God’s Own Country or the state of Kerala as we know it, has some of the most distinct culture, food and topographic features in India. The 900 kms of backwaters is one such unique topographic feature that attracts millions of tourists each year. Staying a night or two on a ‘Houseboat’ usually tops the list and is probably the only way known to tourists for experiencing the backwaters. Well, that’s totally wrong and here’s why –
Houseboats are expensive – they will typically cost you between ₹5000 and ₹10000 per night for 2 people. Honestly, the regular houseboats don’t even offer any luxury – all they offer is a bed, AC, food on board and decent sit outs at the back of the boat. More importantly, houseboats are not allowed to ply in the waters after sunset so they’ll park the boats for the night after a short 1-2 hours ride. That’s all you get!
The best way to experience Kerala’s charming backwaters is by taking a ride on the Tourist Boat service run by Kerala government. These boats run across most of the 900 kms of backwaters and offer a chance to travel through some of the largest lakes, witness the life of locals along these pristine waters and move across the state without shelling out too much money.
I travelled from Kollam to Alappuzha which is roughly 85 kms by road and takes around 2.5 hours. In the boat, the same 85 kms take about 8 hours (perks of slow travel!) and the ticket only costs ₹400. The boat schedule is listed on the govt website and is very reliable and safe for tourists. The boat also stops for lunch at a floating restaurant where you can enjoy sumptuous local food for just ₹100. Around 4 pm, the boat will also stop at a small village for a quick tea break where you can interact with locals.
So if you plan to visit Kerala and want to experience the backwaters, ditch the Houseboats and ride on these fairly unknown Tourist Boats. There is no better way to slow travel through Kerala!