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Although the Andaman and Nicobar islands are a union territory of India, they are geographically closer to Myanmar & Thailand than to the Indian mainland. They are located at a distance of more than 1400 km from the mainland of India.

By Sea

Unlike most of the boring travelling that we undertake, getting to these islands is fun if you travel by Sea. The journey, however, is long and so it is very important to plan ahead for the same since only a couple of sailings are available from the mainland every fortnight. Vessels leave from Chennai and Kolkata. About once every month, there is a service from Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The voyage takes about 50 to 60 hours and the ship normally berths at Port Blair for about two to four days. The Andaman and Nicobar Administration has introduced a Single window system for the purchase of tickets by passengers for vessels plying in mainland-island sector, inter-island sector and foreshore sector. With the introduction of Single Window System, any class of tickets for any sector can be purchased from any counter throughout the STARS (Ship Ticketing Advance Reservation System), network—onward and return, either or both the tickets can be purchased.

At present, 5 Passenger Ships are deployed on Kolkata / Vishakapatnam / Chennai and Port Blair Sectors. 3 Ships, namely M.V. `Nicobar`, M.V. `Harshavardhana` and M.V. `Akbar`, ply between Kolkata - Port Blair and Vishakapatnam - Port Blair Sectors, while 2 Ships, namely M.V. `Nancowry` and M.V. `Swaraj Dweep` plying in Chennai - Port Blair Sector. The sailings are fortnightly but during the high season they are weekly in order to cater to the large number of tourists. The journey as mentioned earlier is very long. If you take a vessel from Chennai then it takes about 60 hours to reach while a vessel from Chennai will take approximately 56 hours. These take you to the capital of the islands, Port Blair from where you will have to find your way to your destination. The schedules of these sailings can be very erratic and hence is very important to check it in advance.

Some travellers have complained about having to wait at the dock for several hours before leaving on their journey so do prepare yourself for that. These hold ups combined with the variable sea and weather conditions might increase the duration of this journey to 3 days if not more. If you know the number of days for which you will be staying in the islands, then it is wise to book the return ticket from the mainland itself while booking the outward ticket. Booking a return ticket from Port Blair can be tedious and time consuming. You will first have to visit the office of A & N Tourism in order to reserve a berth in tourist – quota system. Once this is done, an approval letter needs to be procured from the ticket office of Directorate of the Shipping Services located at the Phoenix Bay Jetty. This entire process will cut into your vacation time and hence is better to be avoided if possible.

There are different classes of berths available on these vessels:

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are provided at an additional cost of Rs. 150. Food may be unsatisfactory to most palates so it is better if you can carry something to supplement your diet (like fruits or crisps). Most travellers carry a hammock along with them and tie it up on the deck to enjoy the beautiful view of the sea and ocean as they sail along. You may have to adjust a little while travelling but it does seem worth it when you look out into the vast expanse of the water surrounding you on your journey.

Further information can be obtained from:

1. Shipping Corporation of India Ltd., Shipping House, 245, Madam Kama Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400021 Phone:022 2202 6666

2. Shipping Corporation of India Ltd., Shipping House, No. 13, Strand Road, Kolkata – 700 001 Tel:(033) 2254 3400 Fax: (033) 22480377

2. Shipping Corporation of India Ltd., Shipping House, No. 13, Strand Road, Kolkata – 700 001 Tel:(033) 2254 3400 Fax: (033) 22480377

4. The Deputy Director of Shipping Services, A&N Administration, 6, Rajaji Salai, Chennai – 600 001 Tel: (044) 25220841, 25226873

5. The Directorate of Shipping Services, A&N Administration, Phoniex Bay Jetty, Port Blair (For MV Nancowry and MV Swarajdweep) Tel: (03192) 232528/232742 Fax: (03192) 230480

6. Shipping Corporation of India Ltd., Aberdeen Bazar, Port Blair – 744 101 TTel : (03192) 233590, 233916, 244278 / Fax : 233778

7. M/s A.V. Bhanojirao and Garuda Pattabhiramayya & Co., Post Box No. 17, Vishakapatnam (Agent – Shipping Corporation of India Ltd.) Tel: (0891) 2565597 Fax: (0891)2566507/2549224

By Air

If you do not want to waste time on travelling and would want to reach the islands soon then travelling by air is the best transport option for you. Daily flights are available from Chennai , Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar and New Delhi to the laid back capital of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Port Blair.

The following airlines fly to Port Blair from Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Bhubaneshwar.

Flights from Kolkata and Chennai generally take about 2 hours to reach Port Blair. All the flights can cost anywhere between Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000 for an one-way trip depending on the real-time availability & demand of Air tickets. Permission is also granted for the foreign charter flights to land at the airport in Port Blair. The Veer Savarkar International Airport, provided the guidelines of Director General of the Civil Aviation department are fulfilled.

For quite a few years there have been talks about starting direct flights from Thailand (Phuket) to Port Blair. However after the occurrence of tsunami the project seems to have been shelved. This may continue to remain shelved at least until the airport is upgraded to complete international status.

Getting Around

Once you’ve reached the airport or the dock in Port Blair, most of the islands can be reached by boat. In 2003, a helicopter service was also launched which will take you to certain destinations in the island like Diglipur and Havelock Island. The railways are also quite useful for onward travelling. The bookings for the both railway and helicopter service can be made at the Secretariat Complex at Port Blair. The schedules for the inter island ferry can be found in the local newspapers.

Entry formalities for Foreign & Indian Tourists

Irrespective of how you arrive at the Andaman Islands, you are guaranteed to have fun during and after your arrival at this spectacular place. Indian Citizens visiting the islands do not need a permit but may need one when visiting Nicobar or other tribal areas. These permits are rarely issued. However, you can apply for one at Port Blair. Foreign tourists require a permit to stay from the Indian immigration authorities.

Foreign tourists are issued a 30-day permit to visit the Andaman Islands. However, they are not permitted to visit the Nicobar Islands. Foreign nationals can extend their stay by another 15 days. The places covered by this permit for night halt are: South Andaman Island, Middle Andaman Island and Little Andaman Island (except tribal reserve), Neil Island, Havelock Island, Long Island, Diglipur, Baratang, North Passage and islands in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park ( Night halt in the Park is with permission only). For Day Halt only: 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). Permits can also be obtained at the Port Blair Airport.

Visitors who arrive without a confirmed flight out may only be given a fifteen-day permit, which can be extended to thirty days at the Superintendent of Police, Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair. Visitors arriving by Ship usually must have the permit before departing the mainland. When you arrive by ship you have to sign in at the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Aberdeen Bazaar in Port Blair to prove that you did not stay longer than 30 days. Permits are stamped when visitors leave the Islands. Permits are issued at overseas Indian embassies and should be requested when applying for a visa. Permits are also issued at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, or at the Foreigners’ Registration Office in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai. In Chennai, you apply at the Chief Immigration Officer, 26 Haddows Rd, Nungambakkam. When applying for the permit, give the exact arrival and departure dates, allowing three days boat travel time. You need 2 passport size photos.