With something like 1200 different houseboats cruising the Kerala backwaters near Alleppey (aka Alappuzha), choosing one was never going to be a simple task!… The houseboats on offer range from small & basic one bedroom boats to floating palaces with numerous bedrooms, satellite TV & other luxury fittings. We spent several hours both researching online and on the phone trying to track down an ideal boat at a good price so here are a few tips you might find useful in your own search!…
We recommend air-con and a two-night cruise!
Firstly, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want from the houseboat and how long you’d like to go cruising for. The standard cruises start anytime between 10-12pm until 9am the following morning though it’s possible to spend 2 nights or even longer on the boat and in hindsight, if we’d have known how much we’d love our cruise we’d have booked for longer than one night!
There are boats available both with and without air con and if your budget can stretch to the little extra we’d recommend getting AC so you can guarantee a good sleep. We were in Kerala in January and it was already a very hot 35 degrees and stifling at night! The boat crew will only run the AC from around 9pm until 6am but that’s plenty of time to keep things cool and comfortable, plus there were ceiling fans in the bedroom and lounge area. The smallest boats have one double bedroom with an en suite bathroom which was perfect for a couple like us. The bigger the boat the more it will cost to rent so make sure you don’t pay for more rooms than you need! A second floor (two storey boat) will also cost more.
Make sure you view the actual boat!
The next and possibly most important tip is to ensure you either see photos of the actual boat or better still to see the boat in person. We read numerous reports from people who saw lovely generic boat photos via the website they booked through only to arrive and find a totally awful boat awaiting them in Alleppey (either they were given a completely different boat or it was filthy and falling apart). We asked the company we booked with to provide us with photos of the actual boat and they obliged without hesitation. When we arrived at the dock we checked the boat was to our satisfaction first before handing over any cash and would recommend that you do the same. Make sure you take a good look around the bedroom, kitchen , bathrooms etc. If you’re not happy with the standard of the boat either take your business elsewhere or negotiate an acceptable discount. If a company is unable to send you photos of their boat we’d be very suspicious as to why this is and recommend you steer clear well of them!
If you have the time go boat shopping
The third and final tip is (time permitting) to wait until you get there and shop around. In Alleppey, every man and his dog will either own a houseboat or have a friend or uncle who has one so there will be no shortage of options open to you. The docks are clogged full of houseboats so
you’re guaranteed to find something to your liking. When we arrived, the guy at our accommodation offered us a very basic, non-AC boat for 7000 rupees or an AC boat for 9000 rupees which we thought was very steep. That is what instigated our own research into finding something more suited around our budget as well as get value for money. Some people spend time at the docks to view the houseboats there and negotiate a price. However we were limited on time so we opted for a quicker Internet and phone call search.
Who did we go with in the end?
We found the company we booked with online and gave them a call, the man we spoke with named Sayarth was very friendly and spoke good English. He agreed to send us photos of the boat and a full quote via email. He quoted 6500 rupees for a houseboat with AC, one bedroom with modern en suite bathroom, personal chef, meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, mineral water, chai, coffee) and transfer from our hotel by tuk tuk. Sayarth even arranged for the tuk tuk driver to stop at the government shop so we could pick up some beers on route. We thought this was reasonable considering all the other quotes we had gotten for something similar to be in the 8000-9000 rupee region.
The below photos are what the company sent us
These are our own photos
We had a wonderful time, the boat did look exactly like those in the photos he sent, it was spotlessly clean, the bed was comfortable and the bathroom was clean and modern as promised. The food the chef prepared for us was delicious (and abundant – be hungry!) and Sayarth had asked during the booking if we had any dietary requirements or wanted vegetarian or meat dishes so everything was to our taste. The captain and chef both spoke some English, were funny and made sure we enjoyed ourselves without being too invasive of our space. We couldn’t recommend a houseboat experience more! It’s definitely something you must do if you’re visiting Kerala! Our only regret was not cruising for longer than one night!
If you wanted to contact the company we went with their details are:
Alleppey Backwater Tour Company
Group of Eco Travel Planet.
Punnamada, Alleppey, Kerala.
+91 (0) 9895 407 909
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
www.alleppeybackwatertour.com or www.keralahouseboatstay.com