hence its uncommon to see ladies in bars/pubs etc.
As part of curbing rising alcoholism in the society, Government of Kerala has brought a new legislation in introducing prohibition in phased manner.
As phase 1, all bars of the state barring those operate in 5 star hotels have been closed down. As a result, there are only 30 Bars currently operational in entire Kerala state, with maximum in Kochi. Few districts like Thrissur, Kannur etc donot have any bar due to the new legislation.
However as part of curbing, all erstwhile bars were converted into Beer and Wine Parlours as part of substituting from hard liquor to wines and beer. Its prefectly possible to find several parlours serving various types of wines (majority of them serves only Indian made Wines, while few serves foreign imported wines) and various branded beers.
Restaurants are not allowed to serve liquor, unless they operate within the same 5 hotel facility having a bar licence. Sale of beer or any beverage with alcohol content, are not allowed in any retail stores. Bars are also subjected additional service and luxury taxation, as part of government strategy to curb drinking. However despite of higher costs, one can find the drinking culture on higher note. Pub culture along with discotheques, themed lounge bars and nightclubs are getting popular in major cities within 5 star hotels.
Retail sale of liquor is restricted to exclusive Government run retail network stores under Kerala State Beverage Corporations Limited (popularly known as Beverage Shop or Bevco) stores. One can buy most of liquor brands as well as beer for use in private. Ideal for budget conscious, due to comparative lower rates. However, there is usually a very large queue in front of it and you have wait a long time to get the item.
All bars and Bevco stores are closed on the 1st and 2nd day of every month, as well as on major public holidays known as Dry days. Except a very large queue on eve of such dry days, as part of stocking bottles.
Locally made palm toddy called as kallu is tempting to try, but be aware that some people become sick due to bad brews. If you do try it, make sure you stick to the license-made brew, and not local moonshine. However many local toddy shows in Alapuzha-Changaserry route, you can find a number of good toddy shops, which offers authorized toddy as well as very good tasty unique Kerala specialties like seafood, chicken, mutton and beef. Even if you don’t try toddy, having food from these toddy shops is a good idea, to taste some of the best distinctive food styles.
Tobacco and Cannabis
By law, sale of loose cigars is illegal. However its quite possible to buy individual cigar of popular Indian brands from small road-side stall are available. Packets are commonly available in most of the road-side stalls as well as supermarkets, stores etc. ITC Brands like Wills, Gold flakes and Classic are key popular brands. A packet of cigarettes costs from Rs 40 and above, while individual sticks cost Rs 5 to 15.
The High Court of Kerala, banned public smoking and smoking in front of children. If caught for smoking, a fine of Rs 1000 will be imposed. If caught in purchase of loose cigars or smoking in front of children, a fine of Rs 2000 will imposed. Smoking is prohibited in bars, restaurants etc. However it depends upon the management of such bar/restaurant in tolerating smoking.
Now a days, Arabian styled hookahs are getting popular and hookah/shisha parlours selling flavored hookas are popular in major cities
Recently Kerala government imposed a blanket ban on Pan Masalas and some other cannabis, which were permitted earlier. Sale and purchase of any Pan Masala, loose or packed ones is strictly illegal and if caught, a fine of Rs 2000 will be imposed with 6 months of imprisonment. Even possession of such is an offence with fine and simple prison terms of less than a month.
Drugs and Psychotropic Substances as prescribed under national law- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act) are strictly enforced in Kerala. Due to increase in usage of such drugs in the society, Kerala Government has launched a strong enforcement drive. Shadow Police and Narcotics officials regularly conducts raids and secret surveillance in many public places like hotels, restaurants, bar/pubs, bus stands etc. The number of cases registered have gone up drastically due to regular charging of offences. All charges under NDPS Act are non-bailable and possessions of even minute grams can end up into jail.
With tourism being one of the most important source for the state’s coffers, a wide of accommodation is available for tourists across the world, suiting individual tastes, cultural preferences and all options that fits everyone’s pocket.
Almost all major cities have hotels ranging from tourist lodges to 5 star hotels and theme resorts. In addition to this, there are youth hostels, home-stays, travel dormitories and small lodges catering budget tourists, determining their necessity.
Kerala was one of the first states in India to pioneer the concept of Homestays (Bed & Breakfast in home settings) and make it a successful industry, providing a much needed source of extra income to the locals, while at the same time giving travelers more than a peek at the real Kerala. Under this homestay concept, you get to stay with a family who can show you around and also help you to find what makes Kerala tick. Your accommodation and food is taken care of at a nominal cost.
You will in all probability be staying with a family whose members are well versed in English or at the least can speak decent English. All the people offering homestays are vetted by the Government and will have to register themselves as such.
Traditionally started as an option for budget tourists and backpackers, who wish to save a few pennies by avoiding hotels, today homestays also cater for hyper-rich, with large historical Tharavadus (traditional large maternal homes of upper class) converting itself into posh homestays for those wishing to stay with Kerala families in a grand way. Some homestays became almost a mini-resort. However still there are lot of budget home-stay options still available.
Majority of the home-stays are concentrated in Fort Cochin area, where traditional large colonial bungalows and Jew houses have been converted into homestays. Alleppey and Kottayam have many large homestays catering both rich and budget tourists. Kollam also its own share of home-stays, mostly traditional Portuguese bungalows as well as those owned by industrialists of the town. Recently many small-scale backpacker oriented homestays have popped up in Kannur and other Malabar towns.
The government has strict guidelines for Homestays and hence generally most of them are safe and well-maintained. These homestays range inbetween Rs 300 (6 US$) to Rs 3500 (70 US$) per night (depends upon the property and its profile)
Rs 322.50 (~US$7) and Rs 700 (~US$15) are magic numbers when you are looking for budget non-AC and AC rooms respectively. Most budget hotels in Kerala will have a room in this price. You can expect basic facilities with a bed, TV and an attached bath-room. Most of the budget hotels call themselves as Tourist lodges, Tourist Home and some as hotel and rarely star-rated. Most of the hotels near to Railway stations in cities are traditionally for budget minded guests. Kerala also have good number of Brahmin’s tourist homes which provides rooms for families and couples and choose this option as they are quite safe and quiet.
Major railway stations have Non AC Dorms as well as AC/Non AC rooms at budget rates for travellers holding valid Rail tickets. Similar Travellors Lodges can be found close to Airports as well as near major market areas.
For a more comfortable stay, you need to shell out above Rs 700 (~US$14) for a Non AC room or More than Rs 1,200 (~US$26) for an AC Room. This category would include many 2 star hotels. You could expect to have more spacious rooms, English proficient concierges, Airport/Railway Station Pick-Up and Drop. However if you are expecting a cheap extended stay hotel, with attached kitchenette, not much options are available in Kerala much.
Themed resorts also would fall in the category. Prepare to shell anywhere above Rs 3,000 and you could rent out a whole cottage in an idyllic location and they do come with kitchens.
State Owned Kerala Tourism Development Corp (KTDC) operates 2 major brands in this segment spread across most of the cities and picnic spots. KTDC Tamarind Easy Hotels can be found in major picnic spots and pilgrimage areas. KTDC Budget Hotels can be found in major cities.A posh hotel in Kochi
Almost all 3 star and above hotels as well as resorts come under this category. Star rated hotels in India don’t come cheap. If you are willing to stay in these hotels, most of them throw in a guided tour or a packaged tour as a compliment. Most five star hotels provide attached kitchenette and if you are sick of Indian food, this is an option. And most of these hotels offer only air-conditioned room and prepare to shell out Rs 5,000 and above for a night. However its ideal for middle class tourists, as they are generally very safe and provide a sound holiday option.
If you are plan to stay more than 2 weeks, its far better to look for monthly stay options, rather than hotels. Housing in Kerala is not expensive, though it may be slightly on higher side in major metros like Cochin and Trivandrum. However in most of other places, housing are cheaper, even by Indian standards.
Serviced apartments are very common in Kochi, Kottayam, Alapuzha, Thrissur, Kollam, Kozhikode, Trivandrum etc. There are popular service apartment, which offer hotel-like facilities for an extended stay, in Kochi city. In other cities, apartments owned by NRIs (Non Resident Indian who work outside India) are given to apartment companies for renting on daily and monthly basis. Thus it won’t be a major problem. Most of these apartments are well furnished with Kitchenette facilities. However more facilities means higher costs and mostly such serviced apartments suits to middle class and upper class tourists.
For budget tourists, lodges are best option. In most of the places, you can find lodges or tourist homes, that offer single or double room for daily, weekly and monthly basis. Most of them have standard facilities, including attached toilets, though cheaper ones may not have TVs or personal Landlines in each room. However its a suitable option for budget tourists who wish to stay longer. There are also options of Men’s hostel and Ladies hostel, where single can stay on monthly basis.
Kerala is known to be one of highly political aware society in the country and extremely proud for its strong democratic culture. The society is highly tolerant to expression and one can easily find national and international politics being discussed even in rural belts. It need not be surprised to see villagers discussing US politics in a village tea-stall. The society at large is more pro-socialist, though need not be seen as communist. Due to this, in many regions people do find critical to policies of Western countries, particularly US. One must be aware of local sensitivities. However the society at large encourage debates and discussions as its considered as hallmark of Malayalee culture.
Visiting religious centres
Kerala is one of the places where multiple religions exist in great harmony. This is achieved by one respecting the customs and rituals of other religions. A visit to these shrines is necessary to understand the breadth of cultural influences in the state.
In some Hindu temples non-Hindus are not allowed enter the shrines. It is best to ask someone at the temple. Many are happy to let you in as long as the usual rules of the temple are observed. However, photography is strictly prohibited inside most of the the temples across the state.
Also for male visitors at many places inside a temple, dress code is traditional mundu without a shirt – the no-shirt rule will be enforced even if the mundu rule is not. The best thing to do is to watch what others are doing and follow. You are also expected to take off your footwear outside the temple. Usually there are no locker facilities, cheap footwear is best.
For females any non-exposed dress, preferably not shirts and trousers. Tidiness and personal hygiene is very important while entering into temples. A bath at morning is required for those entering into temple. Historically women are not allowed to enter temples during their periods, and the tradition continues, even though there is no way to enforce it. Hence it is advisable not to visit any Hindu temples during periods. Likewise its a ritual to refrain entering into temple, if any close maternal relative dies for a period of 16 days as a token of mourning. Same, in case of birth of any newborn which prohibits maternal relatives refraining from entering the temple for a period of 11 days since the birth of the newborn.
There are exceptions to these rules. For example everybody is welcome at Adhi Shankaracharya’s temple. At Shabarimala any male that has performed a set of pre-defined rituals is welcome, but females are not. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group.
At a Muslim mosque females have some restrictions. Some mosques do-not allow females inside and in those which allows, ladies must dress in absolute modesty. They must wear fully covering dress and cover their head with a shawl or scarf. No photography or any electronic equipments such as Ipods, FM players or Mobiles etc are allowed inside.
At Christian churches usually men sit to the left of the aisle and women to the right. Some of the more traditional churches don’t even have pews; you’ll have to stand. Ladies must cover their head with a shawl or scarf during the mass.
The synagogue at Kochi is not open to non-Jews on Saturdays. And on other days, visitors need to dress with modesty. Sleeveless tops, short trousers etc are not permitted to wear while visiting synagogue.
Customs and social etiquette
Though Kerala is a tourist-friendly state, famed for its hospitality, there are some customs and social etiquette which should be understood if you would like to be respectful and respected as a visitor.
- Kerala is traditionally a matriarchal society with ladies given more preferences and priority. They get priorities in queue, seating in public transport, priority or separate reservations in public transport waiting lists, etc.
- Ladies are also expected to conform to traditional standards of modesty. For example, smoking and drinking by ladies are considered as social taboos (so you might want to be discreet if you partake) and will be frowned upon, and try to wear shorts that at least cover your knee. You will fit in better if you wear full-length dresses and the like.
- In any public transport like buses, the front rows are reserved for ladies, and men are not expected to sit there, even if the seats are unoccupied. Likewise there are some lady coaches in train, where only women, girls, and pre-pubescent male children are admitted.
- If you have Kerala sadya (traditional Kerala buffet) in places other than large hotels, you are expected to throw away any leftovers (called echil) by folding the leaf upon which you ate into two and putting it where others do. You must not leave it the serving place itself and go.
- Sharing food from same plate is considered unusual, but not unheard of.
- You are required to wash hands before and after eating. Wiping with tissues after eating is not regarded as sufficient in smaller restaurants, but is accepted in star hotels.
For all purposes use only Right hand, liking receiving anything etc. Taking left hand, is considered rude. Never touch money, books etc with legs. In event of such, while taking it, touch the right hand on your forehead and neck, while taking it. Similarly when you stamp on somebody’s feet, especially elders, a similar act must be done while telling sorry.
Kerala being a tropical destination, its advisable to wear cotton light dress. Ladies are expected to dress conservatively, though its not uncommon to see them in sleeveless tops or halter-necks. Most of the ladies prefer wearing Churidar/Salwar suits, even though its not national dress of the state. Saris and Set-mundu is equally popular among ladies and those from rural belts prefer it. Men normally prefer to wear half sleeve shirts with full length trousers or Mundu. Tourists are more likely to be expected in smart causal clothing. Its not uncommon to see tourists in sleevless vests and shorts, which is indeed tolerated. However it would be adviced to dress conservatively when visiting rural places or visiting elder people or shrines.
Public nudity is strictly prohibited and not allowed in beaches. Men and ladies can opt for swim-wear in beaches. Men can go topless in evenings, as most of the men do, while ladies are not expected to do so. Most of the Keralite men prefer topless with a lungi/mundu at home in evening while ladies prefer full covering gown like nighties.
In hilly areas, one must carry a sweater or woolen shawls, as temperature drops sharply in evenings even during summer time. Its advisable to carry an umbrellas as well as caps always to counter unexpected showers and harsh tropical sun.
Indian laws allow same sex intercourse, same sex realtionship (marriage and adoption etc..) is not recognized by the law. Open affection displays like kissing and other intimacy is usually frowned upon. Like other parts of India, Kerala society is critical towards LGBT and some considers it as a deviant to nature. Hence public expressions of LGBT behavior is frowned upon. But Indian laws strictly prohibits discrimination against LGBT persons. The legal age for consensual sex is 18 above. Any attempt below the age, is considered as a serious crime and can lead to life imprisonment. Though consensus sex is legal, often police charge such as prostitution/adultery. Even though by Indian law prostitution is legal some action such as pimping and brothel is illegal and also some other actions will lead police to take action. And will land up in jail up to 5 years. Police often raids small cheap lodges, where such prostitution are more likely to happen, as Kerala do not have any red light district in any cities. Kissing in front of public is strictly frowned upon, though its likely to see in Airports or Railway stations as part of send off by relatives, which is quite accepted. Any harassment and physical and mental abuse in the name of kissing and affection in public is crime by the law as the Constitution prohibits such acts. ‘Something unique about Indian culture and seen very commonly in Kerala is perhaps misleading – Friends of the same sex may be seen walking around holding hands or with one other’s hands on shoulder. This is just a show of closeness and nothing indicating their sexual orientation.
- Though Kerala is much safer than other parts of India, it doesn’t mean that it is the world’s safest place. Kerala has its share of criminals. Pick pockets are quite common in heavily crowded areas like buses, festival grounds and city shopping areas. There have been instances of sexual abuse of female tourists in crowded areas, women are advised not to walk around in revealing costumes. Don’t trust your hotel cleaning staff with your costly belongings. Nightlife is only available in major metro cities which too emerging. Take care not to roam in late quarters of night, especially alone.
- Strikes, protest processions and hartal (voluntary closure of activities as protest) are common in Kerala, considering its high political awareness and socialist leanings. Tourists may get suddenly caught in hartals or road blockades due to protests which may make you stranded in airports or railway stations. All political parties announce the date and details of protests much in advance in leading dailies. So regularly follow leading English dailies while in Kerala, and keep buffer days. On hartal days, normally all forms of transport keep off from roads from morning till evening. So be prepared to walk to your hotel or wait in airport or railway station till evening. Alternatively, Kerala police operate free buses under police convoy to transport tourists and urgent passengers to important areas in major towns and cities.
- To be on safe side, foreigners are requested to register and submit their itinerary at the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO). Likewise it’s absolutely important to carry passport copies all the time, as after the Mumbai attacks, police security has been stepped up.
- While in trains or buses, do not interact with lone strangers, or at least not more than normal, and it’s absolutely important not to eat or drink anything which they offer. However, interactions with families are considered to be safer.
- While boating insist on being offered life jackets. Many boat operators ignore Government regulation of statutory issuance of life jackets while boating, which could prove risky, as most of the Kerala’s water bodies are deep.
- Though Kerala does not have many touts or so-called Guides, a few people from outside state (especially Tamilnadu) do encounter this problem at some tourist centres especially Hill stations like Munnar, etc. Do avoid them completely as many nowadays are small time thieves and crooks from other states who look for prey. Hence avoid them completely and say a firm NO.
- Nudity in any form is frowned upon for both genders and the rule applies more especially to women. It’s okay for men to be bare-chested in public, though it’s not appreciated much except at the beach or rural areas. In beaches or rivers, women can wear swim-suits or covering towels around the body. Wearing bikini by foreign tourists in Kovalam and Varkala beaches are common, but you can never find a local wearing one. Though there is no gender segregation in beaches, rivers ghats or swimming pools, gender segregation is maintained in temple ponds and certain public ghats.
- Though Kerala ranks highest in alcohol consumption, consuming alcohol in public is frowned upon. Even wine or beer consumption is also considered as liquor in Kerala, which too is frowned upon in public. However, privately it can be consumed. Women consuming alcohol is socially frowned upon, hence women entering into bars, etc., results in too much glaring. However, the recently opened public pubs / lounges and posh bars in premium hotels are a natural choice for women to consume liquor openly. But this choice is limited to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
- Use bottled water, as tap water is not so safe even though it’s purified, and stay in decent hotels even if you have to shell out some extra money. However recently homestays have been safe.
Emergency and assistance
|Kerala Police Kerala Police  Contact
Flying Squad Emergency– 100 (toll free from all devices)Crime Stopper– ☎ 1090Women Squad Assist– ☎ 1091Highway Police – ☎ +91 98 4610 0100Railway Police Assist-☎ +91 98 4620 0100SMS Alert and Assist – ☎+91 94 9790 0000
- Most of the police officials are well versed in English and Malayalam and 95% of police stations are computerised. Most of the cities do have a very strong police network and its not difficult to find a police station.
- Normal Law and Order police force wear Khaki colour uniforms. Traffic Police wear a uniform of a white shirt with khaki pants.
- There is a specialised police section for Tourist protection called the Tourist Police. This force is located at prominent tourist places, beaches, monuments, trekking areas and other tourist attractions. They wear a light blue shirt with khaki pants and have an aid post marked as Tourist Police. In event of requiring any assistance whilst at any tourist places they may be found to be extremely helpful. Tourist Police recently opened India’s first fully dedicated Exclusive International Tourist Police Station (ITPS) to provide a wide range of assistance to foreign tourists. The International Tourist Police Station is in Mattancherry-Fort Kochi, a primary tourist enclave in Kochi City. The Police station also houses a small police museum and a recreation centre. The ITPS will be the primary tourist assistance point for any tourist complaints and may be used as an information and assistance point for any Immigration and Passport-Visa matter.
- Kerala’s highways are safeguarded by Highway police. In event of any distress on any highway call the police using their toll free number- ☎+91 98 4610 0100. They have a very good reputation and there have been numerous instances when they have gone out of their way to help tourists in distress.
Fire and public rescue
- Kerala’s Fire and Rescue Services maintains a network of Distress rescue services throughout the state. They can be reached at ☎ 101
|Kerala Rapid Healthcare Access Systems
Kerala has rolled out extensive E-Governance in Healthcare facility, by launching Dr.SMS. Patients can log to their portal to identify the right ambulatory services.For SMS based support, one can input Health<space> Pincode <space> facility in their local mobile connection to receive details of key hospital of the intended facility in the district. To identify contact details of the hospital, SMS input Health<space>HospitalName. All such inputs must be send to Toll-Free SMS Center No- 537252Rapid Access-Toll Free from all devices102 – Roadside Emergency Assistance- RAKSHA1298 or 108 – Kerala Emergency Medical Services1910 – State Emergency Blood Bank Network1056 – Dial-A-Doctor (Only available on BSNL devices)0471- 2552056 – Dial-A-Doctor (Any other devices – chargeable)1097 – AIDS Control Society
- Kerala is well reputed for its high medical assistance. The state has highest ambulatory healthcare access across the country, with numerous of hospitals, first aid centres, primary health centres and tertiary and specialized hospitals, offering Allopathic (Western Medicine), Ayurvedic and Homeopathic treatments.
- For any urgent medical attention or ambulance services, call ☎ 102. Directorate of Health Services of Kerala (DHS Kerala) along with Kerala Police Ambulance Services operates extensive emergency ambulance services across the state. Recently DHS-Kerala have launched Dr.SMS, a M-Governance initiative helping people to identify hospital or doctor or health care services via SMS.
- Kerala is the first state in India to have Rapid Medical Action Force with a strong network of medical ambulances and medical hospitals across the state. Most of ambulances are white in colour with Red Cross mark. Members of Rapid Medical Action Force (RMAF) do have a yellow and green livery ambulance with a Red Cross sign. Kerala Healthcare Department has tied up services of ☎ 1298 and ☎ 108 emergency providers, to provide hi-tech ambulance services across the state. 108 Emergency, is an advanced life-saving ambulance even equipped to carry out minor operations operating mainly in urban areas, while 1298 provides comprehensive services across all parts of Kerala.
- In event of an accident, use only hospitals marked “‘Casualty'” outside, as they have a suitable licence to admit a road accident case. Its common to see such hospitals. In event of any accident on a roadway, call ☎ 100 for police or ☎ 108 as many times individuals do not come to rescue especially in large cities, fearing involvement in a police case. The police do maintain fast and effective accident identification and recovery service, thus in event of any accident, even a distress call from your mobile, can help them to identify your position and assist in expediting medical attention.
- Taluk Hospitals, first aid centres and select primary health care centres across the state are all equipped for emergency admissions and treatment.
Tap water is generally safe for drinking, though tourists are advised to buy bottled water for drinking. As a tropical country, Kerala is hot and humid so drink a lot of water.
Sanitation standards as well as personal hygiene among Malayalees are very high. However most of the toilets do not have toilet paper option as its not the local style, hence it is advisable to carry a roll always. It is better to have bath at least once a day, while in Kerala. This is because it is a social norm in addition to being a relief from the extreme humidity which makes a traveller sweat a lot. A bath at least once (twice is always better) is a true remedy for this problem.
Kerala leads in establishing E-Toilets and Bio-toilets in the country. Most of the cities have electronic pay toilet kiosks near busy areas as well as Bio-E toilets available. The standard rate is Rs 2. Apart from E-toilets, Pay&Use Public toilets are found in many busy areas, temple centers, though maintenance might not be world class. Bus & Railway station public toilets are poorly maintained and hence not adviced, though in many private bus standards out-sourced Pay & Use facility has been implemented.
Malaria is completely eradicated and not an issue, but dengue fever, cholera and viral fever is endemic to the region. Moonsoon time is considered as one of the major epidemic season, due to wet atmosphere, providing breeding ground for various water-borne virus. The state’s mosquito control measures are not effective and mosquitoes still pose a major challenge. You require good mosquito controlling repellents which need to be applied regularly or use of mosquito coil or mosquito repellent mats etc at room as well as use of mosquito nets over bed. Various Kerala’s spice extracts and oils prove an effective option to control mosquitoes.
While touring during summer days, its advised to always wear a cap or have an umbrella to avoid the harshness of the tropical sun. Also wear only cotton while touring during summer. Its also advised to drink Sharbath– a local popular road-side stall drink made of lemon juice mixed with sugar syrup with slight salt and mixed with soda. This helps to control dehydration a lot.
A popular tertiary hospital in Kerala
The standard of medical care in Kerala is excellent and this is a popular destination for medical tourism (and medical research). There are many leading hospitals, speciality centres, medical institutions of excellence, clinics, combined with large Ayurvedic hospitals as well as Siddha, Unani, Naturalopathy medical practices. Many hospitals in Kerala are of international standards and provide excellent medical care. Government run clinics and hospitals are free for all but can be crowded. Private hospitals offer good treatment at comparatively low prices.
Government runs 4 types of medical care facilities
- Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC):- are the smallest unit in the hierarchy, which are spread over each nook and corner of the state. Kerala boasts the largest number of PHCs and provide general consultation facilities.
- Taluk Hospitals (TH/TC) – located at headquarters of each taluk (a smaller division in a district), which provides services of specialised doctors and also have in-patient block. TH/TC are designated first aid centers and some larger ones especially those near to Highways are equipped with accident care facility.
- General Hospitals (GH) – GH are very common in most of the cities and towns and have larger premises, with super-specialty facilities. Many GH are also District Hospitals and houses a wide range of facilities. Normally its very crowded, due to free treatment and has very large In-patient block. Most of GHs are equipped with accident care and emergency casualty services
- Medical College Hospitals (MC) – Kerala has 6 major large Medical college hospitals, which is very famous referral centres. All the medical college hospitals are well equipped and famed for complex surgeries and various major treatments. Medical colleges do have very large in-patient wards normally above 600 to 1000 beds, though nearly it caters 10 times more than its capacity. There are also 4 Ayurvedic Medical colleges.
In addition, Govt runs specialized tertiary hospitals and super-specialty centers.
Both Govt and private operators also run Ayurvedic, Homeopathic and Naturalopathic community centres and clinics across Kerala.
For minor ailments, almost any private hospital or clinic found anywhere is good. Most of the private care hospitals are well equipped and have good physicians and specialists. Out-Patients are required to get appointment to avoid large ques and majority of them have pharmacies nearby.
Large super-specialty hospitals are available in major metros which are major research centres and famed for complex surgeries and treatments, thought its slightly expensive in Indian standards. Most of the hospitals in large towns and metros do accept foreign medical insurance cards, mainly issued in US, Europe and Middle East countries, apart from almost all national medical insurance covers, which needed to be check at hospital reception.
Kerala has some of the prestigious large Ayurvedic hospitals as well as super-specialty Ayurvedic Research centres, some even equipped to conduct surgeries and cancer treatments. Generally Ayurvedic healthcare centres are more expensive than Allopathic centres.
Like any other part of India, India Post operates extensively through out the state and quite reliable. India Post also operates Speed Post Services, which is a fast courier services, that have higher rates. Kerala has extensive private courier networks. Its very easy to find one such and quite reliable. However private couriers are more expensive than India Post’s Speed Post (EMS) services.
Mobile Services: – If you require an Indian mobile number it is strongly recommended that you get a pre-paid mobile connection. To do this you need a photocopy of your passport (including the visa and the ID pages), two color photos, and (officially) proof of local address or a sponsor like guide or tour company etc. Most star hotels allow you to use their address for this. In the event of not having address you can still get a pre-paid connection using your visa number, finger prints and in some cases providing passport size photographs.
Most of the mobile operators in India operate in Kerala, GSM as well as CDMA. Popular GSM service providers are BSNL Mobile, Vodafone, Idea Mobile, Airtel, Tata DOCOMO and Reliance GSM. Popular CDMA service providers are Tata Indicom and Reliance India Mobile.
Due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s restriction, only BSNL, Idea and Tata Docomo among GSM providers and Reliance among CDMA to provide 3G connectivity in Kerala Telecom Circle, while other operators can offer only 2G services.
Public Telephony :- PCOs (Public Call Offices) are a good option. You will find them almost every noke and corner. These are public pay-phones (post-pay) and there will be a person on the shop to take the payments. Check your bill generated (from the billing machine) and make the payment accordingly. Payments are always in Indian rupees. Coin boxes are available everywhere where you can make local calls (within a radius of 10km from the phone).
BSNL Calling cards are available in all stores, which is a prepaid calling card, that could be used in any phone, without charging the phone user. Vodafone World Cards and Airtel Globe cards are also another good option.
Kerala leads the country in telephone density and highest internet penetration in the country. One can easily find internet cafes across the state, including in rural areas. In rural belts, internet cafes normally operates as part of local shops. rates varies according the cafes and its facilities as well as its locations. Normal rates should be around Rs 15 to Rs 25 per hour. One can find more cafes near colleges and educational institutions, where rates will be comparatively lower.
4G networks have rolled out in Kerala by Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodofone, Idea and Tata Docomo, which is mostly available across the state. In places where 4G services not available, 3G/2G services will come handy. Mobile networks often gets distorted in Hilly regions, due to its terrain and climatic conditions. State run BSNL has better coverage for hilly areas than private networks.
Tata Communications, Airtel, Idea have rolled out Wifi-cards which can be brought and accessed in suitable hotspots, mostly posh coffee shops, hotels as well as in malls. Most of the mid-range and posh hotels offers complimentary or paid Wifi access. Most of the low end hotels have internet cafes in its lobby and guests can avail on pay-per-use basis.
Due to Government of India’s security policy, its mandatory register with valid original ID card, to any kind of net access in internet cafes. All cafes are bound to take a photo of the user as well as photocopy of the ID Card like Passport, visa or National ID etc along with registration of valid local address and a contact number, which normally will be verified. Some cafes even take thumb impressions.
Keralites are voracious readers of newspapers. The state is known for its high literacy and its a daily habit for an average Malayali to read atleast 2 newspapers every morning, along with morning coffee. The state has largest number vernacular publications and some of the Malayalam dailies have national record in terms of subscription. The state also have many English newspapers published from the state. The major English language dailies are The Hindu, The New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Pioneer, Hindustan Times, Deccan Chronicle, Economic Times, Business Standard etc. A few American and British magazines like Forbes, Mirror etc are available in bookstalls in major cities. Popular Indian English Magazines are India Today, The Week, The Frontline etc are available commonly. One can find newspapers even in small road-side stalls. One can find complimentary newspapers available near local tea-stall/coffee booths where people sit and read in morning along with their tea. Most of the hotels provide complementary newspapers or keep copy in their lobbies.
Bookstores are commonly seen in almost everywhere. One can find them in cluster, near educational institutions. In addition, lot of private publications as well as local area based publications are seen.
One of the noteworthy factor of Kerala, is presence of community libraries across the state. The Granthashala (Library) movement, has established a series of small libraries and reading rooms across the state, even in remote interiors. However one can get mostly Malayalam based publications in these kind of community libraries. Public libraries are common features in most of the cities, where English and other language reading materials are available.
Some of the Malayalam News papers started even 100 years before and have the highest circulation among the regional language news papers in India.
Radio & TV
Kerala has several radio services. However most of them are Malayalam services, though many as part of catering youngsters, have English programs. Most of the private FMs are primarily meant for entertainment. Key Brands are Radio Mango 91.9, Club FM 94.3 (except in Thrissur where it operates as 104.8), Red FM 93.5, Best FM 95, Radio Mirchi 98.3, Big FM 92.7.
The state has made strives in Community radio and multi-lingual social oriented programs. Community radio operates in limited frequency range, mostly operated from nearby colleges or community centers, with local informations and social development program. Many of the programs will be aired in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and English. Popular community radios are Radio DC in Trivandrum, Wagamon; Radio Matooli, Gynavani, Radio Media Village etc.
The Government of India’s All India Radio (AIR) operates 5 AM stations and 9 FM services across Kerala. The services will be in Malayalam prominently, with slots for Hindi and English programs.
Kerala has strong Television viewing culture. The state has more than 20 Television channels with more than eight 24 hours dedicated News channels, apart from several local channels. Though all the services are in Malayalam, some news channels features English News slots. Cable and Direct-To-Home television connections are widespread and almost all hotels/homestays offers complimentary connection. Most of these services have foreign channels as well as most of national services. India’s popular lifestyle and Travel channels like NDTV Good Times, TLC, Fox Traveller etc are popular Indian English Travel channels, ideal for tourists.
- Lakshadweep – the pristine coral reef islands, small archipelagos, white sand beaches famous for scuba diving.
- Sri Lanka — this wonderful island, now recovering from years of civil war, is an easy flight from Kochi or Trivandrum.
- Maldives – world famous island country, well connected with easy flights from Trivandrum, famous for its water sports and beach tourism.
- Madurai — city famous for its Meenakshi Amman Temple, it was among the nominees for the new list of 7 wonders of the world for its architecture.
- Courtallam – famous for its several small and large water falls and oil therapy, located near to Kollam
- Bangalore — the garden city, once the sleepy home of pensioners now transformed into the city of pubs and technology companies.
- Kodagu – a popular hill-station, known as Scotland of India. Famous for its exotic coffee plantations, Tibetan settlements, forest safaris and woods party.
- Mysore – The cultural capital of neighboring Karnataka State, famous for its palaces and festivals