The backwaters of Alleppey (also known as Alappuzha) are a common stop on many a tourist’s trip through Kerala, India. Here are photos to prove why you need to go, and a tip for the cheapest way to see the Alleppey backwaters in Kerala, India. No expensive boat hire required!
Ah, Alleppey. Its winding waterways and palm-shaded streets are a sight to behold… and it’s no secret! Alleppey is one of the most popular spots for those looking to explore Kerala’s famous backwaters.
The most common way to see the backwaters is to hire a boat for one to four hours, sometimes more. A motorboat trip around the backwaters and to several small stops can cost anywhere from 1,200 Rs. total ($18) for a few hours to 2000 to 3000 Rs ($30 – $45), depending on the season. That’s all well and good for groups, or those on a bigger budget, but what about backpackers and budget travelers?
The cheapest way to see the Alleppey backwaters in Kerala, India
If, like us, you’re not too picky about stopping for touristy “village tours”, there’s a super cheap way for you to boat on the backwaters: the local ferry system.
The region has an extensive network of ferries that carry residents up and down the rivers and canals throughout the day. Given Alleppey’s problem with pollution from the tourism surge, mass transit is a great option to see the backwaters in a responsible way.
Want to know more about budget travel in southern India? Check out our South India budget report!
If you want to play local, be a bit more sustainable, or just save yourself boatloads (PUN!) of money, this is the way to go.
Where do the ferries go?
You can find a ferry schedule on the Kerala government’s State Water Transport Department (SWTD) website. Basically, boats go to and from the ferry jetties in Alleppey until about 21:30.
There are several locations serviced by regular ferries all day: Nedumudy, Kottayam, and Krishnapuram. These are your best bets, as you can be assured there will be a boat back to Alleppey as long as you don’t leave too late in the day.
We took the route to Kottayam, which goes over the lake and ends halfway up a waterway to the town next to a school. The ride took 2 hours in one direction, and a ticket was 33 Rs. ($0.50) per person round-trip. The ending point was definitely middle of nowhere status, so if you want to get to Kottayam town, you’ll need to hire an auto.
The route to Nedumudy goes through more winding waterways, which should be more scenic. It’s a bit closer to Alleppey than Kottayam, so it’s a shorter route, but potentially more lush and scenic.
Krishnapuram is a long ways away from Alleppey—about 8 hours. We recommend bringing your bags with you and staying there if you take this route.
Where (and how) to catch the ferry
To find the Alleppey (Alappuzha) boat jetties, check out the map above, or just hang around on one of the small boat jetties on the main canal through Alleppey. The ferries will stop at any jetty, as long as you wave them down. Make sure to ask where the ferry is going before getting on. The locals will be happy to point you onto the right boat.
The same goes for getting off the ferry. Jump off wherever you’d like (even into the water, if you so choose), all you need to do is point to where you want to get off.
Food and drinks
Bringing water and snacks is always a good idea for long trips. However, if you’re looking for a bite while on the water, there are a decent number of tiny restaurants situated near boat jetties along the waterways.
Just point one out to the boat hands and tell them you want to get off there. You’ll have to wait for a new ferry to continue on in your journey, but there are plenty of boats running up and down the main waterways.
Where to stay in Alleppey, India
It’s wise to book ahead in high season (December-January), as Alleppey is super popular with local and foreign tourists alike. Kerala is one of India’s hottest destinations, after all!
In Kerala? Don’t miss experiencing a Theyyam ritual in northern Kerala!
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