Those who like exotic holidays in Goa are interested in exotic corners of our planet and can not live without the sun, the sea and palms and would have surely heard of the “cult” tourist place, like Goa. I got there with the goal of “shaking up” my life, to see and feel what I would not be able to at home or in its vicinity.
Goa is an excellent place not only for recreation but also for spiritual zeroing and searching for your life vector. We went on our own, so I decided to write an instruction which can be helpful to people traveling in a similar way.
Goa – A paradise in a distant and mysterious India
Goa is the smallest state in India, stretching out on its south-western coast. More than a hundred kilometers of coastal area is occupied by countless beaches, washed by the waters of the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean.
On one side, Goa shares border with the state of Maharashtra, whose capital is the picturesque city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and on the other hand, with the state of Karnataka (all over the world it is said to be the homeland of a nomadic tribe called Gypsies).
The capital of Goa is the city Panaji (Panjim) and the largest city of Goa is Vasco da Gama. In 1510, Athos d’Albuquerque conquered this area and today this family is among the top in Goa.
Goa does not look like the rest of India and radically differs from it in some ways. This is probably due to the fact that from 1543 to 1961 this territory was a Portuguese colony, which is reminiscent of many things, beginning with religion (98% of the population of Goa profess Catholicism) and ending with architecture (houses with high roofs). Despite this, the Indians are able to preserve their identity, culture and customs.
How to reach Goa (direct flights or sightseeing via Delhi and Mumbai to Goa)
There are several ways to get to Goa, direct charter flights and regular flights from Moscow and other cities by Russian airlines such as Transaero and Aeroflot. You can use the services of foreign air carriers such as Qatar, Sultan Air, Air Arabia, Emirates etc. with usually one or two layovers at their international airports in Doha, Sharjah, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The direct flight takes approximately 7.5-8 hours and the aircraft arrives at the recently opened (in 2013) Goa International Airport under the sonorous name Dabolim.
I was not afraid to fly with a layover, I personally prefer to fly Emirates with a transfer but with a funky service and comfortable planes than a whole day huddling in the old Boeing of some of the Russian airlines.
Photo: Children on Goa
From Delhi and Mumbai to Goa by domestic airlines
Near the international airport is the old airport, which carries out domestic transportation and also serves the military air transport of India.
If you want to make a real trip to India and see the most colorful of its cities, you can fly to the airport of Mumbai or Delhi, and from there get local airlines to Dabolim. The cost of a ticket from Delhi to Goa is around $70(5000 INR) and from Mumbai to Goa about $40-50(3000 INR). You can travel locally through “tuk-tuk” (Asian taxi, usually 4 or 2-seater). You can also use the ground transport by train or sleeper bus (externally it is an ordinary bus but inside it is similar to a reserved car of Russian trains and there are 1 or 2 beds).
From Mumbai to Delhi by train
From Mumbai, you can reach Goa by train. You need to get in at Victoria Central Station or at Dadar Station, tickets can be bought from the ticket windows at the station to Tivim. From Tivim, you can get to the hotel by local bus, taxi or tuk-tuk. A taxi driver or bus driver will call out the name of the area in the North or in the South of Goa, usually the name of the beach or the name of the hotel or guesthouse and you can go accordingly.
The price of tickets for a sleeper bus from Victoria or Dadar stations in an air-conditioned bus is about 600 Rs(about $10). If you are limited in means, you can take a ticket without a seat for 50 rupees and if you are lucky, you do not have to pay 100-200 rupees for the journey by train. Travel time is 10-12 hours but the main thing is not to oversleep the station of Tivim because then the train goes without making stops in this state and you have to return from Bangalore or Chennai after traveling for almost 24 hrs at the best. So do not sleep or if you do, make sure to set your alarm clock.
From Delhi, it takes about 40 hours by train to the same station Tivim. Tickets for the train can be bought at the railway station of New Delhi of the Northern Railways, which is across the road from the Delhi district of Paharganj, which is known to all travelers and drivers of the capital. The ticket price is about 3000 Rs (about $50) and for the same price, you can buy a ticket for the sleeper bus, which will take you to the market in Mapusa(the unofficial capital of North Goa) or to the central bus station of Panaji (official capital of Goa).
Goa: Visa process
Get a visa in Goa i.e. in India and it is quite simple. If you are going via a tour, then the tour operator will do everything on their own(this is included in the cost of the tour) and you are required to fill out a questionnaire at the office of the travel agency and provide 4 passport-size photographs. I did so and after 5-7 working days (it depends on your tour operator), I received my passport with a visa and left for Goa on the same day. It is also easy to get a visa on your own and for this you need to get to the Consular Section of the Embassy of India in the country where you live and fill out a questionnaire, pay a visa fee (about $30) and give a photo and within 5-7 working days the visa will be ready. The difference is that in the first case you will be issued a tourist visa of no more than 60 days.
North Goa or South Goa What to choose ?
The state of Goa is conditionally divided into three parts, the North, the South and the center (or the old Goa). The Zuari river is considered the conditional boundary of the north and the south. Central Goa consists of the Panjim metropolitan area which is the eponymous capital of the state and a historical area with waterfalls.
Holiday in North and South Goa is different, although it is closely connected with the ocean and the beach. Let’s understand which option is best for you.
South Goa, a satiety-relaxed place
If you are a fan of a calm, sedate, measured and expensive holiday, all inclusive, then you certainly need to go to South Goa. On southern beaches (for example, Palolem) there are luxurious 5-star hotels like Raddison White Sands and Hilton. Beautiful hotels are expensive but also very comfortable. Prices in good hotels in the south start from approximately $150-200 per night and you can choose a cheaper option but before you do that, see the reviews and pictures on exploragoa.com. Also, you can rent comfortable bungalows for 4-6 people, located 100 meters from the surf line at a cost of $100 per night.
In the south, you will be offered with the highest class spa and Ayurvedic treatments and tour operators will provide you individual excursions and tours in Goa. In my opinion, southern Goa will not let you understand the atmosphere of India and very few hotels will be different from most hotels everywhere else in the world.
The most famous beaches here are Miramar, Boghmalo, Palolem, Dona Paula and Majorda. A distinctive feature of the erratic southern beaches is compactness (almost all beaches are divided into bays) and of course, calm surroundings and comfortable services. This is an ideal place for a family holiday.
Popular Place of South Goa
- Palolem Beach
- Agonda Beach
- Tambdi Surla
- Balaji Temple
- Old Goa Churches
- Dudhsagar Falls
- Grand Island (Bat Island)
- Galgibaga Beach
- Spice Plantation
Activities in South Goa
North Goa – Drive, noise, fun and youth
North Goa is a noisy, cheerful and a relatively inexpensive place, a cult place for hippies. It is believed that it was here that the concept of “downshifting” was born and there are more downshifters than tourists. Downshifter is a person who leaves the noisy megacities, sacrifices certain material values and conveniences for free and spiritual harmony. Such people live by renting an apartment (where they lived before) and earn through freelancing or through local work. There are fewer hotels in North Goa than in South Goa and small budget hotels which are 2 or 3-star are more popular here. Apart from hotels, a lot of houses can be rented independently – guesthouses, rooms, apartments. North Goa is full of life and not a single day goes by without parties, there is not one moment when you will be bored and not a single day will be spent in just your hotel room! A bonus(though for specific people), there are many Russian-speaking citizens, the same downshifters who will gladly help you solve any issue, problem and help with advice.
Popular Place of North Goa
- Chapora Fort
- Fort Aguada
- Arambol Beach
- Goa State Museum
- Dona Paula
- Mangeshi Temple
- Balaji Temple
- Baga Beach
- Vagator Beach
- Arvalem Waterfalls
- Anjuna Beach Flea Market
- Mapusa Market
- Bodgeshwar Temple
- Naval Aviation Museum
Popular Things to do Activities in North Goa
- Adventure Boat Activities
- Paintball in Mapusa
- Watersports at Baga Beach
Hindus – religion, habits, features of the nation, rules of conduct
Hindus (or Indians) – The people are sympathetic, kind, smiling and inquisitive. Be prepared for the fact that in the market, in a shop, in a taxi, in a hotel, you will be asked what your name is, where do you belong, how long have you been in India, India for you, what you did last night and what your profession is. This will not be bothersome but sometimes it will become intrusive and in such cases, answer evasively, with a smile – people will immediately fall behind. Indians, unlike Thais, do not dislike tourists – they are always happy to come to rescue, suggest advice or help with anything.
As it is customary, Indians have large families, one house can contain up to 10 members and even more relatives with grandparents and young families with children. That’s why in India, surrounded by so many people you will feel safe. Even if something unpleasant happens, you will immediately have a crowd of defenders who will stand up for you.
They have a clearly expressed patriarchal system of society and the head of the family is a man, a woman can still work if she wishes. Even if they are sitting at home with children, they can conduct any activity. An absence of children in families, divorce, etc is a very rare thing here. The biggest benefit is the knowledge of English, almost 90% of the inhabitants of all age groups know the English language well enough and they will understand you well, so they will be able to communicate with sufficiently good pronunciation.
Do not be surprised at the abundance of cows everywhere, on the streets, beaches, sleeping under the windows or on the porch, like cats, because the cow in India is a sacred animal and it can not be harmed, screamed at or God forbid beaten. According to Hindu mythology, after the creation of man, Lord Brahma created a cow because it is sacred and the bull which is considered as the other half of the cow, is a fighting animal of Lord Shiva, one of the most revered Hindu Gods. Dogs, are also present in quite a number here but cats are a rarity.
The inhabitants of Goa like all of India are very religious – they start their day with prayer, there are a large number of Gods who are worshiped(according to the most common belief – 33 crore Gods). The most important and supreme are Brahma (creator), Vishnu (keeper) and Shiva (destroyer), which form Trimurti. It is noteworthy that 98% of Goa’s population are Catholics. In each house, you can see a crucifix, pictures with sketches from the bible, portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. But this does not prevent them from combining these two religions – before dinner, they thank God for food by praying, and before making a decision they praise Ganesha, the god of wisdom and prosperity.
All Hindus believe in karma and reincarnation – what is meant to be, will happen. If a person is born poor, he must bear his karma and not grumble but work out his sins and be reborn in the next life as a rich man.
The sight of the merchants is interesting, they cheer up, please the first buyer and are ready to make a huge discount, if only you buy the goods from them. They believe that by doing so, they will attract good luck and it will boost their trade. That’s why get ready for the market early in the morning and go right after it’s opened and for a penny you can buy a lot of interesting things! Well, of course, bargain!
Trade in India is an art. Know the real price of the goods and boldly stand on it even if the original price is 10 times higher. Of course, bargain with a smile on your face, joke and be supportive of the merchants. There is another thing to keep in mind, for certain food items and goods that have a price tag i.e. fixed value, you can’t bargain on them. Another thing, Indians are quiet and live a measured way of life. Being the complete opposite to Russians, they are in no hurry, do not fuss, the principle of their life is “If something is bound to happen, then it will.” In their presence, it is not worth shouting or waving hands because for them it is not only a sign of a bad tone but also a possible threat to them.
For girls, there is a separate advice, if possible, do not go to the beaches or to any other places unaccompanied (friend, girlfriend, parents, husband) because for Indians, Caucasian girls are the standard of beauty. Everything would be fine, but in addition to admiring glances and photographing on mobile phone stealthily, you may be approached and asked to touch you and if you allow one person then get ready for a crowd of such people who will immediately come up to touch your arms, shoulders and will keep taking photos with you. Keeping off from them will be a very difficult task. So do not go alone or immediately let them know that you do not want any contact.
Of course, there is a downside to the medal of Indian hospitality and there are chances of petty cheating, deception and greed for money, especially large sums. Therefore, do not carry a large amount of money with you and certainly never show them.
Do not warm up or get deceived even in small things because you will be tried everywhere, therefore, always be on the alert and do not succumb to money provocations of any kind. Before you take a picture of a person make sure to ask permission from them. Do not touch the sages with your left hand, it is considered unholy. Here, people have a very particular perception of time and space and 10 minutes turn into 2 hours and 2 steps into a kilometer.
Hotels, Guest houses, Holiday Homes, Private apartments
In North Goa, a number of houses are offered for rent. Independent houses i.e. 2bhk with all the amenities will cost $250, apartments with 1bhk and all the amenities will cost around $150-200 and guesthouse rooms will be available from 700 Rs per night.
South Goa is full of expensive hotels such as Raddison and Sheraton but if you know where to look or where to go, you can find a lot of nameless guest-houses. We lived in a bungalow on the shore costing 300 Rs a day. The conditions are spartan but being right on the ocean smoothes out all these shortcomings. You can search cheapest Holiday Home on Rental homes Goa website. If you are in Calangute There are many Cheapest Guest house available near the beach starting from Rs. 1500 – 3000 per day.
Vehicles for rent
The primary mode of transportation in Goa is motorbikes (scooters), car and conventional taxis. The cost of renting a car will vary from its brand and the length of the period you want it. Typically, the cost is from 500 to 1000 Rs per day and 12,000 – 15000 a month. Most of the cars are mechanical so before you rent a car, carefully check all its functions, take a picture of it so that when you return it, there are no claims from the owner.
The cost of renting a scooter or motorbike starts from 5000 to 7500 per month and bikes like the Royal Enfield Bike will cost Rs 12000 – 14000. For group tourist its better to hire a Tempo traveler in Goa
You can rent the vehicles from anywhere near your hotels or guesthouse or can get help from taxi drivers. To rent a vehicle, you only need to give the required amount of money to the owner a month in advance, documents will not be required (maybe they will ask for a copy of the passport). I would like to tell a fact that there are a lot of cows in India and they are everywhere, in the yards, near cafes, on beaches and of course, on the roads, which creates considerable inconvenience to drivers. Therefore, be careful when driving and in no case get involved in accidents with the cow because the locals can interpret this as an insult to them and their religion.
Photo: Tales in India
Food, cafes, supermarkets, juice, alcohol and their prices
In northern Goa, there are three large supermarkets with relatively good items to buy. These are Savitri, Oxford, Orchard and a store called the Family Supermarket. The last three are located in the Anjuna beach area and the first one is at the intersection of Chapora-Vagator. All of them except Savitri accept credit cards for payment.
A network of pizzeria “Dominos pizza” is distributed throughout the state, which brings your order to the house. To do this just call them, list what you need and wait for 15 minutes to get your order delivered. The pizza is very tasty and satisfying and the cost of one large pizza is 600 Rs (about $10). In addition, at a discount, you can be offered drinks, desserts, etc.
The prices in the stores are, a pack of juice for 70 Rs, a loaf of bread for 50 Rs, a package of milk for 10 Rs, eggs (10 pcs) for 70 Rs, 1 kg tomato for 60 Rs, sausage package for 120 Rs. By the way, in India, there is no buckwheat as it does not grow here. So if buckwheat is one of your favorite food, then we recommend that you grab this cereal with you. You can not ignore the local alcohol namely, the world famous dark rum “Old Monk”. Apart from being tasty, it’s quite cheap and a bottle of 0.7 L costs 100 rupees. Take this drink home (you can transfer up to 5 bottles across the border).
There are lots of cafes in Goa and it turns out that most of them are run by an entire family which usually have a guesthouse adjacent to the cafe. For example, the cult place “Mango tree” is always filled with classic rock music and serves excellent latte.
In South Goa, there are no big supermarkets and you have to rely on the hotel for everything you need. There are small shops with fruit and coffee shop called Cafe Coffee Day. Tourists eat mainly in hotels where they serve Indian and other cuisines.
You can not ignore the Juice Center or as the Russians are used to call it, Jusnya. This is a small shop where freshly squeezed juices and fruit salads are made and sold. Here you can order a glass of juice, fresh croissant with chocolate and a tasty and hearty snack.
Despite the general belief that India is a dirty country, where from every corner you can be attacked by a snake and you can get a million sores, in Goa, it’s not like that. There is no need to worry about snakes and it is necessary to follow the elementary rules of sanitary hygiene like drink only bottled water, wash your hands and avoid places with dubious food. The abundance of debris is due to overpopulation but in general, Indians are fairly clean.
Markets in Goa
In Goa, big fairs or markets are held twice a week, once on Wednesday and once a night from Saturday to Sunday. The day fair is called the Flea Market where people from all the nationalities and social strata are gathered ranging from traders, tourists, policemen, bandits, musicians, DJs, artists, filmmakers, famous and not very famous people. In short, all those who crave simple and unpretentious communication, acquiring some trinket from local traders, drinking cold beer, buying contraband or jewelry from precious stones, antiques up to 3000 years old can be seen everywhere. There is also a small Tibetan market, where they sell unusual jewelry, including silver.
Girls will love the numerous shops with clothes and shoes made of genuine leather the prices of which will be surprisingly low since you can easily buy a new beautiful sarafan in no more than 150 rubles.
The daily market is held on Wednesdays from early morning until sunset on the coast in Anjuna. This market is a kind of test for strength with a variety of goods and pressure from sellers and is one of its kind. If you doubt your strength, do not take a large amount of money with you because there are chances that you can spend everything here.
The second market is the Saturday night Market which is held on Saturdays which begins after sunset and ends shortly before dawn.
The main venue is an area called Arpora, near the track and there is a similar market near Baga beach. Here everything is the same as that at the day fair and the only difference is that there are rows with fast food, go-kart with go-karting, platforms with live music or DJ settings, a fire show and a tattoo master.
In the night market, there are more European sellers and accordingly, more quality and exclusive goods can be seen. In addition, in recent years, official dealers for the sale of motorcycles under the brand Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson have begun to appear. In addition to participating in night markets, these sale are arranged at a frequency of once a season and with the 5-7 day festival it attract fans of a particular bike brand who participate in motorbike-races, parade and invite those wishing to join their official group supported by local government. Also in these shows, you can buy the attributes of the corresponding bike brands.
Which famous people have been to Goa?
Probably no place on our planet has had as many creative people as Goa. Here, there is a possibility of meeting Russian actors, singers, politicians and public figures who come for a month or two to rest, relax, understand the essence of life and who live here in particular seasons waiting for long Moscow winters. Personally, we met a famous artist Dolphin, Bogdan Titomir, Alexander Surgeon who is the leader of the Russian bike movement called “Night Wolves”.
I got acquainted with the Russian actress Amalia who lives in an area called Badem. In 2010, in Goa, Sergey Solovyov shot a famous film “Classmates” in which he showed in great details all the charms of the Ida region beautifully. The most interesting thing is that as an extras, it was not necessary to do something concrete, but simply to be yourself. On the set of this film, we met the famous talented Russian actor Mikhail Efremov.
On the beach of Arambol in the jungle behind the Kalacha Beach is a Banyan, a tree under which according to legend, the participants of the great quartet of the Beatles meditated!
The Italian sculptor Jungle had carved the face of Shiva on a piece of stone and this creation can be seen on the beach of Vagator. Few of the famous people have been to this place which offers a tranquil environment that allows you to completely relax, lose the accumulated fatigue and negative energy and take from the universe new creative ideas and tune into the working mood.
To summarize, I want to say that for me, resting in Goa is a bit more than just a trip to the sea. This is getting into a completely different world, the principles of which are very close to me. Freedom, Me, Goa! Further, I will tell you about the beaches and excursions in Goa.