In Kerala, more than anywhere else in India, getting your choice of accommodation right will make or break your holiday. Hotels in all standards and styles are available in Kerala.
A decade ago a basic room with running water was all that most visitors expected; nowadays prospective guests are looking for traditional architecture, period furniture and verandas with lovely views.
Whatever your budget, you can expect to stay in some memorable places, from old wooden tharavadukal homesteads surrounded by rice fields to ivy-fronted British bungalows on tea estates high in the hills; village huts in the backwaters; and beachside resorts offering sea views from their overflow pools.
Prices, particularly in tourist centres and at popular high-end homestays, are extremely high by the Indian standards-although at the bottom of the market you can still find bargains, especially if the season is slack.
Hotels and Resorts
Kerala has a huge number of hotel beds to suit every budget, most of it at standards that compare well with more developed parts of the world The supply struggles to keep up with demand in many towns and cities, where Indian visitors account for the bulk of the custom. In the coastal resorts and hill stations frequented by foreigners, vacancies are rare.
Not all hotels have single rooms, but most offer a reduced rate for single occupancy. It is also easy to find rooms with capacity for three or four people-Indians like to travel in groups and hotels always keep extra fold-away beds to hand, for which an additional tariff applies.
Officially, all establishments are obliged to provide a printed tariff list and most do. However, like most other things in India, the price of a room may well be open to negotiation.
If you think the rate is too high, or if all the hotels in town are empty, try haggling: you'll nearly always be offered a reduction. Note, however, that luxury tax will be applied not the discounted rate you've agreed, but to the official rack rate.
While accommodation prices in Kerala are generally on the up, there is still an abundance of cheap hotels and lodges, catering for less well-off Indians.
Budget accommodation tends to be cheaper the further you get off the beaten track; it is most expensive in the resorts of Kovalam and Varkala, where prices are double or triple those for equivalent accommodation in most other areas.
Cold showers or 'bucket baths" are the order of the day-not really a problem in Kerala as the heat means that, except in the hills, you're unlikely to want hot water. Moreover, even cold water never comes out of the tap very cold, and by mid-afternoon can be positively warm if it is been sitting in a tank on the roof.
Even so, it is always wise to check out the state of the bathrooms and toilets before taking a room; most will be spotless, but you can never be sure.
You don't need to pay through the nose for creature comforts in Kerala. Mid-range hotels offer large, clean double, with a freshly made bed, cable TV, laundered towel, and your own spotless bathroom with sit-down toilet and 24-hour hot running water for reasonable price.
Generally speaking, different categories of rooms will be on offer in any one establishment, ranging from the most basic "standard" or "economy" option, to "deluxe", "super-deluxe" or even "executive deluxe".
The thing that most affects tariffs in mid-scale hotels, however, is air conditioning (abbreviated in Kerala as a/c), which is likely to coast additional charge.
Many visitors consider a/c to be a necessity in Kerala, where the heat and humidity can be so oppressive as to preclude any chance of sleep for eight or nine months of the year. In smarter hotels, it usually comes as standard whether you use it or not.
The quality of the a/c itself varies: a recently renovated or newer place will have installed more effective "split a/c" units, or central air-conditioning systems. The bell boy ("room boy" in Kerala) should show you how to operate the unit when you check in.
Kerala has devised its own spin on the conventional five-star campus, relocating antique wood houses form villages to luxury resort enclaves on the coast and backwaters.
In the Western Ghats of inland Kerala, you'll find so-called eco-resorts, often consisting of tree houses of thatched, village-style mud huts equipped with low-impact comforts.
British era planters' bungalows on tea or coffee plantations are another atmospheric way to experience the High Ranges, while restored royal places, Syrian-Christian mansions in the backwater and luxury ayurveda spas provide other tempting possibilities.
Modern business grade hotels, usually the best options in large towns and cities, tend to belong to chains. It is becoming more common for these places to quote tariffs in US dollars and Euros. Note that only the standard "rack rates" will be offered to you if you walk into top hotel direct, though special reductions are available online.
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