One of Kerala’s main attractions, and the reason it gets so many visitors are the stunning Alleppey backwaters situated about an hour away from Cochin. A lot of tourists stay on houseboats but these can be very pricey at around £100 each for 3 nights. If you’re on a budget this isn’t ideal but there are a few tips I can give you to make sure that you get the most out of the Alleppey backwaters without blowing your budget.
Houseboat or Hostel?
First up you have the decision to make about where to stay. Many people stay on the houseboats but thats not the only option. For one, it can be very pricey and many houseboats require you to hire the whole vessel. We met some travellers who got lucky and managed to pair up with others to make it slightly cheaper. It’s still very pricey though and essentially you’re just sleeping on a boat. It can also be very noisy and not ideal if you get sea sick. You really only need one night on a boat if you want to do it. If you can find other people to group up with by all means go for it but it wasn’t really an option for us.
The other option is to find on-land accommodation. There are a few options available and most are a lot cheaper than the novelty houseboat. We chose the newcomer Artpacker.Life Hostel and we were so impressed. The price was so much cheaper than a houseboat, there was an amazing atmosphere and really helpful staff. They have decent wifi and they’re currently in the process of installing lockers for more security. The hostel itself is actually inside an old school and post office which is a gorgeous old building. They’ve managed to keep the character of the building while making the design clean and modern. Below is a picture of the beautiful garden where everyone had the chance to relax and socialise.
You can also take day trips from Fort Kochi so you don’t technically need to stay there at all. However we had a great time at our hostel and it meant we could just relax and take our time. There are plenty of agencies in Fort Kochi that offer day trips and it’s easy to find one. Make sure you get a decent price and ensure you know what is included.
Alleppey Backwaters by Boat Trip or Ferry?
You don’t have to stay on a houseboat to have a trip on the backwaters. You can also hire a boat to take you out. The main problem with them is that they don’t have set trips. They just wait until you come up to them and they’ll do a trip with just your group. That’s fine if there are 10 of you, but there were only 3 of us. The lowest price they would give us was 1600/- rupees. This was way out of our budget! I can’t really understand why they haven’t realised this issue and started doing set trips and filling them up to reduce the costs. So we ended up cheating the system and hopped on to a local ferry instead!
The price speaks for itself. At only 36 rupees for 3 people it was an absolute bargain compared to the price of a tourist boat. It also meant that we got to witness firsthand how many people get around on a daily basis. We decided to stay on the boat until the very end to get the full ‘tour’ so to speak. The last stop was Nedumudy and it took us about two hours to get there. The boat went along the main waterways as well as through some narrower parts and lagoons. We got a great variety of landscape including small towns with markets and farmland and rice paddies.
There wasn’t much around but we asked a local if there was a restuarant and we had a pretty nice curry with a view of the rice paddies. As it was out of the tourist area it was very well priced. We were planning on catching the boat all the way back into Alleppey but the owners of the restaurant told us there was a bus stop just outside that had very frequent busses to Alleppey. This was only 7 rupees each and took us under half an hour to get back to the town.
The map shows the route that our ferry took to Nedumudy. I believe there are actually 2 ferries that do this route but one is faster, one is slower as it goes the long way round. This is the long way round. The red arrows show the route and then the green arrow shows the main road the bus takes to get back into Alleppey. People in Alleppey and Kerala in general are super friendly and most are able to speak some English. If you see a ferry just ask either one of the conductors or a local passenger where the ferry is going. I’d then advise you to use an offline map that shows you your route. Maps.me is one of the best offline maps available on the app store.
Have you been to Alleppey and done a tour of the backwaters? What method did you use and what was it like? Let me know in the comments!
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