Kerala is a state in South India, famous for its culture, spices, beaches and backwaters. It is also one of the most literate and prosperous states in India. Keralalites call their state "God's own country" and it is blessed with tropical forests, a fertile coastal plain, fishing, tourism and a relatively stable political situation.
Kerala is one of the few places in India that was not under direct British rule. Parts of Kerala, The Thiruvithankoor region were ruled by local kings during British rule in India. People lived the same way they lived for the past 2000 years and much of its rich culture and heritage is well preserved. It has Hindus from time immemorial, Christianity, brought over by St. Thomas, Christ's disciple, and Judaism were there for a couple thousand years and as well as a strong Muslim culture in the North of Kerala. The local dialects of Malayalam, the cuisine, the ethnic cloths all reflect this diversity.
One thing that separates Kerala from the rest of India (perhaps West Bengal may share the same) is that people here are very politically active. Trade Unions in Kerala would put the British or French Unionists to shame. Marxism and Communism have flourished in Kerala since 19th century. However the Communism in Kerala perfectly blends with Democratic ideals of India at large. Kerala had the world's first elected Communist Chief Minister.
Kerala has a sizable majority of atheists due to strong Marxist influence. Irrespective of religion, people are a little less religious when compared to other cultures in India and communal and sectarian tensions are less.
The state has an area of 38,864 km2 and is home to 33 million people. The languages of the state include Malayalam, English, Tamil, Kannada, and Hindi.
Why should you visit
The people of Kerala speak Malayalam (a palindrome when written in English). However, most of the people speak and understand English. Most bus routes and other important signs are written in English.
Towards the east of Kerala(especially in Palakkad), there is a sizable population of Tamil speaking people, greatly enriching Kerala's culture. Also towards North, some communities speak Kannada and Tulu.
There are three airports in Kerala. The airports at Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are international airports. The international airports have several carriers operating from Singapore, Colombo, Male, Muscat, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Also Kerala could be reached through the major air-transport hubs in India, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi and sometimes that would be cheaper than flying directly to airports in Kerala. Some Airlines based in India are Kingfisher Airlines, Air India, Air India Express, Alliance Air, Indian (formerly known as "Indian Airlines"), Jet Airways, Sahara Airlines
Inter-state private and government buses operates between neighbouring states. Usually the journey is performed in the night so that you can escape the heat of the day.
Trains, buses and taxis provide the easiest way to get around Kerala. Trains are good for long distance travel, say from the north to the south.
Taxis are good but expensive way to get around for short distances. Do negotiate the price before you get into the taxi.
Buses are good for very short travel. Both government and private buses travel between and within cities. Buses within cities are very crowded and if you travel on them, please take care of your belongings (wallet, passport) as pickpockets are not rare.
Auto-rickshaws are another convenient mode of transport for very short travel - not too expensive and fast. By law the auto driver has to start a meter for every journey. However this is rarely done except in Kozhikode. The best way not to get tricked would be to ask a helpful samaritan how much it would cost to your destination and check it up with your driver before you get into the auto.
3 weeks Kerala, see some of the highlights that Kerala has to offer: experience the busy Kochi (Cochin), relax in the Backwaters, hike in the mountains and enjoy the beaches.
Kerala is one of the few places which caters to all kinds of tourists. It has hill stations, virgin beaches, lazy backwaters, rain forests, historical and cultural destinations. For a list of Tour Packages, check out http://www.keralatourpackages.com/
Kerala cuisine is never complete withour sea food and cocount. Almost every dish will have coconut paste in it.The oil used for cooking is also coconut oil. Kerala is the only state in India where beef is consumed by almost every non vegetarian including hindus. It is alwasy best to stick to sea food as it is been rated as one of the best.
Water is usually safe to drink, but mineral water is available at almost all shops and is the safe bet. Alcochol consumption in public is considered an offence; even consumption of beer in public will be frowned upon. Chilled local toddy is definitely worth a try.
Even though the reaction to public consumption of alcohol is bitter, Kerala tops in per capita alcohol consumption in India. You'll find a bar in most hotels and they would serve from 'Kallu' to Scotch Whiskey.
For hotels ranging from 1 star to 5 star checkout the link below http://www.hotelskerala.com/starhotels.htm
This will list hotels all over Kerala.
For a destination-wise listing check out http://www.hotelskerala.com/
Rs 322.50(~7 US$) and Rs 700(~15 US$) are magic numbers when you are looking for budget Non-AC and AC rooms respectively. Most budget hotels in Kerala will have a room in this price. You could expect basic facilities with a bed, T.V and an attached bath-room. There could be an attached restaurant(Not the norm) catering mostly South Indian Cuisine.
For a little more comfortable stay, you need to shell out above 500 Indian Rupees(~11 US$) for a Non AC room or More than 1200(~26 US$) for an AC Room. This category would include many 3 star hotels. You could expect to have more spacious rooms, English proficient concierges, Airport/Railway Station Pick-Up and Drop. However if you are expecting a cheap extended stay hotel, with attached kitchenette, Indian is the wrong place to be in. Only 5 star hotels and resort cottages provide extended stay facilities.
If you are in one of those yet to develop tourist spots like Munnar, you would find hotels only in this range.
Themed resorts also would fall in the category. Prepare to shell anywhere above Rs 2000 and you could rent out a whole cottage in an idyllic location and they do come with kitchens. http://www.my-kerala.com/dir/Travel_and_Tourism/Lodging/Resorts/ and http://www.klresort.com/
Five Star hotels in India don't come cheap. In fact sometimes you would find hotels here more expensive than New York or London. If you just won a lottery and are looking forward to spend it in the Orient then this is the best place to be.
Most of them would throw in a guided tour or a packaged tour as a compliment. Most Five star hotels provide attached kitchenette and if you are sick of Indian food, this is an option. However be prepared to shell out more than 300 US$(The five star hotels usually have their tariff in US$ so its easy on the eye. i.e $300 looks better then 10000 INR)
House Boats in the South of Kerala would charge you on a similar tariff to Five Star Hotels.
Kerala has its share of criminals. Pick pockets are quite common. Don't trust your hotel cleaning staff with your costly belongings. Also for woman, don't walk in skimpy clothes like bikinis. It just isn't safe for woman to walk alone in the night.
Use bottled water and stay in decent hotels even if you have to shell out some extra money.
Watch out for political strikes as they break out frequently and are often violent. Prepare for a 'lightning' strike of shop owners or hotels or any group of workers. Stay indoors during a 'Hartal'(A total break down of all services) and keep some rations just in case the hotels stop serving. Having said that some essential services are always excempt from strikes like medical staff, hotels, medicine shops etc.
Visiting Religious Centers
Kerala is one of the places where multiple religions exist in great harmony. This is achieved by one respecting the customs and rituals of other religions. A visit to these shrines is necessary to understand the breadth of cultural influences in the state.
In some Hindu temples non Hindus are not allowed enter the shrines. It is best to ask someone at the temple. Many are happy to let you in as long as the usual rules of the temple are observed. However, photography inside the temple is a strict no-no. Also for male visitors at many places inside a temple, dress code is traditional mundu without a shirt - the no-shirt rule will be enforced even if the mundu rule is not. The best thing to do is to watch what others are doing and follow. You are also expected to take off your footwear outside the temple. Usually there are no locker facilities, cheap footwear is best.
For females any non exposed dress, preferably not shirts and trousers.
There are exceptions to these rules, example everybody is welcome at Adhi Shankaracharya's temple. At Shabarimala any male who have done the prerequisite rituals are welcome, but females are not.
At a Muslim mosque females have some restrictions.
At Christian churches usually males should be at left side of aisle and females on right side.
The synagogue at Kochi is not open to non Jews on Saturdays.