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Weather & Waves

General

It’s most convenient to fly to Trivandrum airport (TRV) in Kerala which is served by flights from the UK, Singapore, KL and most major European airports. From Trivandrum airport it’s a 1 hour drive. We will arrange a driver to collect you from the airport so contact us at least a week before your stay with flight details. The cost will be around INR 1500 – roughly £15, just pay the driver. Another option is to fly to Cochin International airport (COK) which is about 5 hours north of us. If you fly to Cochin you can easily get a taxi from the airport. Expect to pay around £60 for the 5+ hour drive.

Flights from the UK to Trivandrum typically range from under £400 return to about £550 if you book ahead and avoid the Christmas fortnight!

Check out our favourite travel sites to help you find the right flight:

www.kayak.com  / www.skyscanner.net

We've compiled a handy guide to travelling with the minimum of plastic – and certainly nothing that’s single-use. Download it, print it, keep it with your suitcase – and tag us on your travels… let us know how you’re getting on.

Breakfast is included at Soul & Surf India - expect fruits, breads, eggs, home-made muesli, yoghurt & local honey interspersed on some days with local south Indian breakfasts like masala dosas and upma.

We have our own little cafe – Soul Food Cafe – and even though we aren’t opening as a full fledged cafe for lunch and dinner just yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic we will be trying our best to open very soon. We are currently only able to service our room-guests for breakfast.

There are an abundance of restaurants and cafes on Varkala cliff top serving Keralan curries and tandooris, fantastic seafood, European classics such as pizza and pasta. Plus local spots in town offering delicious thali lunches, spicy dhosas, parathas and biryanis mostly at under £1 a meal. Vegetarian food is plentiful in both local and tourist restaurants.

Check your room booklet for our local recommendations or download our Varkala Insiders Guide to take with you.

Bath and hand towels are supplied in your room but please note they are not beach towels, you'll need to bring your own beach kit.

We understand that some people have special requirements. Let us know in advance, and we’ll do our best to make sure we have what you need but also be realistic and bring anything really specialist. We’re in rural India so the stuff you can get in your western world city delis isn’t going to be available here. Almond milk? Not yet. Soya milk? Sometimes… Gluten-free bread? Not on your nelly.

The peak tourist season in the area (as well as the driest months) is December & January. This coincides with the small swell season yet even then the surf is still at least knee to shoulder high.

The two months pre and post monsoon (monsoon is June til September) is when the swell is consistently larger and more challenging with waves averaging about 3-4ft. Otherwise the waves are mainly in the waist to shoulder high range. Check Magic Seaweed's Varkala page for current and historical detail (note a 3.5ft swell at 12+ seconds usually produces chest to head-high waves on the coast here). The waves are bigger, better and there’s more regular either side of the monsoon in Oct/Nov and Mar/Apr/May but there’s more chance of storms in these months.

Water temperatures are pretty consistent at 27º-29º so you can surf in board shorts the whole season long. Bring a rash vest for sun-protection and for modesty in rural areas.

We've also compiled a guide to the surf spots of Kerala for you - it's also a great way to explore the local area

We have a full stock of boards for hire  throughout your stay so if you want to travel light you can leave your board at home. We’ve got everything from 6ft short boards through fun boards, mini-mals to longboards  so that whatever your level and however you progress we’ve got the right board for you and the conditions. Contact us if you have a particular board request and we’ll see how well we can match it.

We’ve got all the other stuff you need from leashes, to wax so there is pretty much nothing to bring except for surf/swim wear, especially board-shorts for girls when surfing in rural areas. Also remember to bring along water-proof sunscreen. We have rash vests for you to use on lessons or guides.

Unless of course you have a favourite board that you just cannot live without (we’re with you on that one).

The Indian currency is the Rupee. Exchange rates at last time of checking were around 100Rs / £1 and about 90Rs / €. Rupees can only be obtained within India. There are exchange facilities and ATMs at the airport, but the rates are awful. There are plenty of ATMs near to us in Varkala town. If you choose to bring cash there are plenty of Money Changers on Varkala Cliff, all major currencies accepted.

India is on 230 volts with two-pin plugs, but sometimes they are three pin. There are regular and serious power fluctuations so be careful with your equipment. We supply surge-protected 4-ways which take a multitude of plug formats in all of our rooms but we cannot be held responsible for Kerala’s power problems.

The surrounding area is rich in culture and perfect for exploring on a hired scooter. Visit nearby temples, check out the local fishermen’s catch as they bring in their nets or stroll along empty golden sand beaches and take a swim in the tropically warm Arabian Sea.

In the tourist destination of Varkala Cliff you can shop, while away the hours in cafes or sunbathe on it’s stunning cliff-backed beach. Kerala is the home of Ayurveda and we recommend a massage after a surf or consult one of the experts for a week long treatment. We’ve found an amazingly charismatic local lady, the finest south Indian cook we’ve come across, who will give cooking classes in the afternoon making numerous vegetarian curries, dhals and raitas before devouring them in the evening.

Further afield…

  • Travel one hour north to Kollam and take a houseboat through breath taking scenery of the backwaters. Stay over night on the boat to see the magic of dusk and dawn across the water.
  • To experience the full gamut of surf in India we recommend talking to the guys at the Surf Ashram 12 hours up the coast in Karnataka. The Surfing Swamis inspired us to open our doors and almost single-handedly put surfing India on the map. The environment they create makes for a unique, easy-going surfing and spiritual experience. Visit their website and tell them we sent you! SurfingIndia.net
  • Visit the Sivananda Ashram for their yoga vacation program up in the hills and escape from it all in their lush grounds. www.sivananda.org/neyyardam (minimum 3 days).
  • Fort Cochin, an important global trading post ruled in turn by the Arabians, Portuguese, Dutch, British and ultimately India, is a wonderfully atmospheric town full of great restaurants, luxurious hotels, quirky cafes and hundreds of antique shops. This port-town is where India collides with old colonial Europe in a memorable fusion of east and west, modernity and antiquity.
  • Cool down in the mountains near Munnar, a few hours North east of Varkala in the Western Ghats. Waterfalls, mountain lakes, lush forests, sleepy villages and colonial hill-stations provide an awesome backdrop for this alternative south Indian experience.
  • The southern most tip of India, Kanya Kumari is home to some of the most important temples in the country. This sacred place sees visitors from all over India on pilgrimages and across the world to see the monument for Swami Vivekananda and the giant statue of Thiruvalluvar on their own islands across the sea. Watch sunrise and sunset from this special place.

Luck for you we've also collated our favourite local tips into a downloadable guide to Varkala...

You really can travel light but here is a quick reminder list of some basics to bring:

  • Warm water surf wear, shorts, bikini, etc.
  • Swimwear
  • If we’re surfing away from the main tourist beach you will need to wear board-shorts and a rash vest (though we have rash vests you can use)
  • Beach towel
  • Waterproof sunblock and zinc
  • Sun hat
  • Yoga gear
  • Light clothing, it’s hot!
  • Some long-sleeved and leg-covering clothes to protect from the sun and to protect from mossies in the evening
  • Ladies, bring something to cover your shoulders and to cover down to your knees if venturing away from the main tourist area
  • Bring something waterproof because in this tropical climate it can rain at any time – and it’s torrential!
  • A personal first aid kit containing disinfectants, band aids, perhaps some antibiotics
  • A decent deet based mosquito repellent
  • Bring plenty of vitamin C against infections. You might also take some general vitamin supplements plus calcium and magnesium to keep your immune system boosted.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance including watersports.
  • Stuff for your kids. You can get the basics here, but it’s worth bringing your usual items and preferred brands.
  • Plastic is a huge problem in India, we encourage all of our guests to bring a reusable water bottle. If you don’t have one, you can pick up one of our stainless steel water bottles.

Some air conditioned rooms, some with ceiling fans, Wi-Fi in communal areas, an amazing cliff-top sea-view garden, 2 indoor lounges and 2 covered outdoor lounge/sitting areas, a massage & treatment room, a roof-top sea-view yoga shala.

You can dine along Varkala cliff top, get comfy amongst the cushions at the hotel or checkout the scene in town and have a kebab. There’s not much in the way of night life here, but there are a few bars open until 1am and it gets lively around Christmas and New Year.

 

 

Alcohol can be bought from Varkala town and is served in most of  the restaurants on Varkala cliff top. We can point you in the direction of the booze shop in Varkala which you can bring back to the house, but you must keep the receipt, keep it in your room and prove it’s your personal alcohol. We can get in serious trouble if the authorities think we’re supplying alcohol without a licence!

Outside of the tourist spots of Varkala & Kovalam the Christian, Hindu and Muslim population are quite conservative. To respect our host country’s way of life we ask that guests don’t bare too much flesh outside of our grounds or away from Varkala and Kovalam. When surfing secluded beaches we ask female guests to surf in shorts and rash vest to avoid causing offence or attracting too much attention from the fishermen!

You can, of course, sunbathe and wear what you want on our grounds.

Mental.

You can rent a scooter locally, and we can point you in the direction of motorbike or car’s-with-drivers. Please bring your valid driving licence and an International Driving licence.

The local roads are in pretty good condition but potholes are common, even on main roads. Driving can be pretty chaotic, particularly in towns and cities, and the traffic rules seem to be pretty random at best! If choosing to drive we advise you avoid major town and city centres, drive slowly and pay extra attention to the other road users sometimes erratic behaviour.

There’s a very low risk of Malaria in the Keralan state, but please check with your doctor or local travel clinic for advice on vaccinations and the current Malaria situation.

Also check this website for up to date advice: travelhealth.co.uk.

You absolutely must have travel/health insurance to stay with us, including cover for surfing. If you don’t we can’t let you stay with us. If you do need to see a doctor, there’s a great clinic in Varkala town, 10 minutes away. The local health service is of a high standard and is extremely cheap.

Soul & Surf is a company committed to our customers and therefore consumer financial protection. At no extra cost to you, all guests booking with Soul & Surf are fully insured for all monies paid as detailed in your booking confirmation form in the unlikely event of Soul & Surf Ltd’s insolvency. This also includes repatriation if required. 

Policy exclusions: this policy will not cover any monies paid for travel insurance or any claim relating to air flights. Please ensure the airline or travel agent you have booked with has the appropriate CAA / ATOL Bonds in place.

For full details, see our full T&Cs and Financial Failure Protection pages

Use our booking system to check the availability and rates for the dates you want and to make your booking. We’ll need a 20% deposit to secure the booking and require your full balance 14 days before you arrive to confirm the booking. Your booking contract is made with Soul & Surf Ltd. our UK company. See our terms & conditions, your booking contract details and our cancellation policy here.

If you need some more questions answered before you’re ready to book check the rest of these FAQs first, we may have already thought of it. If not, email us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Yes. But how difficult it is to get one depends on where you are from and how long you intend to stay.

India has introduced e-Tourist Visas for citizens of certain countries arriving in certain airports (Trivandrum-TRV & Cochin-COK included). Check it out to see if it covers your country. You'll need to submit your online application for an e-Tourist visa no more than 30 days and no less than 4 days before your arrival date in India. e-Tourist visas are limited to two 30 day entries per year, and can not be extended on arrival.

NB: Print the confirmation of your online application or your airline will not permit you to board the flight.

For the rest of you (and visitors on longer stays), you will still have to go through the laborious and expensive tourist visa application process. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get your visa, we have had customers miss their holiday due to their visa not coming back on time and we’d hate that to happen to you.

Check with the Indian Embassy in your country if your country is not listed on the VOA link above.

Nearly all European/International networks work in India but will be expensive. Buying a SIM is a good cheap option and International call charges are relatively cheap. We recommend Airtel network for international calls. There are some International (ISD) phones in the surrounding area and call charges are pretty cheap.

We very much welcome families coming to stay with us and do what we can to make it affordable and workable with the kids. But we have to be realistic too, we’ve got a limited number of rooms so we need to get income from them when they’re being used. So if we can add extra beds or a cot to your room we can keep things very reasonable, if the kids need their own room we have to charge the normal rate. We have a handful of rooms which are perfect for families who would like to add an extra single bed or a cot.  Contact us before you book to enquire.

We’re not allowed to recommend or offer baby-sitting or childcare as a service because our UK insurers advise us not to as the local lady we know isn’t qualified, registered or insured. But we can introduce you to some local ladies that have looked after Ed & Sofie’s baby and our friends' kids and if you feel comfortable you can arrange child-care with them directly at very reasonable rates.

We love the kids to join in with whatever we can reasonably allow them to do.  Talk to the yoga teacher when you arrive if you’d like your kids to try yoga. It has the be at the yoga teachers discretion and not to the detriment of our other yogis experience. There’s plenty of other stuff we can fully allow the kids to get involved with.

There is free Wi-Fi available at the hotel in the main buildings. It’s as quick as we can get, but to be honest the speed is variable. We also have power-cuts relatively regularly so the internet goes down then too. There are also loads of broadband internet cafés in nearby Varkala Cliff and Varkala Town.

 

 

You can arrive at any time and many flights land in the middle of the night – 3am and 4am landings are common. If you want to come straight to us from the airport in the night please make sure you have booked the room for that night too! If you don’t want to book a room for your early morning arrival you can come to our place from around 8am,  we’ll take care of your bags and give you some advice on where to go or you can hang out in our gardens until your room is ready.

We’ll have your room ready by 3pm and if at all possible we’ll make it earlier - but please be aware the previous guest will not be checking our until 11am.

Check out is at 11am, but if you would like a later check out, let us know and as long as your room isn’t booked for the following evening we’ll help you out.

There’s a little surf shop in Kovalam now run by the guys from SISP, a charity we support. It has a great range of kit. If you’re bringing your own stuff, a good kit would include warm water wax, spare leash, rash vest, sun protection, ding repair kit. If you’re travelling in India for a while there’s two other good sources of equipment we know of: SAE in Karnataka and the Temple Adventures crew in Tamil Nadu. Both will deliver but it can take a long time!

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