My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India)
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Understand
Kochi (also known as Cochin) is the Tampa, FL of India - it's an endless array of strip malls and suburbs and villages that span across the many islands and peninsulas separated by waterways. Kochi is India but with more space, fewer crowds and less pollution. However, this is still India and the unique Indian smells, sounds, and lights still dominate.
Kochi enjoys a tropical climate that is influenced by a strong, wet monsoon May - October and mostly dry days November - April. March and April tend to be the hottest months.
Like the rest of India, Kochi is very affordable. Uber rides rarely cost more than $2 (even for long rides, the exception being the $10 airport ride). Good local food can be had for $2 or less and hotels are pretty cheap as well.
The Kochi Wikitravel entry is written by some exuberant locals and isn't really helpful, as it drowns in information that isn't relevant.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Get Around
Traffic is typically Indian, with the horn the most important accessory of any car. Roads are well-paved and traffic usually rolls along gently. Despite its low population density (low for India), the city has embarked on a huge metro building project that has already partially opened and goes along most major city roads as a skytrain. It is cheap, air-conditioned and a great way to avoid traffic if you go along its routes.
Ola is the local version of Uber but you need an Indian mobile number to register (I did not buy a SIM myself). Uber has a big user base here and rides are cheap but I could not find a reason to use it.
Sidewalks do exist in Kochi but are constantly interrupted by construction, trash or parking.
So you end up walking on the roads that are not illuminated and traffic is crazy enough without pedestrians. Do yourself a favor and Uber even it is just a 10-minute walk, especially at night.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Safety
India is typically a safe country and so is this city. Crime is low and almost never violent. The cases of sexual violence are tragic but must be seen in the context of the medieval state of relationships and the sheer number of Indians.
Traffic is dangerous and there are generally no working seatbelts in most Ubers. Avoid motorcycles and tuk-tuks if you can.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Connectivity
T-Mobile's Simple Choice offers free roaming in India (1.5G speeds). Skyroam worked for me too. Free WiFi is rare in restaurants or coffee shops but hotels usually offer fast connections (10 Mbit or more). Kochi sits on top of a number of deep sea cables to the Arabian peninsula, helping it deliver fast Internet speeds.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Pollution
The state of Kerala has some of India's cleanest air. However, pollution near the roads is a major issue, with old diesel trucks and buses being the biggest offenders.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Sights
The Fort Kochi area is a global tourist sight. The fort was built by the Portuguese to control access to the natural harbor and was later taken over by the Dutch. The fort itself is mostly in ruins but several adjacent buildings have been restored and a full tourist industry has sprung up.
The Fort Kochi area is an extension of the local villages and is now a touts paradise; you will be offered everything under the sun when you walk the Kochi beach area around the fort. I found it a bit intimidating.
The Indo-Portuguese Museum
This small museum next to Bishop's House in Fort Kochi hasn't much of an exhibition but the entrance fee is just INR 25 and the area is beautifully gardened and a nice retreat from the touts.
Pepper House is a beautiful colonial house in Fort Kochi with a pretty garden. The area features a design exhibition, shop, and cafe, where they serve a very average espresso. It's a good stop where you can sit down from your excursion.
I expected a resemblance to Mumbai's Marine Drive but this is a place for big (ugly) office buildings and a huge market area using the small side streets. There is plenty of local life to admire but the many motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and cars barreling through the crowds and stalls are just intimidating and make it hard to enjoy it properly.
Centre Square Mall
This modern mall embodies upscale shopping in Kochi. It is expensive by any standards but a great place to ogle different brands and cool down on a hot day.
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Eat & Drink
Alcohol is sold here like Methadone is in the US, from shops that would make most US prisons look good. Expect a barren shack with trash piling up in front and behind, with a line of men waiting in the dark. I guess it helps to reduce alcohol consumption!
Hotels have bars though and alcohol isn't expensive. Most hotel bars close between 9.30PM and 10PM.
Keep in mind that lunch hours are from 11.30AM - 3PM and dinner is from 6.30PM - 9.30PM. These are strictly enforced and walking into a restaurant a minute after 3PM will get you a mob of people yelling and running at you in most places.
The Grand Hotel has a reputation for great food. When I walked in at 3PM, I was escorted out by a group of resolute waiters and wasn't even able to see the menu.
Gokul Oottupura serves vegetarian Indian dishes with a warm heart. I loved the many dosa variants as well as the naan and roti (all made fresh) but I wasn't as happy with the curries. The menu can be a bit confusing but just order a few items.
It's just $1 per order and the curries are $3. The staff are incredibly kind and will help you even if they don't understand a word. Food heaven!
Punjab House is another homestyle local favorite that serves South Indian vegetarian cuisine at lunch and dinner (the hours are strictly enforced). The chapati and curry I got were really good and it cost under $2 for a huge meal.
Kashi Art Cafe
Kashi Art Cafe is the place of choice to sit down for a drink or food near the Fort Kochi area. I found the grilled chicken underwhelming and expensive. However, there are (seemingly) good cakes, fresh juices and free WiFi.
Dal Roti gets good reviews and is likely the best food in the Fort Kochi area. Don't be late, though, or be escorted out by a yelling mob after 3PM!
My Favorite 12 Things to do Kochi (Kerala, India) - Where to Stay
I tried the Radisson Blu Kochi and Le Méridien Kochi. I like the Le Méridien more for its resort style and decent location.