Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I get to the Andaman Islands?
To get to the Andamans Islands, foreign nationals will first need to fly into mainland India. The best points of entry would be either Chennai or Kolkata which in turn are connected by several daily flights to Port Blair, the capital city of the Andamans Islands. Indian Nationals or residents of India can simply fly into Port Blair via either Chennai or Kolkata. Ships to Port Blair also ply on fixed schedules from Chennai, Kolkata, and Visakhapatnam. However, tickets must be purchased well in advance and the journey (3 days) can be monotonous as the ships have minimal facilities and are not luxurious at all.
2. How do I get to and from Havelock or Neil Island?
There are three ferries that ply between Port Blair, Havelock & Neil Island on a daily basis. Travelers can choose between the slower, cheaper government ferry and the faster, more expensive new catamaran depending on their arrival time in Port Blair as well as their budget. Please note however that getting tickets on the ferry can be very hard and tiresome with long queues. Depending on the rush it can be extremely hard and even impossible to procure tickets last minute and hence advance booking is always suggested. You will need to keep sufficient time to get the appropriate ferry. Please note that boarding stops 30 minutes before sailing. Pvt Catamaran tickets can be booked in advance from www.makruzz.com or www.greeenoceancruise.com.
- It is difficult to reach Neil Island on the same day of arrival.
- First night stay at Port Blair is mandatory to Visit Neil Island on the next day.
- o take the flight on the last day from Havelock or Neil Island you flight should be after 02.00 pm, as the first ferry from Havelock to Port Blair is at 09.00 am (by Govt boat) which reaches Port Blair at around 11.30 am. Makruzz (Pvt catamaran reaches Port Blair at 12.45 pm.
- The above timings can be changed by the administration at short notice and we would request you to recheck the timings a few days before arrival.
- All sailings are subject to weather conditions.
3. When is a good time to visit the islands?
The main tourist season in the Andamans is between November and mid-May with the absolute peak season being December to March. The months of June, July, August and September are considered the rainy season. However, travellers at this time can get great off season prices and discounts at many hotels due to the low number of tourist influx. Rain peaks in June and July and one could get pleasant weather in August and September with a little luck. Of course, the weather is highly unpredictable in the Andamans. Do also note that even in November and December one could experience light showers. Being tropical islands it is difficult to accurately predict the cycle of rains. In terms of scuba diving, the best time to dive the Andamans is February and March as the sea is at its flattest, the wind is almost absent and visibility is excellent. Diving remains closed in Havelock between 01 June – 31 July and most dive shops reopen on 01 August for the start of a new season.
4. What do most people do when they visit the Andamans?
What you do while in the Andamans completely depends on what interests you. Most travellers spend a day or 2 in Port Blair visiting nearby sights and tourist attractions and then head towards Havelock for the beaches and water sports like scuba diving and snorkelling. If your holiday is just about relaxation and spending time in nature’s lap then we would recommend you consider proceeding straight to Havelock. Travelers looking for a bit more exploration also visit other islands like Baratang, Neil Island or Long Island. Please note however that facility on these islands are much more basic than those in Havelock or Port Blair. There is never a dull moment in the Andamans and you can be a total beach bum just relaxing and enjoying the peace here or go to many islands over many days and be a complete explorer.
5. Any important points to note when planning my trip?
There are many things to consider while planning your trip to the Andamans. All foreign passports must be valid of a minimum duration of 6 months. You must have a valid Indian visa if you are a Foreign National.If there is a stamp on your visa that reads “Not valid for restricted areas” (or similar) you will not be allowed to enter the Andamans as it is a restricted zone. Please ensure that your visa does not carry this stamp and if it does, please contact the issuing embassy. When returning from Havelock to Port Blair, all travellers must spend the last night in Port Blair as there is no ferry from Havelock that brings you to Port Blair in time for your flight the same day. Alternatively travellers can charter a speed boat on the same day as their flight from Havelock; however this is an expensive option costing over Rs.22,000- one way for a maximum of 6 to 8 people. Although on Indian Standard Time, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have an early sunrise and sunset. Sunrise here is usually between 0500hrs and 0530hrs and the sunset is at 1730hrs. It gets light very early here and dark very soon, so to make the best of the day it is advised to rise early.Ferries from Port Blair to other islands are very regular; however there are occasions when bad weather or mechanical trouble can cause them to be cancelled.
6. Do I need a visa/ Restricted Area Permit to enter the Andaman Islands?
Indian passport holders do not require a permit to visit and stay in the populated areas of Andaman Islands, including Havelock Island. All foreign nationals require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) over and above an Indian Visa to enter the Andaman Islands. The Indian Visa is to be obtained in your country of residence prior to arrival in India. The Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is easily obtained on arrival at Port Blair. The procedure usually takes 15 minutes, is free of cost and is available to all foreign nationals. It has recently been brought to our notice that some Indian Visas issued carry a stamp that reads “Entry to restricted areas NOT permitted”. Should your Visa carry such a stamp, please contact the embassy and have the visa re-issued as you will not be allowed to enter the Andaman Islands. Most foreigners arriving at Port Blair are given a 30 day permit. Closer to the time of expiry (about 3 days ahead) this permit can be extended by another 15 days. This extension can only be done at the Immigration Office in Port Blair and you will need to show a confirmed return ticket (for journey within the next 15 days) in order to get this extension. Please note that it may not always be possible to get this extension in a few hours and you may need to stay overnight in Port Blair to obtain the extension.
Foreigners holding a valid entry permit into the Andaman Islands are allowed to visit and stay at municipal areas of Port Blair, Havelock, Long island, Neil island, the islands of South Andaman and Middle Andaman (excluding tribal reserved area – 5kms away from Constance bay to Luis Inlet bay – western coast tribal reserve), Baratang, Rangat, Mayabunder, Diglipur, North Passage Island, Little Andaman (excluding tribal reserve) and all islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park except Boat Island, Hobday island, Twins islands, Tarmugli, Malay and Pluto island. Tourists can also visit Jolly Buoy island, South Cinque island, Redskin island, Mount Harriet, Madhuban, Ross island, Narcondam island, Interview island, Brother & Sister islands and Barren island during the day. (Visit to Barren island is restricted on board the vessel with no landing ashore). Do note that the Restricted Access Permit is issued on arrival and is a process by the Immigration department and no one can assist you in getting the same. In case of any complications, you will need to sort it our with the Immigration authorities. We would best advice you to check on the latest procedures and updates from the Immigration authorities to prevent any issues.
7. What can I do in Port Blair?
Port Blair is the capital city of the Andamans and is of immense historical importance. There are many sights that are to be seen here and with us you can take a half day, or a full day excursion or tailor make your own excursion.
8. What is the electricity & water supply in the Andaman Islands?
The whole of India has standard 220volts with sockets that are a mix of three-pin (round pins) and two-pin (round pins). To avoid trouble we suggest guests bring at least one travel adapter with them.
9. What is the food like in the Andaman Islands?
Seafood rules on the Andaman Islands, due to it being the natural diet of the Bengali settlers, who came to the Andamans. Crabs, shrimp, lobster and fish are available at almost all restaurants. However do not expect sea food to be cheap here. Demand exceeds supply and costs of seafood although not sky high, does not come cheap either. North Indian, South Indian, Vegetarian, Continental, and Chinese dishes are available at all restaurants here. If you do go for continental food, do not expect anything you would expect at home, expect it with the Indian twist.
10. What festivals does the local population celebrate?
Given the fact that the Andamans has a mix of different religions, almost all festivals celebrated in mainland India including but not limited to Christmas, New Year, Diwali, Eid and Easter are celebrated here. However the biggest festival here is ‘Durga Pooja’ due to the number of Bengalis on the islands.
11. What type of behavior & etiquette can I expect from the locals on the main Islands?
The Andaman Islands is a very relaxed place so the rules are simple as well. Act with respect and decorum, dress appropriately (especially away from the beach), and as anywhere always ask permission before taking photographs of the local population. A beach destination does not mean that the locals are used to seeing women in revealing swim wear. Please be sensitive to the traditions of the locals and cover up when in areas where locals are present like jetty areas and village markets. Having said that, we would like to stress that the Andamans is a remote place and although the people are casual, one should not expect the kind of comfort or the level of service that is expected of a hotel/resort in mainland India.
12. What is the currency in the Andaman Islands?
The currency of India is the Indian Rupee.It is possible to change all major currencies in India; however in the Andamans it is possible only in Port Blair. You are advised to go through official banks or authorized money changers. Please do note that the rates in Port Blair for changing of foreign currency will not be as good as on mainland India.
13. Is there an ATM at Port Blair & Havelock?
Port Blair has a number of ATM’s, and of late Havelock Island also has a 2 ATM’s. However given the fact that there is no actual bank on Havelock, there are times when all the cash in the machine has been depleted. The ATM’s in Havelock are replenished with funds once every 3 or 4 days. Most other islands do not have ATM’s so do carry sufficient cash with you to pay your bills. Credit Cards (MasterCard and Visa) are not widely accepted in the Andamans, except for larger hotels and resorts and some diving facilities. You will most likely be hit with a surcharge and both your passport and your credit card will get photocopied to submit to the bank as all transactions are done offline. Do note that many establishments do not accept American Express cards.
14. What about health precautions?
Health services are limited on the Andaman Islands due mainly to their remoteness and low population, though there are some good medical services in Port Blair, at the G.B.Pant hospital. There are plans for a Recompression Chamber for Port Blair, which will be based in the General Hospital; however the plans have not yet come through. India is officially a malarial risk area, however on Havelock there are very few known cases. It is best to consult your doctor on this issue and decide for yourself if you would like to limit this risk further by taking anti malaria, which may also have some side effects. We recommend you also check the status of your vaccinations and which ones you are advised to have for your travels. Normal sensible precautions with food should keep you out of trouble, and be sure to drink lots of bottled drinking water to prevent dehydration. DO NOT drink tap water in the Andaman Islands! Also, be sure to wash regularly and wear light, loose clothing made from natural fibres as heat rash and fungal infections for visitors are not unusual in this humidity. Should you injure yourself, please do attend to it immediately by consulting a doctor and/or take antibiotics as well as applying an antiseptic cream regularly. Given the high humidity levels, it is easy for infections to set in.
In addition you can check the World Health Organization’s website.
15. What is the religious stance in the Andamans?
India in itself has a very mixed religious history and a reputation for religious tolerance. Hinduism is by far the most popular religion in the islands followed by Christianity and then Islam. Other religions actively practiced in India include Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. In the Andaman Islands there is quite a large mix, and while most of the times the Hindu festivals are the most celebrated ones, at around Christmas time you will find big colourful stars available at the market as well as small processions with Santa Claus and followers.
16. What time zone do the Andaman Islands lie in?
The whole of India falls under the same time zone so the local time is GMT + 5½ hours throughout the country, year round. As the Andamans are much geographically closer to Thailand than India, life in the Andamans begins a little earlier in the day.
17. Is there a postal service?
Indian postal services, in general have a very good reputation for posting both domestically and internationally. However in the Andaman Islands, the postal service is not reliable and there have been many instances of parcels and letters not reaching their destination. Hence it is advised to use postal services on mainland India rather than the postal services on the island.
18. Can I make international calls and access the internet?
International dialing is available from most major hotels and ISD is available in the markets. To make an international call, dial 001 plus the country code plus the area code plus the phone number. Services tend to be very reliable and inexpensive. Excellent mobile connectivity is available in Port Blair and in some parts of Havelock however as you travel to the other Islands, you may find that it is present however not excellent. Networks currently available here are BSNL, Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone. Internet is available on Havelock and Port Blair. Connectivity in Port Blair is fairly good with fast connections. However on Havelock the internet is reputed to be very slow as most are on dial up connections. Some places offer satellite internet which is faster however much more expensive. Many islands have no internet facilities at all.
19. Is there anything special to buy in the Andamans?
The Andaman Islands are still very under-developed and is not famous for any shopping or bargains. You will not find any duty free shops or malls here. In Port Blair you can get some handicrafts and souvenirs, mainly in Aberdeen Bazaar as well as in “Sagarika” which is an outlet of the Cottage Industries. In Havelock there are some jewellery shops that deal with hand-made coconut jewellery, however the majority of the shops here sell clothes and bags that are brought in from the mainland.
20. Is there a lot of crime on the islands?
There is no real organised crime on the islands. As in almost all countries and tourist areas, pick-pocketing can happen, so watching your valuables in these areas would be wise. Simple precautions will go a long way in your safety. Many hotels offer safety deposit lockers and it is not advised to flash a bundle of notes while paying your bills. If you do encounter any problems, there is a police station on all islands where a complaint can be lodged or help can be sought. Locals too are generally helpful.
21. Can I rent a bicycle, motorbike or a car in Havelock Island and Port Blair?
Bicycles can be rented from the market area in Port Blair as well as Havelock, however on other islands is currently not possible. Charges are on a per day basis. These bicycles are very basic models so don’t expect high quality mountain terrain bikes that you can do stunts on. You can easily rent a motorbike for the duration of your stay as well. You can choose between the non-geared and the geared motorbikes and scooters. The shops that rent these motorbikes usually have signs posted in front and will require you to have a license that you can show them before taking the bike on rent. Charges vary and are on a per day basis. Fuel is additional and can be procured in the market area. Please remember to carry your license with you at all times as you could be stopped by police personnel for a sudden check. Wearing a helmet is mandatory (not enough to just carry one) and comes with the bike rental. Police stop tourists that do not have a helmet on and if you are caught a fine will be imposed on you. Cars cannot be rented for self driving purposes although taxi services are available for short distances as well as day hire.
22. Are there sand flies in the Andamans?
Some beaches in the Andamans do have sand flies. It would be wise to carry a good strong insect repellent as part of your beach bag. Sand flies usually come out as dusk, so avoid standing on the beach at this time. Attend to sand fly bites immediately, avoid scratching them, keep them dry and ensure that they do not get infected.
23. Can you briefly explain about the flora & Fauna of the Islands?
The canopied rain forests of the islands harbor 3,000 species of plants including mangroves, epiphytes (130 ferns, 100 orchids), palms, woody limbers, timbers (Teak, Mahogany, Andaman Paduk) and a wide variety of tropical fruits. Marine fauna is diverse including a wide variety of tropical fish and coral. Considering the diversity and uniqueness of fauna and flora and the fragile nature of the eco-system here, 96 sanctuaries spread over 466.218 sq km and nine National Parks spread over 1153.938 sq km have been notified on these islands. According to the island’s environmental team, most are bio-diversity hotspots, with more than a quarter of the flora and fauna endemic (only found in Andamans). Four of the world’s seven species of sea turtles nest on these beaches including the endangered leatherback turtle, Sea grass supports rare Dugongs. Also found are giant monitor lizards and salt water crocodiles which inhabit the extensive mangrove swamps. While travelling to these islands, one has to be a responsible traveller; one should be sensitive to issues related to the physical environment of the wonderful beaches, fascinating rain forests and marine life.
24. Are there endangered tribes in the Andamans and can I meet them?
Untouched and endangered tribes do exist in these beautiful isles and add to their exotic nature. It is prohibited and against the law as well to enter the tribal reserves, meet or photograph the tribals. Should anyone offer you a trip to meet the tribals, please refrain from doing so. Respect the tribes and adhere to the law. You can however visit the Anthropological Museum in Port Blair where you can see a display of their tools and weapons as well as photographs depicting their lives and culture. The indigenous tribes are distinguished in two groups: the Onge, Sentinelese, Jarawa and Andamanese of Negroid descent living on the Andaman Islands and the Shompen and Nicobarese of Mongoloid descent living in the Nicobar Islands. The Sentinelese are the least studied tribe still living in isolation on the North Sentinel Island. Their number is estimated currently at 250. Living in complete isolation for many centuries, the Sentinelese are not clothed while the Jarawa use only adornments of bark and shell, like necklaces, arm bands, waist bands, etc. Most of the tribes are on the verge of extinction. This sad destiny will most likely hit the Andamanese tribe first since their numbers in some cases are as low as thirty. Due to consistent emphasis of the government on progress and its encouragement to the mainlanders to settle in these islands, the local tribes have sadly become a minority group in their own land.
25. Is there any nightlife in Andamans?
Although many hotels in Port Blair and other developed Islands have hotels and resorts that offer a bar, the night life concept has not really caught on in these islands. You will not encounter loud music, disco lights or rave parties here on a regular basis. Nights are usually quiet and most people get to bed soon to wake early and make maximum use of the day light hours. An exception however is during Christmas and New Year on popular tourist islands like Havelock and Neil where you will find parties going late into the night, loud music and a lot of dancing.
26. How expensive are meals in Andaman?
The price of a meal depends entirely on where you eat and what you order. A nice quaint restaurant will cost you between Rs.300 to Rs.500 per person depending on what is ordered. Eating at the local village market will be much cheaper and most islands have a number of small eateries run by locals that work out easy on the pocket. Sea food is more expensive in the Andamans compared to the mainland due to heavy demand and less supply.
27. What do I do in case of a medical emergency?
Most Islands have a Primary Health Centre (PHC); however services here can be limited and poor. It is advisable to go to the nearest PHC first for immediate assistance and as soon as possible move to the G.B Pant hospital in Port Blair which is better equipped. However at this hospital too, the treatment facilities are not what can be expected in mainland India and for any condition that could be serious, life threatening or needing special care, it is advised to fly to mainland India.
28. Are there any dangerous animals in the Andamans?
As such there are no dangerous predatory animals in the forests of the Andamans. So do not come here expecting to see tigers or lions. The forests here are inhabited by animals like wild boar, spotted deer, civet cat as well as numerous species of birds and butterflies. The vast forest canopy provides home to many different species of reptiles as well. Snakes both poisonous and harmless can be seen in the Andamans. Monitor lizards too inhabit these islands and the mangrove creeks provide shelter to ‘salties’ or salt water crocodiles. Tourists are advised to pay attention to sign boards posted on beaches as well as watch their step if walking through dense jungle or mangrove areas.
29.What about tipping?
Many hotels and resorts have a separate tip box usually placed at the billing desk. Most places do expect and appreciate a tip. The usual norm would be 10% of the billed amount.
30. Other annoyances
Rickshaws: Although considered the most convenient and cheap mode of transport, rickshaws or tuk- tuk’s in the Andamans do not follow any tariff cards or running meter policy. They will charge you whatever they feel like and in many cases their demands can be extremely high especially when you do not speak the language or appear as a tourist. Should you be unlucky to arrive at a time when there is heavy rain or a fuel price hike you can expect to be hit by surcharges as well over and above the high asking price. It might be wiser to take a prepaid or fixed fare taxi instead. If settling on a rickshaw then remember to fix the costs before you get into it. The best option of course would be to allow us to organise your transfers as they will leave you relaxed and completely stress free. From start to finish its flawlessly executed and professional. Availability for ferry tickets: Buying a ferry ticket in the Andamans is not as easy as one might think. Demand for tickets is always greater than the number of seats available. There is no internet reservation system in place and tickets are issued on a first-come first-serve basis. It can be a complete nightmare to procure these tickets last minute, with long never ending queues and people pushing and jumping the queue as well. There have been instances of the counter suddenly being closed down for a lunch break as well despite there being many people standing in line for extended periods of time.
In absolute peak season the situation is a lot worse given the sheer number of tourists coming in. Organising a ferry ticket for your return leg for example from Havelock to Port Blair, is not easier either. Long queues are eminent and boring waits are in order. Worse, to buy a ferry ticket you will land up wasting the whole morning and won’t be able to enjoy diving or snorkeling or a day at the beach as you will need to stand in line. If you plan to visit the Andamans, it is highly recommended that you allow us to organise your transfers and all your ferry tickets for you in advance so your chances of making it are much better. We do not guarantee that we will at all times get you a ferry ticket, but can assure you that we will do our absolute best to buy them, once you have booked the transfers with us. Although very rare, it is possible that despite our best efforts we are unable to get a ticket for you. However given our experience in this department and our local staff, our chances of getting the ticket are a lot better than the one you have when you arrive and stand in queue last minute. Dog Menace: Some islands unfortunately have a dog problem. Projects to try and get all the stray dogs castrated and sterilized, however the success rate has been minimal. During the day they generally don’t do much other than bark or follow you along the beach hoping for some food. At nights though, they do like to gang up in the villages and on the beach. We advise all travellers to carry a stick to scare off any dogs. In addition, please DO NOT FEED any dogs as this will only encourage them. We understand that you feel sorry for them, but feeding them for the short duration that you are on the island will leave them in a worse situation when you leave. Feeding them will only make them more aggressive to an unsuspecting tourist.