A Travel Guide to Andamans – India’s Best-Kept Secret

posted in: Andamans, Asia, India, Tips | 106

One of the main highlights of my travels last year was the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. With its phenomenal beaches, mesmerizing nature trails, stunning sunsets, and elaborate history, this place completely bowled me over. Some of the beaches in Andamans like the Radhanagar beach, have made it to various lists of the World’s best beaches. After seeing its crystal clear waters and colorful reefs, I totally endorse the same. I have been quite vocal in recommending a vacation to Andamans for I know that it will never disappoint, but delight all those who head there.

The Gorgeous Govindnagar Beach in Havelock Island, Andamans

Tucked away from the Indian Mainland, in the Bay of Bengal, this archipelago of islands is still quite unexplored for a lot of reasons – the distance and the accessibility being two key ones. Away from the mainland, this place is not as developed as the bigger cities of India and personally, I feel that is where the charm lies. However, it also, means that you need to be extra-prepared if you plan to head to the Andamans. Here is my travel guide to the Andamans that promises to help you plan your trip better – right from booking your air tickets to staying there and visiting the various places on these islands.

1) Traveling to Andamans

Andaman & Nicobar Islands is a Union Territory of India, directly under the control of the Central Government of India. Port Blair is the main city of this archipelago with its own airport and port. There are two ways to get to Port Blair – by flight or by boat. There are regular boat services from Chennai, Kolkata and Vizag and it generally takes 3 -4 days to reach Port Blair. These are not luxury liners but regular passenger boats and more information on the same can be found here.

Andamans from my flight
Andamans from my flight

I would recommend Air Travel as it does help save a lot of time. Having said that I must warn you that there are limited flights to Port Blair and the air tickets for the same need to be booked well in advance to beat the last minute exorbitant rates. Chennai and Kolkata have the maximum flights to Port Blair. All other cities in India are connected via these two cities. There are some special flights that are added during the peak seasons – October to May. I would also, recommend keeping a price alert on these flights so that you can grab the best deal on the airfare, especially if there is a sale going on.

2) Permits and Permissions for Andamans

Being a Union territory and a tribal area, there are certain permits required for Andamans. To enter Andamans, Indians do not require any special permits but if you are a Foreign National, you need a Restricted Area Permit. This is easily available on arrival at Port Blair. Remember to visit the Immigration Authorities for your 30-day permit. Alternatively, you can also, get this permit from the Foreigner registration offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata.

The convoy to the Baratang Island, Andamans
The convoy to the Baratang Island, Andamans

Whether Indian or not, there are certain areas which are out of bounds in Andamans. Nicobar Islands largely, falls under this category. And then, there are some areas like the Baratang Island that require you to travel with special permits in a convoy. You can know more about my trip to Baratang Island and how to get here through this post. 

3) Hotels in Andamans

The three main islands in Andamans which I recommend for a stay are  – Port Blair, Havelock Island and Neil Island. Port Blair has plenty of options in all possible budgets for you to pick from. Being a small town, you can pick your stay anywhere here and you are likely to find the key attractions close to your hotel. I personally, picked a hotel at Delanipur Junction and found it quite convenient. Middle point is another area close to this one that I found interesting – not too crowded but had enough shops and restaurants to keep you comfortable.

The Wild Orchid Resort at Havelock Island, Andamans
The Wild Orchid Resort at Havelock Island, Andamans

Havelock and Neil Island on the other hand, have limited stay options. Given that, they are naturally more expensive than the hotels in Port Blair. Booking these hotels in advance is recommended. These are small islands and most of the accommodation is by the beaches. You can stay on any of these beaches as they are all just amazing! On my trip, I stayed on the Govindnagar beach in Wild Orchid Resort – a cute, small property with lovely wooden cottages and very comfortable beds.

4) Guide to Island-Hopping on Andamans

There is no escaping Island Hopping at this lovely archipelago. I would personally, categorize this activity into two buckets – the first being Islands that you stay on like Havelock and Neil Islands and the second being Islands that you visit during the day as they have restricted access. Here is how you can go about this –

Islands to stay

To reach Havelock and Neil Island, you need to book a ferry from Port Blair. These ferries or liners are run by Government as well as Private operators. You cannot pre-book the government ferries and you would need to head to Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair to catch these. You will need to stand in the queue earlier than the departure time to get your seat. There are limited seats available. Here is the schedule that I clicked during my visit in October.

Timings for Government Ferry at Andamans
Timings for Government Ferry at Andamans

Among the private operators, Makruzz is the most recommended. Very comfortable seating and easy to book as you can do so online through here. It is advisable to book the seats as soon as it opens as the same gets filled very fast. Typically the booking opens two weeks before your scheduled date of departure. Alternately get your hotel in Havelock or Port Blair to help you with the booking.

Cruise to Havelock from Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair
Cruise to Havelock from Phoenix Jetty in Port Blair

There are very limited timings and cruises available to these islands – typically just three a day – one early morning, one in the noon and the last one in the evening.

Islands for Day Trips
Ross Island

These islands are all accessible from Port Blair and you can just head to Aberdeen jetty to pick an operator and book instantly. Most hotels help you with the booking as well, so that you do not have to waste too much time. The boat operators here typically give you a package of two – three islands and you can book as per your convenience. There are group boats where you travel with other people as well as private boat hires. Ross Island, North Bay Island, Jolly Buoy etc are some names that fall under this category.

5) Conveyance on the various Islands

Port Blair has plenty of options for your internal travel – hiring a 2 wheeler, cabs and auto rickshaws. A lot of travel companies attach themselves to you from the time you arrive. For travel within Port Blair, you can just use auto rickshaws. For slightly far off places like Chidiya Tapu and Baratang Island, it is best to hire a cab.

Hiring a two wheeler in Havelock Island is a good idea
Hiring a two wheeler in Havelock Island is a good idea

In Havelock Islands, there are no auto rickshaws and cabs on call. You have to rely on your hotel to help you with one. Alternatively, you can do what we did. We took the number of the cabbie who we found at the jetty when we reached Havelock. Whenever we required him, we would just call him. For the rest of the time, we hired a 2 wheeler and rode around ourselves.

Neil Island is even smaller than Havelock Islands and you do not really need a vehicle to move around.

6) Local Food

 

A multi-cuisine restaurant in Havelock, Andamans
A multi-cuisine restaurant in Havelock, Andamans

There is no specialty food as such in Andamans. You get a good mix of Bengali and South Indian cuisines here. At Havelock and Port Blair, you have plenty of continental food options too. If you are a foodie, you will absolutely love the choice of shacks and restaurants at Havelock. From Chinese to continental and Indian, they sure know how to reach your heart through your stomach.

7) Staying connected while in Andamans

Limited connectivity in Andamans
Limited connectivity in Andamans                                                                                              Image Credit: Pixabay under CCO

The one thing you should forget about when you head to Andamans is the data connection. There is very limited Wi-Fi or cellular data service available here. In some places, like the Baratang Island and Havelock Island, it is a miracle if you manage to get some mobile signals. Airtel worked the best there. Even with that, you will have to keep roaming around to get that one blip of signals. Thus, do not be surprised when you are booking hotels, you are not able to get through some of their mobile lines or if they email back to you after a day!

Frankly, I think I enjoyed the place even more without the internet. 🙂

8) Water sports at Andamans

Me doing Scuba Diving in Andamans
Me doing Scuba Diving in Andamans

Andamans offers you plenty of options for water sports. It is best known for scuba diving. You can even enjoy a half submarine ride or do a sea walk. Snorkeling, jet skiing, banana boat rides are available in plenty. Remember to engage with certified PADI instructors for Scuba Diving. The best options are available at Havelock. There are plenty of dive schools here, one almost every 100 m. On my last visit, the shore dives started at INR 2500 and the mid sea ones started at INR 3500.

Water sports in Andamans
Water sports in Andamans

All these activities can be arranged by your hotels or you can even do it yourself by reaching an island and engaging an operator who has a shop on it. The rates for the same are pretty standard and are displayed at the entrance of a shop. Please ensure you listen to all the instructions carefully and keep safe while engaging in these water sports.

9) Paying for various activities in Andamans

Image Credits: Pixabay under CC0

I have already mentioned the poor internet connectivity in Andamans. Hence, you might find that card machines don’t work easily in these places. Cash transactions are the most preferred, especially in Havelock. There are plenty of ATMs available. However, it is the best to carry it from the start as during my visit, I found a lot of ATMs out of cash on Havelock.

10) Things to carry for Andamans

Packing for Andamans
Packing for Andamans                                                                                                               Image Credits: Pixabay under CC0

Here is a list of essentials that you will need at Andamans –

  • Sunscreen
  • Cotton clothes and beach wear
  • Sand slippers
  • Flat shoes for your hiking excursions
  • A medicine kit with essential medicines
  • A wide-brim hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
  • Binoculars, especially if you are keen bird watcher

11) Places to Visit in Andamans

Deer on Ross Island
Deer on Ross Island

Now this can be a long long list but here are a few that I visited and completely enjoyed

  • The Cellular Jail in Port Blair – for its melancholic history and really unusual architecture. The stories within the walls can really chill you but also, interest and excite you. I also, recommend going in for their light and sound show. You can check this place out in detail through this post.
  • Ross Island – an island that leaves you wanting for more. With its overgrown root structures, old dilapidated buildings, green pastures and herds of friendly deer, you will find that time is less. Check out how I became Lara Croft here.
  • Chidiya Tapu – The best sunsets to be experienced here. Even if it is a cloudy day, you will not be disappointed.
  • Baratang Island – You might like it or not. But I absolutely adored it – for its limestone caves, the mangrove forests and the whole experience of going in a convoy to reach the islands.
  • Samundrika Museum in Port Blair – I am yet to write about this one but it is a small stop which helps you discover the cultural and bio diversity of these islands
  • Anthropology Museum in Port Blair – Andamans is native to a lot of tribals and discovering their lifestyle is quite enlightening. No pictures were allowed here and hence, describing it all might be difficult. With mock tribal huts, exhibits of their food vessels, their tools and clothes and explanations of their festivities, I found time short for this museum
  • Havelock Island – Yes, I know this is my long overdue post. I promise to have it up soon and link back here. Havelock was my little heaven with its crystal blue water and unspoiled beaches. If there is a place that I want to retire to right now, Havelock it will be
  • Neil Island – Another piece of Paradise where you can stay and engage in some water sports
  • North Bay Island – This is close to Port Blair and one can engage in water sports whilst visiting
  • Chatham Mills – An ancient mill with history that leads back to the World War II and the British
  • Corbyn’s Cove in Port Blair – A water sports center in Port Blair. However, I recommend this only if you are not heading to Havelock Island

Sigh! Lists in Andamans are going to be never ending and time here is going to be so memorable that you will want to return over and over again. So, I hope you are already using these tips, seaching for your air tickets and booking your hotels for Andamans. Trust me, it is great to discover India’s Best Kept Secret!

 

Andamans

 

 

 

 

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106 Responses

  1. Hey this is awesome. Loved all the pictures. Particularly you doing scuba is very sharp with colourful fishes around 🙂 Have you taken scuba diving lessons before?

  2. pictures are amazing..

  3. This is a comprehensive guide to Andaman’s’ trip.

  4. vinayak paranjpe

    Very Useful Information

  5. LOVE Andamans <3 Totally head over heels in love with it. This is a fab guide for first timers 🙂 Love the aerial shot! Superb

  6. What a great guide to everything one should know about Andamans! I love how you included important details like the ferry schedule, a specific packing list, and the need to have cash. And that’s quite a list of things to do — lots of variety. Your photos are also beautiful!

    • Thank you Tami. I know how difficult it was for me to get this info. So was glad to pass it on 🙂

  7. rationalraj2000

    A very informative post. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I am not sure why Andamans were not on my radar before. You have definitely peaked my interests.

    • Thanks Heather. It is a hidden secret that not many talk of. I just revealed it for you 😉

  9. My trip to Andaman is probably my best travel experience ever. And yes, the magic lies in the fact that its beauty is raw and pristine. Did you try ‘Underwater walking’ though? I loved it even more than Scuba diving to be honest.
    Love your post. Have a great day!

    • I have done underwater walking elsewhere but I definitely prefer scuba to it. 🙂 Glad you too had a blast in Andamans. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. This is very interesting information. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Great post keep up the good work.

  12. You made great points why one should visit Andamans. Although I always want to be connected via social media, it will not be a problem for me if the internet connection there will be weak. I will just use my notebook and pen to take down notes and just connect online when I already have a stable internet. I believe that we can enjoy more of the place if we unplug from social media.

    • I agree, I think I enjoyed the place more because I had a digital detox. I would recommend it too. Cheers

  13. A great travel guide.. and the pictures are great. We somehow missed Chidiya Tapu when we visited there.

  14. Andamans and the North East of India are some of the places that still retain their pristine charm owing to lesser tourist footfalls. But it indeed is a Catch-22 situation, and soon we could see hordes of tourists overrunning these places. This is a very exhaustive guide to visit the Andamans and brings alive the natural beauty of the place too.

    • True, it is a catch 22. The only solution I see is self-awareness of the travelers – to be responsible and leave the place for it is. With that hope, I keep sharing the secrets 🙂

  15. This is really a Great post and that scuba diving image is very impressive. The attractive colorful fishes can easily grab attention. Once again…Lovely Images.

    • Thank you Mohuya. Scuba diving was one enthralling experience and for me Andamans will always be special because of that.

  16. I’d probably go for Port Blair which suits all budgets, although I’d check hotels everywhere first although this sounds like the best bet. I had to google where these Islands are, they look so beautiful!

    • Actually, I would highly recommend Havelock and if you book well in advance, you can manage a few budget accommodations. Cheers

  17. This is a wonderful guide to the Andamans. It is both informative AND inspiring. You really show off how much the Andamans have to offer. From pristine beaches, to secluded islands, to historical sites, to watersports – it’s so irresistible. Thanks for all the tip for foreign nationals too.

  18. ravenoustravellers

    Pinned!! The Andamans was already high on our bucket list and now your beautiful pictures have made us even more desperate to get there! Port Blair sounds like a great option! Thanks for all your tips and recommendations!

  19. This is really the be all and end all post with all details required to visit Andaman. Super impressed. Well done .

  20. Stephanie Fox

    Amazing guide that covers things I wouldnt even have known I needed to know! The island day trips look fabulous! Youve really covered everything!

  21. Thanks for a very detailed guide! You did a great job!

  22. Katie @ Zen Life and Travel

    Sounds like it is a bit difficult to get there…but like you said, that leads to part of the charm! I imagine the scuba diving is amazing – I would love to dive in this part of the world some day. (although it would be hard to get my husband here once he hears about the wifi situation!)

    • I would tell your partner that he needs to digitally detox and that too in a paradise :D. I would highly recommend visiting here Katie.

  23. Andamans is a beautiful place. Some of the beaches of Andamans are comparable to that of Western Thailand. We had a great time while at Andamans back in 2012.

    • Yep, am sure you did. The beaches are really amazing here. And yes, quite similar to Thailand :D/ Cheers

  24. Wow! I think that you had a blast in Andamans. No way to get bored as there will be many activities to do. I love the banana boat ride. Will certainly consider these activities in the near future.

  25. I didn’t know exactly were Andaman and Nicobar islands were until know. Of course I didn’t know as well they are Indian islands, from the map it could seem they belong to Malaysia or Myanmar. A really exhaustive guide, touching all the most important points if you plan to go there. it must be a real adventure to sail fro Chennai to Port Blair by boat!

    • Oh, India has a lot of islands. These are on the east and then we have the Lakshwadweep ones on the West. Both unexplored and pristine. You should definitely check them out.

  26. Ami, thanks for this post. I would refer to it while planning for my trip. The links you have embedded in your posts are very handy.

  27. Very helpful guide to Andamans for first timers (like myself)! I love when posts have really helpful logistics like the ferry schedule and the need to have cash. The water sports look like I’d have a lot of fun there!

    • Indeed. The place is just so amazing. Happy that you found the article useful. And hope it helps you plan your trip better.

  28. I thought some of the places sounded familiar, then I remembered some of your past posts.

    I love the fact you can dive there, if only it was a little cheaper!

    • I thought INR 3500 was quite a reasonable price. The other beach destinations have it much higher :P.

  29. This is a nice set of tips! Your photos of blue seas make me want to to go there asap. Island hopping sounds like a lot of fun. I all for going by air … 3 days sailing is a bit too much 🙂 🙂 Not having done diving, I think the sea walks would be something I might be interested in .

  30. What a lovely set of tips Ami..Andaman has always been on my list for years somehow it just doesnt work for me when I plan. But your experience of water activities has tempted me again. I would love to try sailing to Andaman same I did in Lakshadweep as well 🙂 As always you are good at writing travel guides!

  31. India is full of amazing places! I would love to.see this one one day

  32. That’s an indepth post! Thanks for all the details. Its indeed sad that we consider the Jarawa like some leopard spotting. But I really hope we consider them a leopard in all ways, I mean, we wouldn’t dare to get into the forest and interact with a leopard!!!

  33. Andamans looks awesome and I’ve never heard about it previously to this post 🙂 Definitely will check it out

  34. I wonder how crowded it is getting now? I visited in off peak season in 2012 and it was a bliss!

  35. Great guide to Andamans… I’d love to visit this place at some point. Love the islands and the clear turquoise sea!

  36. What a gorgeous place, I have never even heard of this place, nor would I have known how to get a permit or that there was even great diving there! Super informative and looks amazing !

  37. Andamans is a great place for vacation. The beaches reminds one about the beaches of Western Thailand. We didn’t go for for a scuba dive in Andamans.

    • So true, the beaches are quite like the Thailand ones except these are a little quieter 😀

  38. Sophi Wanderer

    wow, this looks amazing. never knew this place is part of India. I always thought that this is neighboring county of India.
    It looks amazing. I would love to visit it someday! cheers!

    • Like I mentioned, it is our secret which I have just shared with you. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Sophi

  39. What a great guide! this place looks absolutely stunning 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  40. Never heard about Andamans but after I have read you guide it seem to be a lovely place to explore with a lot of activities!

  41. It’s good to know about the special permits required and all the little details that you might come across. The island hopping sounds absolutely incredible as a holiday. There seems to be so much in the way of activities on the islands.

  42. Hey…
    I am from Germany and I want to visit India. Can you please tell me the best places to visit in India?

    • Thanks Anna for writing it. There are tons of options. Depends on your taste and your interests – beaches, heritage, adventure. Let me know what exactly you need so that I can help you accordingly.

  43. This is going to be my guide when I travel to Andaman. The island is so fascinating that I plan to do a trip wherein I can cover as much as possible. My only worry is not to miss on the ferry ticket bookings, neither to end up spending too much time on the same. Thanks for the tips around it.

  44. what a great info..very good guidance. this is absolutely stunning. very good place for vacation. thanks for sharing.

  45. Andaman is on my list for this year. I believe the Andaman archipelago of islands are still not that touristy like other places in India. Your well compiled and detailed guide is really going to help me out while planning my trip.

  46. The Lavish Nomad

    I have always wanted to visit Andaman and Nicobar and I once even planned a trip but I can’t remember what stopped me. The view from the plane window looks beautilful! Did you get to see any swimming elephants by the way?

    • It took me 3 trip plans and 2 near bookings to get here. It is a sign that you need to get there soon. And no, did not see any swimming elephants 🙂

  47. gobeyondbounds

    Andaman is a beautiful place… With those watersports and fun makes for so much fun. Loved the way you have captured it.

  48. This is such a perfect guide to the Andaman and Nicobar islands with all the important information. I am planning a trip here this year and this article will come in handy. Beautiful place, cant wait to head there

  49. Your post made me nostalgic about my visit to Andaman and Nicobar few years ago. I only liked Havelock Island and did my first scuba diving and snorkeling there. Though I didn’t like Neil Island. It was a total disaster. In Port Blair, I only liked Cellular Jail and its evening light show.

    • The light and sound show here was one of the best I have seen in India. Definitely worth the sit. Glad you have had a pleasant time at Andamans. Cheers

  50. I would love to visit the Adamans islands. I have heard about them a few years ago for the first time and immediately thought to myself that it’s pure paradise there. I hope to make it sometimes soon, it was about time to head over to the South of India as well, after visiting the North 3 times.

    • Thank you Joanna. The south of India has a lot of splendid places to be discovered. Hope you plan a trip soon

    • Thank you Joanna. There are a lot of splendid places in the south waiting to be explored. Hope you plan a trip soon.

  51. Gorgeous images and a comprehensive guide. Andamans has long been on my bucketlist. Will hopefully get there soon.

  52. I am planning a visit this year with parents. Very informative blog. Wanted to know if I will get room on arrival or should I pre book it? And are there rooms available under the budget of Rs. 1000 a night? Do let me know. Thanks

    • Rooms have a limited availability -and thus, prebooking is advised. Also, rooms under 1000 are available but you need to be able to figure a lot of these when you reach there as they are not really listed on the internet. Cheers

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