The Indian government has been advocating eco-friendly tourism development on Havelock for a while now, and while it’s the most visited of the islands it sees only a fraction of the visitors that crowd other island destinations such as Thailand. The pace of life is slow, the locals are friendly and still not too affected by tourism, and the facilities are moderately basic for the most part. While many of the lodges have ‘resort’ in their names, none come even close, thankfully.
The beaches have been given a rather boring numbering system instead of names, although some names like Radhanagar are in popular use. The arrival port is at Beach #1, the junction at the center is Beach #3 (aka Govind Nagar), the junction near Dolphin Resort is Beach #5 (Vijay Nagar) and so on. Govind Nagar, the main “town”, is small and has only a handful of shops and local dhabas. Most accommodation is grouped along the road from Beach #3 to Beach #5. From the ‘junction’ near Beach #3 a road veers off to Beach #7 (Radhanagar Beach), the most beautiful spot on the island.
Mid-January until mid-May sees the best weather, and often the best diving conditions. The days are mostly sunny at this time of year, and the sea sometimes flat enough to reflect the clouds. The monsoon usually hits around late May, lasting until the end of July, and is probably the worst time to visit the island – strong winds, frequent rain and low visibility underwater. August thru November see some occasional showers and slightly rougher seas, but diving can still be great at this time of year. The weather often takes a turn for the worse for the month of December through early January.
Havelock island now has two ATMs; SBI and Axis bank. Some of the hotels and resorts are able to perform card transactions. Nevertheless, it is best to make sure you take plenty of cash with you from Port Blair. Also, it is hard to buy some items in the market – differing factors of sun cream can be hard to find, as can mosquito repellent.
Ferries are the major way on or off the island. 2-3 arrive daily from Port Blair (2-4 hours) and one from Rangat, one of which comes via Neil Island. Schedules vary according to day and season, so enquiry locally, and see Andaman and Nicobar Islands about the differences between the ship types.
Government-operated ferries are best booked in advance, as seats often sell out. Rates are 250 for “Chair” class and 350-390 for “Seat” Class. These ferries are AC and can be booked in advance from the counter at the DSS in port Blair. Booking Counter at also available in Havelock at the Jetty and these open at 9:15 to 12:15 and 14:15 to 16:15. You will have to get there early and stand in the queue but as soon as the counter opens the pushing and shoving starts so be prepared to be tough. Usually the ticket opens 4 days in advance. Online booking for government ferry is allowed by some private agencies. They book the ferry in advance with some extra charges for the service.
In busy seasons, local ferries can get booked up. You can buy tickets yourself from the Port Blair ferry office on arrival, or resorts will often offer to pre-book your tickets for the journey there and back, which you can either pick up from a travel agency on Port Blair, or they will send someone to meet you prior to your ferry. This is a good idea particularly if you’re trying to make it from your flight to your resort on the same day, as the schedules don’t leave much room for error. If you don’t have a return ticket, try and get your resort to book – or you will need to get the Havelock port early and elbow your way to the front of the queue as the locals do, and even then the ferry can still be fully booked with all of the resorts taking the tickets. On the return, the 4:30PM ferry gets booked up first, so it’s often safer to get the 10AM if you need to be sure of making onward connections.
Alternately, there is also an air-conditioned catamaran ferry from Port Blair to Havelock. Tickets are 975 onwards (which gets you a leather seat and your own tv). As the ferry is more expensive it is less likely to be full, and its schedule meets incoming flights. Tickets can be booked from a dedicated ticket booking window at Port Blair, thus avoiding the queue barging. On return you can book through your guesthouse (or wild orchid, emerald gecko & andaman bubbles) on Havelock. Some of the shops in the market also book the tickets on these cruises at same price so it should not be difficult to get them.
3 Cruises are currently operating in Andaman Islands, connecting Port Blair, Havelock and Neil Island. These cruises adds more comfort to your journey and takes 120 minutes to reach Havelock Island and 90 Minutes to reach Neil Island. Makruzz, Coastal Cruise and Express Bhagya are the cruises that operates in this region. All ferry timings, costs and online bookings can be done at. Ferry booking had been a major issue, which has now been addressed through such sites. Note that the cruises may not operate during May, June, July and August. Government ferry is operational all through out the year.
Flight times from Port Blair to mainland India sometimes are changed without warning – including being brought forward. So it’s definitely worth calling the day before to confirm your onward flights. Also be prepared to stay couple of days more than planned in Havelock because the boats to Port Blair will be cancelled if the weather is bad.