Going ashore in Visakhapatnam, India

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam is located on the East Coast of India and it is the largest city of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. Its port is one of the largest in India, being the biggest natural harbor on the East coast. Going out of the port of Visakhapatnam is quite a challenge for any seafarer, but nevertheless a rewarding experience, especially for those in search of the real taste and flavors of India.
On board our HS Columbia, we visited the port of Visakhapatnam twice, during the months of November and December and each time we were able to go out for a few hours.
Inside the port, walking is not allowed, so the seafarers have to rely on the shuttle bus service – which must be called upon.
At the gate, the shore passes must be checked in three different places (at exiting and entering as well) – immigration office, custom office and security officer – and this process can last up to one hour, especially if you are part of a larger group.
As soon as you get out of the port, you have a wide display of transportation to choose from – taxis, motorbikes or rickshaws. Most of the drivers will ask a lot of money for a ride to the centre, but negotiation is in power and you should never agree to pay more than 20-25$ one way. Sometimes, they will ask the price in accordance with the number of passengers and they will accept 10-15$/per person, for a return ride, including 2-3 hours of waiting.

Visakhapatnam
If you have the time and curiosity, you can venture yourself into the city for 2-3 hours, but be sure not to miss the fish market, the open market and the central beach.
The fish market is the first thing you will see when your vessel approaches the pier because it is located opposite de port.

Visakhapatnam

It is also the first ‘thing’ you will smell when you reach the gate because it is at a walking distance fromit (a maximum 5- minute walk). The smell of fish – especially dry – combined with the smell of garbage is something you will never forget and probably never want to experience again.

Visakhapatnam
The best time of the day to visit the fish market is early morning. If you want to buy, or only to admire, you will find here a very wide display of fishes of all sizes and colours – fresh, dried or smoked – seafood and seaweed.

Most of the fish is sold directly from the fishing boats moored at the pier, but some is on display down, on the pavement, as well… a certainly not inviting image for the European eyes.

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam
The market is full of life in the morning, lots of vendors and buyers roam around, struggling to sell and buy at the most convenient prices, some argue and refuse the products just to accept them a few minutes later, after the price was cut or others leave the market screaming and threatening without buying anything. It’s just a very interesting show to watch, a very good place to admire and understand the locals and their struggles for everyday life. You can choose to be a part of it – and buy like anyone else, after negotiating – or you can accept the first price they will utter and miss all the fun. You will end up paying 25$ for a kilo of huge shrimps, when the real price is only 15 (or even 12) and you will still be content with it, knowing that in Europe, the price may be even double.

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam
After the fish market, you can move to your next destination – the open fruit market. The ride will take up to 15 minutes and it will offer you an incredible image of India. The traffic is a total chaos, lots of cars, motorbikes and auto rickshaws are struggling hard to find their way while people and cows are roaming around as well.

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

The horn is everything you will hear during the ride, the stronger the horn, the faster the car. But, relax! The journey is part of your adventure, so be sure to enjoy it because nowhere in the world you will see anything like this.
The open market offers a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, handicraft, traditional clothes and shoes, leather articles, souvenirs. These products are on display on wooden tables and carts, inside a close space – under a roof – or outside, directly on the pavement.

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam
If your time allows it, you can have a walk along one of the many beaches in town and even touch the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal (the closest beach is Radha Beach). Here you will find a lot of people – mostly young – having fun and socializing, lots of vendors and lots of piles of garbage as well. This is India. Interesting. Incredible. Amazing.

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Visakhapatnam

Useful Information:
– If you decide to buy fresh fish, you have to know that you are allowed to bring as many kilos as you want inside the port, you can even leave your bags at the gate and take them back after you visited the city;
– If you want to go to the open market – to buy fruits and souvenirs – you have to tell this to the driver and be sure that he understood it correctly. Otherwise, he will take you to the Mall and the last thing you want to see is a Mall with European clothes which are sold for incredibly high prices;
– In the open market, the prices are negotiable and the vendors are, sometimes, too pushy. If you do not want to buy anything, you have to be strict and determined, otherwise you will be followed everywhere by vendors – mostly kids – ready to offer you something you need, or you don’t.
– You will need local money to pay for your shopping – especially if you buy only a kilo or 2 of fruits. If you buy more, then you can negotiate and pay in dollars. In the fish market, some of the vendors will accept dollars, but only bills of 10, 20 or 50, preferably without giving you a change. So, if you want to buy only a kilo of something, be ready to pay a round amount of money for it or choose some more products in order to pay a round bill. To change money, you can ask the driver to take you to a an exchange shop in town.
– Everywhere around you, there are poor people begging for money. Most of them are kids, very poorly dressed, barefoot and skinny. Poverty is at home everywhere in India and it is very difficult to pretend not to see it. Giving money to the beggars may improve their life for a moment – for an hour or so – but it will not change it. If you want to give money to them, you have to know the risks you put yourself to. Giving money to one beggar will not put an end to the process, on the contrary, you will be surrounded by others, and others, until you have no other escape than run away or call the cops (we witnessed a scene like this). The beggars have no limit, they will become very pushy and demanding, harassing you and even hitting you, if you do not give them what they ask. If you want to contribute a little to the well being of the locals, be sure to buy only local products, souvenirs made by hand by the local artisans, beverages sold by people pushing carts – instead of buying them from the big shops (malls).

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