Preparing for a trip to Kerala doesn’t have to be difficult but there are some basics that you should take care of before your holiday.
Arrange Travel Insurance – As with any trip abroad you should arrange for travel insurance to cover your luggage and any medical expenses that may arise. It’s a good idea to buy your travel insurance when you book your flight so that you are covered in case of cancellation. If you are planning any adventurous activities, even if it’s riding an elephant – make sure that your insurance covers you.
Visa – You need to get a visa to India in advance – usually a 6 month tourist visa. Contact your local Indian embassy or high commission to process the application. In the UK the High Commission of India has outsourced visa processing to VFS Global – the current fee is £41.24 including service fee. You can apply online or at various centres around the country. I recommend allowing at least a few weeks before you travel, preferably more to allow enough time for processing.
Vaccinations – Visit adoctor or travel clinic at least two months before you travel to find out which travel vaccinations are necessary. You may also consider taking malaria medication. The Fit for Travel website run by the British NHS has useful information on vaccinations needed for destinations around the world.
Inform Bank - It isn’t possible to purchase Indian rupees outside the country so your best option is to use an ATM card to withdraw money at the airport when you arrive. ATMs are easily found in the cities in Kerala, although you’ll need to make sure you have cash when visiting rural areas. Before you leave let your bank know that you are going abroad so that they don’t block it when you use it in India. It’s always a good idea to have a few bank cards as back ups in case one gets blocked or stolen.
Pack Light – Unless you are renting a car and driver it’s best to pack light when travelling in India. This will make your life much easier on crowded buses and trains. It’s hot year round in coastal Kerala so light clothing is fine – pack a sweater if visiting the hill country around Periyar and Munnar though. Women should remember to pack clothes that cover their shoulders, knees and chest. Shorts aren’t appropriate for men or women when visiting temples.
Buy a Guidebook – A good guidebook will not only provide you will information about sights and accommodation but will warn you about local etiquette and teach you about the history and customs of Kerala. I recommend the Rough Guide to Kerala or the Lonely Planet South India if you are exploring beyond Kerala.
Make photocopies – Make photocopies of your passport, visa and other important travel documents and leave one copy with someone at home and keep one with you. You could also email it to yourself. This makes things much simpler in case you lose your passport..
Arrange airport parking – If you are driving to the airport it’s usually cheaper to book your parking in advance. Check out BCP who have deals on Heathrow airport parking and Luton airport parking among others.
If you take care of all of the above tasks your trip to Kerala will be a lot smoother. Once you’ve seen the crazy Indian traffic you’ll remember the importance of travel insurance!