How to travel to Lakshadweep, India’s Island Paradise
If you have ever seen pictures of those people that look like they are on a beautiful tropical island with white sand and turquoise waters?
Ever wanted to go to beautiful islands without breaking the bank? Well, if you are ever near the country of India, look no further. The Lakshadweep Islands are EXACTLY what you are looking for; unfortunately can be a little tricky to getting on the islands. In the following, you’ll find advice on the process, how to stay on the islands, what the different islands have to offer and the recommendations prior and during your stay.
First of all, the main reasons I am writing this article are:
- Complete information on traveling to the Lakshadweep Islands is slim, difficult to find.
- Where to stay and getting permission to stay on the islands is confusing and difficult.
- I want more people to visit so the tourism becomes better for future guests and my future visits ☺
The Lakshadweep Islands are the northern-most part of a vast undersea mountain range called the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, which the Maldives are also part of. The Lakshadweep is composed of 10 inhabited and 17 uninhabited islands of which only a few can be visited by tourists.
Why Lakshadweep? Beautiful uninhabited islands, pristine waters, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking… paradise. If you want to have the experience of staying on an uninhabited island in a tent and take a break from technology (literally, NO internet or cell service) and not spend a TON of money, this IS the place to go. Don’t worry, there are also habited islands with rooms that have A/C in Lakshadweep.
Additionally, you can walk out into some of the lagoons and just sit or stand as the fish, turtles, rays, eels swim by… the water is so clear and calm, that NO mask is needed! Relax on the beach all day with a book or wade in the calm waters chatting with your fellow tourists. All for the fraction of the cost of the Maldives.
Do I need to convince you any further?
HOW TO STAY ON THE LAKSHADWEEP ISLANDS
As I mentioned the process on how to stay and where to stay on the islands can be confusing. First note, you have to use a travel service to stay on the islands. So use a reputable one. We used Mint Valley E-Tourism and were very happy with their attention to detail and service; we communicated solely by email and I only had to make one call when an airport employee tried to hustle my husband for more paperwork and more money at the airport.
Other guests we met on our trip used SPORTS Lakshadweep , the government’s travel service for the Lakshadweep Islands.
When to stay on the Islands:
The season to go to the islands is October to April. High season for the Islands is November to March. The monsoon season (rain, wind and rough seas) is May to September. During the monsoon season boats do not sail regularly and flights can be delayed/cancelled due to weather.
The process to stay on the Islands:
- Book your package through a travel agency.
- Book your transfers to/from the Islands (airline, boat, etc.) Note: if you are staying on a couple different islands during your stay, inter-island transfers should be part of your package.
- Send a copy of your passport to the travel agency.
- Send a copy of your Indian Visa upon arrival to travel agency.
- Agency will complete the paperwork for Lakshadweep Entry Permit (process has to start 20 days prior to arrival to Islands).
- Print all paperwork, permit and itinerary. You will have to provide all of this BEFORE you get on the plane to Agatti.
- Have your travel agency on speed dial. Just in case there are any issues at airport check-in or arrival.
Transportation to Lakshadweep from Mainland India:
Most people will fly from Cochin (COK, main land India) to Agatti (AGX, Lakshadweep Island Airport). This should be a straightforward process, however, please note that if you are a foreigner (not an Indian citizen) you may have difficulties getting on the same flight if you are more than 2 people in your party. The government holds a number of seats for Indian nationals. Additionally, there is ONE flight per day on Air India to get to the Islands. The flight time is 1 hour 20 minutes and the cost is around $150 round trip. So, for our family, we had to leave on different days since there are four of us.
Another, more expensive, option to get to the islands. Also can use this mode of transportation to travel inter-island.
If flying over the ocean for 1 hour 20 minutes doesn’t appeal to you, there is a boat service from mainland India that will get you to either Kadmat or Agatti in about 14 to 20 hours. There are also cruises that allow people to visit the islands during the day and stay on the ship at night.
You will also use a variety of boats to transfer between islands once you arrive in the Lakshadweep Island chain. These can range from a smaller basic motorboat (fits about 15 people) to a HSC (High Speed Catamaran) or both. So expect your transfers to sometimes take hours to get to the next island. Your transfers will be included in your travel package based on where you are staying the night. Ship fare and Wikitravel.
THE LAKSHADWEEP ISLANDS
This is the list of islands that can be visited by tourists:
- Agatti is an inhabited island and where the airport for the Lakshadweep islands is located. Foreign tourists (non-Indian nationals) are not permitted to tour or stay on the island. The island is for transport only. It was said when we visited that the Island used to house tourists but it disturbed the Muslim way of life (how tourists dressed, behaved, etc.) and they are no longer allowed on the island; not sure if that is true, but that is the rumor.
- Bangaram is an uninhabited island and is open for tourists to stay. It is the only island in Lakshadweep that allows consumption of alcohol. It has 60 beach cottages (no A/C) on the island.
- Thinnakara is an uninhabited island with about a dozen tents (think large heavy-duty tent the size of a hotel room) for tourists. No A/C, but have fans for nighttime. The island runs on a generator that is usually only turned on at night. So plug your devices in at night! Additional note is that the shower water gives off a sulphur smell. I was told it is due to the water treatment. It doesn’t make your skin smell… but it is smelly when you shower. Do Not Drink. It’s a lot like camping on a deserted island.
- Kadmat or Kadmath is a large inhabited island with some infrastructure. It actually has a few small trucks and motorbikes. One part of the island is dedicated to tourist lodging and activities. The other part is where its inhabitants live. This is one of the few islands where you can see how the people live and witness the daily island culture. There are about a dozen rooms that are situated right on the beach and then another dozen in a two story building set back a little further from the beach; these rooms are newer. There are rooms on Kadmat that have A/C.
- Kavaratti is the administrative island of the Lakshadweep and most developed. It has approximately 50 mosques on the island. The island is part of a cruise tour that includes Kalpeni & Minicoy due to its location. Non-Indian nationals are not permitted to stay the night on the island.
- Kalpeni is usually part of a cruise tour that includes Kavaratti & Minicoy due to its location. It is not possible to stay on Kalpeni, but can visit for the day.
- Minicoy is usually part of a cruise tour that includes Kavaratti & Kalpeni due to its location that is the southern-most island of the Lakshadweep. Actually closer to the Maldives. Non-Indian nationals are not permitted to stay the night on the island.
- Bring snacks – There are no stores (or VERY limited) on the islands, so bring any snacks that you need for your stay with you. Especially if you are doing any sport activities… you will get hungry in between meals.
- Bring a flashlight – some of the islands have limited lighting at night since they run on a generator. So if you want extra light to read or take a walk, bring a small flashlight.
- Bring ALL essentials – As I mentioned, there are NO stores on most islands, so make sure you bring your sunscreen, mosquito repellant, shampoo, conditioner.
- Wear conservative clothing while traveling – The Lakshadweep Islands are Muslim, so be respectful and wear longer shorts or loose pants, short-sleeve shirt, no cleavage, etc. while traveling to and between the islands. Once you are on the island you are staying, feel free to wear your bathing suit all day while you are at the beach.
- DO NOT BRING Alcohol – It is prohibited to bring alcohol to the Islands, as it is Muslim. Bangaram is the ONLY island that has alcohol you can purchase and drink.
- Be considerate and appreciative to the locals – As you should be considerate every where you go, the people of the islands work hard fishing for your food, preparing 3 meals a day, keeping you on schedule to make your transfers between islands. Island life isn’t easy. So make sure you thank them regularly.
- DO NOT COLLECT shells – The Lakshadweep government is trying to maintain the natural beauty of the area that will last many generations. Help the islands by leaving the shells for the animals that make homes out of them.
- Bring a travel mosquito net and mosquito repellant – Some islands are worse than others. So bring your mosquito nets and repellant.
- Bring a book or 3, deck of cards, things to do – It’s amazing how much time you have in a day when you don’t have technology. So make sure you bring things to do so you don’t get bored.
- Bring cash for day excursions – while you are on the islands you can rent kayaks, snorkeling masks, or go on excursions to see turtles or go scuba diving.
- Be patient – On arrival, you are now on “island time”, so be patient and flexible as times are a little more loose on when you leave an arrive for something. ☺
- Living on the islands can be “basic” or “aged”. Though it may “resort” it is not what most consider being a resort. Most of the buildings that house tourists were built years ago and the maintenance seem to be limited. So expect windows to have gaps in them for bugs/mosquitos to get in, older and/or basic furnishings, wires to be exposed, etc. DO NOT expect Four Seasons quality.
- Meals: In your travel package, you will have 3 meals a day plus morning and afternoon tea. Again, since you are on an island, much of the food prepared will be what is caught and grown in the islands. All meals will consist of dosa (pancake made from rice) or idli (a savoury cake made of fermented black lentils and rice), a vegetable dish or two, a fish and/or meat dish, dahl and rice. Morning and afternoon tea is served with tea, milk and biscuits (cookies). Bottled drinking water is available at all times.