Please read this section for practical info on travel logistics, ferry timings, what to bring, etc.
If you want to do an intro to scuba program or an Open Water course, you can come at any time of the year. The sites that you visit as part of these programs are accessible year long and not that significantly affected by weather (tides and phase of the moon play a bigger role). Do keep in mind that unlike mainland monsoons, rainy season in the Andamans typically means frequent short showers – only occasionally do we have long, heavy rains (and that too, usually at night). So you can still have a very enjoyable holiday here, even in the monsoons.
For certified divers, the traditional peak dive season in the Andamans has been from December to May – the sun is (usually!) shining, the seas are flat and visibility is at its best during this period. June and July are monsoons – this means that some days, the seas are very rough and we cannot go very far. Other days, it is calm and sunny, and the diving is surprisingly good.
The September to November period is becoming the “hidden season” when it comes to scuba diving in the Andamans – yes, there are occasional to regular rains, and the seas are marginally choppier than what it would be in March or April, but the fishlife is mindboggling – enormous schools of fish occupy your entire vision, turtle and manta sightings are common and the reefs buzz with excitement and action. All our dive staff agrees that the diving during this period is the best that they’ve ever done in their years in the Andamans. So if you are interested in really primo diving, but without crowds and with the moderate risk of being limited in the choice of dive sites due to weather, consider coming in this time period.
In the past few years, June has not had a lot of rains and has pretty much become an extension of the peak season. August is a bit of an unusual month – it has been raining a little more than normal the past few years, but the seas haven’t been too rough, and the diving has been very good at this time. For advanced divers, it is likely to be hit or miss – the diving is superb, but we may not be able to visit our highlight deep sites at this time.
A word of warning, however: weather conditions are becoming more and more erratic these days, and we are having more “nice days” in the so-called off-season and more “rough days” in the peak season. The above is meant to be indicative, based on recent trends, but we really have no way of predicting the impact of climate change.
All foreign visitors to India need a visa. This must be obtained prior to your departure, as India does NOT issue visas on arrival (although recently, Visa on Arrival services have started for some nationalities – please check before traveling).
In addition, foreign tourists visiting the Andamans also need a special Restricted Area Permit, which can be obtained upon arrival (flight or ship). You can also apply for the permit through your embassy while getting the Indian visa; however, we recommend getting it on arrival as it is a lot faster this way. This Restricted Area Permit, which is issued free of charge, is valid for 30 days. There have been a few issues with diplomatic passport holders not getting permits when they arrive, so if you are based in an embassy in India, please check with your office.
Indian passport holders do not need any permits to visit the Andamans.
The quickest and most convenient way to get to the Andamans is to fly. Air India, Go Air, Spice Jet and Jet Airways have daily regular flights to Port Blair from Calcutta and/or Chennai.
If you want to come directly to Havelock on the day of your arrival, please make sure you land by 1300hrs in order to catch the 1400 ferry, which is the last ferry over (and no, if you miss this, there are no reliable ferry options to come over on the same day).
If you want to come directly to Neil on the day of your arrival, please make sure you land by 1000hrs in order to catch the 1100 ferry.
For the return, if your outbound flight is after 1300hrs, you can come back from Havelock or Neil on the same morning quite easily. If your outbound flight is before 1300hrs, you will need to spend the last night in Port Blair.
PORT BLAIR TO HAVELOCK:
– 0730 – Green Ocean (2h30)
– 0800 – Makruzz (1h45)
– 1330/1400 – Makruzz (1h45) — check timings with us as this changes
If you land in Port Blair by 12:3opm, you can take the last ferry to Havelock. Otherwise, you have to spend the first night in Port Blair, and then take the morning ferry the next day.
HAVELOCK TO PORT BLAIR:
– 0930 – Green Ocean (2h30)
– 1030 – Makruzz (1h45)
– 1530 – Green Ocean (2h30)
– 1545 – Makruzz (1h45)
For the return, if you have a flight after 1330, you can take one of the morning ferries back to Port Blair on the same morning. Otherwise, you need to go back one day prior, and spend the last night in Port Blair. If you are taking the afternoon ferries, you can still dive on that morning and have ample time to shower and eat before the ferry – and also get enough of a surface interval to fly safely the next day.
There are also 3 government ferries daily from Havelock to Neil: 0620 hrs (2.5 hours), 1030 hrs (via Neil – takes 3.5 hours; tickets very hard to get) and 1400 hrs (2.5 hours), and return ferries at 0900 and 1630. We do not book these tickets except as a last resort – tickets only become available at the last minute and there are too many issues.
It is possible to arrange these tickets when you arrive (and Makruzz tickets can also be bought online). However, for guests staying and diving with us, we offer (and strongly recommend that you avail of) a Meet and Greet facility which includes airport pickup, ferry tickets to/from Havelock and all land transfers (airport to hotel/jetty, hotel to jetty, etc). Please contact us for pricing and to book this.
Because of fewer ferries, we do book government ferries to/from Neil. However, this comes with some risks, which are explaining in the booking process.
PORT BLAIR TO NEIL:
– 0630 – Govt ferry (2h00)
– 0730 – Makruzz (1h30)
– 1030/1100 – Govt ferry (2h00) — check timings with us as this changes
If you land in Port Blair by 9:3oam, you can take the govt ferry to Neil. However, due to difficulties in obtaining these tickets in advance, we are most often only able to confirm the ticket shortly before departure – so there is a potential risk of last minute issues.
So we recommend 2 options: if you are doing both Havelock and Neil, plan the Havelock component first. Otherwise, plan on spending the first night in Port Blair (or be open to a small risk with the govt ferry to Neil).
NEIL TO PORT BLAIR:
– 0845 – Govt ferry (2h00)
– 1130 – Makruzz (1h30)
– 1545 – Makruzz (1h30)
– 1600 – Govt ferry (2h00)
If you are taking the afternoon ferries, you can still dive on that morning and have ample time to shower and eat before the ferry – and also get enough of a surface interval to fly safely the next day.
It is possible to book these tickets on arrival. However, even more so than with Havelock, we strongly recommend taking our Meet & Greet transfers package, which includes airport pickup, transfer to the jetty (including round trip tickets on the private ferry), ferry tickets to Neil & back, return transfer to the hotel in Port Blair and then to the airport on your departure. Yes, it does have risks due to govt ferries – but that risk is a lot lower than if you try to book it yourself.
Please contact us for pricing and to book this.
HAVELOCK TO NEIL:
– 1000 – Makruzz (1h00)
– 1430 – govt ferry (1h30)
NEIL TO HAVELOCK:
– 1330 – Govt ferry (1h30)
These schedules change quite a bit, so do check with us on the most up-to-date info here. And if planning, it is best if you dont come up with too tight a schedule on your transit day between Havelock and Neil – ferry timings can change between the time you book and the time you arrive!
In addition, there are also occasional inter-island ferries traveling to/from the north Andamans that touch Havelock and Neil, but tickets for these cannot be purchased in advance and they are not a reliable travel option for advance planning.
We have 2 recommendations for Port Blair accommodation, both of which are different from the usual squat, concrete hotel options out there.
(1) Andaman Anchorage B&B (not to be confused with Anchorage Inn) is a small, 2-bedroom serviced apartment overlooking the sea. Rates start at Rs 2500 per night, including breakfast, and you can arrange for other meals as well, if need be. For reservations, call +913192224477 or email email@example.com
(2) Mrs Noble offers a private room with a separate entrance, en suite bathroom (hot water showers) at a very reasonable price starting at Rs 1000/night for a room, located about 2km from the main market of Port Blair town. Meals available on request. You can call +919474208233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Other than this, there is a wide array of hotel options at varying prices. Some of them are listed here, but this is by no means an exhaustive list:
Azad Lodge (+91-3192-242646) is a budget hotel with rooms for Rs 400-650, with attached bathrooms and cable TV. Hotel Marine View (+91-3192-243500/231200 or +91-97344-88899) is another nice mid-end hotel in the Rs 2000-2500 range. Nice rooms, good service and internet in the lobby, it is excellent bang-for-the-buck. TSG Emerald View, at Rs 3500 onwards, is a little more expensive but also nice – and has one of the best restaurants in Port Blair, to boot.
There are many other options in the Rs 1000-2000 price range as well – mostly unremarkable but fairly functional when it comes to sleeping for one night, so book whatever works out to be the easiest for you.
In season, finding a hotel room at the last minute can be quite hard, so we encourage you to book your rooms in advance. Do note that due to past problems with guests not showing up and/or bookings getting lost, we no longer directly book hotels in Port Blair. However, if you are in Havelock, we can provide you with a phone (we’ll even dial it for you) and the number, and you can make the booking directly.
The Andamans – especially Havelock and Neil – are quite safe when it comes to malaria and other tropical diseases, but do consult your doctor about shots, vaccines and preventive medication. Otherwise, the general rules of traveling apply: do not eat uncooked veggies or food cooked in unsanitary conditions; drink bottled water; use bug repellant, etc.
There is a good hospital in Port Blair, but medical facilities in the other islands are minimal. It is recommended that you bring preferred or prescription medication with you. For emergency use, we keep a fairly well-stocked first aid box as well, with a full complement of disinfectants, bandages, etc. – just drop in, ask for Igor (or Dr Frankenstein) and we’ll patch you up.
Most of the Andamans operate on cash, with a few of the bigger hotels (and us) taking credit cards. A lot of places may take dollars and euros (especially for large purchases), but you are better off using rupees for your small purchases. Money-exchange facilities and an international ATM are available in Port Blair and now, there are 2 ATMs in Havelock as well.
Some recommendations, in no particular order: bug repellant (or long trousers for dusk), high SPF sunblock, a hat, a small flashlight, sunglasses, towel, swimwear, prescription medication, memory cards, spare batteries/chargers, reading materials.
Port Blair & Havelock are both on the GSM network, so your mobile phone should offer roaming there. Indian residents please note – Airtel, BSNL and now Vodafone work in Havelock – however, data connectivity is pretty much non-existent, except for slow GPRS on BSNL.
Certified divers should bring their C-card and logbook. Divers insurance is a good idea to have as well – we strongly recommend coverage sold by Divers Alert Network (DAN). Also, if you are doing a scuba course and have any pre-existing medical conditions, you will need a doctor’s clearance. Please download the Medical Statement here or contact us for a copy, and complete it, along with a doctor’s clearance, before bringing it.
As long as you take the basic precautions – i.e., don’t leave your valuables lying around, don’t entrust your cash to strangers, etc., you should be fine. There is virtually no violent crime in the Andamans, especially against tourists – the horrendous music playing on the inter-island ferries is about as bad as it gets.
Same applies for single female travellers. Havelock and Neil are very safe places, and there isn’t much to worry about in terms of assault, harassment, etc.