Thiruvananthapuram (formerly known as Trivandrum) is the capital (pop. 826,225 in 1991) of Kerala in Southern India. The city is part of a district, also called Thiruvananthapuram, one of the 14 districts of Kerala.
Thiruvananthapuram lies at the southern-most part of the state.
Trivandrum is a small strip of land with plenty of palm trees between the Sahya hills and the sea. The main arterial way is the MG Road or the Mahatma Gandhi Road which lies in the north south direction and connects almost all the important attractions.
When to go
The best time to go to Trivandrum is from October to January. Beach Holidays are best during this time. February to May is Summer and June to September is the monsoon season.
Festival of Onam which occurs towards the end of August or early September is a good time to visit for the carnival atmosphere. There are usually many cultural programs during the official Onam celebration which is spread over a week.
Malayalam is the spoken language. English is commonly used for most official purposes. The literacy rate is quite high in Kerala and many can converse in English. Attempt to converse in Malayalam is always appreciated.
Thiruvananthapuram has an international airport with direct flights from the Middle East, Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka. It is therefore considered as the doorway to Kerala. It is served by Air-India, Indian (formerly known as "Indian Airlines"), Silk Air, Gulf Air among others.
The central railway station is located at Thampanoor in the heart of the city, 8 km from the airport. It is very well connected and serviced by rail to all major cities in India. Thiruvananthapuram is the first major city along the second longest train route in the world, Kanyakumari to Jammu.
The long distance bus station is located next door to the railway station. Buses ply to all major towns and villages in the state as well as with the big cities like Cochin, Bangalore, Kozhikode, Coimbatore and Chennai. The city bus stand is located 1 km away at East Fort, near the Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Both state-run and private short distance buses connect the various important urban and suburban centres. City bus depots are also located at Peroorkada, Vikas Bhavan, Pappanamcode, Kaniyapuram and Vellanad
Thiruvananthapuram is well connected to other cities like Kochi (230km), Kozhikode (420km), Chennai (780km), Bangalore(791km), Coimbatore(400km), Chennai by road.
The local bus service system is the cheapest way to get around Thiruvananthapuram. There are city buses run by government and private companies. Most of these are very crowded especially during peak hours. Route descriptions on the buses are mainly in Malayalam. Route numbers are displayed, but not very consistently. Pick pocketing is not very common. Women, especially of foreign origin can some times be the subject of verbal harassment or the occasional groping.
By auto rickshaw
This is a cheap way of transport between attractions. It is always possible to get an auto rickshaw from a bus stand, railway station or special auto rickshaw stand. Agree on a fare before you start the journey. This is not usually necessary as fare is calculated by the taximeter affixed to every licensed rickshaw.
Taxis are convenient and cheap, especially if you travel in groups. Taxis can be hired not only for short distances, but also for a few days at a stretch. Most of the taxis are Ambassador cars which are more suited for stuffing passengers at the expense of comfort or safety. Sometimes up to 10 passengers are crammed into these. Most of these cars lack the basic security features like seatbelts or airbags. Even if seatbelts are installed, most of the locals ignore them.
When you hire the taxi with a driver over a few days, a minimum charge is usually paid which covers the hiring charge for the car, the driver's fees and a certain distance. If the car covers more than that distance, additional charges are levied according to the extra distance covered as per kilometre. Most of the drivers expect to be paid for their meals during the day. If staying overnight, this will include the hotel charges as well.
There are many car rental companies offering cars with drivers or "self drive". Many of them are unreasonably expensive by local standards. Ask someone with the local know how before you rent a car.
By two wheelers
Scooters and motorcycles are the favoured means of personal transport on the roads. Renting or buying the motorcycle is not for the faint hearted. The mix of fast and slow traffic makes it especially dangerous.
There are companies arranging tours on Enfield Bullet motorcycles out of Thiruvananthapuram . Most of the locals zip around in modern Japanese motorcycles like the Hero Honda, Yamaha or Kawasaki Bajaj.
Many places of attractions are nearby others, so you could walk between them.
The Napier Museum Named after a former Madras governor, General John Napier, this museum is a beautiful building in the museum compound near Kanaka Kunnu Palace. English architect Chrisholm created this building combining many architectural styles. This museum displays rare archaeological and historical artifacts including bronze idols and ivory carvings.(Open 10:00 - 17:00 hrs. closed on Mondays and before noon Wednesday.)
Sree Chithra Art Gallery is an art gallery located in the Museum compound and displays a rare collection of mainly Indian paintings. The main attractions are paintings by Raja Ravi Varma, Raja raja Varma and Nicholas Roerich. Also featured are miniature paintings from around the world, Kerala mural paintings and Tanjore miniature paintings.
The Zoological Park This is one of the first zoos in India. Situated in the Museum compound, this area is a rich botanical garden. There is a wide variety of animals, plants and birds. Not world class, but certainly with its own attraction. (Open 10.00-17.00 hrs. Closed on Mondays)
Shanghumukham Beach This beach is 8 km outside the city, adjacent to the airport. Local people flock there to watch the sunset. There is an indoor recreation club nearby. Matsyakanyaka a gigantic sculpture of a mermaid by Kanai Kunjiraman arouses mixed reaction. There is also a peaceful temple nearby.
Science and Technology Museum
The Kanakakunnu Palace - venue for many cultural meets and exhibitions.
See Trivandrum on foot. Get public transport to Kanaka Kunnu Palace. See this public building on top of a hill, used for cultural programs. Walk down to Napier Museum and Zoo. See the building, walk around the park and visit the zoo if you are interested. Also pay a visit to the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, Natural History museum and the Reptile House. Then walk towards Palayam along the MG road absorbing the roadside buzz of activites and shopping at the roadside shops. Usually there are cultural programs at VJT Hall which may be open to the public. Continue along MG road towards the Secretariat. The area around the secretariat is known locally as Statue, due to a few neglected statues of important figures. There are sometimes political protests or demonstrations along this place. Sample the food from some of the restaurants including Azad Hotel, Indian Coffee House or Hotel Aruljyothi. SMS Institute on a side road near Secretariat sells authentic Kerala handicrafts and gift items. Prices start from Rs.25 to a few thousands. Continue along the MG road. There are many local book shops including Paico , Modern Book House and Prabhat book store. The Ayurveda college , which teaches the traditional ayurvedic medicine will be on the right side. Opposite this, there is another handicraft store.Walk along the MG road and you will reach the junction with traffic signals known as the Over bridge locally. There are a few movie theatres nearby. The railway station and Bus station are towards the left, about half a mile. If you continue straight, you will eventually reach Pazhavangadi. You will see the remains of a fort (well hidden) on the right side (known as Kottakakam/East fort). The famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple is nearby, complete with a temple lake (Padmatheertham). The architecture of the temple is more in line with Tamil temples as compared to other Kerala temples.On the left is Chaalai Bazaar. This is a busy congested road teeming with all kinds of shops.
Stroll around the town during the dusk time when the city comes to life.
Find local bargains and shop for souvenirs.
Watch the magical sunset from the Shankumukham or Veli beach
Watch traditional performers perform a Kathakali dance.
Watch a temple procession at the end of a local festival when the deity is taken out on the top of an elephant.
Watch a Malayalam / Bollywood movie (no subtitles) in a local cinema.
Check the newspapers for daily events, especially theatre/film/dance performances. Try to find out if anything is on at the Tagore theatre when you're there, especially during the film festivals which screen art house classics from around the world.
Take a rain walk - if you're there during the monsoons, buy an umbrella and walk from place to place in the magical monsoon.
Laze around on any of the pristine beaches.
Visit the public library for its stunning architecture and colonial charm.
If you're there during the Onam season, be sure to pass by the secretariat building and the kanakakunnu palace for the brilliant illuminations. If it's Christmastime, walk down a little further to the L.M.S compound to see the awesome collection of Christmas stars.
Stop by a thattukada (roadside stall) at dusk for parottas and probably the world's best fried chicken.
Kathakali dance and associated arts including the percussion instruments and make-up
Malayalam and its rich literature
Cheap advanced computing/software training!
Opportunities for foreigners to work in Kerala used to be very limited. The dramatic advances in the information technology sector have probably changed this. But the companies still prefer to use the locally available and hence more economically viable manpower.
To work in India, you need employment visa. The prospective employer has to send a letter providing information about your qualification to the home ministry in India.
Haggling is quite acceptable and very much needed if you buy anything from the vendors who will pester you during your stay at any of the nearby beaches.
Narmada Shopping Complex Kowdiar
Annas Arcade Shopping Complex Spencer Junction
Kedaram Shopping Complex Kesavadasapuram
Arcade Shopping Complex Killipalam
Karimpanal Arcade East Fort
De Options Nanthencode
Saphallyam Shopping Complex Palayam
Books and Music
Modern Book House , Statue
Paico , Statue
Prabhat Book House , Statue
Handicrafts and gift items from “SMS Institute” near secretariat in the heart of Trivandrum city or other genuine craft shops (Natesan’s opposite the Ayurvedic college). Do not buy them from the roadside shops at tourist places like Kovalam. You will be ripped off.
When you come to cities like this in India, do not pack too many clothes. You can buy them cheap at the local shops. There are many shops around the east fort and over-bridge areas.
Parthas on the Powerhouse road is a major retailer. The collection of Indian traditional wear for women is excellent. The western style collection leaves much to be desired. When it comes to men’s wear, you will find all you need in this shop. For western clothes check out Naaz or Last Option, or branded clothes at the showrooms of Reebok, Benetton and the like.
Prince Jewellers East Fort Phone: 0471-2470667,2476519
Saravana Jewellers East Fort Phone: 0471-2470667,2477694
Sindhoor near the Cotton Hill Girls High School, Vazhuthacaud. Serves Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisine. The interior is designed to mimic a cave and results in a dark environment. Not very cosy or stylish Review
Kalavara near Pulimoodu junction
Casa Bianca - Italian food, Vazhuthacaud - Owned and run by a lovely expatriate. Serves great, fresh tasting pastas, pizzas and all things Italian in a casual intimate setting. Definitely worth the trip from Kovalam if you're missing a good quality thin crust pizza.
Ambrosia - a bakery with an eating outlet. serves burgers, hotdogs and pizzas. Bakery junction and near Medical College.
A branch of Pizza Corner is there at the Spencer junction.
Some good restaurants are: Muthoot Plaza, South Park, Park Field, Buddha's Delight,Ruby Arena,
Taj Green Cove Resort Kovalam.
Traditional drinks include Karikku(tender coconut water) and sambharam (buttermilk with salt, ginger and green chilly).
Alcoholic drinks are more difficult to obtain. Hotels/ restaurants with "bar attached" signs sell alcoholic beverages. Public consumption of beer is not socially accepted. Local Toddy is available from "kallu shops". Some are Arrack Shops selling the stronger spirit.
Recently the over enthusiastic government has banned Coca Cola and Pepsi products due to presumably high levels of pesticides.
Unless you are in Trivandrum on a business trip, it may be better to base yourself in Kovalam and go to the city as a day trip
Hotel Chaitram is also owned by KTDC and is very close to the railway station and bus stand. Claims 2 star deluxe facilities.
Hotel Regencyis 1 star hotel very close to the railway station and the bus stand. More convenience than comfort.
Hotel Horizon is a 3 star hotel located on Aristo road with a roof top restaurant.
Ruby Arena Hotel - 3 star Business Hotel. Hotel Ruby Arena with ample parking facility provides luxurious accommodation. Elegantly appointed rooms which are set up in international standards provide a relaxing atmosphere.
Hotel Pankaj is a 3 star hotel located in a convenient location in Statue, near the secretariat.
Hostel Lailja Pappanamcode, near Regional Research Laboratory(CSIR)
Muthoot Plazaa 5 star hotel in Trivandrum at the centre of the city.
South Parka 4 star hotel located on the MG road,near the secretariat, 3km from the Railway station.
Mascot Hotela KTDC  owned 5 star hotel in the heart of the Trivandrum city.
The Leela Kovalam is a 5 star hotel in Kovalam, overlooking the Arabian sea, about 15 kms away from the city.
Sankars homestay Your home away from home. Approved GRADE A homestay by Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala.
Telephone and mobile
The dialling code for Trivandrm is 471. When calling from overseas, dial +91 471 XXXX XXX. If you have a non-working phone number with only 6 digits try to add a "2" in front of it.
If you don’t have an Indian phone number I strongly recommend that you get a pre-paid calling card if you planning on using your phone frequently. By government regulation you need a photocopy of your passport (visa and the id-page) and a color photo to be able to buy a pre-paid card. Pre-paid card are sold in most shops that sell mobile equipment.
'Telephone Booths' or public telephones are widely available usually painted with the letters PCO (Public Call office,local calls), STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) and ISD (International Subscriber Dialing). All booths have electronic metering and you pay what's displayed on the meter.
There are many internet cafes around Trivandrum. They offer cheap, tolerably fast internet access to the public. The railway station is also fully wi-fi enabled.
Drink only safe water ( boiled and cooled) or good bottled water. Take water purification tablets with you, though compared to the rest of India, the water quality is much better. Till recently, the tap water in Thiruvananthapuram was considered a high pressure system and hence safe to consume. When drinking canned soft drinks, make sure to wash the top of the can very well. This is due to the fact that many cans are stored in warehouses where rat urine can contaminate the outside of the can and results in spread of Leptospirosis.
Trivandrum has world class medical facilities with very competitive rates. This attracts "health tourists" from other states and even other countries. If you are in need of medical care, try to go to one of the reputed private hospitals listed below.
Medical College Hospital, Medical College, Trivandrum
Sree Avittam Thirunal Hospital Medical College,Phone: 0471-2444270
Regional Cancer Centre Medical College Campus, Medical College Phone: 0471-2442541
Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Science and Technology Medical College, Phone: 0471-2443152
Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS)Kumarapuram Poonthi Road, Anamukham, Anayara
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