So, you have decided to visit Andaman this summer, and need to plan the perfect vacation that fits everything from your budget, requirements and the places you want to visit.
There are several things you need to consider based on what you have in mind, including:
Type of Hotels
Preferred length of stay
Islands you will visit
Reaching by flight or ship
To plan a trip, you must first decide whether you need to buy a package or to plan a trip by yourself, let’s compare them both and see which the best option for you is.
Planning a trip to Andaman by yourself:
To plan a trip by yourself you will need to pay attention to more factors than any other place.
This is because the islands are still in development and don’t have clear access to every place when ferries and permits are taken into play, the planning takes an additional level of effort.
Here are the things you will need to pay attention to:
Vehicles for sightseeing.
Cruise and ferry tickets to go to another island.
Forest tickets and permits to get access to specific locations.
Timings and rules of the places.
Selecting the perfect hotel.
Now, the list grows if we pay attention to other minor details, but let’s take it as an overview.
To plan a vacation by yourself, you’ll need to book cabs and vehicles before you begin your journey, this is because most of the vehicles in Andaman are pre-booked and there is always a shortage for cabs in short notice. But there are public transportation and rental bikes available if you need it. Just make sure to book it for every island you visit as most of the islets in Andaman are separated by sea, without any bridges or roadways.
Cruise and ferry tickets must be done before you reach here, as most of the cruise tickets are completely booked around 3 weeks from the departure and there can be an immediate shortage, which might interfere with your trip plans.
Ferry tickets can’t be pre-booked and one must visit the jetty to get a ticket, this might seem good enough, but the Islanders are given the first priority so you might end up not getting any. So, it’s better to plan ahead.
Tickets and permits are required to visit specific places, which can be taken by visiting the respective office of the controller. This cannot be booked online.
Timings and rules of the places:
There are several places in Andaman where one has to follow specific rules, for example: you cannot take photos inside the airport, etc.
Moreover, the closing times of several places are at 5 PM and one has to book the boat before that to leave the island. For Example: In Ross Island, the last boat leaves at 5 PM, after which there is no way to get back to your hotel and there is no accommodation provided on the island itself.
Therefore, it’s better to pre-book all tickets.
Selecting the perfect hotel needs to be a top priority when planning a vacation by yourself, especially when the cabs are not pre-booked. Taking the hotel near the urban areas of Andaman will help you get around faster. This makes sure you can easily book the ferry tickets and get permits.
Things to keep with you when planning a trip to Andaman by Yourself:
Your Identity Proof- Which is necessary to get ferry tickets, permits and entry to islands.
Passport- Required at the airport and ship boarding for non-Indian citizens.
Offline Map of Andaman – As discussed above, you won’t be able to use maps online, so keeping a map with you will help tremendously.
Emergency Contacts – Keeping contacts of local authorities in case of mishaps or wild animal confrontation.
Bus Timings Schedule – Buses on off-areas have a gap of minimum 1-2 hours. A bus schedule will help you plan the trip accordingly and avoid the hassle.
Cab Driver’s Number – Most of the off areas in Andaman have pre-booked card and cabs which makes finding a cab on spot, challenging. Keep a trusted driver’s number to help you in such cases.
Ferry Schedule – Just like buses ferries are scheduled with 1-2 hours gap and during peak season, there are no tickets available due to local traveler’s abundance. Keeping a ferry schedule and booking the tickets in advance is advised to avoid additional wait times.
Ferry Ticketing Locations – While most of the ferry ticketing is done near the Jetty itself, there are several places in Andaman where the ticketing is done in another office, far from the jetty. A good example is Jolly Buoy, for which the ticketing is done almost 25 Kms away from the boarding area. Therefore, keep all the locations in check to avoid getting left behind.
Procedure to Get Permits – Permits for special reserved areas needs to be done with clarity and have a few procedures which need to be taken care of. Especially when you are traveling with a camera or drone. Make sure to visit the official govt website to know all of them and plan accordingly.
Planning by yourself vs packages from tour operators:
This is the question that we have seen pop around everywhere, on Facebook Groups, Andaman Forums, etc. There are three things that make travel lovable.
Planning a trip by yourself to Andaman can be fun as you’ll of course get the freedom to change the plans as you see fit but there might be a few downsides to it too.
With tour packages, everything is done and taken care of by the provider,including the tickets, permits, vehicles, etc., so you just have to focus your energy on enjoying the place and spending the time with your friends and family.
The management and bookings of cabs, cruises, permissions, timings, hotels are hard to take care of, for new travelers because of so many variables and needs to be in perfect time.
This would’ve been easier if the internet connectivity of the islands was good, but it’s not, which makes it harder to even use maps on your mobile.
The second thing to note here is that the island pretty much closes at 9:30 and more than several areas on an island can be a little bit dangerous because of the tropical surroundings, crocodiles, restricted areas, bad cell phone reception and lack of rapid support. This makes traveling in Andaman a real challenge for people who don’t know the place.
No need to panic though, with the right information, precaution and offline maps you might be good to go, if you really like to explore places by yourself.
It’s a general thinking that planning a vacation by yourself can be cost-effective, which is true everywhere in India, but from what we have seen – not in Andaman.
The amount of tickets, hotels, and vehicles are bought by the agency in bulk and shared with the guest that lowers the pricing. You might even compare the pricing to later find out that it’s almost the same, but mostly lower, if booked by the right agency that is.
The best thing to here would be to find an agency who offers transparent pricing, so you can compare everything, later on, to see how much you ended up saving. In most cases, the difference in travel costs between self-travel vs agency is 1500/- to 2000/- which is a really small price to pay for comfort and safety of your family and friends.
But make sure to choose the right tour operator, advisably local, to avoid getting charged extra on commissions and service charges which in our 9 years of experience, can range from Rs. 5,000/- -9,000/-
Of course, it all comes down to your choice and how you want to spend your vacation.
While Andamans are mostly peaceful, they can equally dangerous if you don't follow proper instructions, signs, or enter into restricted or tribal areas.People living in Andamans know all the places, but since the internet is slow in here, you can't expect to use the internet to find information or get help at the spot.
If you are visiting by yourself, make sure to read about the Andaman Islands in detail before planning a trip.
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