Travel tips

Kerala, the God’s Own Country, is rich in its natural beauty as well as its cultural heritage. The pristine beaches, expansive backwaters, misty hill-stations and the wildlife santuaries that are home to some rare species of flora and fauna make for a heady experience for the nature lover in you. The ancient pilgrim centres- temples, churches, mosques and synagogues – with their unique architecture, museums with their invaluable artefacts and the various heritage buildings spread across the state form a cultural panorama that is both original and ecelctic. Above all, Kerala is home to and a flourishing centre of, Ayurveda, the ancient system of healing. A visit to an ayurvedic centre is a rejuvenating experience both for the body and mind.

Meticulous planning is the perfect complement to your travel to a great destination especially one as rich and varied in its offerings as Kerala. The preparations should start well in advance of your travel date. You should make sure that things and affairs related to your home are taken care of in your absence. These may include stopping deliveries of milk and newspapers, arranging for delivery of post and courier, turning off electrical appliances, arranging for care of pets, plants and garden as applicable, locking windows and doors etc.

The papers and documents you should carry include your passport, visa, tickets, credit cards/travellers cheques, insurance documents (medical and trip cancellation), special event reservation tickets if any like art, festival or sport and address book. You should also carry sufficient amount of liquid cash.

Your baggage and belongings should be organised thoughtfully. Remember travelling light is travelling right and as such, the rule to apply here is to carry things that are absolutely essential and avoid unnecessary stuff. Essential things include luggage locks, ID tags, appropriate clothing, swim wear, enough numbers of footwear, rain protection gear, sunglasses, scarf/bandanna, caps/hats/visors, notebook, reading materials, mobile phone with charger and camera with batteries.

Kerala, as previously mentioned, presents a wide range of options for the holidayer. Your tour agent will be able to offer you a package that suits your tastes, time available and budget. Assuming this is taken care of, here are a few more guidelines to make your Kerala sojourn an ever memorable experience.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit Kerala is between October and April, when the weather is pleasant. The monsoon months of June and July are also becoming increasingly popular because they are considered the best for ayurvedic treatment.

Money: There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can keep with you. However, for saftey reasons it is advisable to make travellers’ cheques and use credit cards to the extent possible. Credit cards are widely accepted in Kerala.

Cultural conflicts: Kerala, is a densely populated state. Because of this, people here offer and expect a rather short ‘personal space’ meaning you may find yourself in situations where local people get physically nearer to you than what you are comfortable with. But worry not, as they mean no harm.
Kerala is also a land of traditional values in social behaviour. The short personal space mentioned above notwithstanding, a man and woman, meeting for the first time, do not shake or hold hands with each other. The traditional non-contact salutation ‘Namaste’ with hands pressed together is a better way to meet a local especially of your opposite gender.

You may also remember to desist from demonstrating your affection to your partner in public by hugging or kissing. This is not accepted social behaviour.

In verbal communication, it should be borne in mind that Indian (and Kerala by extension) ears are more attuned to the slurred vowels of the English than the nasal drawl of the American. Make sure that your verbal message is clearly understood by the recipient by speaking slowly, clearly and by repeating if needed.

Beggars and conmen: While going about your visit, you may be approached by countless beggars and occasionally, professional conmen. It is better to completely avoid them. As a rule, never entertain any stranger, regardless of his appearance and language skills.

Photography: Most centres of pilgrimage forbid photography. So do many government owned premises like railway stations, airports, dams etc. Use your camera only at places where photography is allowed.

Temple codes: Hindu centres of worship have certain codes that visitors need to follow. Typically footwear is not allowed inside the main entrance. Entry into the sanctum sanctorum is strictly forbidden. So is the use of cameras, cellphones and other gadgets on temple premises .