Kerala Trip post floods September 2018- to go or not to go

Way back in February 2018, I saw a super cheap ticket to Kerala on Vistara and booked it instantly. Travel date was for mid-September 2018. But as you’re aware Kerala has faced one of its worst natural disasters in a century. Flood, landslides, people displaced from homes, collapsed infrastructure that happened during mid-August rain & floods meant touring Kerala immediately is deemed both risky as well as stupid- it may hamper rescue and rehabilitation work.
Image taken from Amar Singh Solanki's facebook post with permission.

Or is it so? When will it be safe to resume Kerala travel? Would 3 weeks be enough for basic restoration and tourist inflow to safer parts of Kerala? Won’t the businesses and traders in Kerala suffer more if tourists stay away? I had to seriously evaluate if my planned Kerala trip in September is viable and more than that, is it advisable? Would it do any good or would it cause more harm? I had both thoughts- why I should go and why it might be better to cancel the trip. Below is a quick listing of my thoughts- both in favor of and against a trip to Kerala mid-September.
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Thoughts in favor of visiting Kerala after Kerala floods
Thoughts against Kerala trip soon after Kerala floods
1
The worst is now over. Airport is open, water logging has receded, most roads are operational. There will be some inconveniences but the trip would be viable without any major risk or hinderance
Monsoon is not over yet. There is always a risk of fresh rains, floods or airport closure. Going there and getting stranded will be a lot worse situation to be in.
2
Kerala economy is heavily dependent on tourists. If tourists shy away, it will affect lots of people. Sooner or later it is important that tourists return. If tourists go, lots of people- hotel, restaurant owners, taxi drivers, shopkeepers etc stand to benefit.
Unwanted/avoidable tourist people in the state cause a stress on essential supplies and may hinder rehabilitation efforts (Rescue phase is now over)
3
I can always modify my itinerary to avoid affected/not-so-safe areas and explore places that are safer- this will be a better option that completely cancelling the trip
In this worse time, tourism shouldn’t be a priority for anyone. Let the state recover fully first.
4
Since airport is open and flight is operating, airline won’t refund/allow free- rescheduling of ticket. Not traveling means 100% loss
Not traveling and losing 100% would still be better than going there n getting stuck. We will save any unspent amount/refundable bookings as well
5
Hotels and homestays I’ve booked my stay have confirmed they are operational, the approach road and surroundings are safe to visit.
A fresh landslide or tree fall can block the road again and create trouble. Why risk it?
6
It is lot safe and easy to stay at home. But what is life without a bit of adventure? There’ll be some inconvenience which I am prepared to face, some risks for which I will plan mitigation or take steps to avoid
Lots of people won’t like it that you’re still going ahead with your trip, which doesn’t seem right as the state hasn’t fully recovered yet.
7
Lots of people willing to travel to Kerala will be looking forward to an assurance that everything is fine. Going there and updating ground realities will instill more confidence in them to visit Kerala, than any government ads or assurances

8
May be able to help a bit in other various ways- like transporting some materials, photographing etc
Let us just hope that there won’t be a situation that you will have to be rescued…
9

There is a rat fever scare – why go and risk health issues?
10


Quora is full of questions from worried people if they should cancel/postpone their planned Kerala trips that were scheduled for September, October, November etc.
Representative image- Tata Nexon drive last year-somewhere near Idukki
So what is the way forward?
I sent a message to the hotel, house boats that had planned my stay, asking if they are safe and open to business. They all replied in positive stating that they are operational, can serve us as planned and roads leading to their property is functional.

Most trains are operating normally as earlier, Cochin airport is also fully functional now.

I checked with few Kerala based friends for their opinion and advise
-Should I cancel the visit completely?
-Can I go ahead as per my original plan?
- Or Visit but modify the itinerary to avoid hilly areas and those regions deemed more risky/not yet back to normal.

Johann Binny Kuruvilla, who blogs at escaping life, provided lots of update on ground realities- as per his update, sourced from reliable sources, most of Kerala is open for business. Even Idukki district which was worst affected and had a ban on tourist arrival is now open.
Update as of 2nd September- Midnight*

With the involvement of the Indian Military, Navy, Police and the Highway authorities the following roads have been opened and available for travel.
Cochin – Munnar
Munnar – Thekkady
Munnar – Madurai
Madurai – Alleppey
Alleppey – Cochin

Munnar – Coimbatore: Under Construction
Tourist travel ban to Idukki has been lifted

Facebook friend and tour operator Amar Singh Solanki confirmed that his guests are enjoying Kerala tour as earlier from September 4th.

Another friend, Tennyson Thomas also provided useful updates. In summary, below is the news update I had- situation report as of September first week:
  • Most of Kerala is ready to accept tourists. Trains, flights back as earlier, most roads operational
  • Do expect some inconveniences- such as having to take a longer route or heavy traffic or having to walk longer or not getting essential services as easily as it was earlier. Carry extra cash, water, fuel and have a plan B in case you're unable to visit your intended destination.
  • Since airports are functioning airlines are not giving any free cancellation/rescheduling options
  • While coastal areas seem to be perfectly fine, hilly areas may take some more time for full recovery. Do cross check with your host/hotel/local friends, visit only those regions confirmed to be safe and ready.
Essentially Kerala is back on track by and large and is ready to welcome tourists. There is no risk or danger at this point and inconveniences if any will be very minimum.

Cost of rescheduling/postponing- if you've paid for everything and cancelling/rescheduling is lot expensive, you might want to travel anyway. If rescheduling isn't expensive and your risk appetite is very low, you may consider rescheduling your trip to November/December.

Check with your group: While you may be enthusiastic and ready to visit Kerala, it may not be true about your group members- they could still be under the shock of mid-august news and may not be keen to travel- check if they are comfortable, share updates with them and take final decision.

The impact of not traveling to Kerala
While the devastating images of Kerala have flooded the internet and most tourists would have cancelled their trips for 2018, it is important to assure the worried tourists that Kerala has bounced back, it is back to normal in most places and it is safe to visit. It is lot easier to stay at home. But someone has to take initiative to assure the world that Kerala is now safe to visit. What better way that visiting in person and sharing our findings? Tourist money is at the heart of Kerala’s economy- if tourists unnecessarily shy away, daily income of thousands of people will be affected and recovery will take even longer. Now that most of the rescue operation is over, rains and water levels are under control and there isn’t any life threatening risk in visiting Kerala, tourists starting to visit Gods Own Country is a crucial milestone to mark return of normalcy.

May be don't bargain much with vendors- it is OK if they quote a few rupees extra.

8 comments:

  1. Seeing is believing. But can one risk money, helath and safety? I feel after reading your post, that the life in Kerala is returning to normalcy. If one had already planned and booked the vacation in coming weeks/ month, one should not hesitate to go ahead and enjoy God's own country. It would a a different experience all together to see Kerala get on its feet. Due precautions if taken, it would be good experience!

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    Replies
    1. Yes.. It is safe to travel with some precautions.. Thank you

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  2. I visited Uttarakhand after the floods thinking that was doing my bit.

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  3. Was sad to read & watch the news about the terrible floods.
    I remembered my visit to Kerala a couple of years ago during Onam.
    Hope there's normalcy soon.
    Have a great trip, Shrinidhi.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you.. I am told normalcy is back to a great extent already..

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  4. Hmmm, my husband stays in Cochin, and he says life is back to normal. It's not been raining at all. Ofcourse, that's the city limits.

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