Havelock or Swaraj Dweep

Havelock Island

For 99% of visitors to Andamans, the island of Havelock is a symbol of the Andaman archipelago. For them the Andamans are Havelock, and Havelock is the Andamans. And this is not surprising. 99% of the tourists who come to the Andaman Islands are Indian tourists, most of whom, visit no other islands, just Havelock. Havelock has recently been renamed to Swaraj Dweep, so do not get confused. Swaraj Dweep is Havelock Island.

The Andaman Islands are the only affordable tropical islands easily reachable for Indian residents, which they can visit without leaving India. Of course, there are Laccadive Islands too (Lakshadweep), but those are much more expensive, although geographically much closer to mainland than the Andaman Islands. In the same time, Havelock is the most developed island with the largest number of accommodation options and offers the best connection with the capital, Port Blair.

All Indian tourists, whom we met during our 2 visits and 8 weeks spent on the archipelago, praised Havelock as heaven. But Western tourists we met, were much more skeptical about the island. Most foreign tourists did not consider Havelock the most beautiful place on the archipelago, and some people directly called it the worst place they visited.

So what is really the truth about Havelock? Heaven or hell?

Elephant beach, Havelock

Elephant beach, Havelock

Is Havelock heaven or hell of the archipelago?

The truth is, that Havelock is both a hell and a paradise in the same time and this guide is probably the only place, where you can read about negative things. We do not need to sell any tours or services to you, so we can afford to be always open, straightforward and if needed be, critical. We visited the Havelock island at the end of our Andaman adventure, during which we visited 12 islands. Therefore, we have a good base to compare islands of this nice archipelago.

Beaches, nature and the world underwater - that's why Havelock can be considered a paradise.

The quality, price and availability of accommodation + transportation to Havelock + heaps of Indian daytrippers - these are the reasons why heaven can turn into hell for you.

The question, of course, is not whether to visit or not to visit the island. Yes, you should visit the island. You just need to prepare well to meet the reality with the right expectations. Read on, we will advise you how to minimize hell and maximize paradise 🙂

Elephant beach trek, Havelock

Havelock Paradise

Beaches in Havelock

Beaches in Havelock are beautiful. No doubts about it. However, beaches on other islands of the Andaman archipelago are also magnificent. The only difference is that beaches on the Havelock and, to a lesser extent, beaches on Neil, get crowded by Indian daytrippers.

But no worries, there is a solution. These beaches are long and Indian tourists, for some reason beyond my knowledge, tend not to walk much. 95% of them do not move far away from a place where they were brought by their arranged transport. Only 5 out of hundred will bother to walk further along the beach. Fortunately for us, lovers of peaceful shadows under a lonely palm tree, it is enough to walk some 0.5 km along the coast, and easily you'll have the beach, the ocean and the coast just for you.

Radhanagar Beach

The most beautiful beach on Havelock is undoubtedly Radhanagar beach. A few years ago the Times magazine called it the most beautiful beach in all of Southeast Asia. (The guys from The Times were here long before Indian mass tourists came here.) Yes, Radhanagar beach is really a wow! White sand, turquoise sea and a green ideally C-shaped coastline. Like on a postcard. (Anyone remembers postcards here?)

Radhanagar beach evening

Radhanagar beach gets crowded in the evening

 

Elephanta Beach

Elephanta beach is a place designated for practicing water sports. Indians are riding water scooters here and the bravest ones, in life-jackets, holding a certified guide's hand, swim with a mask and snorkel. They are brought here by motor boats from the port. There is no road leading to the Elephanta beach, thus you can either take a boar or walk to reach it.

May we suggest our readers rent a motorcycle or take a bus or jeep in the direction of Radhanagar Beach and get off at the place where a turn to the right on follows a narrow path through the plantations. No worries, it is clearly marked, with a small bus shelter and two kiosks selling soft drinks. The road through the plantations will soon change to a path through a pretty nice jungle. You should not get lost, the route is clearly visible and there are a few signs along the way. However, I would not recommend crossing through the rain forest right after the rain. The track gets very muddy and slippery.

Where is good snorkeling in Havelock

After 40 minutes walking palm fields and jungle, you will find yourself on the Elephanta Beach. Turn left, walk past the entertaining Indians and continue 400-500 meters more to the left. Where you'll see a small stream flowing into the sea, there you will find an ideal place for snorkeling.  If you continue further 300 meters more, you will see another, slightly bigger stream. Corral is rich at this point and water is very shallow at low tide here. Be careful. Enjoy and let us know how was it!

Kalapatar Beach and further south-west

The island of Havelock is quite large, so it will not be a problem to avoid  tourist crowds. Take a motorcycle, drive to the Kalapatar beach and continue further to the south-west. Here you can wander around local villages and watch how people gradually change the rain forest into agricultural lands. These quiet, tourist free areas of Havelock are pretty charming.

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Tip: If you are interested in beaches, check this article: Which are the best Andaman Beaches? We have ranked 14 Andaman beached according to their visual beauty, ease of swimming, beauty of the underwater world for snorkelling, the freedom of snorkelling and the facilities available.

 

Hell № 1 - Accommodation in Havelock

Judging by price to quality accommodation on the Havelock island is quite expensive and in high season, it is difficult to get a reasonable room. We met the Czech family, who also visited Havelock with two children. They spent 4 nights on the island, and every night they had to move to some other places. Any accommodation that was available, was free just for one night and booked out thereafter. Nightmare! Therefore, it is advisable to book accommodation well in advance. And choosing the right one from a distance is not easy. Do not be surprised if you find yourself in something that looks like a better tent or upgraded wooden shack, with 50 or more euros a night price tag ... Dedicate some time to read other tourists' comments about specific hotels on booking.com, Agoda or similar portals.

Here is a list of resorts and hotels that we have visited are worth recommending. All of them have A/C, hot water and TV.

Two Havelock Resorts worth recommending

1. Dolphin resort Havelock

From 3760 Rs in low season up to 5500 INR in peak season for double room, plus 12% GST. Prices include breakfast, A/C, TV, hot water.
Seafront property, one of few that actually deserves the name "resort". Not cheap, but for great value for money. Follow this link or picture to learn more about Dolphin Resort Havelock.

Dolphin Resort Havelock

Dolphin Resort Havelock

2. Outback Havelock.

Outback is a great mid-range choice and also offers reasonable price to quality ratio. A/C double rooms, with TV and hot water at Outback cost 3000 Rs excluding breakfast. Price may be lower at low season and higher at high season. For this price Outback is not a beachfront property. Outback's restaurant is proudly baking their own bread and serve both indian and continental food from morning till 11 pm.

3. Other Havelock resorts worth looking at

If you can not get Dolphin or Outback, check these properties, that are fair price for fair quality. Prices for double, high but not peak season, A/C, TV, hot water. All resorts are along the main Goving to Vijay nagar road.

  • Symphony 5-6.000 Rs, beachfront
  • Coral Reef 7000 Rs, beachfront
  • White Coral 4000 Rs, beachfront
  • Star Glory 2500 Rs, not beachfront

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Hell #2: Transport - ferries to Havelock

We have dedicated chapter about transport and getting around the Andaman Islands here.

Also a separate chapter we devoted here to the topic of buying tickets for ships and ferries around the archipelago.

Now specifically about Havelock: all the people we met, who landed  in Port Blair and went to the harbor, in the hope of buying a ferry ticket to Havelock, were left empty-handed. In high season, tickets for a cheap, but good, state owned transport are sold very quickly. Tourists, who managed to get tickets, got up at 5 am and by 6 o'clock they were waiting in front of the gate, to be among first when counters open at 9 am. After another hour of waiting those lucky ones got the. Please note, this only works on Mondays and Thursdays, see the section on ticket purchasing for details.

What are the options:
A) If your time is limited to the Andaman Islands, and you want to be confident that as soon as you arrive in Port Blair you board a ship to Havelock and more importantly secure a return back to Port Blair, you are better off buying tickets from private carriers. Makruzz and Green Ocean are 4 times more expensive then state vessels, but available online.

B) If you have come to the harbor and the tickets to Havelock are sold out, take a ticket to Neil, spend a night or two there and buy a Havelock ticket at Neil.

C) Of course, tickets do not have buy tickets personally. Ask your accommodation or travel agent, to buy tickets for you. Going fee is 150-200 Rupees per person, but you may be charged more if the transaction goes thru more that two hands. Even after the brokerage fee has been added, the Havelock ticket will still be half price compared to private ones.

This works well for Indian residents. For non residents his/her Visa number number must be provided.

Where can I find a ship schedule for Havelock?

Andaman administration is pretty poor at publishing schedules. Check here if this page is updated (often it is not) https://www.andaman.gov.in/interisland-shipping-schedule. There are 4 sailings daily between Port Blair and Havelock. Departure times during the pre-Covid 19 2020 season were:

  • Port Blair to Havelock - 6:20, 9:00, 14:00 and 18:00
  • Havelock to Port Blair - 5:00, 9:00, 11:30, 16:30

 

How much is ferry ticket from Port Blair to Havelock?

As of 2020, government ferry ticket prices from Port Blair to Havelock cost Rs. 485 for a "seat", Rs. 675 for a "chair" and 840 for a bunk. Please do not ask me what is the difference between a "seat"and a "chair". I do not know. They are both tickets for sitting, just the later is more expensive. "Bunk" is a bunk bed in 20 bed dormitory. Honestly, I like the idea of taking a bunk. Especially if you are sea sick getting horizontal helps to avoid sea sickness. No all ships on Port Blair - Havelock direction have a bunk beds. Most will only have sitting space. When compared to the government feries, Green ocean and Makruzz tickets at around Rs 1300,- are 2-3x more expensive.

Radhanagar beach, Swaraj Dweep

Hell #2: Transport - ferries to Havelock

We have dedicated chapter about transport and getting around the Andaman Islands here.

Also a separate chapter we devoted here to the topic of buying tickets for ships and ferries around the archipelago.

Now specifically about Havelock: all the people we met, who landed  in Port Blair and went to the harbor, in the hope of buying a ferry ticket to Havelock, were left empty-handed. In high season, tickets for a cheap, but good, state owned transport are sold very quickly. Tourists, who managed to get tickets, got up at 5 am and by 6 o'clock they were waiting in front of the gate, to be among first when counters open at 9 am. After another hour of waiting those lucky ones got the. Please note, this only works on Mondays and Thursdays, see the section on ticket purchasing for details.

What are the options:
A) If your time is limited to the Andaman Islands, and you want to be confident that as soon as you arrive in Port Blair you board a ship to Havelock and more importantly secure a return back to Port Blair, you are better off buying tickets from private carriers. Makruzz and Green Ocean are 2-3 times more expensive then state vessels, but available online.

B) If you have come to the harbor and the tickets to Havelock are sold out, take a ticket to Neil, spend a night or two there and buy a Havelock ticket at Neil.

C) Of course, tickets do not have buy tickets personally. Ask your accommodation or travel agent, to buy tickets for you. Going fee is 150-200 Rupees per person, but you may be charged more if the transaction goes thru more that two hands. Even after the brokerage fee has been added, the Havelock ticket will still be half price compared to private ones.

This works well for Indian residents. For non residents his/her Visa number number must be provided.

Where can I find a ship schedule for Havelock?

Andaman administration is pretty poor at publishing schedules. Check here if this page is updated (often it is not) https://www.andaman.gov.in/interisland-shipping-schedule. There are 4 sailings daily between Port Blair and Havelock. Departure times during the pre-Covid 19 2020 season were:

  • Port Blair to Havelock - 6:20, 9:00, 14:00 and 18:00
  • Havelock to Port Blair - 5:00, 9:00, 11:30, 16:30

 

How much is ferry ticket from Port Blair to Havelock?

As of 2020, government ferry ticket prices from Port Blair to Havelock cost Rs. 485 for a "seat", Rs. 675 for a "chair" and 840 for a bunk. Please do not ask me what is the difference between a "seat" and a "chair". They are both tickets for sitting, just the later is more expensive. "Bunk" is a bunk bed in 20 bed dormitory. Honestly, I like the idea of taking a bunk. Especially if you are sea sick getting horizontal helps to avoid sea sickness. No all ships on Port Blair - Havelock direction have a bunk beds. Most will only have sitting space. When compared to the government ferries, Green ocean and Makruzz tickets at around Rs 1300,- are 2-3x more expensive.

 

TIP: Get an International driving license at home, before you arrive to the Andaman Islands. International driving license is required for you to drive a motorbike or scooter here. Sure, many could argue, that this is the case in many locations around the world, but to keep the business flowing, it is in reality not enforced in tourist frequented areas. In Neil and Havelock things got stricter and police smarter. Police enforces the rule thru renting agencies, telling them not to rent to visitors without International driving license or face consequences if they do.

 

Getting around Swaraj Dweep / Havelock Island

Havelock is not your tiny-walk-around-island like many of Maldives ar Indonesian Gilies are. Havelock is proper island with large distances and a public transport. Distances between important places in the Havelock Island are:

  • Jetty to Radhanagar beach - 10.6 km
  • Jetty to Kalapathar Beach - 8.7 km
  • Main accommodation strip along road nr.5 (like Dolphin Resort) to Radhanagar beach - 11 km

As you can see, you will need a mode of transport get you around Havelock.

Taxis and tuk-tuks (auto rickshaw) in Havelock

Three wheeling tuk-tuks are available around Havelock. There are good for a quick hop between you hotel and restaurant along the road number 5 and will ask for 30 to 50 Rs per short, 1-2km trip. Same 50 Rs will take you from hotel to the center at Govind Nagar. These are frequented areas, where your driver has plenty of business to go about. As soon as you want to go beaches, prices skyrocket. 300-400 for a one way trip to Radhanagar is often asked, even of the distance would not deserve more than 200. Return trip with waiting is up to your negotiating skills. Proper Havelock taxi will ask for 1.5 to double of these prices. Taxi or tuk-tuk is OK for taking you and your luggage from the jetty to your resort and back. Otherwise we use other, cheaper transport options here.

Public buses in the Havelock Island

May we conclude, that between 2018 and 2020 the public bus service in the Swaraj Dweep has improved substantially. Smaller but air-conditioned buses were added to the fleet of State Transport Service in Havelock, helping to thicken the schedule of the classic red buses plying the roads here. There are 2 key bus routes here in Swaraj Dweep / Havelock:

  • Jetty to Radhanagar via Govind Nagar and along the road number 4. This is pretty frequent bus, good for reaching both, the Radhanagar beach and the Elephanta Beach trekking head
    and
  • Jetty to Kalapathar via Govind Nagar and along the road number 5. This service is a bit less frequent and useful to reach your hotel from the Jetty and also go to Havelock's Kalapathar Beach.
Bus schedule Havelock

Havelock's buses often have their schedule printed and published on the bus door. Buses run from 6:50AP to 6:50PM and there is a bus every hour or every 90 minutes. Cost is nominal, we usually paid 12 - 20 Rupees per trip. Price depends on the distance traveled.

Public jeeps in the Havelock Island

With improved bus service, the Havelock's jeeps have lost part of their business. However, jeep are still practical alternative if waiting for the infrequent bus would take too much time. Jeeps leave when full from island's only roundabout at Govind Nagar.

Renting a bike or scooter in the Havelock Island

Two wheeler rent is definitely the best way to get around the Havelock Island. Going rate is 500 Rs. per day, negotiable to 400 if you rent for longer period. Be careful wit petrol. They love to give you an empty tank and send you to fill up first. There is <strong>only one proper petrol station on the island, half way between jetty and Radhanagar. One small shack sells a bit more expensive petrol in the Govind Nagar, roughly opposite the State Bank of India. And that is probably it. Fill up and enjoy!

Food in Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)

As you may know from my Useful guide to Port Blair, getting a good food is kind of struggle around the Andaman Islands. Fortunately, Havelock's restaurant scene has developed to suit tourist tastes and there are two places we can honestly recommend:

Anjou Coco Havelock

Anjou Coco is our favorite for getting proper continental food in Havelock. We have enjoyed Anjou Coco's chicken schnitzel, tuna schnitzel, pasta and chicken afghani. Restaurant is located along the road number 5, some 1.6 km from the roundabout in Govind nagar and 650m from Dolphin Resort. The same menu and quality of the food you will also get at their Port Blair restaurant. Prices are around 3,5€ to 5€ per plate.

Full Moon Cafe

Ful Moon cafe is part of the DIVEIndia Scuba Resorts, so there is a dive shop and accommodation build around it. We like Full Moon for being a few meters from the sea shore, so you can stroll the long white sand Govind Nagar beach while waiting for you meal. It is just a pitty that the sea view from the restaurant is blocked by coastal vegetation. Food is good, we like the tuna carpaccio, chicken schnitzel and tuna schnitzel here. Prices are around 5€ per meal.

Food stalls at Radhanagar Beach

There is a line of food stalls at Radhanagar Beach, just opposite the parking where the road ends and buses stop. Food is typical, low key, Indian street food with fruit salads, puri and instant noodles being the main fare here. I am mentioning this place not to recommend it for quality of food, but just let you know there is a food here, as Radhanagar beach is otherwise 10 km away from any other place to eat on the island.

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