Andaman and Nicobar
Andaman and Nicobar  are a large group of nearly 600 islands in the Bay of Bengal. Though they are a part of India, geographically, they are closer to Myanmar and Thailand than to the Indian mainland. They are grouped here with Southern India. They were just north of the epicenter of the "Boxing Day" quake of 2004, and were the site of dozens of aftershocks. The Nicobars were badly hit the by the resulting tsunami, while the Andamans escaped with a few bruises. With the exception of Little Andaman Island and the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, the rest of the tourist destinations are back up to speed.
- Andaman group of Islands
- Nicobar group of Islands - off limits to tourists
The islands exist in India's popular consciousness mainly because they were used as a penal colony by the British rulers to imprison rebels and freedom fighters, in addition to hardened criminals. Most of the inhabitants of these islands are in fact migrants from the mainland, some of them being descended from the prisoners.
The original inhabitants are a bunch of aboriginal tribes who exist more or less out of the mainstream. There are some tribes who have had no contact whatsoever with the rest of the world. Of nearly 600 islands, only 9 are open to foreign tourists, and all of these are in the Andamans.
The main island is divided into 3 portions - North Andaman, Middle Andaman and South Andaman. Port Blair is located on South Andaman.
- Port Blair - the laid-back capital of the Andamans and the sole entry/exit point. Spend a day or two here walking around and enjoying fresh seafood and seeing a couple of the nearby sites.
- Diglipur - take a road trip to the far north of the island chain, a base for visits to nearby Smith and Ross Islands.
- Havelock Island - the most visited of the islands, with the most (although still minimal) infrastructure. Beautiful beaches, great snorkeling and scuba diving.
- Rutland Island - is pristine, non-polluted and least visited island. Beautiful Mangrove forest and coral reefs welcomes you to the 274 sq.km island. There is also a 45 acre Totani Resort which has quaint little huts which can be used as a base camp for exploring the island. It is the ideal place for eco-tourists. Totani Resort
- Neil Island - quieter than Havelock with nice beaches and decent snorkeling.
- Wandoor - a relaxed destination in it's own right, but known more as the gateway to the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park which closed after the 2004 tsunami. It has re-opened since then and Jolly Bouy, Red Skin and Cinque island are due to be opened to visitors after October 2007. There was a lot of talk about all the corals there having been destroyed, but this isn't the case; there's still plenty to see. A good source of info would be the Anugama Resort which one passes before reaching the Wandoor Jetty.
- Baratang Island - Mud Volcano, Limestone Caves, and Magrove Creeks in back waters.
- Long Island - great if you're looking for Robinson Crusoe style camping. Nothing exists here, so you must bring all of your own gear and food.
- Little Andaman - remote and currently devastated by the 2004 tsunami, it was once popular for surfing. Check to see if things have reopened.
Non-Indians need a permit to visit the islands, but these are now issued on arrival at the Port Blair airport. (If you plan to arrive by sea, you'll need to arrange your permit before arrival.) This can be extended by 15 days in Port Blair, for a maximum single stay of 45 days. You must then leave the islands and can return after 72 hours.
The permit allows overnight stays in the following locations: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island (except tribal reserves), Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (excluding Boat Hobday Island, Twin Island, Tarmugli Island, Malay Island and Pluto Island) Overnight stays in the Park are with permission only.
The permit allows for day-trips to: South Cinque Island, Ross Island, Narcondum Island, Interview Island, Brother Island, Sister Island and Barren Island (Barren Island can be visited on board vessels only, no landing is possible).
Indian nationals do not require a permit to visit the Andamans. However, permits are required to visit Nicobar Islands and other tribal areas, which are rarely given. Application on a prescribed form may be addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Andaman District, Port Blair.
For now the only way to reach the Andamans by air is from the Indian mainland to Port Blair. There are talks of opening up flights from Bangkok, which could drastically change the situation in the islands, but as of 2009 these remain just plans.
- Indian Airlines  fly from Kolkata and Chennai. They charge a much higher rate for foreigners than Indian residents.
- Kingfisher Red , formerly Air Deccan, flies daily from Kolkata and Chennai and is often cheapest way to get to the islands. One-way fares start from around Rs 6000.
With Kingfisher return tickets from Kolkata to Port Blair will cost you about Rs. 20,000, or may be even less if flying from/to Chennai. Not really "low-cost", if compared to the same airlines' mainland India fiights, but still cheaper than any other way to get to islands. Price varies significantly with date, so if your travel dates aren't fixed, you can save significantly by choosing the right day to fly. Advance booking (available on respective airline's website) at least several days before trip is recommended. There is no difference in price between return ticket and 2 one-way tickets, so you easily can combine different airlines and/or points of origin and destination in you trip. With non-budget airlines, the trip will cost you Rs.30,000+.
It is still possible to take a ship from Kolkata, Chennai or Visakhapatnam which takes almost 4 days to arrive in Port Blair. However, with the arrival of the Kingfisher Red flights that allow foreigners to fly for the same rate as Indians, and cost about the same as the boat, there is little reason to spend 4 days at sea unless you're in it for the experience. Apparently at the same time of the new flights arriving the ship operators stopped letting foreigners into the most basic budget class, which would actually make this more expensive than flying. Fares range from Rs 2500-6000 each way.
- Passenger ferries are the only way to get between the islands.
- Auto-rickshaws are available in Port Blair and on Havelock Island.
- Taxis are available in Port Blair. They are usually the rather vintage Ambassador cars and often not very well maintained. It is slightly more expensive than the Auto-rickshaws, but a more comfortable way to get around the island.
- Scooters & Motorcycles are available for rent in Port Blair and on Havelock Island. At Port Blair 2 wheeler would cost around Rs. 350 p/day and at havelock it would cost around Rs. 150 - Rs. 250 per day with a security deposit of around Rs. 750 - Rs. 1000.
- Scuba diving - Havelock Island is the main dive destination, but the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park has reopened. South Cinque Island is another possibility, enquire at Anugama Resort at Wandoor. One of the dive shops on Havelock was talking about opening a shop in Diglipur soon, which would open up newly discovered sites.
- Surfing was possible on Little Andaman Island, but the island was devastated in the 2004 tsunami. Stay tuned.
- Scan corals reefs in glass bottom boats off Jolly Buoy Island, at the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park at Wandoor, 29 km from Port Blair.
- Check out India's only active volcano on Barren Island, but make sure it's actually smoking before you start on the overnight boat journey.
- Take the Andaman Trunk Road, and be the zipping-in-the-car-idiot to the curious Jarawas. The ride is long, but the journey that takes you through some gorgeous reserve forests and up to Maya Bunder and beyond, is worth it.
- Revisit Havelock just to taste the red Snapper in Burmese garlic sauce at Benny and Lynda's Wild Orchid Beach Resort.
- Make a new list. Add scuba diving and sea cow spotting. Do some moon-bathing while planktons swim in a phosphorescent sea.
Seafood is the order of the day. From upscale restaurants in Port Blair to local dhabas on Havelock, fish abounds. Basic Indian food is also available, though quite expensive, because many ingredients have to be imported.
The New Light House Restaurant is a great place to eat. It is very close to the Cellular Jail. They have an upper deck where you can enjoy your beer as well as the breeze. The Barbecued Crab, Jhinga Masala and Rotis at this restaurant are not to be missed. It is the only place in Port Blair where one can get to eat good food.
- Fresh coconuts are popular and widely available.
- Alcohol is available in some restaurants and at 'English Beer & Wine Shops' in Port Blair and on Havelock Island. The beers will not be cold when purchasing across the counter,except in local bars. Alcohol per say is extremely cheap as compared to the mainland.
- Local bars are dingy and for some odd reason is very poorly lit giving it a very eerie feel to it.
- There is no Pub culture or even a Dance Club. It is extremely underdeveloped in that sense but the beauty of the place will make you forget ever wanting to go to a pub.
The Andamans are a fairly safe destination. Tourism is still in its early stages which makes it almost hassle free. That said, you should keep your wits about you as you would anywhere.
The Andaman Islands are the home of some of the last uncontacted tribes of Eurasia. These tribes have resisted modernization for some time. An example of these tribes is the Sentinelese tribe, who inhabit North Sentinel Island. They maintain their sovereignty over the island and are hostile towards outsiders. However, as a tourist, you will go nowhere near them, so this is not really an issue.
The Andaman Islands are home to a population of Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), which can grow up to 30 feet in length (although rarely more than 16 feet, the biggest on record being 28.7 feet long). While they are of course capable of attacking humans it is extremely rare to find these reptiles anywhere near a public beach as they prefer mangrove river systems, although they are very common on beaches within close proximity to river mouths and estuaries. That being said, don't expect anything near population sizes you'd experience in Australia or New Guinea.
Andaman and Nicobar are malarial, although generally no more so than mainland India.
The Indian country code applies here (91) and the area code for the entire Andamans is (3192). So, from outside India, you dial +913192xxxxxx. Within India, you dial 03192xxxxxx.
Mobile phone coverage nominally exists on many islands, but the coverage is poor and dropped signals are the norm. State owned BSNL, and private operators Airtel and Vodafone-Essar are the operators providing mobile services there.
Landlines are frequent in Port Blair, but more erratic as you move around the islands.
Tourism is still relatively new on the Andamans and as such the traveler has a special responsibility in guiding its developement. Leave the bikinis on the beach, and even then use discretion. Remember that this is India and local women are very conservative in their attire. Alcohol should be consumed on the premises of your hotel. The quiet and peacefulness of the islands are one of its best assets... help to maintain these. This is emphatically not Goa, and any attempt to turn it into that would be absolutely shameful.
This page was last edited at 04:40, on 13 February 2009 by Siddhartha Unni. Based on work by Prateek Sharma, Jani Patokallio, Peter Fitzgerald, Jessy and Dmitriy Baranov, Wikitravel user(s) Cacahuate and Morph, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.