So you’re backpacking around South India, and you’re going from…
How to get from Madurai to Cochin by taking an overnight bus
aka how to get to Fort Cochin, to Ernakulam, to Kerala!
You might also take this bus to go from Madurai to Alleppey!
The quick list:
- Buy your bus ticket
- Arrive at bus departure point in Madurai
- Get on the bus
- Enjoy the bus ride! (And SLEEP!)
- Get off the bus at Cochin drop-off point
- Find a rickshaw to take you to your hotel!
- Visit Fort Cochin!
Buy your bus ticket
Arrive at bus departure point in Madurai
Get on the bus
Enjoy the bus ride! (And SLEEP!)
Get off the bus at Cochin drop-off point
Find a rickshaw to take you to your hotel in Fort Cochin!
Visit Fort Cochin!
How long does the bus ride take?
So just to give an idea, these were the bus timings when I took this bus:
- 9:00pm – Depart from near Madurai bus station
- 2:45am – Stop for break at road-side rest area (15 minutes)
- 5:30am – Arrive at Ernakulam bus stop
So to get from Madurai to Cochin, it was about an 8.5 hour bus ride.
The timings listed on the bus ticket:
- 9:00pm – Depart Madurai
- 5:15am – Arrive Cochin (Ernakulam)
How much does the overnight sleeper bus cost?
I paid 840 rupees (US$12) for my Madurai to Cochin bus ticket.
What about a Madurai to Cochin train?
There are trains from Madurai to Kerala, and this includes Madurai to Cochin.
The Ernakulam train station is the main train station of Cochin you’ll be looking to get off at.
Similar to the train to Alleppey though, the arrival timing to Cochin isn’t great.
The scheduled arrival timings for the 2 trains to Ernakulam are 12:05am and 3:30am. (And if the train is delayed, which is very possible, the timing could be even later.)
When you’re headed to Cochin from Madurai by bus…
So you have a few options to get from Madurai to Cochin.
Which option you’ll want to go for will depend on your travel preferences and how comfortable you want to be during your overnight trip.
For me, I wanted:
- AC bus
- single space
AC vs non-AC on overnight bus
I generally don’t mind traveling on a non-AC bus during the day.
Even if it’s hot outside, open windows on non-AC buses means that it’s a mostly manageable temperature during the bus ride.
But at night, since I would like to increase my chances of being able to sleep, I prefer to have closed windows so I won’t be bothered as much by outside noises.
Traveling with closed windows also means you’re exposed to minimal dust and pollution during the bus ride.
If you’re not bothered by these things, then you might further consider a non-AC bus for your overnight trip to Cochin, and there will generally be more buses available too.
Another ideal “requirement” for me when traveling overnight by bus is to be able to lay down.
Once again, there are more options (and it’ll be cheaper) if you don’t mind being in a (nearly) upright position all night.
There are regular seats on overnight buses that do have the ability to recline somewhat.
But I’d still prefer to be completely flat!
Single vs double
Some buses allow you to book a double sleeper seat or a single sleeper seat.
If you’re traveling with a partner, then you’ll probably prefer to book the double.
But since I was traveling alone, I didn’t want to be sleeping directly next to a complete stranger, so I prefer to book a single.
Single sleeper seat
Double sleeper seat
How to buy bus tickets to go from Madurai to Cochin
So once you’ve decided how comfortable you want to be during your overnight trip, you can then see if there’s your preferred seat available for your travel date!
I used redbus to book my overnight bus ticket to Kerala.
It’s also possible to buy bus tickets through a travel agency when you’re in Madurai.
You’ll find a ton of private bus company offices at the Omni bus stand in Madurai, near the Mattuthavani bus station which is a major bus terminal in Madurai.
Booking redbus tickets
If your search comes up empty, you might have to select another “Cochin” option.
When I was buying my bus ticket, I had to be sure my destination was just “Cochin” instead of “Cochin/Ernakulam.” There were no buses listed for the destination Cochin/Ernakulam.
So once you put in your departure and arrival points, you’ll get a list of bus options.
This may include both government bus options, as well as private bus companies.
You can take a look at what your government bus options are (TNSTC), as this will likely be the cheapest option.
TNSTC = Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation. Keep your expectations low for “ultra deluxe” government buses!
You can click on each of the options, and it’ll show you the type of seats so you can check.
For Madurai to Cochin buses, these will be regular seats you’ll get on a government bus.
Since I was going for a sleeper seat, government bus wasn’t an option for this bus journey for me, so I was looking at the private bus options.
I generally don’t pay attention to a specific bus company or the reviews, and I’ll mostly just go for the seat type as a determining factor. (Many of the bad reviews seem to be “bus was late.”)
So you can click on each option to see what seats are available here too.
This is where you’ll also select your seat.
You can choose between lower berth and upper berth.
I try to go for lower and towards the front as much as possible, as I feel the bus ride will be less bumpy this way.
Once you select your seat, you’ll be prompted to choose a boarding point in Madurai.
The best way to know which location is closest to you is really just to use Google Maps to try to figure it out.
In the case of this bus from Madurai, it could also be easiest to board the bus at the starting location, even if another pick-up location is closer to you.
I boarded at the first point, called the Omni bus stand that is located near the Mattuthavani bus terminal. The Mattuthavani bus station is one of the main bus stations in Madurai.
This ended up being a little further from my hostel than another location I could have chosen (like the Periyar bus stand), but I still felt good about choosing to board at the Omni bus stand since it seemed like there’d be a good chance that there was a company bus office here.
Then you’ll be prompted to choose a drop-off location in Cochin.
Once again, it could be best to just use Google Maps to determine which stop you want to get off at.
Since Cochin wasn’t my final destination (I was heading straight to Alleppey from Cochin), I chose Ernakulam as my drop-off location.
Ernakulam is where you’ll want to go to catch an onward bus or train from Cochin.
There’s the Ernakulam bus station and the Ernakulam train station.
If you’ll be staying in Fort Cochin, it seems like you’ll choose Thoppumady.
On my bus, the last stop ended up being Ernakulam, and I’m guessing that’s because there was no one on the bus that selected Thoppumady as the drop-off location.
So if Fort Cochin is your destination, just be sure to select the corresponding spot! Although this won’t drop you immediately in Fort Cochin, it’ll be the closest.
But even if you do end up at a bus stop in Ernakulam, it won’t be too big of an issue to get to Fort Cochin by rickshaw! (There is Uber in Cochin, but I’m not sure what the early morning access is like!)
And then, once you’ve selected your drop-off point, you’ll fill out your info!
I was able to put in my US number (although they didn’t send any notifications to it).
I was also able to pay using my US credit card.
When I used redbus to book another ticket a few weeks prior, it did require a second attempt, as the first attempt was declined by my credit card company as potentially suspicious behavior.
So if your foreign credit card doesn’t work, check your text messages and email to see if this is the case.
Then, once the booking went through, I received 2 emails.
One was from redbus…
And then another one seemed to be specifically for the bus company I booked with. (SPS Travels)
All you’ll need is these emails on your phone to board the bus. You don’t need a printout.
I took a screenshot of both emails for easy access later on.
Arrive at bus departure point in Madurai in evening
SPS Travels booking office
So the bus company I went through was SPS Travels.
They have an office in Madurai at the Omni bus stand, and that’s where my boarding point was.
Again, this was near the Mattuthavani bus station, a major bus terminal in Madurai.
The Omni bus stand seems to be a major bus terminal for private bus companies.
I took a rickshaw to get there, and the driver seemed to immediately know Mattuthavani, as well as where the private bus companies depart from.
Once you turn onto the street with all the private buses, there’s a row of buses on one side, and a row of shops or offices for the different bus companies on the other side.
In the booking e-mail, it said that the departure point was “shop number 15” at the Omni bus stand.
So once on the street, it was a matter of looking for #15!
There are numbers located right on the signs.
So once I got to shop number 15, I went inside the SPS Travels office to confirm the bus and that I was in the right spot.
Then, I waited until it was time to get on the bus.
There’s a little waiting area inside, but it’s likely cooler outside.
There are a number of chairs, although it might be difficult to find an open spot.
You can also buy snacks and water for your bus ride at this bus stand.
And there’s also a toilet at the Omni bus stand.
Is Madurai safe at night?
At the time I was leaving, around 9pm to 10pm, and in the area I was, it was very lively with tons of people around.
This included men, women, children, and families.
So for traveling at this time in the evening, I really don’t think there’s much of a concern in terms of night safety.
Getting on the bus to Cochin and to Kerala!
Once it’s around 10-15 minutes before the scheduled departure time, you might want to go back into the office to see if it’s time to get on the bus yet.
I did so, and then I was pointed directly across from the office, where I could get on the bus.
So once it’s time…
Get on the bus!
You can find your seat number on the bus ticket, and then look for the corresponding seat number on the bus.
I couldn’t fit my suitcase under the seat like my overnight bus to Madurai, so I left it in the aisle. I wasn’t the only one doing this so I felt okay about it!
Some buses have a luggage storage compartment under the bus, and I’m not sure if this bus did or not.
I was also traveling with a backpack, which came with me to my seat. (Always keep your valuables nearby!)
On this bus, you could control whether the air blows on you, in case you get a bit cold or hot.
Outlet for charger
Sleeper buses also generally have an outlet for you to charge your phone or other devices.
But… this one didn’t seem to work for me.
I have successfully used the outlet on other buses though.
And then once the bus has departed Madurai…
Try to SLEEP!
The bus stopped once at a rest area that I noticed during this bus ride.
During this rest time, you can buy some water and small snacks, and you can also use the bathroom.
This stop was at a little road-side area, at around 2:45am.
This was around a 15 minute stop.
The toilet was okay.
Arrival in Cochin!!
Since there are several stops in Cochin, you can ask the driver or other bus worker to know when your stop is.
Once I got off the bus in Ernakulam, I was immediately approached by a rickshaw driver.
And from there, I got a ride to the Ernakulam bus station to get on a bus to Alleppey!
Or if you’ll be spending a few days in Cochin…
Explore Fort Cochin!
HAPPY MADURAI TO COCHIN BUS RIDE!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
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Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!