TOTAL EXPENSES per couple including airfare (based on March 14, 2012 exchange rate of INR against PHP and USD)
- 54,912.00 INR (Indian Rupee) 27,456.00 INR per person
- 46,952.00 PHP (Philippine Peso) 23,746.00 PHP per person
- 1,099.96 USD (US Dollar) 549.98 USD per person
ACTUAL DAILY EXPENSES per couple, excluding airfare, for 5 days
- 7,500.80 INR 3,750.40 INR per person
- 6,413.49 PHP 3,206.75 PHP per person
- 150.25 USD 75.13 USD per person
It is always cheaper to backpack than go for an arranged tour. Planning for my own trip makes me more familiar with the place I am going to. I enjoy researching about my destination, the do’s and don’ts. Having your personal tour doesn’t give you more chance to mingle with the locals. But there are some trips when you want to just sit back and relax and not be occupied by the haggling and arranging of your own accommodation and transportation. It also frees you of the time to research on which spots to visit. With our packed schedule and craving to have an ultimate vacation, this trip is one of those exceptions.
First of all, this is a post-wedding trip (I consciously avoid the term “honeymoon” if you noticed) so we splurged into a travel agency who arranged our land transfers and accommodation. It was our time to relax so we opted for a hassle-free 5-day tour package by Feel India Tours & Travels amounting to 30,000 INR for a couple. This explains the huge chunk of the pie chart going to accommodation alone but that part also includes, not only the best hotels and houseboat in the area, but breakfast, personal driver and a well-tuned and airconditioned car, the houseboat rental and meals, and airport transfers as well. Hereunder is a summary of our itinerary:
- Mar. 15 – Kochi-Munnar: Pick-up from airport and transfer to Munnar by land for approx. 3-4 hours. Check in at the hotel and evening at our leisure.
- Mar. 16 – Munnar: Whole day sightseeing around Munnar and evening at our leisure.
- Mar. 17 – Munnar – Kumarakom: Morning departure from Munnar to Kumarakom by land for approx. 4-5 hours. Check in at the houseboat and sail through backwaters.
- Mar. 18 – Kumarakom – Kochi: Morning departure from Kumarakom and half-day sightseeing at Kochi. Afternoon check-in at the hotel and evening at our leisure.
- Mar. 19 – Departure from Kochi airport after breakfast.
It was all worth it! I cannot think of any better vacation than this. The Tea County Hotel in Munnar is probably the best hotel there, the houseboat we had at Kumarakom is clean, airconditioned and with all the amenities of a hotel room and the Abad Hotel we stayed in for a night near Kochi airport was also luxurious. I was very satisfied with our accommodation. The rate of the tour package depends on your hotel choices so you could either opt for cheaper hotels or more expensive ones if you want to tweak your rate.
This is too expensive based on my standards; 8,704 INR roundtrip ticket per person. I’m used to bagging airline promos in the Philippines so it was a shock for me when I saw our ticket confirmation. There may be some reasons. First, we booked the flight too close to our departure date. Second, Kerala is almost a 3-hour flight from Mumbai. And third, Jet Airways is probably not the cheapest/budget airline in India.
It’s funny that this category always tops my expenses. Obviously, whatever that does not fit into any of the other categories falls under this one. What are those “other expenses” we incurred? In fact, there was only one: 3,000/couple for the traditional Ayurvedic/Shirodhara 90-minute massage. This is what we had during our first night in Munnar and I highly recommend having this one. Your Keralan trip won’t be complete without getting any of their Ayurvedic massages. Shirodhara includes an ancient process of pouring a steady stream of medicated rose oil on your forehead in a particular pattern. It is then followed by a whole body massage and herbal steam bath. Good for mental relaxation and effective against insomnia and headaches. It was the best way to cap off our first day in Kerala and it was the best massage I had in my life.
Unfortunately and surprisingly, this part was not included in our package rate. The following are the entrance fees we incurred (per couple):
- 700 – elephant ride at Dream Land
- 150 – Tea Museum and a 20 fee for using our camera
- 40 – Flower Garden
- 20 – Hydel Park
- 400 – Kathakali Dance Show (try to buy earlier before the scheduled showing so you could get the best seats)
- 10 – Dutch Palace
- 10 – Synagogue
- 205 – Folklore Museum
A private car and personal driver were included in our tour package. Our land transportation expenses include our fare from residence to Mumbai airport and a taxi we hired during our stay at Kochi to bring us to Cherrai Beach as our previous driver left earlier than we expected. For 60 kilometers and a 2-hour waiting time, 650 wasn’t bad at all.
We bought mostly tea produce at Munnar. You cannot leave Munnar without buying one. And they taste really good. We bought the silver tips, the most expensive type of tea because it uses the small buds of tea instead of the larger leaves. It is more advisable to buy from factory outlets as they offer lower rates for similar products. Ask your driver to drop you at the nearest factory outlet or any that you pass along the way.
Meals, Snacks & Drinks
Generally, food in India is cheap and it is no different in Kerala. Our tour package/hotels covered our breakfast meals so it really chopped our expected expenses for this one. And note that this amount also includes a part of our driver’s meals and snacks. The food was great! Shiv Nivas is the best vegetarian in Munnar sans the tourist price. It is located right at the center of the city.