Why go to Kochi (Cochin)?
History- (especially Jewish history), culture- and food-lovers will find lots to savor
Tourist attractions in the historic districts require transit from the cruise terminal
European-influenced city melds cultures and lacks the chaos of other Indian cities
Kochi (Cochin) Cruise Port Facilities?
Cruise ships dock on Willingdon Island at Samudrika Cruise Passenger Facilitation Centre terminal or at nearby Ernakulam Wharf, both on the island's northeast tip. Decorated elephants and a band have been known to greet ships. The cruise terminal has a cafeteria and restrooms; the wharf has no facilities. Willingdon is between the peninsula, where the historic district is located, and the mainland. To reach Fort Kochi or Mattancherry, located on the peninsula west of Willingdon, or Ernakulam, the new city, on the mainland east of Willingdon, take a ferry, taxi or auto-rickshaw. You can see the nearby ferry pier from where your cruise ship arrives.
A Government of India Tourist Office is on Willingdon Island, near the Vivanta by Taj Malabar -- Cochin hotel. In Fort Kochi, a Tourist Desk Information Counter, a private tour company, offers many tours. Ask for the free brochure with a map and self-guided walking tour of Fort Kochi. In Ernakulam, a tourist desk by the ferry pier (also a private tour agency) offers full-day backwaters houseboat tours.
Good to Know?
A visa is required to visit India. Make sure your passport has four blank pages, though instructions say two blank pages are needed. Immigration clearance upon ship arrival is very thorough.
The swastikas you see in India are ancient religious symbols in the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions; the word is derived from Sanskrit. They face right or left, but aren't tilted, as in the Nazi appropriation of the symbol.
By Ferry: Ferries to Fort Kochi from Willingdon Island take about 15 minutes (Mattancherry is five minutes more; the stop is between the Dutch Palace and the synagogue) and run every 20-30 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 9:10 p.m. It's a pleasant ride and a great way to see the unusual Chinese fishing nets that are the symbol of Kochi and colonial-style houses. Ferries to Ernakulam, the new city, from Willingdon Island run every 20 minutes, and similarly from Fort Kochi.
On Foot: You can't walk to Fort Kochi, Mattancherry or Ernakulam from Willingdon Island. But, it's a delightful half-hour walk from Fort Kochi to Mattancherry, after you arrive by ferry, taxi or auto-rickshaw. Walk on Bazaar Road from the ferry stop to pass many aromatic spice shops and warehouses.
By Taxi: Taxis and auto-rickshaws (three-wheeled open-sided motorized vehicles) are at the port gate, both inside and outside. But, the ferry to Fort Kochi or Mattancherry is faster, since the bridge that connects Willingdon Island with the peninsula is much further south, and traffic is hectic. Auto-rickshaws, which fit two people, are much cheaper than taxis, and the noisy, hot open-air ride, weaving in and out of traffic, can be exciting or scary, depending on your point of view. Both taxis and auto-rickshaws generally have meters, but drivers often don't turn them on, so agreeing on a price before entering is best. Take small bills; drivers generally don't have change. You can arrange inexpensive guided tours of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry that include shopping stops with the driver; feel free to haggle. Uber is in Kochi, uses cars only (no auto-rickshaws) and drivers take cash if you change your settings, if you want to avoid haggling.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The rupee is the form of currency in India. Paper money is in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 2,000. Torn, dirty or written-on paper money is rarely accepted. Take smaller bills, as merchants and drivers often don't have change. In Fort Kochi, a South India Bank ATM is a few blocks from the Chinese fishing nets, and two ATMs at Federal Bank and ICICI, plus UAE Exchange, are a few blocks further on Amravathi Road. Credit cards are accepted at bigger shops, restaurants and hotels. For current currency conversion rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
Bargaining is expected, but the more upscale the shop, the less likely you are to succeed. Release your inner haggler.