Sunday, July 30, 2017

Europe Trip

After last year's 12 day trip to Greece and Turkey, we decided to stretch it further this time.... a 23 day trip to central Europe. Same as last year, this year's trip was also planned around the mandatory week off at office. However, unlike last year, this year it was known well in advance that I will be having this shutdown at office and that allowed me to plan my trip well in advance.... more than 5 months in advance.

As I mentioned in my Greece Turkey trip's blogpost, central Europe trip was a preference even last year but 12 days did not seem enough for the trip and hence we decided to go for Greece and Turkey.

At high level, the itinerary was like this. Yet again, was quite helpful in planning the itinerary.
Few more awesome apps are for train booking and Google-Trips mobile app for planning local attractions in each city.

Following is detailed itinerary of the trip, including my experience at each location and what I would do different if I had to plan this trip again.

Generic Tips

Planning well in advance will be much better for your wallet. My expense of flight, hotels and intercity transfer was almost same for this 23 day trip as it was for my last year's 12 day trip. Last year I planned the trip 2.5 months in advance whereas this year I planned it 4.5 to 5.5 months in advance.

Not just flight and hotels, booking intercity train tickets also in advance can be much cheaper in Europe.  Typically people think about booking Eurail pass for travelling by train in Europe but if you book well in advance, point to point tickets will turn out to be much cheaper. is an awesome resource to get all information about train booking in Europe.

While our trip was smooth, I have heard many incidents of theft in Paris and Italy. An anti-theft bag and money pouch can be handy to carry.
In general,  avoided carrying more valuable. I left any additional cash and card in hotel lockers.


Paris was the first destination of our trip and Rome was last destination. You can choose to go even in reverse order - start at Rome and end at Paris. In my case, I was getting much better deal for onward flight to Paris and return flight from Rome and hence the choice.

I had 3 nights and almost 4 days (3.5 days) in Paris. When it comes to local sightseeing, good news is that there are good enough options and bad news is that these 'good enough' options can be confusing.
It can be quite confusing to decide whether to buy a Paris Pass or Museum Pass or TravelCard. This Paris Pass Review was quite useful in helping me decide.

I went for 4 day Museum pass instead of Paris pass. Why? - Here are some of the reasons -
- Paris pass comes with only 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket and I wanted to use hop-on-hop-off for 3 days.
- Paris pass provides unlimited travel card for local metro and bus but its not that useful if you are going to use HoHo bus. For a few journeys through metro/local-bus, purchasing a book of 10 single tickets is good enough.
- It's exorbitantly costly compared to Museum pass.
- It involves some hassle of collecting HoHo bus tickets from specific locations.

Following are some of the major attractions that I used including ones which are not covered in Museum Pass.

AttractionPassBooking Site
Montparnasse TowerParis Pass (not in museum pass) - easy to buy tickets at the tower
River CruiseN/A - buy tickets online or at the attraction
Palais Garnier OpéraParis Pass - buy tickets online if you are going for museum pass
Notre Dame Cathedral TowersMuseum Pass
Sainte-ChapelleMuseum Pass
Arc de TriompheMuseum Pass
Musée du LouvreMuseum Pass
Palace of VersaillesMuseum Pass
Louvre MuseumMuseum Pass
CatacombN/A - buy tickets online
HoHo Bus - 3 daysbuy ticket online
Museum pass - 4 daysbuy at paris airport

A few useful tips:
- In general, buying attraction tickets in advance helps beat long queues.. (Queues can be couple of hours long so do not underestimate!)
- Buy Eiffel tower tickets well in advance... at least 2 months in advance. I booked it about 1 month in advance and tickets were available only for one slot for my dates so I did not have any option. You can always buy tickets at Eiffel tower but you need to be prepared to stand in queue for couple of hours. If you are already late and if Eiffel tower tickets are 'sold out' online, don't worry. I heard it is never sold out at the tower. Of course, consider about 2 hours for ticket queue.
- Buy museum pass at the airport. No need to book it in advance.
- Buy catacombs tickets online to avoid queue.
- All other tickets will be either covered in museum pass or it will be available at the attraction without long queues.
- Notre Dame Cathedral - Entry to the church is free and going on top of tower of notre dame is covered in Museum pass. Even though you don't need a ticket for entry to the church, there will be very long queues for security checks at the entrance of the church. Only way to beat the queues is to reach there early morning. We went early and literally walked into the church without any queue but when we came down from the tower at around 11, we noticed at least 1.5 hr queue for entry to church. We still had to stand in queue for about 1.5 hours for going on the top of notre dame tower. The ticket for tower is covered in Museum pass but there is no priority entry.
Best plan would be to go to notre dame cathedral at 8am (it opens at 7.45am), come out by 9am and stand in queue for tower of notre dame. The entry to tower opens only at 10am so you will still have to stand in queue for an hour but it's better than 1.5 hrs to 2hrs queue later in the day.

We stayed at 'hotel campanile paris 14 - maine montparnasse'. Hotels can be quite expensive in Paris. This hotel was a good value for money option. This is a nice hotel about 5 minutes walking distance from metro station and 10 minutes distance from Montparnasse tower and Gare Du Montparnasse. Good enough food options and super markets around.


I knew even while booking that Munich was going to be a hectic trip. I planned for it because I knew Daksh (my son) would love BMW museum & Allianz arena and he indeed loved it. We got barely 1.5 days in Munich and it was not good enough for this city.  If you want to go to Munich, it makes sense to add at least one more day here and go to neuschwanstein castle. Metro, tram and buses are good enough for local transfer with unlimited day pass for travel. (As I wrote above, use Google Trips app for options for local transport)

Swiss - Lucerne

Lucerne was our first destination in Swiss. I had been to Swiss about 11 years back and my blog of that trip was an excellent reference for me to plan my Swiss trip. Last time I visited Lucerne and simply loved the city so I definitely wanted to come to this place again. 

At Lucerne, We bought Swiss Travel Pass for 8 days which was quite useful for all travel within Swiss. As with everything else in Swiss, the travel pass is exorbitantly costly at CHF376 per adult. Kids travel free when accompanied by a parent. You still need to ask for a 'family card' for your kid.

We stayed at Hotel Fox in Swiss. Here is my review for the hotel.

We were in Lucerne for 2 days. Last time when I came to Lucerne, I visited Mount Pilatus. This time we went to mount Titlis and Mount Rigi.
For mount Titlis, we took a train to Engelberg and from there, a cable car to Titlis peak. tran to Engelberg is covered in Swiss pass but you need to buy tickets for cable car. You get 50% discount if you have swiss travel pass. You can purchase cable car ticket from Engelberg station.

Next day, we went to mount Rigi. There are multiple routes to go to mount Rigi. We took following route for our journey:
Lucerne to Vitznau - a cruise on Lake Lucerne (an awesome scenic cruise cruise)
Vitznau to Rigi Kulm - Cogwheel train.

Rigi Kulm to Arth Goldau - cogwheel train
Arth Goldau to Lucern - train

The trip to Rigi (cruise, cogwheel train and train) is completely covered in travel pass.

Swiss - Interlaken

(... to be continued)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Greece Turkey Trip

A long overdue long-trip... We haven't had a long trip since our 9 day Kerala trip in 2012. The thought of this long trip was triggered by a mandatory week off in office. Sitting at home for one week was absolute not an option.
First choice for the travel was a Europe trip to Paris, Swiss, Italy. However, I had roughly 10 days for the travel and the Europe trip didn't look a good fit for that duration. Next options for this 10 day trip were Russia and Greece. Russia was interesting at this time particularly for White Nights of Saint Petersburg. However, it could not beat the lure of Santorini and we decided to finalize on Greece-Turkey trip.

At high level, the itinerary was like this. The site has been tremendous help in planning the itinerary. If you are planning a multi-city trip (or even a small trip I guess), this site can be really handy. [I don't get any commission from inspirock if you click on the link - I am just a happy customer :)]

Following are the hotels I used at each location and some quick tips based on my travel experience -


Hotel: Athens Cypria Hotel - My review - Decent hotel, excellent location

I personally prefer hotels at central locations in the city. You may end up paying a little extra but overall you can stroll around the main attraction any time of the day and save precious time by reducing your commute across the city. Athens Cypria was at perfect location in Athens with quite a few attractions nearby. Hop-On-Hop-Off is a good way to view the city. 


Blue Waves Hotel - My Review - Decent hotel, location not bad

Santorini was the highlight of Greece trip. It has superb locations. Fira is the central point in Santorini. You can go to different places of Santorini from here using public transport (local buses). Another way is to hire an ATV or a scooter. While it can be fun to ride scooter/ATV, it can get really hot in the afternoon so we hired it only for one day. Rest of the the days, buses were good enough.

Our hotel was at Kamari beach and it was an excellent hotel but If I travel to Santorini again, I would rather prefer staying in Fira.


Hotel: Galini Hotel - My Review - Decent hotel, excellent location
    We spent just one night in Mykonos. While Mykonos is beautiful, it is a small town and one or two days are more than enough for this place. Again, our hotel was right in the city center - at perfect location to stroll around Mykonos.

    Athens - Night stopover

    Hotel: Mare Nostrum - My Review - Not good

    From Mykonos, we took a flight to Athens, spent a night at hotel Mare Nostrum and took a flight to Istanbul next day morning. This hotel in Athens was probably the lowest point of the trip. The hotel is advertised as a hotel just 5 km away from airport, it turned out to be more than 20 km away, in a secluded area. Due to its location, not many cab drivers will agree to go to this hotel. I normally look at reviews before booking the hotel but this being just a night stopover, I didn't check much. More than the distance, waste of time is bigger problem. We slept hardly 4-5 hours due to the distance and hassle with finding the cab.


    Hotel: Great Fortune Hotel - My Review - Decent hotel, excellent location

    Istanbul was an awesome experience. 3 days are just not good enough for this place. It's unfortunate that this place is not one of the safest places to travel anymore.
    In fact, I was at this place at right time (or wrong time!) - just about a week before my stay, there was an attack at Ataturk airport of Istanbul and exactly one week after my travel, there was millitary coup in Turkey.

    Due to excellent location of my hotel, I didn't have to use hop-on-hop-off at Istanbul. Most of the main attractions - Sultanahmet Square, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Suleymaniye mosque, Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar etc. were nearby or just few stops away by tram. You must not miss traditional Turkish food and Turkish delights.

    This is definitely a place that I would like to visit again someday.

    Summary of my itinerary

    Planned Route
    Thu, Jun 30  Mon, Jul 11
    Singapore, Singapore
     9​h 30​min /9051 kms
    Athens, Greece
     — 2 days
    Fly + bus:
     3​h 45​min /256 kms
    Fira, Greece
     — 3 days
     2​h 45​min /156 kms
    Mykonos Town, Greece
     — 2 days
    Fly + subway:
     2​h 30​min /168 kms
    Athens, Greece
     — Few hours
     4​h 45​min /591 kms
    Istanbul, Turkey
     — 2 days
     14​h 30​min /8645 kms
    Singapore, Singapore

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Personal Finance

    Recently I gave a session to some of my friends on Personal Finance.
    Slides from the session -

    Wednesday, April 09, 2014

    Conviction vs Hope

    This post is not about stock investments.
    I invest in stocks. I am no stock market guru but I like to find out good businesses at good valuations and invest my money in stocks of those companies. The outcome is two folds:
    1) Obvious one is that I gain good returns on my investment
    2) Second one, though not-so-obvious but I feel more important one, is that my understanding of 'good business' has improved great deal over the years!

    And one important learning from my experience with investments is that you should invest in companies that provide 'conviction' of good returns and not just 'hope' of good returns. After your analysis, you should not just hope that the company/stock will deliver good returns but you should be convinced enough to invest significant amount of money in that company. I would avoid a company that gives 'hope' for very high returns, for a company that gives 'conviction' of above average to high returns. Because 'hope' involves very high amount of risk compared to 'conviction'.

    Now, as the first line of this post mentioned - this post is not about stock investments.
    This is about politics.... Indian elections. Peak time - aggressive campaigns everywhere!
    I support BJP and in particular its PM candidate Narendra Modi. Typical discussions one would find on social media is about two parties - BJP or AAP.
    One thing common about supporters of both the parties is devoted fan base. And the fact is that both these parties had common fan following hardly 3 months back. The people who liked BJP also liked AAP and vice versa.

    I was one of those. I have been in favor of Narendra Modi for the PM candidate for long time but at the same time, I liked the emergence of Arvind Kejriwal. Right from the movement against corruption couple of years back, till his win in Delhi elections.

    Narendra Modi provided 'conviction' based on his track record and Arvng Kejriwal provided 'hope' being an outsider in the mainstream political system.

    But things have changed in last few months. My opinion for Arvind Kejriwal has changed ever since he decided to contest in national elections! I had to choose between Modi and Kejriwal and I choose Modi. The same stock market learning goes here... preference to 'Conviction' over 'Hope'!

    When I say I support Modi, I do not expect him solve all of India's problem or do some kind of larger than life changes in the lives of Indians. I just find him best option of the available ones!
    And when I say I do not support Kejriwal, I do not say I will never support him. I just mean I do not support him for this election. I would like to see his capability as an administrator before I vote for him in a national election. I would wait till the 'hope' is converted into 'conviction'.

    I think Kejriwal had a chance in Delhi. He could have done good work as a CM of Delhi but instead he chose to resign over the issue of an anti-corruption bill. And of course anti-corruption bill is important but it cannot be end of life for a government! It is a no-brainer that he did so to be able to focus on national elections!
    Nothing wrong in doing so but then he missed an opportunity to 'prove' himself!

    Instead of resignation, he could have done work in other fields. For example, traffic is a huge problem in Delhi - he could constructed 100 flyovers! This one action alone could have left a long lasting impact and could have ensured his victory in Delhi elections had the elections happened again! In the name of good governance, he decided to go with freebies.... the famous menace of democracies all over the world!

    He has ended up dividing his support base. There was no need to tell people to choose between him and Modi. He could have worked efficiently in Delhi and the Modi supporters would have started supporting him gradually by next general elections in 2019 or even 2024!

    Patience could have gone a long way in building his reputation and over a period of time he could have captured imagination of the middle class!

    I am still puzzled at his impatience for this general election because I am sure he knows that he cannot win enough seats in general election in such a short span of time with limited resources! So effectively he has traded his reputation (and divided his support base) for a few not-so-useful seats in general elections!

    I hope he wins again at state level in Delhi or any other state and proves his credentials as an effective leader. Who knows, he may prove to be better than Modi or any other leader! But then he has to show it not just say it. If he delivers, why would people not support him!

    After all, everyone wants good governance - the ones who support him and the ones who don't support him!

    Let's see what's the outcome of this elections. My gut feeling is that BJP would get more seats than the poll predictions but I might be biased.
    Whatever may be the result - I hope one party gets majority and whatever party you support - Do not forget to vote!

    Monday, December 02, 2013

    My experience with loosing 7+ kgs in 1.5 months...

    I am sure many of us, if not all, want to shed those few extra pounds (or kgs should I say!). I have been no different. I have always lived at the upper edge of my idea weight... once in a while crossing that upper edge. 
    Have managed to pull back the weight to the 'ideal' number quite a few times in past. However, this was probably the longest duration I had not done so. I did it last in 2007... at the time of marriage and ever since, my weight chart has had unidirectional upward movement.

    After contemplating for a long time which included a failed attempt in second half of 2012, finally I managed to start the fitness regime in October month this year.

    I joined gym in second half of 2012 but did not manage to pull back my weight. So this attempt started with some retrospection about that not-so-successful attempt. So this were some of the important points from the retrospection:
    - I used to hit the gym for about 3-4 days a week and each visit to gym was about 2 hrs (which includes going and coming back from gym, changing into/from gym clothes, waiting at the tread mills etc.). But the gym was a drag...I had to push myself really hard to go to gym.
    - I did not focus on diet at all. I did-not/could-not control my eating habits. (And... I am a foodie.)

    Conclusion of retrospection was - "Fitness/Weight-loss is by enlarge a psychological problem and not a physical one"

    Based on this, the plan this time was to KISS... to Keep It Simple Stupid. Focus on psychological aspect.... physical gains will follow.
    So what was this simple plan?
    - Forget Gym.... just hit the track for only 30mins a day
    - Track diet through good mobile apps.

    As I said, focus was on managing the psychological aspect..... committing 30 mins a day reduces the mental resistance by a great deal with respect to a commitment for 1 or 2 hrs! If I felt 'lazy' to jog; I could tell myself "It's just 30 mins!!!" (Slowly, I increased my running to 5kms which took about 40 mins.)
    To add to this, I used mobile app "Endomondo Sports Tracker" to track my running.

    Another psychological aspect was to manage diet and you can only do it effectively if you put your tracking 'on paper'. The app I used to track diet was "Calorie Counter - MyFitnessPal".
    After checking multiple calorie counters available for android, I zeroed in on MyFitnessPal. One strong reason was that it contained calories for Indian food items.

    Some more finer points:
    • Go for 'prepaid' calories approach. If you expect intake of more calories on a day, try to run more that day. For example, my 1.5 months weight loss period included a couple of visits to "Barbeque Nation" for buffet and a couple of more buffets at other hotels. I ensured on each occasion that I ran/walked 10 kms that day. You should 'prepay' the calories you are going to consume. While such compensatory diets/exercises are not encouraged, it just keeps you conscious about your calories intakes.
    • Avoid sugar as much as you can. Do not cross sugar intake beyond the limit in MyFitnessPal. For example, during all the buffets that I mentioned above, I avoided desserts almost completely.
    • Avoid obvious fats like cheese, butter, too much oily/fried food.
    • The 1.5 months included 1 week of Diwali and 1 week of my brother's marriage!
    • Once again, "Focus on psychological aspect.... physical fitness will follow."
    • Create a group of like minded people... for example I consciously made an attempt (successful one) in my friends group in WhatsApp to create momentum on the fitness regime. We were discussing our diets and exercises in the group almost daily. As I said, many of us, if not all, are interested in such discussions. And these are 'win-win' discussions.
    • Once you get the momentum, it's fairly easy to continue. Especially with commitment of just 30 mins a day. (you can even start with running 15 mins a day.)
    • Do run, not just walk. Very important!!!
    • When you run, don't forget stretching exercises. A couple of minutes a stretching is very very important. You don't want "runner's knees" to hamper your rhythm.
    • While running, rather than focusing on 'intensity', focus on 'consistency'. What I mean here is that don't make your running so intense that you have to take a break next day due to pain. At the same time don't keep it too lame!
    Remember, once you cross initial resistance of 'take off', rest of teh journey is fairly smooth with right focus on 'psychy'.

    Another important note, this is my experience. Do take medical help if you have some medical conditions before following this!

    Try it... it's not as difficult as it feels.

    - Sarang

    Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Weight Loss Tools

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Why I am moving from FundsIndia to FundSupermart

    I have been a FundsIndia customer for a very long time - almost from their infancy days. I love their neat and clean UI and the user experience. However, recently I have started contemplating a move from FundsIndia to FundSupermart.

    I have concern about their new open-ECS-mandate for SIPs. This open-mandate looks way too open to me.
    Attached is the open-ECS mandate of FundsIndia -

    The problem I have is with the language used here. Let's consider this example. Say, I want to start an SIP of Rs. 30,000 per month. That means I should give a mandate which allows FundsIndia to deduct maximum Rs 30,000 per month. Now, if we notice the highlighted parts (Frequency & Amount ) in the attached mandate, it says that the mandate allows deduction of Rs 30,000 PER DAY!!!

    It means for investing Rs 30,000 per month, I have to give a mandate for deduction of Rs 900,000 (Rs 30,000 per day * 30) per month! Why would I want to do that? To add to it, the minimum duration for the mandate is 5 years! Giving this mandate feels like giving post-dated cheques for Rs 30,000 for each day of next 5 years!

    The mandate does not anywhere say 'once a  month' or 'maximum amount per month' etc.!

    When I contacted FundsIndia customer care, they informed that the daily limit is set to allow customers choose any day of the month for SIP and I think that may be a valid statement - I do not counter that.
    I understand that it gives flexibility of choosing any date as SIP date. On FundsSupermart, we have to select a specific date out of the ones they have listed (Any date out of 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th etc.) - this reduces the flexibility but then I would (any customer would) prefer clarity on the document we sign as opposed to such flexibility. mandate of FundSupermart clearly mentions the frequency as monthly and maximum deduction limit per month! (their ECS mandate attached below)

    Before this post sends out any wrong signals, let me clarify - I trust FundsIndia that it will not make any unauthorized debit from my account but still when it comes to signing a 'cheque', I would strictly go by the wordings of the document!

    I am open to any suggestions my understanding on the mandate is incorrect! FundsIndia customer care could not give me satisfactory answer if my understanding was wrong!
    On the flip side, I feel when a document is too complex for a common man to understand, it is better to be apprehensive :)

    I had a very long mail chain with the customer care of FundsIndia and in the end, we agreed to disagree on this point.
    FundsIndia chose to stick to their mandate and I chose to avoid signing such a mandate.... avoid SIPs with FundsIndia.

    Sunday, September 30, 2012

    Kerala Trip

    A good trip was long long overdue.... to be precise, almost 5 years! We have not had done any travel since our honeymoon in Dec 2007 due to various genuine reasons - except small trips around Pune. So after quite a few deliberations and considerations about various places like Kashmir, Ladakh, Shimla, Kerala we finalized on Kerala [It was wife's first choice! :)].

    So the dates finalized for the trip were 20th Sept to 28th Sept - two reasons for finalizing Sept month. One - I had to complete my leaves by end of September and Two - from 1st Oct, peak season starts in Kerala taking costs up by 30% to 50%! The best value-for-money months for Kerala trip are Aug and Sept (Aug may witness some mild rain occasionally)!

    Now before digging into details, some main points about the trip:
    Flight: Spice-jet return (direct) flight Pune-Kochi-Pune cost about Rs. 6000 per person for return ticket! (booked through MMT) - Total Rs 18000 for 2 adults + 1 kid (2.5 years)
    Kerala Local Package: Package for 8 nights 9 days, Total cost Rs 37000 for two adults + one kid, including car, hotels everything. (does not include flight tickets)
    Tour operator for Package: A1 Kerala Holidays -
    My overall experience with the tour operator: Excellent - I would highly recommend! Got best rate from them and service was excellent!

    Now some details about planning of the trip:
    I booked my honeymoon trip to Mauritius through MakeMyTrip. While the service was good, when I met some other couples who were in the same hotel and same flight as we were, I realized that cost of MMT was about 10% higher than the local travel agents. So this time I preferred going with local travel agents and not any of the OTAs!
    Through google search I found A1 Kerala Holidays. One more interesting site (a startup) I found during my search is On travel triangle, one can post his travel requirement and local travel agents will provide quotation for the trip competing with each other.
    I received quotes from various agents but the best one was from A1 and hence I decided to go with them. Initially I was a bit apprehensive as I didn't find any reviews about them on net (not even on TripAdvisor!). However, the closest quotation I had was more than 10% higher and A1 is a General Sales Agent of KTDC and TTDC so decided to take a chance and go with A1.

    My itinerary was something like this -
    Cochin (1 night) - Munnar (2 nights) - Thekkady (1 night) - Alleppey houseboat (1 night) - Kovalam: including a day trip to kanyakumari (2 nights) - cochin (1 night) - cochin departure

    My Hotels:
    Cochin : Hotel SeaLord (Meals: Breakfast)
    Munnar : Las Palmas (Meals: Breakfast)
    Thekkady : KTDC Aranya Nivas (Meals: Breakfast, Dinner)
    Alleppy : A/c Deluxe Houseboat (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
    Kovalam: KTDC Samudra (Meals: Breakfast)
    The cost for the package - 37000/ for 2 persons + 1 kid (2.5 yrs)

    Originally I was suggested following hotels by A1 where I upgraded two hotels - In Thekkady & Kovalam :
    Cochin : Hotel Sea Lord/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
    Munnar : Las Palmas/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
    Thekkady : Silver Crest/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
    Alleppy : A/c Deluxe Houseboat (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
    Kovalam : Sagara Beach Resorts (Meals: Breakfast)
    The cost for the package - 34000/ for 2 persons + 1 kid (2.5 yrs)

    Suggestions based on my experience:
    Following are some of my suggestions based on my experience of the trip.
    If you are planning similar duration of trip, I would recommend skipping Thekkady and adding a day in Kovalam instead.
    Upgrading hotel to KTDC AranyaNivas in Thekkady cost me Rs 2000 extra. While Aranya nivas was simply superb, I would suggest you should go to Thekkady only if you want to do some trekking or jeep safari in jungle and in that case you should give 2 to 3 days to Thekkady. If you are not interested in trekking, skipping Thekkady is highly recommended. More than saving a day, saving on the travel-time is more important. Travel by road takes a lot of time in Kerala. On an average you can expect to travel not more than 30km/h in Kerala which means 150 kms is a long time-distance of 5 hrs... almost half of your day!

    Another points was that Arrival and departure should not be at same place. If you arrive at Cochin, depart from Trivendrum and vice versa. In my case, there was no direct flight to Trivendrum from/to Pune and the cost was also almost double w.r.t. Cochin flight.

    So for the same duration, I would suggest following itinerary:
    Cochin (1 night) - Munnar (2 nights) - Alleppey houseboat (1 night) - Kovalam (3 nights) - Trivendrum departure

    A1KeralaHolidays: As I already mentioned, most competitive and excellent service. One more thing, our package included A/C Indica car but we got a free upgrade to A/C Tavera. Definitely added to comfort factor! The driver Binu was very humble and always eager to help. The complete experience has been very good with them.
    Phone: +91 4842377880  |  Mobile: +91 9567860874 | Email:

    In general I felt politeness is imbibed into the very nature of Keralite people. Very humble people and they do understand the fact that tourism is the main industry driving Kerala and hence they have very positive attitude towards tourists. Unlike other parts of India, in general you won't find people trying to cheat a tourist.

    Kochi: Kochi is one of the main cities of Kerala. Has good historical places. 1 day is more than enough for this place. I spent two nights here as I had onwards and return flight both from Kochi.
    The hotel SeaLord was really a good hotel. It is located in city center and Marine drive is just opposite the hotel. No scenic views though.

    Munnar: An awesome place with pathetic roads! (This can be generalized for Kerala as well) It is a beautiful hill station. However, if you are coming to Kerala to relax and have only 4-6 days, you can give a skip to Munnar and choose only backwaters (Alleppey) and beaches (Kovalam). Munnar is famous for its Tea Gardens. We visited Eravikulam national park (beautiful!), Tea Museum, Punarjani's Kathakali performance, flower garden and Muttupatty Dam (awesome views). Tea available at tea museum is about half the rate what you find in major Indian cities (at least I can compare with Pune)
    Hotel Las Palmas was good hotel. It was a bit far from central Munnar. There was no mobile signal as well in the hotel. When we entered the room, the room smelled a bit due to dampness in the room walls I think. They applied some room freshener on our request. Fresh air from the window as well helped getting rid of the smell of dampness. Hotels in Munnar do not have A/Cs as the atmosphere itself is cold enough.

    Thekkady: As I wrote above, unless you want some trekking experience, it is highly recommended that you skip Thekkady. Mainly to cut down the travel time! Thekkady is famous for its spice garden. We did shopping for spices from Thekkady.
    The hotel Aranya Nivas was simply awesome! Right in the middle of the Periyar wildlife century - a highly recommended hotel if you are going to Thekkady. It is a KTDC resort but the staff is the most efficient staff I witnessed - no traces of that government  employees attitude! KTDC must be doing something right to ensure such an agility and proactiveness in their staff.

    Alleppey: The houseboat we stayed in was arranged by our tour operator only so we don't know the name of the houseboat company but the boat had 'Whispering Waves' written on it. Not sure if it was houseboat name or the company name. However, I got the feeling that all the houseboats would be equally good as government has strict rules for maintenance of the houseboats! One night in the houseboats is a MUST HAVE experience in Kerala. The food on the houseboat is also something to cherish if you want to experience authentic Kerala food.

    Kovalam: The most beautiful part of the trip. Awesome beach, awesome experience!
    The hotel KTDC Samudra had awesome beach view rooms. However, there were hell lot many mosquitoes in the room. I hated it - could not sleep properly both the nights. I had to kind of pack myself in the comforter to avoid the mosquitoes! One more negative was that no one responds on their room service number (shows not-so-good attitude of the hotel)! Hence the hotel left a little bad taste in my mind. If not for the views, I would have simply discarded this hotel. I would recommend checking out any other hotel with good beach views before going for this one.