How to charter a Kerala Houseboat In “Gods Own Country”

Kerala Houseboat cruise is a common activity in Backwaters of Kerala. On the serene backwaters of Kerala, the best way to experience the lake’s multiple facets is to glide through the waters on some of the best houseboats in Kumarakom & Alleppey. The picturesque network of waterways is appealing to the eye.

Lagoons, canals, waterways and rivulets crisscross ways. The inland coast gradually opens to a larger water body. The palm-fringed lake offers exotic views. The biodiversity you see and experience is unique and confined only to this blessed land. Wildlife is diverse. There are small villages tucked into pockets of greenery. The exceptional views, the lip smacking meals onboard, the luxurious rooms and above all, the continual gentle sway of the boat and the cool breeze promises an experience.  A journey to this teeming naturalistic paradise is an experience that you would find worth revisiting.

Exploring the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat cruise is truly a once in a lifetime experience (you can read about our cruising in backwaters of  Kerala onboard houseboat here), but how you plan for this trip can make or break your experience.

Kerala Houseboat

People spend days to sort out to book Kerala houseboat and finally becomes baffled and go with the last contacted or one with sweet mouth. Due to no strict regulation or frame work no houseboat operator/ tour operator is quite the same. That is why we put together these tips on how to book a houseboat in Kerala in order to make your backwater cruise the most mesmerizing one.

Kerala Houseboat & cruising options 

Regardless of your budget, there are a few things that should come standard in this experience. There are short day cruises, full day cruise and cruise with overnight stays. We would definitely advise a two- three night cruise to thoroughly experience the backwaters. One night is too little for experience seeker, but we found more than three nights to be superfluous and surely will stultify your spirits.

Your houseboat should be a traditional kettuvallam, the ones with thatched roofs, and ideally it has an upper deck with at least one sofa. Several miniature houseboats are available which only had fixed chairs, but a backwater cruise is ultimately about leisure, rejuvenation & luxury. Hiring a Houseboat with Sun /upper deck gives you more space; privacy from the captain/crew and the higher perspective is perfect for snapping incredible pictures and watching the rustic villages passing by from above.

The sumptuous lunch with variety of local delicacies is one among the reasons that drag travelers to Kerala Houseboat. And enjoying food while cruising itself is amazing experience. The food onboard is cooked in regional style with all stuffy locally procured fresh and tasty. Kerala Houseboat menu is standard[authentic Kerala meals], but can also request for alterations & additions in menu with prior intimation. Also the meal preference whether Veg or Non-Veg, North Indian or South Indian etc need to be clearly conveyed at the time of booking.

Three meals per day, plus an afternoon snack   make clear whether you want western style of Indian breakfasts

  • Tea, coffee and water
  • Packaged drinking water available
  • Welcome drinks ( Tender Coconut or juices )
  • Fruit basket
  • Fresh linens with soap & shampoo.
  • A working fan as well as operation A/C in each bedroom.
  • Running water available in wash basins & bathrooms.

The Kerala Houseboats are not allowed to stack & serve alcohol, so bring yourself those beverages in required amounts if you are booze lover.  No need to bring snacks onboard as you will be remarkably well fed by your onboard chef with range of dishes.  We brought snacks on board as well – but never got around to eating them since we were so incredibly well fed.

Start Your backwater cruise In Alleppey or Kumarakom

As there are thousands of Kerala Houseboats in backwater destinations like Alleppey , Kumarakom, Kollam, Vaikom & Kochi it is quite difficult to assess the standard & quality of Houseboats. Houseboats & Backwaters in Kerala are even though regulated via licenses & accreditations by authorities there exists counterfeits & fly by night operators to squeeze the less informed travelers. It is sole responsibility of traveler to choose genuine houseboat for the quality in physical if booking directly or getting real time pictures if booking online.

Travelers to Kerala might book a packaged tour through a tour operator (reputed or less known) with a day & night onboard a Kerala Houseboat in either Alleppey or Kumarakom, but rarely do they disclose the Houseboat operator name. However, with the huge difference in quality, you need to perceive/ assess the houseboat. If you have pre-booked without assessing the standard & amenities of houseboat, you have lost all your leverage to re-negotiate if you do not like your houseboat.

Some people (and guidebooks) suggest setting off from offbeat backwater destinaion Kollam for better luck than popular Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha.

To this, we say that there is a reason Kollam is less popular: it is a basic, unremarkable city with little to offer visitors than backwater (terrible hotel selection with few to nil homestays) and limited selection of houseboats. In addition, the tours offered that leave from Kollam tend to head to and around a lake and back, while tours from Alleppey, a 1.5 hour drive (or 8 hour water taxi ride) north has more flexible trips and over thousands of Kerala Houseboats to choose from in the season alone.

Ferry is not merry, but for a flash packer

While searching on Travelers Forum or inquiring with local friends or hosts they at at some point suggest that there is a Govt ferry between Kollam-Alleppey or Kottayam- Alleppey or Kumarakom- Muhamma. This is true – there is a ₹ 18-300/- ferry ( 25 cents -$6) that leaves everyday between the mentioned backwater destinations, and you will see the same sights as on a houseboat cruise. However, the ferries cannot offer any means of comfort or amenities are rust buckets, loud, smell of gas, packed to brim with commuters and there are no bathrooms barring some A/C boats. If you are a terribly strict on budget this might be an option, but for everyone else, we advise you to opt for the infinitely more relaxing Kerala houseboat. Luxury seeking souls who need to unbend  on a quieten holiday experience, need not to embark on this non-composed cruise.


If you are already in any of backwater destination like Kumarakom or Alleppy, choosing a Kerala houseboat is much easier. Simply take a auto-rickshaw to the jetty in the morning you would like to depart and start search for a houseboat of your dream. You can look at several, choose one and go back to your stay and get your things. In that time they will go buy all groceries and get ready to welcome you abroad. There is no point planning a day in advance, because unless you get there that day around 9am, all the good boats are gone out on the backwaters until the next morning anyway. This way you can avoid being smooth-talked into reserving a boat you’ve never seen.

In the peak season and weekend day but it might be best to do it one day in advance with reputed Houseboat operators. Just make sure to show up before 9:30am so you have the chance to see many houseboats physically to book for the next day.

Golden Rule: you must step aboard the boat and approve it before setting sail.

Bargain for your price !

Kerala tourism is well marketed and the Kerala houseboat operators are well aware of the top price that foreign and Indian tourists are willing to shell out, but they are also ready to bargain with you. This is India after all.

The basic rate for Kerala Houseboat is ₹ 7,000 Rupees ($125) per night for a single-bedroom houseboat with all food and transportation costs included. This works out to just over $60 per person, all daily expenses included, though air-conditioning will double the price to $50 per night at least. Due to huge influx of houseboats in backwaters the profits are very meager for the Houseboat operators so there are little scope of drastic reduction in rates while haggling. Sticking to reasonable rate make work wonders and be ready to cough up some tip for the chef & navigator of houseboat for better onboard experience.

For the insect sensitive travelers

You have chosen a well-maintained houseboat & accredited houseboat, so there should be no big issues, but when docked at night you are open to the elements of nature . While we ate there were many bugs flying around the lights, even while you relax, reading or having dinner. If this bothers you extremely, consider specifically requesting a Kerala houseboat with a glass covered living room. There are only hand some of them floating in backwaters and are in huge demand, so when you request the houseboat operator or searching for specify them the glass covered houseboats.

We hope these tips help you find the perfect Kerala houseboat experience for your backwaters cruise !



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