Sunday, October 17, 2010

KOCHI -TRAVEL FACILITIES

Kochi is well connected by air, road, rail and ferry from others parts of India, and to some international destinations by plane

Cochin International Airport

Cochin International Airport (IATA: COK, ICAO: VOCI) [1], General tel: +91-484-305-3000, Flight status and Airline desk transfer: +91-484-261-0115/261-1322/261-0033. Located in Nedumbassery, 29 km from the city center, this is the largest airport in Kerala and one of major gateway to India.

Regular flights to the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. There are regular direct chartered services from Europe and the USA during tourist season, with scheduled connections there planned by 2011.

There is a duty free area at the international terminal, which has a good collection of international premium brands liquors, perfumes, chocolates and other items, at competitive prices. The domestic terminal has a good shopping arcade selling mainly Kerala-unique items.

Formalities and paperwork are quite straightforward, and one can get out easily, although recently security was heightened after the Mumbai terror attacks.
Facilities in and around the airport

Transit and early passengers can use the airport bedrooms on hourly as well as per night basis for Rs 750-2,000. Transit visas are available for selected nationalities and a short trip to nearby Kalady or Kodanadu or even the city is possible. The international terminal has good multi-cuisine restaurant which is reasonably priced as well as many cafes and snack corners in the waiting area. There is free Wi-Fi network, a small business center, free public telephones for local calls and large plasma televisions in the waiting lounge area. Premium lounges are available for first and business class passengers.

The airport has a good 18 hole golf course nearby. Golfers can register at the Airport Golf counter and pay green fees to use the facility. There is a small recreational center as well as bar lounge at the golf club.

There are four major airport hotels, all located opposite to the airport terminal. These offer rooms on an hourly basis. There are also many budget hotels and restaurants near to the terminal.
Getting to and from the airport
By bus

KSRTC operates four classes of bus service from the airport: regular, fast passenger, super fast express (operate every 10-20 minutes to most of the nearby towns and places), Orange-Bus A/C Volvo service (operates every 30-40 minutes only to Kochi City via Aluva, Kalamassery, Vytilla and terminates at Fort Cochin). The charge from the airport to city (Vytilla Junction- interchange for red/orange lines for entering into CBD) is around Rs 60, and around Rs 80 to Fort Cochin when using orange bus. All the bus services stop only at the bus point located near departure gate of the international terminal (city-side).

By taxi

There are regular and prepaid white taxis with no signs. Regular taxis can be caught from the taxi stand on the right side of the departure gate of the international terminal. Pre-paid taxis need to be booked at the counter in the arrival hall of either terminal. Take a receipt and walk to the prepaid taxi stand to catch your taxi. For transfers to Kochi city or airport transfers, the standard charge is Rs 510 for non air-conditioned cab or Rs 650 for A/C Cab, with an additional premium of 15-25% as night charges (7PM-6AM), while it costs only Rs 250 for a trip to Aluva. Cochin Airport recently started pre-paid airport cab services using its own fleet of various segments for short tours, city tours and transfers to other airports which is priced at standard govt rates.

By car

Many car rental companies operates counters in the arrival area of both terminals. Many hotels and travel agents provide free pick-up/drop-off services in their cars.

By copter/ Heli Taxi service


Pawan Hans, located in departure gate of domestic terminal, operates a wide range of helicopter services to almost all parts of city as well as state, which requires a prior booking. K-Air also operates air-taxi and private jets.

By train

Kochi is well connected by train from all parts of India. Most Kerala-bound trains have a major stop here. There are two major rail terminals inside the city limits.

* Ernakulam Town Station (North Station), (IR Code : ERN), +91-484-2395198, is mainly for Inter City trains and a few long distance trains.

* Ernakulam Junction Station (South Station), (IR Code : ERS) +91-484-2353751 (service inquiries 131, 133, reservations 132, 1361) is a major Indian railways station. Most of the long distance trains to and from Kerala pass through here. There is a good food court, large waiting areas, book shops, a medical shop and a few retiring rooms along with a dorm. Some of the major trains that pass through this station are:

Train Number Train Name From
2431 Rajdhani Express (Luxury) Nizammudin(Delhi), Bhopal, Pune, Mumbai, Goa
2284 Duronto Express (Non-Stop) Nizammudin(Delhi)
2623 Madras Mail Chennai, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, Palakkad, Thrissur
3351 Dhanbad Express Dhanbad, Ranchi, Vizag, Chennai, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore
6324 Shalimar Express Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Vizag, Chennai, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore
2511 RaptiSagar Express Lucknow, Kanpur, Bhopal, Nagpur, Pune, Vijayawada, Chennai, Coimbatore
7230 Sabari Express Hyderabad, Tirupati, Erode, Salem, Coimbatore
2625 Kerala Express New Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, Nagpur, Vijayawada, Thirupathi, Salem, Coimbatore
2643 SwarnaJayanti Express New Delhi
2653 Kerala Samparkranti Express Chandigarh
6346 Netravati Express Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore
1098 Poorna Express Pune
6309 Patna Express Patna, Gwalior, Nagpur, Pune, Hubli, Mangalore
2683 Bangalore Super-fast Express Bangalore, Salem, Coimbatore, Palakkad
2977 Marusagar Express Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore
2507 Guwahati Express Guwahati (Assam), Calcutta, Bhuvaneswar, Hyderabad, Salem, Coimbatore

Kochi has many suburban railway stations where long distance trains stop, such as Aluva, Thripunithara and Angamally. Book in advance, as trains are usually crowded and reservations close 14 days before departure with all remaining travellers going onto a waiting list. You can also try using Tatkal which is an emergency booking system costing double the normal rate, opening only two days before the departure of the train.

One of the best ways to get to Kochi is to take the Konkan Railway train from Mumbai. The train ride is renowned for the breathtaking scenery and the natural beauty of the terrain.

By bus

Kochi is accessible from all parts of the country as well as other parts of the state, through the extensive state run Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus service, as well as those run by other states. Most inter-state buses start and end their journey from KSRTC Central & Inter-state Bus Station (CBS), located in the heart of the city at Rajaji Rd. To reduce congestion at CBS, some KSRTC buses start/end their services at KSRTC Boat Jetty Stand located in Park Avenue.

KSRTC operates six type of service; Ordinary (no frills), Limited Ordinary (limited stop), Fast Passenger(point-to-point), Super Fast(Regular and A/C services), Deluxe(premium A/C) and Garuda (luxury Volvo). Sleeper Buses also ply overnight routes. Karnataka State buses run daily services from Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore with two type of services, the Rajahamsa (executive push-back service) and Airavat (A/c Sleeper service). Tamil Nadu SETC operates superfast and executive services to many destinations like Madurai, Palani, Ooty, Coimbatore, Salem, Erode and Trichy.

Daily services to and from other major cities in South India such as Mumbai, Bangalore(12 hrs), Mangalore (12 hrs), Coimbatore (4.5 hrs) and Chennai (14 hrs), are operated by national players mostly based in MG Road, where almost all services start and end. All these buses are executive or premium services offering air-conditioned travel with good facilities and higher prices to match.

There are also numerous private buses connecting almost every district, city and town in Kerala. All private buses start/stop their journey at the Private Bus Terminal (PBT) in Kaloor. These offer very basic comforts and are rarely air-conditioned.

By car

Kochi is well connected by road from all parts of the state as well as other major cities. Three major national highways connect Kochi with other parts of country.

* NH 17, the 7th longest highway in India, connects Kochi with Mumbai via most of major towns in Malabar, Mangalore, Goa.
* The heavily congested NH 47 connects Thiruvananthapuram with Kochi and continues on to Coimbatore and Salem in Tamil Nadu via Palakkad and Thrissur.
* NH 49 connects Kochi with Ramaeswaram in Tamil Nadu which passes through Madurai via Munnar.

Kochi is well connected to other parts of state through various state highways.

By boat

Kochi can be reached by sea in yachts or the occasional cruise ship from Goa, Mumbai, Lakshadweep, Colombo and Male. Almost all leading international cruises on global voyages operate to Kochi from the US and Europe, but there is no booking office or boarding point in Kochi. There is a direct ferry service between Kochi and Colombo.

Get around


Getting around Kochi is not difficult. City transportation is not expensive even by Indian standards.

Orientation


The main city arterial road is Mahatma Gandhi Road. Travelling inside the city at peak times (8AM-10AM, 1:30PM-2:30PM; 5:30PM-7:00PM) takes a lot of time, with frequent road blocks and traffic congestion. North and South Overbridges are two of the major bottlenecks. Knowledge of side roads and crossroads is very useful to avoid traffic blocks.

Kochi has a typical Indian-style address system which is a bit confusing, as there is no sector or house numbering system. Most buildings have their own name which are commonly used along with the road name for the address, eg: Alappatt House, Diwans Road, Near Lakshmi Hospital.

Some up-market areas have their own house numbering system. Panampally Nagar and Giri Nagar are divided into various zones and each house has its own zone number followed by a house number. Many residential areas have formed their own associations and established their own addressing system. In most of the residential colonies or areas, a map sign is located at the entrance. Fort Kochi has a more western-style numbering system, yet still locals use the nearby landmarks for addressing, rather than house numbers.


Kochi has an excellent public bus network with four types of buses operated by Govt-run KSRTC and private operators. The most common option is privately operated Red buses which provides a cheap no-frills journey. Using these is not that difficult as many destination boards have English lettering in small and most bus conductors can provide assistance in basic English, though route numbers exists only on papers. Peak hours on weekdays can lead to overcrowded buses, particularly Route 1. Recently Govt-operated KSRTC launched no-frills city services Thiru-Kochi which also ply in same Red-Bus routes. Thirukochi buses can be distinguished from other buses with its blue-white livery. Most of Red and Thirukochi buses run primarily on the Big 4 Routes. These cover virtually all parts of the city. There are other feeder routes, which interconnect places between these Big 4 Routes.The fares for all city buses are Rs 4 for the first km and 55p for every additional km. The average waiting time is 1-10 mins.

Apart from regular city services, KSRTC under JnNURM's funding operates 2 class of bus services which can be distinguished from other city buses with its distinctive livery and JnNURM logo.

For premium travel low-floor air-conditioned Volvo services known as Orange buses, connects many important destinations. The rates are Rs 10 for first 5 km and Rs 2 for every km thereafter. The average waiting time is 10-30 mins. These buses do stop anywhere on the route, as per passenger's request.
Kochi Orange Bus Line- Premium Low-floor Volvo A/c Bus services


For standard travel, Yellow bus, which is non air-conditioned low floor services which virtually links all suburbs to city center. This is very ideal for budget tourists as connects to many far away tourist attractions while maintaining excellent standards. The rates are Rs 5 for first 5 kms and 75p for every km thereafter. Currently only 3 lines are served, which would be increased soon. Like Orange Bus, these bus also stops anywhere on the route, as per passenger's request. Timetable for Orange/Yellow available at KSRTC site [2].
Kochi Yellow Bus Line- Standard Low-floor Non-A/c services


All city bus services start at 6AM and end by 9PM. A certain number of seats are allocated for women in the forward portion of each bus, and men must vacate them when a woman wishes to sit there.

It must be noted that different bus shelters/stops are used for bus plying different routes. Though route notices are put before each stop, it will be in Malayalam. Route notices for Orange bus lines are now recently posted in English also. A query with locals or bus conductors helps a lot. The important city bus stations where all services touch are:

* Kaloor Bus Stand - a major city bus station and interchange for long distance private buses
* Aluva Rajiv Gandhi Bus Station - large bus station nearest to Airport and interchange for long distance services
* Fort Kochi Beach Road Bus Stand- is the major terminus, near to most of tourist attractions
* Thoppumpaddy Bus Stand- major junction for Mattencherry
* Marine Drive-Menaka Bus Stands- The heart of Ernakulam shopping with Broadway market nearby.
* Vytilla Bus Stands- major interchange for intercity and city bus/premium services
* South Girls High School Stand- nearest to South Railway station (ERS)
* Thripunithara Terminus
* Palarivattom-Padivattom Bus Stand
* Kakkanad Civil Station Bus Stand

By train

Kochi does not have any local intra-city train service. However, many suburban areas are well connected via regular passenger and long distance express trains. The most used route is between Ernakulam -Tripunithura-Mulanthuruthy ,Ernakulam -Aluva-Angamaly. Almost all regular passenger, express and intercity trains have a stop at Aluva. Regular passenger trains have 1 minute stops at Edapally, Kumbalangi, Angamally, and Aroor stations. Many long distance trains operate between Thripunithara and Kochi North station.

It is a good idea to take the rail during busy peak hours when buses are overcrowded. Equally good idea, to take rail to Aluva from city center which is the nearest point to Airport (12 km) from where a cab or Orange Route A bus can taken to avoid city congested traffic.

By autorickshaw


This is a cheap method of transport between attractions. You can find an auto stand at almost every bus stop, and at important places near junctions and residential areas. Make sure you agree on a fare with the driver before the journey. The govt fixed rates starts at Rs 10 for the first 1.25 km and Rs 6 per km thereafter with a premium of 15% at night (7PM-6AM). Pre-paid auto stands are available only in railway stations.

By taxi


Taxis are convenient, comfortable, and safer than auto rickshaws. If you are alone or going to an unknown destination, this is a good option, even though the rates will be double that of an auto. Unlike in most western countries, taxis are not usually marked with signs on the top, and do not have taxi meters inside the cab.

There are two type of taxi services, regular and call taxis. Regular taxis are normally available at designated taxi stands located at places such as railway stations, the airport, boat jetties, major bus stations and in front of important hotels.

There is no need to negotiate prices, as most of them follow fixed rates. Regular taxis have tariff cards displayed on the dashboard. Call taxis have charges fixed by their respective companies (although they are normally uniform). The standard tariffs are Rs 50 for first 3 km and Rs 8 per km thereafter. Add 10% for a cab with AC, and 15-20% at night.

Many cab companies offer full or half day services. Most of them are fixed on ad-hoc basis, based on the negotiating skills of the passenger. Typical rates are Rs 1,100/1,500 for standard/AC cabs for a full day and Rs 500/750 for a half day. These rates are not available after 7PM.

By private car


Unless you are into adventure seeking, self drive in Kochi is not recommended as driving discipline is almost non-existent. There are long stretches of roads passing through heavily populated areas that have no median breaks and most of them being bi-lane roads which are mostly congested. A few major roads like MG Rd, NH Bypass Rd and Marine Drive are two lane-dual carriageways with good medians. The speed limit inside city zone is 30 km/hr. Driving is on the left, and all foreign drivers need a valid International Driving Licence attested by the Road Transport Office (RTO). Driving outside the city limits is a fine experience with good scenery and far less traffic. Most of the bridges and few roads carry toll charges collected at manned toll plazas or checkpoints. Almost all tolls are uniformly charged separately for one/two way; 2 wheelers- Rs 3/5, 4 wheelers- Rs 5/10 and bus/minivans - Rs 15/25. Almost all the toll pass is valid for unlimited travel for a period of 24 hours, though a few bridges allow one time validity.

Car rental is not so popular among foreign visitors. Many car rental companies refuse to provide self-drive cars to Westerners. Normally a bank guarantee letter or security cheque/traveller's cheque to the value of the car or a passport are taken as security for renting the car. No security deposit is needed if the car is chauffeur-driven.

Most hotels with three stars or more provide private cars for their guests at rates slightly higher than elsewhere.

Kochi has an excellent system of cheap inter-island ferries. The Ro-Ro ferry service called Junkar between Fort Kochi and Vypeen is very popular. There are regular boat services operated by KSINC and other private operators, every 20-30 minutes, from Ernakulam to Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, Vypeen and Willingdon Island which are cheaper and in many cases faster, than buses. All services operates from 4:40AM-6:30PM with an exception to Fort Kochi-Vypin Junkar service which operates from 4AM-10:30PM. The major boat jetties are Ernakulam Main Jetty (located in Marine drive near High Court), Park Jetty (in Park Avenue next to KSRTC Bus station), Customs Embarkation Jetty in Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi Jetties. A few tourist oriented private ferries ply in non-scheduled routes during tourist seasons connecting mainly to Kumbalangi Tourist village from Ernakulam Main Jetty as well as from Aroor.

By foot


Kochi is traditionally not a pedestrian friendly city, considering the humid tropical climate, poor state of pedestrian walkways and reckless traffic. Fort Kochi is one of the better places to walk, with elaborate colonial-style stone pavements. There are many attractions in Fort Kochi which you can walk between.

By cycle


Fort Kochi is a perfect place for cycling with dedicated tracks and walkways. There are several tourist firms that offers cycles and bikes on hourly basis. A popular option is Vasco Information Center in Fort Kochi (+91-484-221-6215), which rents cycles for Rs 7 on hourly basis. However, there is no separate cycling tracks on mainland city roads. Motor-Bikes are getting popular option for tourists to take a ride in other parts of city, to avoid congestion in city roads. Take extra care while biking in Kochi roads, considering the reckless traffic.

13 comments:

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Becca@Carpet Cleaning In Perth said...

Good travel tips... this place is truly great to travel to, because of it's easy access through roads or air or by the sea... and also the city is very organized in every place.

Hai Baji said...
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Hai Baji said...
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Catherine Tramell said...

Thanks for providing tour and travel information about Kochi.

Flights services to Kochi, Visit to Kochi by Bus, Train and other transportation facility describe this blog.

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