It is easy to see why Kerala is often referred to as 'God's Own Country'. It enjoys a unique geographical position between the mountains of Western Ghats and the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea. With a long shoreline of un spoilt serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, exotic wildlife, waterfalls; it is no wonder that Kerala has been named as one of the ten paradises of the world by the National Geographic Traveller.
Getting to Kerala
If flying in, Kerala can be accessed by two international airports, one in Kochi (Cochin) and the other in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). If travelling from the UK, there are currently no direct flights into the Kerala region; flights from UK would go via Muscat, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Alternatively, and perhaps more commonly, international flights can be taken into Mumbai, followed by a domestic flight into either Trivandrum or Cochin. Travellers coming from Goa or North India may come into Kerala via Train. This is typically the most preferred option as there are no direct flights between the two states. A number of trains originate from Delhi, Rajasthan, whilst most start from Mumbai. Trains pass through Goa before making its way to Kerala. The ‘Thiruvananthapuram Rajdhani Express’ offers super-fast train service to Trivandrum with multiple sleeper coach options (1AC, 2AC).
The food found in Kerala is very different to the food found in the northern parts of India, with the choice and style of cooking closely linked to the regions history, demographic and geography. Taking each one in turn; historically, Kerala has been the centre of the spice trade for over a thousand years. As a result, the cuisine makes good use of a variety of spices including cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger and cardamom. The abundant growth of coconuts has meant that coconut, either in milk or grated form, is the central ingredient, used for both flavouring and thickening. Freshly cut coconuts providing Coconut water, an extremely healthy soft drink, is available in every town and village. Kerala's long coastline and network of rivers has spurred a growth in the fishing industry, making the regions cuisine a haven for seafood lovers. Speciality dishes include huge tiger prawns, crab, lobster and fish. The regions varied communities and religions add yet another interesting dimension, with each creating its own distinct dishes. Vegetarian dishes such as rasam, dosa's and avial tend to be recipes drawn from Hindu communities, whereas the Christians and Muslims tend to specialise in the non-vegetarian dishes. The famous biriyani rice dish, cooked with meat, onions and spices is a real Muslim culinary delight. With the abundance of fresh spices, a variety of vegetables and rivers and seas providing the freshest fish, it is no wonder Keralan Cuisine is one of the most popular in India.
Best Time to Visit
The region of Kerala exhibits a tropical climate with varied seasons. Due to its geography, there are also marked differences in the weather between the coastal areas, which have temperatures ranging from 28 - 35C, and the mountainous areas, which rise to 6000 ft. and has temperatures ranging from 20-28C. The best time to visit is between October and March as the weather tends to be sunny and dry with 8-9 hours of sunshine. December to February is the most optimal time, but this is also the peak season. March until May forms the summer period with the weather tending to be hot and humid along the coastline, but still very pleasant within the mountainous areas such as Munnar and Ooty. The monsoon season typically starts in June and tails off by September, with October and November having the occasional evening drizzle.
The state is also considered to be one of the safest regions of India. Incidents of local people cheating tourists are almost non-existent.
As with the rest of India, Hindu's makes up the majority of the population (at 60%) followed by Christians and Muslims (making up the remaining 40% of the population). Hinduism, considered the oldest religion in the world and natively known as 'Sanathana Dharma' (the eternal law), is considered more as a way of life, as opposed to a religion, and is based on the teachings and principles found in ancient sacred text such as the Vedas, Puranas and epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Contrary to popular beliefs, Hinduism is a monotheistic Religion, believing in one supreme God, called the Brahman. The multitude of Gods that appear in Hindu temples represent aspects of Brahman, for example, the Hindu God Vishnu, represents the preserver aspect, Shiva represents the destroyer aspect, and so forth.
Mobile Phone Communication
There is good mobile phone coverage throughout Kerala with Wi-Fi available in most hotels.
Purchasing local SIM: Although good phone and Wi-Fi coverage is available, travellers may find it far more cost effective to purchase a local prepaid SIM card. However, tight government regulations on foreigners purchasing prepaid SIM cards means travellers should come to India prepared with the following essential documentation. This information would need to be submitted along with an application form:
- 2 colour passport photographs
- A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport (the original passport would also be displayed for verification)
- A photocopy of your Indian visa. (Original would also need to be shown)
- A photocopy of prof of your home address at your country of residence.This could be either of drivers license, passport or any other government issued document (The original would also be required again for verification)
- Finally, some Proof of where you will be staying in India. This could be booking confirmation or a letter from your hotel confirming you are a guest.
The best place to purchase the SIM is at the airport on arrival to India, from the mobile phone kiosks, which are located immediately after you clear customs. The SIM, costing approximately Rs.550, can usually be purchased immediately so as long as all the documentation is handy. Once the purchase has been made, a final verification step requires a confirmation call, usually within 24 hours, requesting you to verify the details you provided in the application.
Alternatively, the SIM can also be purchased at the stores of the cell phone vendors, which can be found in shopping malls or down town shopping areas.
Helpful tip: if you are traveling throughout India in multiple locations, a SIM card would need to be purchased in each location. To avoid having to pay each time (not to mention the admin!) it is recommended that roaming is active on the initial purchase.
The principal language of Kerala is Malayalam, 96% of the population in Kerala speak this language. English is also widely spoken and is taught alongside Malayalam in most schools.
Extending your trip
The three-hour flight from Delhi allows Kerala to form an excellent extension to North India's Golden Triangle tour. After an exciting, but yet perhaps busy north India tour, Kerala provides an ideal location to spend your remaining week; cruising the backwaters of Allepey or relaxing on Kerala's many sandy beaches. If travelling in South India, visiting the fabulous Meenakshi Temple at Madurai forms the perfect starting point of entry into Kerala, allowing travellers to combine the culture of the South with the tranquillity of Kerala. Planning a trip to the Maldives? With only an hour’s flight from Male (in Maldives), Kerala forms the perfect twin centre holiday. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/india/738357/Kerala-and-the-Maldives-a-perfect-combination.html