April 1, 2018
Each year we spend many weeks on the road in India and Sri Lanka. This often consists of one long trip where we cover as much territory as we can and focus on new tour planning. This year we are spending all of April travelling in India, with a particularly focus on developing new itineraries for family travel in India, as well as planning the small group tours for our Remarkable East brand for 2020. We are creating a new itinerary for Kerala for a private tour for family travel in Kerala, and a new luxury small group tour that will cover parts of North India. Added to the mix, we are visiting new boutique hotels in India, meeting new guides and taking walking tours to include in private tours of India, dining in new restaurants to revise our list of India’s top restaurants and trawling new local bazaars and markets and shopping venues to recommend.
Our travels this April will take us from South India, starting in Cochin, through Kerala, to Mumbai (considered our second home), to the Wagah border and Punjab, to the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, and through Rajasthan. In between there will be cups of chai, meals with families in homestays, drinks and new bars to visit in Mumbai, activities for children to do on a tour of India, new hotels to review and much, much more. These are our first-hand experiences and musings from on the road, written as we go.
Tips for travelling in India: visa on arrival
Arriving in Cochin, South India
Essentially the first week of our trip is dedicated to family travel in Kerala. Kerala in South India is a popular destination in India for travel from Australia. Visitors are drawn to its lush, tropical beauty, its easy-going locals and its well-known experiences such as the houseboats on the backwaters of Kerala. Given its popularity, we are creating a new itinerary especially for families travelling in Kerala with children, which will include activities that suit small travellers and hotels that suit families. (We are particularly looking for new hotel options for good value hotels for families in Kerala.) To do this, part of our research team includes a well travelled, almost 7-year-old, whose enthusiasm and interest provide a good barometer for what will actually work for family travel in India.
As we begin our trip, we are reminded once again that while travel is exciting and rewarding, it does take a day or two for the body to adjust – especially for little ones. Late night flights and late arrivals make us all weary and test our mood and patience, so it’s good to remember that that includes little people too, perhaps even more than us.
Start slowly at the beginning of your tour in Kerala, and consider an easy option like a nearby airport hotel. We arrived late into Cochin – as do most of the flights from Australia. Being a smaller airport, the visa processing time and immigration process was one of the shortest we have experienced in India – a real plus after a long flight with little ones. Cochin is one of the Indian ports where you can enter on the more recently created India e-tourist visa. The e-visa allows you to apply online for a visa and receive an electronic approval letter. When you arrive in India, you can land at certain airports with the approval letter and your passport and the visa is given at this time. In Cochin at this time of the year when there are less foreign tourists around we breezed straight through the arrival and visa processing procedures.
To begin this trip, we headed to one of the nearby airport hotels – a comfortable and convenient option as they are less than 5 minutes away, so you can get settled and into bed quickly. (Heading into Fort Cochin is easily an hour drive, so we prefer to include Cochin at the end of a private tour of Kerala.) Apart from the ease and speed of getting to the hotel, staying nearby the airport is a good option if you are heading away from Cochin the next day – as it will save you a fair bit of driving time. We checked in and crashed – being exhausted by late night flight and travel. (Note – It would be almost 2 days until our bodies found their rhythm and settled into local time. At this time India is 5 and a half hours behind Melbourne – enough to have us a little dazed over the first few days.)