The glistening backwaters of Kerala are one of south India’s most prized landmarks. Miles upon miles of beautiful waterways that weave through local villages and farming communities. Renting a houseboat for the night is considered by many to be the best way to travel through the lagoons. These large boats are like floating hotels, but they come with a BIG price tag to match. If you’re an adventurous type or on a budget, then here’s my top tip…DON’T rent a houseboat, take to the water on a kayak instead.
5 Reasons why you shouldn’t Hire a Houseboat in Kerala
1. An overnight stay can cost between 5,000 – 20,000 Indian Rupees (£58 – £232). That would have been the most expensive thing we’d done in the whole of India! The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is 100% true here. This should not be seen as a budget activity.
2. They are terribly polluting. From petrol fumes to leaving a trail of litter floating in the water. Kayaks are far more eco-friendly.
3. These large boats cannot fit down the smaller, narrow waterways so for the majority of your trip you’ll likely be surrounded by other houseboats.
4. I’ve heard horror stories from other travelers about the poor conditions of these boats – dirty bed sheets and cockroaches in the bedroom.
5. For this very reason, it’s advisable to view the houseboat before you agree to climb aboard. But, if like us you arrive in Alleppey the day before you wish to travel then that may be a bit tricky as the boats head out on the water from 8am each morning. (You can book boats in advance through an agent or your accommodation, but I’d still recommend you see it before you head out on the water).
Travel by Kayak instead
Get in a kayak! Kayaking is by far one of my favourite ways to travel. It’s affordable and keeps you fit.
After arriving at Oscars, we were whisked away on mopeds to a local village where we boarded the kayaks. There was the choice between single and double kayaks – I opted for double so I could snap away while Chris paddled along!
The initial paddle was a little tricky as we navigated our way across one of the major crossing channels for the larger houseboats, but soon we arrived in some of the more peaceful canals.
We took a moment to shelter under a nearby palm tree – we’d set off just after lunch and it was hot!
Our guide was great fun and very knowledgeable. Check out his crazy, but very practical, sunhat.
We watched as children crossed the waterways on their way home from school.
Kayaks do not disturb the local wildlife in the same way as the big gas-guzzling boats do, so you’ll be surrounded by birds and turtles and all manner of animals.
We saw the famous houseboats from afar, and joked about how bored the passengers looked. We stopped at a cafe on the banks for a refreshing coconut and some freshly cooked prawns on the bbq.
What if Kayaking isn’t my Thing?
Not a problem. There are plenty of other options…
Board a public ferry. Join the locals on their daily commute. Journeys range from 20 minutes to 2.5 hours and cost a few rupees (less than a pound). Try the ferry from Alleppey to Kottayam – budget travel at its best! One step up would be the government run tourist ferry. Visit the State Water Transport Department for journey details and times.
Hire a Shikara. These long covered boats come with a roof, seating and driver. They can fit between 6-25 people. Expect to pay around 1,000 Indian rupees (£11.60) in the high season.
Or a local canoe. If you’re not keen on paddling yourself then hire a canoe for a few hours and get someone else to do the hard work.
Have you ever considered kayaking in Antarctica? Slightly different climate! Read this post from fellow travel blogger Travel For Life Now.