Guide to Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep)
Neil Island, together with its bigger neighbour Havelock are two most visited Andaman islands and thus two most touristy ones. Visitors mostly tend to think of Neil's island as being a more quiet alternative to Havelock. Having visited 12 Andaman and one Nicobar Island islands, I have difficulties to agree with that. Neil is the second most touristy of all Andaman islands. Neil Island is locally known as Shaheed Dweep and sometimes mentioned as "Neil's" Island. Learn about Neil Island beaches, transport, accommodation and food in this travel guide.
Why visit - Neil Island Highlights
Beaches and the laid back vibe of Neil Island are the highlights why you may want to visit Neil island. And there is a “natural bridge”, which is an attraction worth visiting once you have a spare hour or two while on the Shaheed Dweep.
Sitapur beach - the sunrise point, Neil Island
Beaches and snorkelling on Neil Island
As it goes around these small Indian islands, there is a sunrise, sunset and some “other” beaches. If you intend swimming and/or snorkelling around Niel’s beaches, these are a bit annoying here, as they are tide dependent. More details below.
Sitapur beach - the sunrise point on Neil Island
There is something I like about Sitapur beach. When you reach the beach, walk some 500 meters to the left. You will hit a large stone stretching to the sea, which you’ll need to climb over. There is (2020) a tree stem to help you climb it, but I found climbing via the tree riskier, than climbing over the rock itself. Exercise caution, but do no be scared by this description, the rock is only some 2.5m high. Between this rock and the next rock some 200 meters further north-east, you will enjoy the quiet sea for swimming and some OK-ish snorkelling. There is also a little freshwater stream to explore and have a freshwater “shower”. There was a cave to hide if it gets too hot, however, the ceiling of the cave is made from very soft material and it has partially collapsed. It may be dangerous to stay inside of the cave.
Sitapur beach is the beach to visit around low tide. During high tide, you will not be able to climb over the rock. Thus plan to arrive before and depart after low tide.
Ram Nagar beach, Neil Island
Ram Nagar is located in the south part of Neil Island. While the beach is not notable for any remarkable thing, there are a few budget accommodation options nearby and thus a few travellers stay around here.
Ram Nagar beach is the beach to visit at high tide. During low tide, you will not be able to swim there, as the rocky sea bed. Thus plan to arrive before and depart after low tide. If you are strong swimmer, you can swim some 200m away into the sea, where the rocky bed drops into deep. Snorkelling is pretty fine there. Just time your return well, as at low tide the sea is too shallow to return safely.
Laxmanpur beach, Neil Island
Laxmanpur beach (Lakshmanpur beach) - the sunset one on Neil Island
This beach is quiet the whole day, even around 4 p.m., there is almost no one there. However, as sunset time nears, the invasion starts. It is quite amazing to see the hordes of mostly Indian tourists flocking to this westernmost point before sunset.
Save for the human invasion before sunset, it is a pleasant place to spend time. There are a few food stalls serving cheap Maggi soups and coconut water. Laxmanpur beach is the only beach around Andaman where we have seen this pleasant service.
I found Snorkeling here a bit stressful. At a lower tide, the rocky sea bottom is pretty neat to the sea level. Swimming was OK, but to go further away, I was afraid the water may be too shallow on my return. Thus plan your snorkelling visit to Laxmanpur beach around high tide.
Getting to Neil by Ships
We have dedicated chapter about transport and getting around the Andaman Islands here.
Now specifically about Neil: some people want to go to Neil and some just use it as an alternative, if the ship to Havelock is booked out. Indeed we met a handful of people, who went to the harbour, right after they landed in Port Blair, hoping to buy a ferry ticket to Havelock. All of them were left empty-handed. In high season, tickets for a cheap, but good, state-owned transport are sold very quickly. Only those, who were waiting in front of the gate by 6 am, to be among first when counters open at 9 am, managed to get Havelock tickets. And it is good to note, that it only works on Mondays and Thursdays. See our section on ticket purchasing: buying tickets for ships and ferries around the archipelago.
Getting to Neil is often easier than to Havelock. There are two government ship daily from Port Blair, as well private carriers. Makruzz and Green Ocean sail between Neil and Port Blair also twice a day.
How to buy tickets on Port Blair - Havelock - Neil route?
Of course, you do not have to buy tickets personally. Ask your accommodation or travel agent, to buy tickets for you. Going fee is 150-200 Rupees per person. This works well for Indian residents. For non-residents there is a typical Indian bureaucracy hook: if a ticket is sold to a foreigner, his/her passport and visa number must be provided. So someone, who buys that precious ticket for you, should have a copy of your passport and visa page.
Where can I find a government ships sailing schedule for Neil?
As of spring 2020 there were government ships 2 daily sailing directly between Port Blair and Neil and one sailing via Havelock with following departures:
- 06:30 Port Blair - Shaheed Dweep Neil
- 08:45 Shaheed Dweep Neil - Port Blair
- 11:00 Port Blair - Shaheed Dweep Neil
- 16:00 Shaheed Dweep Neil - Port Blair
All official schedules use the new names of the islands and as they are so similar that can be confusing. Be careful and do not confuse Swaraj with Shaheed when planning. 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
Port Blair to Neil sailing schedule of private companies
Green Ocean sails from Port Blair to Havelock and then to Neil as a triangle, always going to Havelock first. So Green Ocean is better for return journey Neil to Port Blair. Departures:
- 06:00 Port Blair - Havelock - Neil
- 09:45 Neil - Port Blair
- 12:00 Port Blair - Havelock - Neil
- 15:45 Neil - Port Blair
Makruz takes their customers twice a day between PB and Neil, once via Havelock and once going to Neil fist. For your comfort, check not only price and time, but also the direction before buying tickets.
- 08:00 Port Blair - Havelock - Neil
- 11:30 Neil - Port Blair
- 11:15 Port Blair - Neil - Havelock
- 14:30 Neil - Havelock - Port Blair
How much is ferry ticket from Port Blair to Neil Island?
As of spring 2020, ticket prices for government ferry from Port Blair to Neil cost Rs. 485 for a seat, Rs. 675 for a chair and 840 for a bunk. I can not recognize the difference between a "seat" and a "chair", both are sitting, just one is more expensive than the other. "Bunk" is a bunk bed in 20-bed dormitory. If you are prone to seasickness getting horizontal on a bunk bed is a good idea as it helps to avoid seasickness. No all ships on Port Blair - Neil direction have bunk beds. Most will only have a sitting space.
Green ocean and Makruzz tickets at around Rs 1300,- are 2-3x more expensive than government ferries, offering only marginally more comfort and speed. All ferries are airconditioned.
Getting from Havelock to Neil and vice Versa
State ships, as well as private carriers, connect Havelock with Neil once or twice a day, so there are 3-4 sailings between the two islands daily. State shipping price is the same for Neil - Havelock as for connecting these islands to the Port Blair, Rs. 485 for a seat, Rs. 675 for a chair and 840 for a bunk. Green Ocean one way hop between the two islands is Rs 994,- and Makruz is the most expensive at 1171 Indian Rupees. Neil to Havelock Schedules are as follows:
- 08:30 Swaraj Dweep Havelock - Shaheed Dweep Neil * Green Ocean
- 10:00 Swaraj Dweep Havelock - Shaheed Dweep Neil * Makruz
- 12:45 Shaheed Dweep Neil - Swaraj Dweep Havelock * Makruz
- 13:00 Shaheed Dweep Neil - Swaraj Dweep Havelock * Government
- 14:30 Swaraj Dweep Havelock - Shaheed Dweep Neil * Government, Makruz, Green Ocean
Subject to change
It goes without saying that schedules can change, however, the information provided here will give you a good idea of frequency and timing of the sailings in the Port Blair - Havelock - Neil triangle.
Lakshmanpur beach, nel Island - the sunset one
Getting around Neil Island
Bike and Motorbike is the buzz word when transport is concerned around Neil Island. While the Island is small and can be discovered on a day or two, the distances are not walking distances. From sunrise to sunset beach it is good 7 km distance. We have seen a bus running along the east-west road here and there, but never used it as we rented a motorbike. You may try to stand by the road hitchhiking and someone transport will pick you up ? … sooner or later.
A jeep from the jetty to your accommodation will cost an elevated 100Rs charge or even more. More is a pure rip-off for some 2-3km ride, but you have no choice and they know it.
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.
Accommodation on Neil's Islands
Neil’s accommodation may be less expensive and easier to get than accommodation on Havelock, but it still is expensive on a price to quality measure. Nice places are booked well ahead and many places are not available online, just offline. Ugly bamboo shacks with a mattress on the floor may ask for 1000-1500 Rs per night. Brick and mortar structures, most likely with AC will start at 2500 Rs during peak season.
Honestly, after our first visit in 2018, I had difficulties to recommend something. Nice places in Neil are expensive, starting at 4000+ Rs. handle. Fair price to quality places are booked away a long time ago. Average places are expensive and many cheap places are outright ugly. Strikingly, budget places recommended in Lonely Planet ( Kalapani and Breakwater) are both overpriced and/or ugly for the price. It is funny, but most of the foreigners congregate in those very old and run-down places, which do not look attractive at all. Why? Because Lonely Plane visited those accommodations ages ago and keeps reprinting the outdated recommendation? Maybe. These are mostly are just shacks without water and toilet or shower (e.g. Sunrise Beach Resort). Facilities are outside. I would avoid them.
In 2020 the situation has improved and I dare to recommend a place or two:
Hawa Bill Nest
The usual suspect for a hotel to be recommended, as you may know from my guide book, is a government-run hotel. In Shaheed Dweep this is "Hawa Bill Nest". Price for a double with hot water and air-conditioning, as of winter 2020 still was 1200 Rs. Being this good price for quality Hawa Bill Nest is your prime choice in Neil. However, the place is tiny, only 8 rooms and is easily booked out. If you can plan your visit and book it well ahead, do so. The resort is located just a short walking distance from the jetty and central market. It is run by the Tourism Department you can book it in Port Blair tourism office or you can book it online. Information and phone booking TOURIST INFORMATION COUNTER PORT BLAIR (03192) 232694 or 232747.
Online booking https://www.andamantourism.gov.in/etourist/index.php/home
Dream Heaven Resort
Dream Heaven is a little hidden gem I should not be talking about because if the word gets out it will be full next time I come to Neil. There are only 4 rooms at this friendly, family-run place and I guess owners have some space to built more if business is good. All rooms are new, with shower and toilet attached, TV and air-conditioning at extra charge. Prices start at 1500 if you do not use A/C and go up to 2500 if you do. Costs are negotiable if you stay for longer. Dream Heaven Resort is located amid Neil Island greenery in the shades of swaying palms, surrounded by gardens and fields. The perfect rural setting will all the comfort.
Other Neil resorts worth Mentioning.
Following places fall into the category of being fairly priced for their quality and most of the time full and booked ahead: Hotel Jasodha, very near the Sunrise beach, offers a row of rooms, around a patio, each with a balcony. Mallick Palace is more hotel-like place with a few rooms in 3 story building, its own mini-market and souvenir shop at the road number 6.
If you come outside of the main season and have nothing arranged, spend some time getting around with your driver checking various options and pick what you like. If you intend to come during peak season, read carefully the experience of other travellers on online booking sites and make your own judgement.
Brick and mortar huts on Neil Island, cost 2500 Rs during peak season.
Food and Restaurants on Neil Island
Most of the accommodations will also cook for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prices are very reasonable and if you want something other than eggs or rice, order your food well ahead, so the resort can buy supplies for your meals. A handful of mini-markets sell snacks and drinks around the island. There is quite a busy market in the island’s centre, where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Honestly, we were quite disappointed with the poor choice and high prices.
The only restaurant that we frequently visit and can honestly recommend is the one in the government-run Hawa Bill Nest. This is a small place mainly catering for a handful of guest residing there, so order ahead. Stop by in the morning to order lunch and at lunchtime to order dinner.
Bamboo shacks with mattress on the floor may ask for 1000-1500 Rs per night, Neil Island
Conclusion about Neil Island
After our 2018 visit, I concluded that if there was one island that I would skip next time we come to Andamans, it would be Neil. It is not “the less touristy brother to Havelock”, as some people believe, it is quite as touristy as Havelock is. Food is poorer, beaches are poorer than in Havelock… Good still, as we toured Andaman and Nicobar islands for the update and second edition of our guide book, we visited Neil again in 2020. Our second visit was more pleasant, thanks to the discovery of the newly built, fairly priced and friendly managed accommodation.
One more reason to hit Neail is to escape Port Blair. If you did not get a Havelock ship ticket and should be left bored in Port Blair, then jump on the Neil ship spent a night or two there and move onto Havelock or more interesting places in the far north or far south of this archipelago.