Thiruvananthapuram India – Your Quick Travel Guide
Thiruvananthapuram in a nutshell
Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram – formerly Trivandrum – is largely an industrial city, but one with a laid-back atmosphere and a unique mix of old and new. It is set over seven low hills and is characterised by both modern development and exotic scenery owing to its seashore, traditional red-tiled gabled architecture and an ever-burgeoning cultural life.
Why go to Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram, like many other places in Kerala, is known for ostentatious all-night religious celebrations, which take place in various temples. These celebrations are marked by extravagant fireworks displays, drum orchestras and gold-bedecked elephants. It is quite extraordinary, and tourist participation is heartily encouraged.
Thiruvananthapuram is also a historic city – dating back to 1000BC – and as such still retains some historical monuments, museums, palaces as well as parks and colonial buildings.
Although for most travellers Thiruvananthapuram is a short stopover on the way to its nearby beaches the city is certainly worth exploring for its old-world charm, exceptional street-food and narrow lanes lined with traditional Pagoda-shaped buildings.
As with any capital, Thiruvananthapuram is a bustling urban hub, with all the modern amenities one might expect. What makes this city different, however, is its salubrious seaside atmosphere; its friendly locals; and its convenient location with easy access to the rest of the state.
When to go to Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala’s capital city is the first one in India to be hit by monsoons, which commence from June to August so the best time to visit is between October and February. The city’s climate is sub-tropical with temperatures ranging anywhere from 17C to 35C.
Where to stay in Thiruvananthapuram
It is good to keep in mind that accommodation in Thiruvananthapuram is much cheaper than in its neighbouring towns of Kovalam, Varkala, Ponmudi and Poovar.
Close to a hundred hotels and lodging houses sit within a stone’s throw away from Thampanoor bus stand and railway station, which makes it very convenient for those visiting Thiruvananthapuram for an overnight stay. Most of these are located in a district known as Thampanoor, with a vast majority spread around Manjalikulam Road, which runs north from the bus and railway station. They tend to offer basic but clean rooms, with various levels of comfort according to your budget. The more expensive accommodation will most certainly have free wifi, airy bedrooms, comfortable beds and efficiently working fans.
It is well worth remembering that a working fan is a must in Kerala as both humidity and mosquitos are rife, particularly before and after sunset. We recommend you spend a little extra on budget accommodation, which will serve you well especially if you intend to travel the following day.
If you are, however, planning to spend more than a few days exploring the city there are plenty of accommodation options available throughout Thiruvananthapuram, particularly in the centre of town which can be explored on foot. It is certainly worth having a meander around the narrow, winding lanes to find more interesting lodging quarters. There are plenty simple B & B’s as well as mid-range and luxury hotels dotted throughout the city. The more expensive of these will provide you with all the facilities you will need for a comfortable and homely stay. Some of the accommodation in this bracket will offer in-house laundry, ticket and taxi booking services, free wifi and great views of the city.
Where and what to eat in Thiruvananthapuram
When it comes to eating out in Thiruvananthapuram you will be spoiled for choice. Keralan cuisine is characterised by wholesome grains, rice, coconut, fish, jaggery, jackfruit and general lashings of fresh spices. It is typically flavoured with a wide variety of local seasoning, both aromatic and very healthy. We highly recommend you try all the local South Indian specialities such as idlis, dosas, palappams, uttapams and other simple but delicious quick-set delicacies such as chakka varuthathu (jackfruit chips).
One of the most popular and widely available traditional meals in Thiruvananthapuram and the rest of Kerala is the banana leaf spread, more commonly referred to as a Thali, which consists of rice accompanied by a variety of coconut based curries, chutneys and roti.
Some of the best places to find authentic Keralan cuisine are those hidden in the small, narrow, alleys where locals serve up no-thrills hearty food at cost price.
Fish and meat are also widely available and you will find it in almost every local dhaba and restaurant in town, particularly outside the bus and railway station.
European cuisine is to be found in the larger hotel complexes and restaurants, who cater to the annual influx of international tourists. But most eateries will have a standard Keralan menu consisting of steaming Malabar biryanis, beef fry dishes, seafood masala, various curries and chicken, mutton and pork options, freshly prepared with chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind and asafoetida.
How to get around Thiruvananthapuram
Getting around the city itself is relatively easy either by foot, if you are after some intimate exploring, or by rickshaw. The latter is also a great way to see the city in a different light as most drivers will be happy to take you for a round-trip with various stops along the way. We do suggest, however, you bargain down the initial fare in order to get a fair deal. Hiring a rickshaw for a day has its benefits as most drivers are well familiar with the city’s lesser-known attractions, and will be able to take you to some interesting and fascinating places off the beaten track.
How to get to and from Thiruvananthapuram
Due to Thiruvananthapuram’s strategic geographical position along the Malabar coast, it is conveniently connected to numerous states and cities as well as international destinations, served by airways, railroads, public and private buses, taxis and ferry boats.
Thiruvananthapuram is also served by Beemapalli airport, about 3 miles southwest of the city, offering both national and international flights. Some of the international destinations include Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Middle East and Singapore.
There are also many national flights, most popular of which are Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kochi and Dehradun. Prices for both national and international flights vary greatly, according to the time of year and your choice of carrier. But great deals are to be had if you book online, a day or two before travelling.
Some of the best deals are offered by budget airlines such as Air India, Air Pegasus, Jet Airways, and IndiGo.
Domestic travelling from Thiruvananthapuram across the state is also very well served by trains, most of which run several times a day to a number of destinations across India, including Madagon, Bangalore, Mangalore, Kanyakumari, Madurai and Chennai. Please keep in mind that during peak season, train tickets may be sparse thus booking ahead is advisable. Additionally, sleeper tickets in Kerala are doled-out on the first-come-first-served basis thus getting to the station early is the best way to get a decent seat.
Is Thiruvananthapuram a safe place to visit?
Thiruvananthapuram is a beautiful, modern and relatively safe city with many worthwhile sites and tourist attractions. But it is precisely for this reason we recommend you keep your wits about you while exploring this marvellous seashore capital as pickpockets and thieves are ubiquitous, and operate throughout the state.
Additionally, there is no shortage of healthcare facilities in Thiruvananthapuram – as elsewhere in Kerala – starting with Ayurvedic clinics, medical college health centres and ending with private hospitals, almost all of which offer excellent service with minimal waiting time and well-maintained facilities.