Travel Advice and FAQ: Andaman Islands
The Andaman Islands are still barely known as a tourist destination, so it is understandable that potential guests would have many questions about these beautiful islands. Read the information below carefully, and if you cannot find the answer to your question please feel free to contact MV Philkade.
- How do I get to the Andaman Islands?
- Do I need a visa to enter the Andaman Islands?
- Am I liable to pay any extra fees during my visit to the Andaman Islands?
- Are there any hotels in the Port Blair area?
- What is the electricity supply in the Andaman Islands?
- What is the currency in the Andaman Islands and how do I pay?
- What is the food like in the Andaman Islands?
- What can I expect the climate to be like in the Andaman Islands?
- What are the air and water temperatures in the Andaman Islands and will I need a wetsuit?
- What should I wear?
- What about health precautions?
- What is the religious stance in the Andamans?
- Are there any rules of etiquette I should know about?
- What time zone do the Andaman Islands lie in?
- Is there a postal service?
- Can I make international calls and access the internet?
- Is there anything to buy in the Andamans and are there bargains to be had?
- Is there any crime in the Andaman Islands?
- Is it possible to extend my stay in Andaman or even India as a whole?
If we have answered your questions about the Andaman Islands but you wish to know more about diving from MV Philkade then see our MV Philkade FAQ.
If you are interested in joining an MV Philkade liveaboard cruise after answering your Andaman Islands questions, why not take a look at Diving in the Andaman Islands or check out the MV Philkade Schedule and Price 2008-09?
Getting to the Andaman Islands:
Due to the logistics of immigration, customs, and trip schedule all Andaman Islands Cruise guests must join MV Philkade in Port Blair, the administrative capital of the Andaman Islands. You can currently only fly to the Andaman Islands by connecting flight from either Chennai (Madras), Kolkata (Calcutta), and Delhi (Jetlite only) in India. There is talk that flights from Bangkok may be re-instated at some point which is worth bearing in mind (although this has been talked about for at least 2 years now).
You can contact the local airlines and book flights directly by clicking on any of the following links:
Please note that we can help you with your flight bookings, please call, or contact Aquamarine Divers by mail.
Note: It is strongly advised that you arrive in Port Blair at least one day prior to boat departure in order to avoid potential problems and to allow you time to acclimatise before heading out on the trip. Also remember the '24 hours after diving' rule when booking your return flights.
All foreign nationals must apply for a tourist visa BEFORE arrival in India (with the exception of Nepal and Bhutan nationals) with the cost for a tourist visa currently approximately $60 US. When applying for your visa we advise that you enter either Chennai or Kolkata as your destination, otherwise the Indian government will insist you also have a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) with your visa which will delay your application by as much as 1 month. RAP’s can be obtained at the airport in Port Blair on arrival which makes things simpler for you. Also, the applicant must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.
In order to speed up paperwork at our end it is essential that you e-mail or fax us a copy of your passport on confirming you trip.
At the time of writing, the Andaman Itinerary for MV Philkade takes in only one days diving that incurs a Park Fee, and this will be 1000 Indian Rupees (payable one departure from Port Blair). Obviously this could change if the Park Boundaries and/or rules are changed. This fee is payable before trip departure.
Immigration and Customs Clearance Fees
There is a 4000 Indian Rupees charge per guest for immigration and customs clearence that covers embarkation and disembarkation from MV Philkade. As with the park fee, this is payable before departure so please be sure that you have the required fees on arrival at MV Philkade.
Note that both park fees and clearence fees are liable to change by the Indian government and though we will endeavour to inform you of this before the cruise date it may not always be possible. All changes are out of the hands of MV Philkade and Aquamarine Divers.
Accommodation in Port Blair
It is highly recommended that you arrive at least one day prior to your cruise. Aquamarine Divers can make arrangements to book accommodation and transfers for any hotel you wish or we can suggest a hotel and reserve a room based on your needs. This is done through proven agents in the Andaman Islands who have up to date knowledge of all hotels in the area. Most accommodation in Port Blair is within 30 minutes of both the airport and the jetty.
In all of India 220Volts is standard with sockets mixed between 3 pin flat (like the UK) and/or round (like the rest of India) pins. To avoid confusion or disappointment we suggest guests bring at least one travel adapter. You can check the socket system visually at this World Wide Electricity Guide.
The common currency of India is the Indian Rupee, for current exchange rates click here. All money in India is expected to be changed through the official banks or authorised money changers. Authorisation to exchange money is given by the Reserve Bank of India. Major banks such as SBI, Indian Overseas Bank, and Central Bank of India have their branches in Port Blair and these branches mostly accept travellers' cheques and exchange money. You can also find private dealers also exchange money and many travel agencies also provide money exchange facilities to their clients though obviously exercise caution when changing money outside of banks.
Credit Cards are not widely accepted in the Andamans though guests are advised to bring their cards as they can be used for withdrawing money from the ATM Counters (of State Bank of India, UTI Bank, and ICICI Bank) if required. Credit cards are usually accepted in the larger hotels, but it is worth checking in advance if at all possible.
Food in the Andaman Islands
Seafood is king on the Andaman Islands. The unpolluted water of Andaman Sea abounds with varieties of fish, crabs, lobsters, prawns etc. Seafood is easily available and deliciously cooked. North Indian, South Indian, vegetarian, continental, and Chinese dishes are also available, although prices are often much higher as ingredients must be imported from the mainland in India.
As with other areas in the Andaman Sea, it is tropical throughout the year with an average minimum temperature of around 23°C and maximum of around 30°C. Humidity is relatively high at between 70% and 90% with a gentle breeze blowing most the time. The weather is generally pleasant with average annual rainfall of 3,000 mm in Port Blair. In the month of April when we are running our Andaman cruises expect warm and very humid with the chance of limited squalls close to land at night.
For up to date weather in Port Blair see Yahoo weather.
Air and Water Temperatures
Air temperature: 23°C - 35°C (73°F - 95°F), always warm and can be very hot and humid, nights often cooler.
Water temperature in the Andaman Sea averages around 27°C to 30°C (80°F - 86°F), very pleasant although sometimes thermoclines occur. A 3mm short wetsuit is normally enough, though with 4 dives per day you may want to think about a full length suit particularly if you are susceptible to the cold. Please contact the office a week or so prior to the trip for current water temperatures if you are concerned.
Clothing and Dress Codes
In all tourist resorts shorts and t-shirts are acceptable attire. This is also appropriate at night, though 'smart casual' is preferred in the better eating establishments in larger hotels. Jackets and ties are not required anywhere. Ladies are expected to dress appropriately when visiting temples and shrines, for example, cover your shoulders and wear dresses or trousers below the knee at the very least. Aside from this, light natural fibers are advised as they are comfortable and allow the air to circulate, man made fibres can cause you to sweat in this humid climate and can cause heat rash or worse.
Health services are somewhat limited on the Andaman Islands due mainly to their remoteness and low population, though there are good medical services and a recompression facility at the G.B.Pant hospital in Port Blair. India is officially a malarial risk area so it would be best to consult your doctor on this issue. We recommend you check the status of your vaccinations and seek your doctor's advice on inoculations and medication. Normal sensible precautions with food should keep you out of trouble, and be sure to drink lots of bottled drinking water to prevent dehydration (especially if your best laid plans have still left you with a bout of diarrhoea). DO NOT drink tap water in the Andaman Islands! Also, be sure to wash regularly and wear light, loose clothing made from natural fibres as heat rash and fungal infections for visitors are not unusual in this humidity.
India itself has a very mixed religious history, and a reputation for religious tolerance. Hinduism is by far the most popular religion in the islands followed by Christianity and then Islam. Other religions that make up the total include Sikhism and Buddhism.
The Andaman Islands is a very relaxed place so the rules are simple. Act with respect and decorum, dress appropriately (especially away form the beach), and as anywhere always ask permission before taking photographs of the local population.
The whole of India comes under the same time zone so the local time is GMT + 5½ hours throughout the country, year round. The Andamans are so much closer to Thailand than India that this has the effect that during the scheduled trips in April the sun will rise around 5:15am and set around 5:30pm local time.
India has the most widely dispersed postal system in the world with over 150,000 branches. It has a very good reputation for posting domestically and internationally and owing to its many far flung branches, also offers other services including insurance and international money transfers in association with Western Union.
Telephone and Internet Services
International dialling is available from most major hotels. To make an international call, dial 001 plus Country Code plus Area Code plus Phone Number. Services tend to be very reliable. Internet is available though not as widely as in many other tourist areas and connection is reputed to be slow. Roaming mobile signal is available in Port Blair, though outside of this connection is sporadic.
The Andaman Islands are still very under-developed and as such are not exactly a shopping mecca yet. There are lots of traditional handicrafts available in Port Blair though, especially around Aberdeen Bazaar where you can buy Mother of pearl jewellery and artifacts, palm mats, coconut shell lamp shades, woodcrafts like walking sticks, bowls and trays, bamboo cane craft, Nicobaree mats, and so on.
Crime and the Police
As in almost all countries, pick-pocketing can happen in crowded areas such as bus and rail stations, tourist spots, and busy gatherings (festivals and bars) so watching your valuables in these areas would be wise. It is not unknown for things to go missing form hotel rooms, but by the same token it IS very unusual. By taking sensible precautions you should have no problems while in the Andaman Islands.
Extending your holiday in India
India is a fascinating and intriguing country. Whether you wish to explore the ‘golden triangle’ of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, spend some days visiting the attractions of India’s southern states, or simply lounging on the beaches of the Andamans, our well-established Indian agents can create a custom-made itinerary for you. Contact our office and we will be happy to discuss extending your holiday in The Andaman Islands and/or India.