Airline-Related Advice when Traveling From the US to Kerala and Back
There are several ways to travel from the US to Kerala. So before I discuss my advice, I would like to make two concepts about flying to Kerala and back to the US very clear: what international airports there are in Kerala and in what ways you can get to Kerala.
In Kerala, there are three airports, one in each of the following cities:
1. Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) in the South. Thiruvananthapuram is Kerala's capital.
2. Kochi/Erunakulam (Cochin) more towards the Central Region. Kochi, or Erunakulam, is Kerala's biggest city, and Nedumbassery Airport, as it is known among travelers to Kerala, is (or was!) one of the cleanest airports in the world, second only to Singapore.
3. Kozhikode (Calicut) in the North. This is where Vasco da Gama landed, but unfortunately, it is the only city that my parents, brother, and I have never visited.
If the town, village, or city you are trying to visit is not one of the above, you will either have to catch the train to that town or arrange for a ride from the airport.
Now, there are several ways to get to Kerala. Below are the three routes I know best (I will add to this list as I learn more information about getting there). The airliners you could take are listed in bold, and the route that you would have to take if you used that airliner is explained just after the name of the airliner:
1. Lufthansa: This is probably the cheapest (and reasonably comfortable) way to get to Kerala. Fly to either New York, Dallas, or Washington, D.C., unless you already live in one of these cities. From there, you can fly to Frankfurt am Main (aka Frankfurt-on-the-Main), where Lufthansa is based. From Frankfurt, you will have to fly to Chennai, which is in Tamil Nadu (the state just east of Kerala). Finally, from Chennai, take a Jet Airways flight to one of Kerala's airports.
2. Kuwait Airways: This is not horribly expensive and is certainly the quickest way to get to Kerala. It's somewhat more comfortable than flying on Lufthansa. If you do not already live in Chicago or New York, fly to one of those two cities. From there, you can fly to Kuwait and then directly to Thiruvananthapuram.
3. Singapore Airlines: This is the most expensive way to get to Kerala and, unfortunately, the slowest. It can be very comfortable if you take the correct precautions. You should start from Los Angeles. From there, take the plane to Singapore; considering the length of the Pacific Ocean in the middle, the plane will definitely stop in another city like Taipei (in Taiwan), Hong Kong (in China), or Tokyo (in Japan). From Singapore, you should take a Silk Airways flight to Kochi/Erunakulam.
If you're going through Lufthansa:
1. When you get to Frankfurt, there will be no written information telling you where the gate to Chennai is. You'll find information for the gates to Prague, Tokyo, and many other cities, but never an Indian city like Chennai!
2. Often, in Frankfurt, the gate for Chennai changes. While you're walking towards what you think is your gate, be on the lookout for Indians who are walking in some other direction and not the same way in which you're going. If you see several Indians doing this, it's quite likely that the gate has been moved. Ask them whether they're going to Chennai and, if the answer is "yes," find out what the new gate is.
3. There will be tons of people going to Chennai--and very few people to attend to them at the airport in Frankfurt. Be very, very patient, and also be aware that the floor is dirty.
4. Chennai Airport is very crowded, and you will be forced to wait in a long line at the airport. (At least thank your stars you didn't go to Mumbai, the biggest city in India!).
5. You should be aware of a particular procedure at Indian airports: for want of efficiency when collecting boarding cards, there are separate gates for males and females. This means that unless everyone in your group (including yourself!) is of one gender, each person will have to have his/her own boarding card.
If you're going through Kuwait:
1. When traveling from India to the US through Kuwait, you will be temporarily lodged in a hotel in Kuwait. This hotel may seem more like a prison than a hotel: there is a fence of barbed-wire; you are constantly interrupted for tea-time, meals, etc.; and breakfast may be nothing more than a hot dog and runny eggs!
If you're going through Singapore:
1. Be aware that American airports are stupid and don't realize that there is a branch of Singapore Airlines called "Silk Air!" So be prepared to hear questions like, "What is Silk Air? Where is Cochin?" etc.
2. Singapore Airlines offers you the option of a "Singapore Stopover," i.e. staying in Singapore for about 2-3 days. If you're not in a rush (either when you're going to India or coming back), and if you like touristy cities, go ahead and accept the offer. There's a free tour of various sites in Singapore, like the Fountain of the Merlion (or something like that), Chinatown, and Little India. (Personally, I didn't find it very interesting when I went!)
3. Admit it, guys: after a long flight to Singapore, you're gonna be tired! Pooped! Exhausted! And besides, you have to wait for hours to catch the next flight. So book a room in a hotel in Singapore well in advance. Sleep there for a few hours and have a nice dinner. (For instance, how about trying out the curry-filled croissants at one of the pseudo-French bakeries?).
4. When boarding any Singapore Airlines/Silk Air plane flying from Singapore or India, do NOT, repeat NOT, wear a long-sleeved shirt or long pants! I made that mistake on the plane from Singapore to L.A. and ended up with eczema all over my body!!!