Cycling from the southern tip of India to Mumbai

by tkos on October 3, 2012

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India. One of the toughest places in the world to cycle. Arguably the make or break of any long haul cycle tour. Perhaps it is because it is the halfway point between Europe and Australia. Perhaps it is because it is the first country that takes at least a few months to cross. Perhaps it is the culture shock as it is unlike anywhere on the trip so far. Whatever it is, most people either love it or hate it, and usually both on the same day.

At the time of our trip, there was no boat between Sri Lanka and India, so once again we were forced to get a plane. We flew to the southern most point, being Trivandrum, Kerala’s capital. From there we hugged the coast all the way up to Mumbai via Kochi, Mangalore and Goa.

We took our time over the 1,576 km route between Trivandrum and Mumbai. There is a table at the bottom of this page detailing our exact route and how many km’s between towns.


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What we loved the most:

  • In south India, what we loved the most was probably the people. Fully expecting the hustle and bustle of the most exaggerated guide book, we were pleasantly surprised to find India to be quite a relaxing place. Cycling mainly on the high quality highways, we found the traffic to be a little quieter than what we expected and the people to be a lot more laid back. There were very few people who were in your face trying to sell you things you don’t need and besides general curiosity about the bikes, we were pretty much left to ourselves if that was what we wanted.
  • Goa in the monsoon season is not worth flying out for, but for an inexpensive resort treat, the prices are just right. We treated ourselves to the Taj Exotica for  8,500 per night including all meals!
  • The Kerala backwaters are a beautiful place to cycle through. Lush and green, the whole area is so peaceful and relaxing, there were times we felt like we were in Wales!
  • Mumbai is amazing but I think you need to find the right people to show you around as the city itself can be a little chaotic. We couch surfed and as a result, will always look back on Mumbai with the fondest memories with our new life long friends.

What was like a dusty traffic jam:

  • The food. Perhaps we didn’t always order right, but generally speaking, we were looking forward to lots of fresh vegetables. Instead, we found the food of south India to be very oily. Even a dish like mixed vegetables is completely cooked to mush until the vegetables can no longer be identified and covered with spices and sauce while swimming in oil. The taste of the food can be great, but don’t expect to shed kilos, especially if you’re not cycling the length of the country.
  • Delhi Belly. It’s all true and it’s going to happen, so don’t stress about it or let it put you off coming to India. Drink lassi’s or buttermilk (gross) to help. The fried oily breakfasts don’t really help and alternatives are hard to come by. However, it is more uncomfortable than it is cycle stopping. You can generally keep your insides inside between toilet breaks or hotels (in our case anyway).

What’s it worth:

  • Everybody will tell you that India is super cheap, but you can spend as much as you want to. One night in a hotel can cost you INR 250 but you will be sharing with some bed bugs and a few cockroaches. INR 2000+ will get you AC, wifi, clean sheets and a flat screen TV. Always check about, as quality and price can vary considerably. A cheap roadside lunch will be INR 500 and you will have so much food, you won’t be able to move. If the restaurant is fancy (ie- has cutlery), you can spend INR1200 for roughly the same food. A bottle of drinking water (1 litre) should be INR 15 but we have paid up to INR 50. Exchange rates at the time of writing are GBP£1=INR 85, AU$=INR 50. We have spent approximately INR 2000 per day.

Top Tips:

  • As usual, couch surf. It is the local people of India that make it great, and not so much your waiters and luggage carriers from your hotel.
  • Go to Fort Kochi if you’re looking for a little European influence to your day.
  • Search for hotels along the route by typing ‘hotel’ in the search bar on Google Maps.
  • Eat fruit you can peel (ie bananas and oranges) over apples as the skin might not be clean. Don’t drink tap water.
  • Find a Bollywood scout in Colaba, Mumbai and be an extra in a movie. You get paid for it (INR 500) and it takes a full day. Ask some concierges at posh hotels if they have any contacts.
  • Do a tour at Dharavi slum through reality tours, it is the only way you can enter and is another world completely. (INR 500)
Cincopa WordPress plugin
TownKM'sNightsWhere we slept
Fort Kochi531Guest House
Thrissur802Couch Surf
Calicut502Couch Surf
Panaji402Couch Surf
Near Rajapur (NH17)711Hotel
Near Pali (NH17)661Hotel
Navi Mumbai1381Hotel
Bandra West2821Couch Surf

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