Kerala Backwaters on a Budget
One of the most popular tourist activities in Kerala is a tour through the backwaters – a series of canals, lakes and rivers bordered by small villages and filled with birds and small fishing boats. Many tourists stay overnight on a houseboat, where a small crew cooks your meals and steers the boat to multiple destinations along the water.
The experience looked idyllic, and we received multiple recommendations from friends who had done this kind of trip before, but, as budget travelers, we had a hard time justifying the price tag: more than $250 USD/day for one of the highly recommended companies.
So we found a way to tour the Kerala backwaters on a budget: taking the public ferry from Kollam to Alleppey. Pricetag: $13 USD total (400 Rupees each). The 8 hour-long boat ride took us across lakes dotted with fishing boats, along narrow canals edged with churches and temples, and past the Amma Ashram. We made two stops, one at a lunch place and another at a tea stall. The pace of the boat is very slow – so slow, in fact, that at one point a little girl running in flip-flops and carrying a large backpack outpaced us – so it was almost like riding our bikes, with plenty of time to look around and enjoy the scenery.
We saw a lot of the “fancy” houseboats – especially toward 6 pm, when they parked along the canal for the passengers to enjoy the sunset. We didn’t envy them though – we had good company on our boat, having made a few new friends along the ride, and a couple of the other passengers started a low-key acoustic guitar jam session in the back of the boat. The only thing we were missing was beer (a lack that we quickly remedied upon arrival in Alleppey).
In Alleppey, we found a nice double room for 500R ($8USD) at The Dreamnest, a highly recommended guest house. $13 + $8 = Plenty of money left to buy beers.