If you pick up a political map of India and try looking for Goa (without having any idea about where it is) then my bet is that you will not be able to find this state in the first go. This is because it is one of the smallest states in India, sandwiched between 2 large states of Maharashtra and Karnataka; with the Arabian Sea on the other side.
But what this state lacks in size, it more than makes up for it in terms of beautiful pristine beaches, old churches, portuguese influenced culture and numerous other things to see and do. Goa has all kinds of options for an enjoyable visit – you can have a good budget trip (stay and live for peanuts) or stay at a high-end resorts (have a super luxurious holiday). And you can never have enough of this place. Though I have been there 5 – 6 times, there are still numerous parts of Goa that I have to explore and many more things to see and do.
So here’s my take / recommendation on planning a holiday to Goa, but with a limited budget in mind.
- Planning the trip – There are numerous things to do in Goa so first decide on what are you looking for in your holiday.
– North Goa – If you are looking for a fun and frolic filled holiday including partying, hanging out amidst crowds, life etc then head to North Goa with its beaches – Baga, Calangute, Candolem, Anjuna etc. All the pubs, shopping, party shacks etc are around here.
– South Goa – If you want a quiet holiday, ie. be around the beach and away from the crowds then head to South Goa. Though this part is also getting crowded, it’s still quieter than North Goa and all 5 star hotels and resorts are here.
– Panjim – This is the state capital and you visit this for a city tour, markets, churches etc.
- Timing – Timing is very important if you are planning a trip to Goa. In Goa the tourist season starts from early – mid October to mid – end February and the peak season is Christmas and New Years. If you can, avoid these times for a visit as everything turns out to be very expensive. With Christmas and New Years being maniacal in terms of price. You can visit Goa in late September and end February when the weather is still good, there are lesser tourists and prices still reasonable.
- Getting There – Goa is pretty well-connected and you can reach here by any means of transport.
– If you book quite in advance then you can take a direct flight to Goa. The airport here connects both many domestic and international cities. From the airport you can take a pre-paid cab to your accommodation.
– You can take an overnight train from Mumbai and travel along the beautiful Konkan coast to reach Goa. This is personally my favourite way to travel as even before you reach you start seeing the beautiful landscape. While booking the train, there are various classes available – sleeper, 3AC, 2AC etc. My suggestion is, no matter how enticing the price seems, please do not book the sleeper class, it’s just not worth it. Book a 3AC and you will be fine. You can also book tickets at www.irctc.co.in or at www.makemytrip.com. From the station you can take a pre-paid cab to your accommodation. A cab can take 4 passengers, so if you are less than 4, look for people to share the cab and split the fare with.
– If the airfares are too expensive and the trains are full, then you can always take an overnight bus from all the major cities around Goa i.e. Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad and Mangalore. There are numerous buses available on these routes and there are options of AC and Sleeper buses too.
– You can also self drive to Goa.
- Stay – The prices of accommodation in Goa varies depending upon the kind of accommodation and the beach close to which you are staying. Apart from budget hotels, there are various options available and in terms decreasing prices are as follows – homestays, guesthouses, renting rooms in people’s houses and lastly huts / shacks on the beach. In case you are with a large group, you can also book a full villa / bungalow for the duration of your stay. In case you are travelling off-season you can negotiate with the hotels for a good discount. Before you finalize your stay here, please check on the ratings of the place, location, etc
- Getting around in Goa – Distances between places are quite a bit here, especially if you want to travel from North Goa to South Goa or vice-versa. So unless you are just staying at your hotel, you need to book some means of transportation –
– Renting cabs in Goa can be pretty expensive (as the cab drivers charge exorbitant amounts) but if you can’t drive then rent a cab and negotiate hard with the drivers. These drivers normally negotiate based on the actual places you want to see and the time that they will take you around for. Ask the hotel staff before hand on the price range that these drivers should charge normally.
– The best and the most economical way to explore Goa is on a motor-cycle (bike) that you can rent. You need to pay the rent for the bike and for the petrol. You also need a two – wheeler license for driving (even for bikes and they are very strict about this) and thoroughly check the bike before paying the person for it. Do note about Goa, that petrol is sold in old plastic bottles here.. 🙂
– You can also rent a car (in case you are more that two people) but driving in cars is slightly scary here as roads are extremely narrow and still allow both side traffic to ply on them.
– Local Buses are also available .
- Food & drinks – Goa again has numerous options available from basic and cheap food to high-end fine dining. Every beach has numerous shacks and based on what you want to eat, you can order and eat within your daily budget. There are also all kinds of cuisines available here.
Tips for the Trip –
- Goa is pretty safe if you take all precautions that you would take in any other place that you are not familiar with. Beaches are also safe till very late in the night but avoid deserted beaches / locations.
- Goa also has beautiful churches which a lot of people leave in favor of the beaches. So take the time and do visit some of these churches.
- Goa was a Portuguese colony for a long time and if you drive around you can still see the their influence in the old buildings, churches etc. Do drive a bit in the interiors too for some more such beautiful sights.
- Try all kinds of water sports at various beaches. There are options for diving / island camping, etc also available.
- Sample a local desert called “Bibinca” and the local cashew nuts.
- Always negotiate for everything and I mean “everything” .
- Also, beware of any kind of “too good to be true” schemes. The chances of them being a scam are very high.