The climate here is tropical and temperatures remain in the 22-32C bracket all year round. But the annual monsoon brings heavy rain from mid-May to mid-September, making this period extremely unsuitable for beach holidays. The best season is late November to early May, when it's dry and generally not too windy. But recently late April has also been unreliable. Port Blair’s music and dance festival in late February can play havoc with reservations and timetables, while Havelock’s mela festival in January is also busy.
NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.
BY AIR: There are no direct flights but various major airlines fly to Mumbai (Bombay) and Chennai, from where you can get an internal flight to Port Blair with Go Air.
BY BOAT: There are government ferries and faster private catamarans from Port Blair to the major islands, though timetables are unpredictable and the services are slow. The most upmarket resorts can arrange private transfers in a chartered speedboat. There are also excursion boats, both government- and privately-run, to the minor islands.
On the islands you can hire a bicycle or, if the terrain is too hilly for you, a motorbike. Beware of the auto-rickshaws and taxis - they're overpriced, reluctant to use meters, and generally so unhelpful that the police have started issuing ‘Traffic Complaint’ cards for tourists to report the worst offenders.
The Andaman islands are part of India, so normal Indian visa rules apply. Unless you're a Pakistani, Bangladesh or Chinese national, you don't need to pre-arrange a special permit for the ‘mainstream’ Andaman islands; you're granted one free of charge on arrival at Port Blair (for a maximum stay of 30 days). However, in some Indian embassies, if you write on your visa application form that you'll be visiting the Andaman islands, they ask that you pre-arrange the permit through them and this can take up to 6 weeks; so it's worth only mentioning your mainland Indian destination/s.
If you want to visit remote islands, like Barren and Narcondam, you need a permit from the tourist office in Port Blair, and you can't normally land or stay overnight. For diving expeditions to these islands, the operator will sort out the paperwork. You're not allowed to visit restricted areas, including tribal reserves, naval bases and the whole Nicobar island group.
MONEY & TIPPING
Credit cards are not accepted anywhere outside Port Blair, so be prepared!
Many staff are paid very low salaries and expect to be tipped. In hotels and restaurants, 10% is normal. In other situations, where there is no bill, a few rupees will suffice.
The most common health problems for visitors are diarrhoea and sun-related problems. It's important to drink a lot of bottled water (tap water isn't safe to drink) and protect yourself from the sun. Also be aware of what, and where, you are eating. Choose fruits that you can peel and avoid fresh salads (or wash them yourself with purified water) and ice made from tap water. Be cautious of ice cream, cold milk and undercooked fish or meat. If you experience diarrhoea it's very important to replace lost fluids and, in the case of severe diarrhoea, lost minerals and salts (it’s a good idea to go prepared with some oral rehydration salts). If you become ill your hotel should be able to recommend a good local doctor. You may want to consider carrying an emergency treatment pack including needles and syringes.
It's important to seek medical advice at least 6 weeks before departure as some vaccinations may require more than one injection. Make sure you're up to date with vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are also advisable (note that the current vaccine against cholera offers very low protection and isn't usually recommended). Consider vaccinations against rabies and Japanese B encephalitis if you're planning to stay longer than a couple of weeks. Malaria is endemic in the Andaman Islands - your doctor will be able to advise you on appropriate medication. Insect repellent is essential; use one containing DEET.