How To Book a Houseboat in India {Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala}

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I love Globe Trekker! Oh what an amazing job that would be – traveling the world, meeting new people, trying fun food, exploring beautiful places etc. I’m pretty sure that’s everyone’s dream job. About a decade ago I was watching an episode about renting rice boats in India. You can hire a crew + boat and float along the backwaters of Kerala. It’s a beautiful and relaxing way to spend your time in southern India. “I have to do this someday…I’m going to do this, it’s officially on the bucket list!” So when Dan and I were invited to a wedding in India, I knew this might be my only chance to weave it in.

Here’s all you need to know about booking a magical globe trekker adventure of your own.

Do Not Book Online
 

I tried…numerous companies and TripAdvisor leads, but no one seemed to respond. That’s a good thing though; you should book it in person! All the prices online are 3x the amount it actually costs and you don’t know what/who you’re getting. Don’t worry, there are literally hundreds of boats for you to choose from when you get there. They come back every day so there is no need to book a boat in advance. You can show up on the same day you want to leave or arrange it for the next day etc.

Pick The Right Season
Make sure it’s not monsoon season, because that would not be fun. I’m pretty sure the majority of the boats are stored away during these months. It looks like Jun-Nov are pretty rainy…with a bit of a break for August. Dec-May are the best months for boating. Here is a rainfall chart for Kerala

Find Your Dream Boat
I’ve heard there are a few towns where you can hire boats, but Alleppey (AKA Alappuzha) is the granddaddy of them all. You’ll find they have the best selection and prices compared to other towns. If you’re arriving by plane, you’ll want to fly into Kochi airport (Cochin International Airport COK) and hail a cab to Alleppey. The ride from Cochin to Alleppey in an AC car will cost you around $25 for a 2.5 hour drive or if you’re a bit scrappier you can take the train from Aluva (AWY) to Alleppey (ALLP) but you’ll need to reserve your tickets in advance (usually with an Indian cell phone or through a travel agent) for about $10. Once you’ve arrived, stay near Finishing Point. D and I stayed here (about a 3 min. walk from the dock at Finishing Point). Finishers Point is where you’ll find 1000+ boats along a mile or so walkway. You don’t need a reservation, just show up early about 8:00AM and search for the boat you want. Everyone will want your business and welcome you onboard. Feel free to look at as many boats as you want, shop around and find one you like. The house boats depart around 11:00 or so and return the following day around 8:00am. There are so many that they usually double/triple dock them, so you’ll have to climb through numerous boats.
Boats are usually stocked with food and ready to leave the same day, so no need to plan ahead. My group wanted to do a two-day trip, so we gave our boat a 1 day notice to buy extra food. Everyone is very flexible with time – you’ll definitely be able to find a boat that meets your needs.

Chat
Talk with passengers who are just leaving their cruise. Ask them if they liked the boat and crew / pros and cons and how much they paid. It’s nice to hear some honest reviews from fellow travelers. Chat with the crew too! Ask them what their usual route is and let them know if you are hoping to explore smaller backwaters. Let them know if there are certain places you want to see.

Get That 2nd Story
If possible, find a boat with a 2nd story or sun deck. It’s a lovely space to relax and find some peace and privacy upstairs + better views!

Shop Around
Make sure you look at lots of boats before you commit to one. Things to look for –>
-Do the toilets flush / do the bathrooms smell bad?
-Do I care if there is hot water? Truthfully most of the boats don’t have hot water, but you may find it on the fancier ones.
– Are there mosquito nets?
-Do I want individual private rooms with a lock or a common room? 1 or more rooms?
-Is there enough privacy on this boat?
-Check for bugs, cockroaches and bedbugs. Check the mattresses and make sure they’re clean and comfy…
-Is there AC?
-Are meals included?
-Is the water bottled?
-Check to make sure that the chef can accommodate for any food allergies you may have.
-Is the kitchen clean?

Pick A Good Crew
Find a crew that is similar in age and fun to spend time with. You’ll be in close quarters for the next 24-48 hours, so make sure you can jibe with them. Our friends found a fun group of guys in their mid 20’s early 30’s they were fantastic and fun! Our chef Shravan was kind enough to give us cooking lessons for each meal! It was a blast. And our friend Raj helped us find a toddy hut, where the guys could try palm wine.

Negotiate A Price
In my experience most businesses in India mark up their prices by 300% of what you will actually end up paying after a 30 min bargaining session…so get your game face on. We paid $300 total for 4 people – 2 nights with meals included. Which ended up being around $37 per person per day. A little higher than I would have liked (the majority of our accommodations in India were around $10 per night) but hey…you’re on a houseboat in the jungle with really yummy home cooked food. Well worth it! The more expensive months will be January and February (when we went). I’m betting you can find one even cheaper than we did.

Overall experience = A+!
I highly recommend it! Hire a boat of your own if you ever find yourself in southern India.
Here are some pictures of our two-day rice boat trip in Alleppey and a short little insta clip. If you want to read more about our time him India or watch our travel video  here is another post you should read! Thanks for stopping by!

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^^^Our bedroom. Basic, but all that we needed – fan, soft bed, linens, mosquito net, fresh towels and our own bathroom with shower.
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^^^Our sun deck, complete with squishy cushions and bamboo chairs.
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Fresh Fruit
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^^^Home cooked meals. Masala pearl fish, sambar, rice and crispy puffy poori! I love them all.
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Sunrise from our bedroom window.
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Dan and AJ ^
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^^^We woke up early with the parrots and cicadas, sipped on chai and watched AJ befriend a huge water snake on his morning swim.
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^Yeah no… you should have seen how fast that snake zipped across the water.
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^^^Chickpea gram flour fried plantains with turmeric and black sesame, served with chai.
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^An abandoned pink church
Rice Boat Alleppey India
^^^My Babe
Kerala Pink Church
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^^^The picture is a bit fuzzy, but you can actually see the fireflies! We docked the boat next to the coconut shack one night…had a candlelight dinner and played Sinatra. The fireflies came out to dance. Alleppey is a magical place.
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Lounging on the deck, with a hot tropical breeze and too many coconuts to count!
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If you’re not interested in an overnight houseboat you can find smaller boats (Shikara) and guides available for 3 to 4 hour excursions . They’ll tour you around the narrow canals and villages across the lake. We picked our boat from the main canal in Alleppey (Vada Canal) where you can find hundreds to choose from. We paid around $10 for a 3 hour boat ride. Shikara offer comfortable seating and best way to explore tiny rivers that the larger boats can’t fit in
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Fruit stands in Alleppey. This is where the boats stock up on fresh food for your trip.
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^^^We cruised over to a little hut selling coconuts. You can buy them for 25¢! The man will cut off the top and give you a straw…you drink the water and give it back to him. He’ll then machete it in half with one big swing and give you the top as a spoon to eat the meat. Perfection.
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^^^Mango trees and kingfisher birds galore.
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Attitude!

attitude
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
~ Charles R. Swindoll
7 Simple Tips For Improving Your Attitude

Give Thanks – Be grateful for what you have in life. Give to others that have less than you.

Monitor Your Thoughts – If negative thoughts are stressing you out, ask yourself where you learned these thoughts and if it they are true or not. Shed your negative thought patterns by replacing them with something true and positive about yourself and others.

Smile More – Smiling is contagious. You’ll find that when you smile others will smile back. Research at Mindlab International in Brighton, England, found that a warm smile can create a “halo” effect, helping us “feel more optimistic, more positive, and more motivated.”

Help Others — A study conducted in the US found that people who performed acts of kindness throughout a week were significantly happier than those who helped less or didn’t help at all. Little acts of kindness can go a long way. Give a sincere compliment, help your friend with the dishes or volunteer for a good cause.

Exercise — My professors in college always stressed the importance of exercising as a natural method to improving mood. When you exercise your body will produce happy neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

Breathe Deeply – Deep diaphragmatic belly breathing can improve you mood and activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will calm you down and reduce levels of stress.

Set Goals for Yourself – I have always felt that people who have motivation to improve their lives seem happier than those who live day to day. It is important to set goals and follow your passions. Take sometime to work on yourself instead of constantly pouring into others. A dry well can’t give water…am I right? What makes YOU happy and excited about life? Run with it.


Simple Summer Secrets

#1. Ice Cube Tray as Sunburn Soother
Freeze cubes of aloe vera for instant sunburn relief when you forget the SPF. Squeeze aloe gel into the tray and freeze over night. Keep them in the freezer for emergencies.
aloe ice cubes
#2. Broken Blender? Use a Mason Jar
If you accidentally broke your blender pitcher, use a mason jar. Most large mason jars will screw into a standard size blender base. Make sure that the blade doesn’t touch the glass!  If you have ample clearance, blend away!
#3. Citrus Peels as Bowls
Serve sorbet in a memorable way. After juicing (or eating) grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lime halves, scoop out and freeze the peels. Cut a small slice off the bottom to create a level surface (without creating a hole), then fill with ice cream.

 

#4. Egg slicers can slice more than just eggs!
Use your egg slicer to cut your strawberries 10x faster! Now why didn’t I think of this earlier!
#5. Bundt Pan as Corn Holder
Cut corn from the cob without the mess. Place an ear in the center of a Bundt pan. As you slide the knife down, the corn will fall right into the pan.
#6. Baby Oil as Tar Remover
Bare feet left with a bit of tar after a long day on the beach? Lift it off with a dose of baby oil. P.S. it’s also good for eye make-up remover. I use it all the time.

 

#7. Drink Carrier as Condiment Kit
Cart condiments to a backyard barbecue. Slot flatware, ketchup and mustard in the compartments for easy transport. I’ve seen these at the Catalina Fish Kitchen. Cute and thrifty.
#7. Cupcake Liner as Drip Catcher
Before serving that Popsicle, slip the stick through a foil liner to catch drips and keep hands from getting sticky.

All pictures by Real Simple found via stumbleupon