Top Tips and Itinerary to Plan a Trip to Andaman

Andaman Islands in Bay of Bengal off the Eastern Coast of mainland India is a sight to behold with gorgeous beaches, pristine waters and unending white sands dotted with mangroves. Towards the north of the islands there are mud volcanoes, lime stone caves, giant turtle nesting grounds and abundant marine life in the coral reefs beneath the crystal pristine sea. I took long walks in the islands that I visited and in one instance a short dinghy ride in the sea reminded me of Roald Dahl’s escapades to the islands on summer afternoons. I have attempted to create a near exhaustive Andaman Travel Plan Guide for everyone planning to visit the islands; to decide on places to visit based on their preferences, choices to plan a suitable itinerary and whether to plan on their own or opt for a package tour.

Andaman is not Goa and I specifically write this since I have over heard mumbling and grumbling on the lack of night life, food and facilities.It still retains its quiet and peaceful culture and I hope it remains that way. The waves do not come roaring down the coast in most beaches and is pretty much calm and demure. I love this delicate beauty of the sea; lazily stretched out over miles and rippling in different shades of blue. It has a soothing effect on the mind; something that instantly washes off wordly worries.

About Andaman

The 300 big and small islands of Andaman probably date back thousands of years. Most of these islands are not inhabited even today and pretty much remain inaccessible. The indigenous people of Andaman (Jarawa, Sentinelese, Great Andamanese, Onge are aboroginal tribes) appear to have African origin and have inhabited the island from time immemorial until the British landed in the 18th Century followed by people from mainland India and Japanese (during WWII) 

The people living in the many inhabited islands now, are mostly descendants of the people convicted under Imperial British Law during independence, post partition refugee settlers from Bangladesh who were adopted and accepted by the Union of India and provided land in the islands for livelihood, people of Tamil origin who came to work in as laborers or set up small businesses and the people who came in from mainland India for government jobs.

Port Blair the capital is of Andaman is trying to be modern in step with rest of India but is still largely devoid of snazzy malls, multiplex theatres and ostensible western culture. After walking around the Bazaars in Port Blair it was pretty apparent that the Island economy is driven by Government jobs and of late travel and construction; the latter fueling the former building roads, hotels, resorts and other infrastructure.

How to Reach Andamans

The best mode of transport is to fly to Port Blair from Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. The option to travel by ship from Kolkata and Chennai but is not the preferred mode as air fares just got affordable.

The early tourists mostly came from Kolkata and Chennai sailing ship from the harbors and sustaining the ride across choppy waters for 2 to 3 days since the airfare on the national carrier was well beyond reach. With the liberalization of the civil aviation sector in India; private airlines set up operations and with competitive fares being offered for advance purchase of tickets; a holiday to Andaman just got affordable and the tourism sector opened up.

Best Time to Visit Andamans

December to March is the ideal time to visit. The monsoon months between June and August are best avoided. The weather is pleasant and warm and the sea and its a pleasure to soak in the sea.

What to see and Which are the Places to Visit

There is something in it for everyone in Andaman from a child to a senior citizen. These are highlights of some of the most visited destinations in Andaman Islands

What are the adventure activities available

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Sea Walk and much more are offered from the islands in Andaman. Here is a Quick Guide to Choose Adventure Activities in Andaman

How to Travel around the Islands

Ferries are available to travel between Islands and the private ones though more expensive than the Government Ferry are comfortable and on time. I traveled on Makkruzz and Makkruzz Gold and found them to be very comfortable and of intenational standard. I would strongly advise that the Inter Island Ferry Tickets be purchased online in advance. Click to check ferry schedule and purchase online. 

Local Travel in the islands is best done by renting a bike or cycle. In Port Blair or other islands autos and hired cars charge on a flat rate on a point to point basis. It will appear exorbitant if compared to kilometres but then life in the remote islands is not easy and the cost of fuel and other things are pretty high. Drivers are in most cases polite and honest but due to lack of exposure do not expect them to be very professional and trained for a service industry. Speak to them with respect and they will do the job.

What kind of Food Options are available in Andaman

There is no distinct cuisine for Andaman and remains as a mixture of North Indian, Bengali and Tamil cuisine given the population. I went around eating from different places and the food is okay but definitely not a Foodies Paradise as would be expected given the proximity to the sea. I found Lighthouse in Port Blair serving some good crabs and fish. I am hopeful that with increasing tourism footfall the culinary prowess will improve in the various restaurants.

Choosing the Perfect Travel Itinerary for Andamans

Apart from the time on hand, budget and the number of people traveling; the most important question will be to decide “What Kind of Traveler are You” and your preferences. An ideal trip would be a mix of heritage and nature in the form of sea, coral reefs and adventure activities. Most people speak Hindi, Bengali and Tamil in the islands.

  • Mixed Bunch of people including small children –                                     5 to 7 day itinerary
  • Beach Bums wanting to spend time by the sea and just chill –                 5 Day Itinerary
  • Honeymooners/ Luxury  Travelers      –                                                     5 Day Itinerary
  • Adventure seeker looking for Scuba and Snorkeling etc                          7 Day Itinerary
  • Seeking off the beaten Track Experience-                                                7 Day Itinerary
  • Group wanting to get an exhaustive flavor of Andamans-                         9 Day Itinerary
  • Solo Tripper looking for authentic experience-                                          9 Day Itinerary ++

Andaman Trip Itineraries 

After a recent trip to Andamans; some seen and some unseen locations; I came up with this list of different itineraries which can help in trip planning. Keep these facts in mind while planning the dates

  • Ross Island is closed on Wednesdays
  • Jolly Buoy Island is closed on Mondays and is open between December and May. During other times the trips are made to nearby Red Skin Island
  • Ross and Smith Island is closed on Wednesdays
  • Turtle Nesting in Ramnagar Beach and elsewhere is between December and Mid-March
  • Ross Island and Cellular Jail both have Light and Sound Show. Ross Island is a Laser Show on the history of Ross Island and Cellular Jail is a simple light and sound show all about the independence movement of our Freedom Fighters
  • Chatham Saw Mill closes for outsiders at 2pm
  • You will not find Jolly Buoy Island in most packaged tours. The number is regulated and as heard from an official there is little or no commission offered to 3rd part agents. This is hearsay and it may be incorrect.
  • North Bay Island near Ross Island is best left out since Jolly Buoy, Havelock and Neil offer better views. The only reason can be for that Dolphin Boat Ride or Semi Submarine which in my opinion are marketing gimmicks with low value for money. I say this with authority since I have taken the Dolphin Boat Ride and regretted the time and money spent.
Super Short -3 Night 4 Day Trip Itinerary 
  • Day 1 – Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Early Morning Ferry to Havelock Island; Spend the day in Havelock
  • Day 3 – Havelock Island to Port Blair in the evening
  • Day 4 – Depart from Port Blair

Popular- 5 Night 6 Day Trip Itinerary 

  • Day 1 – Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Jolly Buoy Island in the morning; Chidiya Tapu or Ross Island in the evening
  • Day 3 – Early Morning Ferry to Havelock Island; Spend the day in Havelock
  • Day 4 – Havelock Island
  • Day 5 – Havelock Island to Neil Island to Port Blair (2 Cruises)
  • Day 6 – Depart from Port Blair
Relaxed – 7 Night 8 Day Trip Itinerary
  • Day 1 – Arrive in Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Jolly Buoy Island in the morning; Chidiya Tapu or Ross Island in the evening
  • Day 3 – Day Trip to Baratang Lime Stone Caves and Mud Volcano
  • Day 4 -Early Morning Ferry to Havelock Island; Spend the day in Havelock
  • Day 5 – Havelock Island
  • Day 6 – Havelock to Neil Island
  • Day 7 – Neil Island to Port Blair. Afternoon Museum Trip and Chatham
  • Day 8 – Depart from Port Blair
Adventure- 7 Night 8 Day Trip Itinerary

Most Scuba Diving Certification Courses are for 2 to 4 days. This trip can be shortened and some time spent on traveling to Neil Island

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Jolly Buoy Island in the morning; Chidiya Tapu or Ross Island in the evening
  • Day 3 – Early Morning Ferry to Havelock Island; Spend the day in Havelock
  • Day 4 – Scuba Diving Certification in Havelock Island
  • Day 5 – Scuba Diving Certification in Havelock Island
  • Day 6 – Scuba Diving Certification
  • Day 7 – Scuba Diving Certification ; 4pm Ferry to Port Blair
  • Day 8 – Depart from Port Blair
Off the Beaten Track- 7 Night 8 Day Trip Itinerary

The popular destinations of Havelock and Neil have been excluded from this itinerary since the off beat traveler is seeking a different experience. Ross and Smith Island and the beaches in Rangat/ Diglipur offer a pristine sea side experience. For the

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Jolly Buoy Island in the morning; Chidiya Tapu or Ross Island in the evening
  • Day 3 – Port Blair to Mayabunder via Baratang and Rangat. Stop for Limestone Cave in Baratang; Aamkunj and Dhaninallah in Rangat
  • Day 4 – Mayabunder to Ross and Smith Island. Night Halt at Diglipur
  • Day 5 – Trek to Saddle Peak or Beaches and Caves in Diglipur
  • Day 6 – Diglipur to Baratang. Evening Parrot Island visit in Baratang and Night Halt
  • Day 7 – Baratang to Port Blair. Evening Museums/ Chatham and Shopping.
  • Day 8 – Depart from Port Blair

Going Beyond the Generic- 9 Night 10 Day Trip Itinerary

This is the most exhaustive trip of Andamans. If you are not up to trekking in Saddle Peak then adjust the day in Havelock Island. If you have seen pictures of a sand bridge when the sea recedes shot in Andaman ie the unmissable Ross and Smith Island.

  • Day 1 – Arrive in Port Blair (Cellular Jail / Ross Island)
  • Day 2 – Jolly Buoy Island in the morning; Chidiya Tapu or Ross Island in the evening
  • Day 3 – Early Morning Ferry to Havelock Island; Spend the day in Havelock
  • Day 4 – Havelock to Neil Island by morning Ferry; Spend the day in Neil Island
  • Day 5-  Neil Island to Port Blair. Museums and Chatham saw mills in the affternoon
  • Day 6 – Port Blair to Mayabunder via Baratang and Rangat. Stop for Limestone Cave in Baratang; Aamkunj and Dhaninallah in Rangat
  • Day 7- Mayabunder to Ross and Smith Island and night stay in Diglipur
  • Day 8- Saddle Peak Trek in Diglipur, local beaches and limestone caves in Diglipur
  • Day 9- Diglipur to Port Blair. Last minute shopping in Aberdeen Bazaar of Port Blair.
  • Day 10- Depart from Port Blair
Self Execution OR Package Tour OR Customized Option

After deciding on the itinerary; the next big question is whether to opt for a package tour; go ahead and book everything on your own or simply look for a customized option. There are pros and cons of all options.

  • Self Planned DIY Trip Guide 
    • Book hotels online and I found Make My Trip pretty good with the rates.
    • You can alternatively look at the Government Properties in all the locations. Its a bit of a hassle but very cheap for some of the best locations.
    • Also look at the properties of the semi government ANIIDCO
    • Buy Ferry Tickets online for Havelock Island and Neil Island from
    • Local Travel in these small islands is easy by hired 2 wheelers, autos and cars
    • Visit to Jolly Buoy requires a permit to be taken in advance during peak times. Approach your hotel or any local tour operator and obtain it.
    • Tickets for adventure activities are available on the spot. There is absolutely no need to buy that in advance. For Scuba Diving courses and certification, research online, check out the providers in Havelock and decide whom to choose
  • Cost of the Trip For DIY Self Plan 
    • If air tickets are purchased 2 months in advance a return ticket to Port Blair is in the range of Rs 9000 to Rs 12000 as on date
    • All inclusive hotel, local travel including ferry rides and food will be around Rs 20000- Rs 22000 per person assuming mid range hotels for Popular 5 Night Trip for 2 persons.
    • In addition, Water Sports Acitivities can be Rs 500 to Rs 3500 depending on activity
  • For Packaged Trips and Custom Tours 

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: