Go Goa: ten practical things you need to know before your travel. No matter if this is your first or third travel to Goa, read the below! Some of these suggestions might help you to enjoy your trip even more than initially planned!
Goa is one of the most popular holiday destinations in India. The one that makes you dream about your vacation, beach, coconut trees, and relax, as well as some party time! For me, Goa is like a mini country within India. So green, less chaotic, cleaner. Its Portuguese influence from the past is visible nearly in every corner. For sure, it is a must-visit location when traveling to India. It is also an ideal domestic holiday spot. You can’t miss it. Simply, go Goa!
This week we returned from Goa. We spent amazing five days in the land of coconut trees and ocean breeze. Although it was a spontaneous travel decision, we had a perfectly unplanned itinerary which turned out to be one of my favorite trips within India.
I have traveled to Goa three times till now, visiting both the north and the south of the region, staying both in small offsite hotels and 5 stars resorts. My first trip to Goa happened in 2009. Then I returned there in 2013. It was amazing now to travel again after 8 years, seeing the changes and the evolution of the region. In fact, it was our first domestic travel outside of the Karnataka region since the pandemic. And another trip, after visiting Santorini, this year. An unforgettable trip!
We returned home a few days ago, and we know that we might be visiting Goa soon again! It is an addictive travel location! 🙂
Is it possible to travel now to Goa during the pandemic? Domestically within India: yes. Internationally: entry to India, including Goa, is very limited. Follow the below two links for the latest information, including potential changes regarding travel and entry restrictions:
- Government of Goa: Covid-19 Guidelines
- India – Ministry of Tourism: Travel and Visa restrictions related to COVID-19
When traveling domestically now, how is the pandemic currently (Sep 2021) impacting the travel?
- You need to be either fully vaccinated or provide a negative Covid test result (72h)
- Wearing a face mask is mandatory both in closed areas and outside
- Hotels are fully operational
- Shops are open
- Restaurants and bars are opened till 11 PM
- Night clubs and casinos are closed
Always check the latest guidelines to be fully aware of all the limitations, opportunities, and changes.
TEN PRACTICAL THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR TRAVEL
North vs South Goa
That’s the first key item when planning for the trip to Goa. Where are you heading? North or south of the region? How does it matter?
North of the region is known as the party and happening place. It has more crowds, discos, casinos, restaurants, and shacks on the beach. So if you want to have fun – visit the north! On the contrary, if you want to relax and spend more time in less crowded places and beaches, stay in the south of Goa. And don’t worry, restaurants and shops will be there but slightly less choice.
So, where would you like to travel? North or south?
I stayed twice in the south and once in the north. When we travel next, we will go to the south again!
A bit of Portugal
I find different cultures and their mix very fascinating. Goa is one of these places, where you can see Asia mixing with Europe, India meeting Portugal. Goa remained a Portuguese colony until 1961! Just imagine: 60+ years ago Goa belonged to Portugal? This influence is very visible in the region.
Traveling to Goa you will notice a lot of churches, ~30% of the population follows Christianity. A lot of buildings, residential and civil, in their architecture and style will make you feel like you are in Portugal. Goan music contains strains of Portuguese fado. Till today, a lot of first names and surnames are Portuguese. Last days in Goa, one of our taxi drivers was Alfonso! What else the Portuguese introduced in Goa? Potatoes, tomatoes, pineapples, and cashews. The Goan cuisine is so delicious!
Yes, this Asian-European mixture makes me love Goa even more!
When I visited Goa for the first time, back in October 2009, I remember I immediately noticed one thing: humidity. Goa is a very humid region. During the monsoon season (June to September), average humidity levels vary between 80-90%. It can get humid! In the remaining months of the year, it fluctuates between 60-70%.
What does it mean in practice? If you want to travel for a few days only, take clothes for each day. It is challenging to dry anything. During our last trip, we even carried 2-3 swimming costumes each. In the hotel room, whenever the balcony window got opened all was getting humid: tv screen, mirrors, floor. A few times, I had to do make-up without seeing myself well in the mirror! 😉
One of my favorite views in Goa is the coconut trees. There are so many! In Goa, coconut trees often form forests: be it by the seaside or the road path. The trees are native to the Goan region. It has about 25,000 hectares of coconut plantations, and it produces more than 124 million coconuts a year!
When you visit Goa, you need to try the local coconuts. Many of its aboriginal species are considered the sweetest in the world. Interestingly, some of Goa’s beaches are called with the names of its sweet coconut species! Which ones? Calangute or Benaulim. I was lucky to visit both places!
One more challenge for you during your travel to Goa! Try to climb a coconut tree! It seemed so easy when looking at the tree. In reality, it was a challenging climbing activity for me! Maybe you will manage to climb higher! Just be safe!
How are the Goan beaches? Usually very sandy and wide, surrounded by a few coconut trees or a forest of them. Some of the beaches are rockier or smaller. Goa has a coastline of 160 km, so there are many beaches to be discovered! You can find the ones that you will enjoy more. And of course remember, about the difference between the seaside in the north versus the south of Goa. Beaches on the north are more busy, crowded, full of restaurants and bars. In the south, you will find more peace and solitudine. Although, Colva or Varca beaches in the south of Goa are a bit crowded.
What to expect at the beaches of Goa? First of all, amazing sunsets! Secondly, don’t hope for crystal clear or turquoise water. That’s not Goa. The water is bluish, and depending on the wind – it might be calm or very wavy. If it is wavy, a red flag will be there. That’s when swimming is not allowed. On many beaches, you might find a lot of tiny holes in the sand. These are mini crabs. They are not dangerous, so don’t worry. It is just a unique thing. In Goa, you might also meet cows by the beach! And, don’t confuse with sharks – shacks!
By the way, both sharks and shacks can be found in Goa! If you are a non-vegetarian, try shark meat. Many restaurants in the south offer it. I am sure you will be a bit confused: am I eating fish or chicken? That’s the taste. Ok, back to shacks. What are shacks?
Shacks are little restaurants or bars by the beach. They are often temporary structures, with tables and chairs or sunbeds on the sand. Back in 2009, when we came to the Benaulim beach, a small shack got created overnight as we became the first customers after the rainy season. It felt so special! 🙂
Shacks became a symbol of Goa, an integrated part of the Goan beach experience. Some of the souvenirs from Goa represent shacks. Each year there are about 400 shacks set up to serve tourists and local people. Food and drinks in the beach shacks are usually at very affordable prices. If it is your first visit to India and you are concerned about potential tummy issues, try some local alcohol! It can help!
During my first trip to Goa, I was nicely surprised! The alcohol prices in Goa are low, both in the shops and at the restaurants or shacks. Interestingly, gin, whisky, rum, or brandy might cost less in the bar menu than a beer. What do I mean when I say that the prices are low? A shot of rum might cost you as little as 0.6 euro / $0.7, while whisky is 0.8 euro / $0.95. Yes, it is a perfect holidays spot!
Why are the alcohol prices so low in Goa? The region is not exempted from the taxes. However, the state government has decided to keep all such taxes low, increasing the touristic attractiveness of the place. That’s why, outside of the pandemic, you can find many foreigners on the Goan beaches! Once the pandemic restrictions are lifted – visit Goa and try one local alcohol: Feni!
Why do I suggest this article also for travelers who has been already to Goa? Because you never know what can you learn new about the place. Like me, only during my 3rd visit to Goa I discovered feni! What is feni?
Feni is a local alcohol produced in Goa. There are two types of it which are the most popular ones. The first one is the cashew feni, made from the cashew fruits. And the second one is the toddy palm feni.
In South Goa the feni is usually of higher alcohol content (43-45%) than the one produced in the north of Goa. In the shops you will find feni that is 42.8% abv.
How to drink it? There are many options. You can try it on the rocks, with Limca / Sprite or other juices. Feni is also a great base for many cocktails. The most popular one? Coco Bongo. Next time I want to try Patrao’s Coffee one! Another reason to return!
Hotel car rental
Goa is the smallest state in India. Driving the car from the north to the south end of Goa takes about 3.5 hours. The size of the region, its roads full of greenery and coconut trees, and very little traffic make it an ideal place for car rides! Do I recommend a car rental in Goa? Yes, but the “enhanced” version of it! 🙂
If you rent a car in Goa (or India) you will need to pay for the rental and the fuel. And be ready for the left-side driving. The positive side of Goa is less traffic, so fewer worries. One small potential challenge might be the internet / GPS connection which might not be stable.
Better idea: within the same price you can rent the car with the driver and pay only for the rental (petrol is included). What does it mean in practice? Last Sunday we rented at our hotel a family car with a driver (that fits 7 passengers plus driver). 8 hours rental costed about 2300rs (26.5 euro or $31) with the limit of 80km. Of course, you can drive more than 8 hours or more than 80km by paying a bit extra. Totally worth it!
An alternative for solo or couple travelers: scooter hiring! If you want to experience driving in India and feel the wind in your hair, go for the scooter hiring! Check at your hotel. They might be able to provide you one on a paid basis or connect you with the local rental shop.
For sure, riding a scooter might be easier than self-driving a car. It is also a cheaper solution. And the roads are ideal for it! Try to ride closer to the coastline road. The views are the best over there. If you are riding in two people, ask for the second helmet. Sometimes it is provided only to the driver. Safety first so that you can have a great time in Goa, chasing life’s moments!
Have you been to Goa? If yes, what surprised you the most? Which advice would you give to the travelers planning to visit the Goan state? And if you haven’t been to Goa yet, which thing out of these ten items was something new for you? I would love to hear your feedback. Sharing is caring!
Moments that matter, no matter if in Goa.