Depending on who you ask, the infamous boat to Port Blair is either the only real way to get to the Andamans or a hassle and a half. The truth lies somewhere in between. Andaman Shipping Office has boats from Chennai (₹2825 to ₹10,815, one to two monthly); Shipping Corporation of India departs from Kolkata (₹2776 to ₹10,766, scheduled monthly dates); and AV Bhanoji Rao, Garuda Pattabhiramayya & Co leaves from Visakhapatnam (₹2500 to ₹10,000, monthly). All arrive at Port Blair's Haddo Jetty.
Take sailing times with a large grain of salt – travellers have reported sitting on the boat at Kolkata harbour for up to 12 hours, or waiting to dock near Port Blair for several hours. With hold-ups and variable weather and sea conditions, the trip can take a day or two more than the projected travel time.
You can organise your return ticket at the ferry booking office at Port Blair's Phoenix Bay Jetty. Bring three passport photos, plus copies of your passport and visa. Updated schedules and fares can be found through the Shipping Corporation of India website (www.shipindia.com); otherwise enquire at Phoenix Bay’s info office.
Classes vary slightly between boats, but the cheapest is bunk (₹2500), followed by 2nd class (six beds, ₹5000 to ₹6500), 1st class (four beds, ₹8000) and deluxe cabins (two beds, ₹10,000). Higher-end tickets cost as much as, if not more than, a plane ticket. If you go bunk, prepare for little privacy and toilets that get…unpleasant after several days at sea.
Food (tiffin snack for breakfast, meal-on-a-plate thalis for lunch and dinner) costs around ₹150/200 per day for bunk/cabin class, though bring something (fruit in particular) to supplement your diet. Some bedding is supplied, but if you’re travelling bunk class bring a sleeping sheet. Some travellers take a hammock to string up on deck.
There is no ferry between Port Blair and Thailand, but private yachts can usually get clearance. You can’t legally get from the Andamans to Myanmar by sea. Be aware you risk imprisonment or worse from the Indian and Myanmar Navies if you give this a go.