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Goa in India is synonymous with holidays, fun, beaches, gorgeous girls, cheap booze and rejuvenation. But most of us are clueless about how to make the best out of 3 (or 4) day stay?
What are must-visit places, must-try cuisines, the best beaches, cheap yet convenient accommodation and the most efficient mode of transport? Worry not; the Goan Batman is here to help.
Q. What’s the hype about this puny state anyways?
A. Goa is a state roughly 43km x 86km (3700 sq km). Out of its total perimeter of about ~260 km, more than 120 km is coastline. Divided into two districts – South Goa and North Goa with district headquarters Madgaon and Panjim respectively, it is most famous for its 20+ beaches and its distinct Portuguese architectural style. It handles a disproportionate amount of foreign tourist traffic – being just 1/800th of India in terms of population and geographical size, it handles around 1/8th of the total foreign tourist arrivals in the country. It is the richest state in India in terms of GDP/capita – 2.5 times the national average.
Q. How do I get there? Does this place even have an airport?
A. Goa has one airport – Vasco-da-Gama, three railway stations (Vasco, Madgaon, Thivim) and two major bus depots (Panjim and Madgaon). It is well connected with all the major cities in India.
[TIP: To search for trains to Goa, enter “Madgaon (code: MAO)” in the destination station. There is no station called Goa.]
Q. Ok. I have decided to go to Goa. Now, help me with the packing please? Pretty please?
A. There are a few things you need to remember to pack if you are visiting Goa:
- The official footwear of Goa – a pair of sandals and a pair of beach slippers
- At least 3 pairs of shorts
- A couple of swimwear
- Shampoo and conditioner (the beach sand feels nice when you are in the sea, not so much when it’s in your hair afterwards)
- Sunscreen (Duh!)
- iPod/mp3 player + earphones (because music makes everything better)
- A book or two (for light reading on the beach, if you are a reader)
- A camera (You definitely want to capture all those moments, because you might not remember some of them)
- Portable (battery powered) speakers (if you stay up late at night because most of the places close down by 2am)
- Your driving license (transport is costly in Goa. The best, and cheapest, alternative is to rent bikes)
Q. I am just a student/just started working. I want to have a good time without spending much. How do I get the best deal without compromising on the quality?
A. You miserly bitch!
Let’s see. The major expenditures in Goa would be accommodation, transport and food (and drinks, if you do). Let’s assume you are a party of even number of people.
- Accommodation : If you visit Goa in the non-peak season i.e. March to October, you will find really good accommodation at a highly affordable price. Good hotels within a 1km radius of popular beaches like Colva and Calangute will charge you around 2000-2500 per room (double bed). With a little negotiation, you can get an extra mattress in the room to make it triple sharing.
Cost: 800/person/day = 2400 (for the 3 day stay)
- Transport : The cheapest way to travel and explore Goa is to rent bikes – taxis are exorbitantly priced (Rs 25/km) and bus network is almost non-existent. Bikes will cost you anywhere from 350-600 per day depending on the bike that you want (350 for the Activa, 500 for Pulsar, 600 for Avenger etc). Fuel cost is over and above that.
Cost: Around 500/day for 2 people = 750 per person (for the 3 day trip)
- Food : Do not go for the expensive shacks and restaurants all the time. You can find plenty of good restaurants just outside the beaches. Should not cost more than 300 per meal i.e. 600 per day. Booze is as cheap as it gets – 50 bucks for a can of beer (Kingfisher, Tuborg, Carlsberg etc) from liquor stores (which are plenty), 200 bucks for a bottle of Old Monk, 300-400 for vodka (Magic Moments etc) and 500-600 per bottle for good whiskey.
Q. What are all the beaches there?
Q. Well, there are 22 friggin’ beaches. I sure as hell can’t visit all in 3 days.
A. Well, you don’t have to. You see, beaches tend to be similar in many respects – there’s sun, sand, waves, sunsets, shacks, scantily clad women, adventure sports (not everywhere). So, after around 5-6 beaches, you will get bored.
Visit the most popular ones:
- North Goa – Anjuna, Baga, Calangute, Vagator (In a single stretch, you can walk from the first beach to the last), Dona Paula
- South Goa – Colva, Majorda, Palolem, Cavelossim
Q. So, it’s only beaches? Man, that’s boring!
Nope. You have churches, museums, wildlife sanctuaries, forts, pubs, go-karts etc.
- Aguada fort : A fort-cum-lighthouse build by the Portuguese in 1613
- Chapora fort : This is the fort featured in Dil Chahta Hai
- Basilica of Bom Jesus : Built in 1605, contains the tomb and the remains of St. Francis Xavier
- Naval Aviation Museum : A museum dedicated to the history of Naval Aviation in India, probably only one of its kind
- Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception : This has been shown in many movies that are shot in Goa (Josh, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Ajab Prem ki Gajab Kahani
- Go-karting near Verna (also has a really good pub at the foot of the hill called King’s pub; economical, good selection of beers, definitely plays if there is any good football or cricket match happening)
Q. I have also heard that the food is great there. Any recommendations?
A. The following restaurants, shacks and delicacies are a must try.
- Café Mambo : On Baga beach
- Curly’s : On a corner of the Anjuna beach cut off from the main
- Tito’s : Baga beach; restaurant-cum-disco
- Martin’s corner : Majorda.
- Joet’s restaurant and bar : On a little known beach near Vasco called Bogmalo; around 30 km from Panjim, visit only if you have extra time on your hands
- John’s Seagull : Again on Bogmalo
- Bora Bora : Beach shack in Morjim
- Seafood in any good shack – crabs, squids and prawns are a must-try
- Lasagna at Vagator beach
- Mango Tree
Q. Also, the rock culture seems to be pretty strong. Where can I watch some good bands perform?
A. There are a lot of small restaurants in Goa, particularly in Panjim, which have gigs by small and upcoming local bands. You will be able to locate such places if you go for a drive.
We found a similar place while returning back to the hotel, decided to stop for a couple of beers and ended up staying till close.
Q. So, how many bucks would I have to shell out at the end?
A. As I already mentioned, the total should come around 5000-7000 depending on whether you drink or not. Add to that the cost of the tickets. If you’re travelling by train, the entire trip should not make your wallet lighter by more than 10-12k.
Q. What should a generic 3-day itinerary look like?
A. Try and cover places that are geographically closer in one go. Get yourself a place somewhere on Baga (or between Baga and Anjuna). It is a single stretch containing 4 kick-ass beaches, 2 forts and tons of great places to wine (or beer, vodka, tequila, whisky) and dine.
- Day 1
Start from South and gently work your way up north. Spend the morning in Calangute, have an afternoon swim followed by lunch at Baga. Cover Anjuna if you have time. But in any case, make sure to be in Vagator (more precisely, on top of the Chapora fort) for the beautiful sunset.
End the day with dinner at Curly’s or Mambo’s or Tito’s or all 3, if possible.
- Day 2
Start from Cavalossim, up to Colva, Majorda and finally Bogmalo. End with a dinner treat at John’s or Joet’s.
Alternatively, start from Bogmalo and work your way south to end the day at Cavalossim, topped with dinner at Martin’s corner.
- Day 3
Start the day by spending the morning on Aguada fort, visit the two most famous churches – Basilica of Bom Jesus and Lady of Immaculate Conception – in the afternoon, go for go-karting in the evening and celebrate with dinner and drinks (with, if lucky, a good football match) at King’s pub.
- Extra days
If your trip is longer than 3 days, you might consider:
- Spending a full day in Madgaon. This place still has a distinct Portugese touch in its everything – architecture, roads, even the air. It is starkly different from Panjim and you can find some really good food near Palolem beach (must visit).
- Exploring the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary on wheels. You can end the day again at Palolem.
(Do not forget to practice some yoga in Cotigao)
- Go to Gokarna if you have a couple of more days at hand. It is around a 100km drive from Palolem beach; a small village in Karnataka with some beautiful, obscure beaches untouched by the tourist culture.
- Settle down bitch. I mean it. Settle down in one beach. Relax. Or hire a local guide. I am done here.
(This is a generic 3-5 day itinerary for Goa)
Q. Finally, any other advice?
- Respect the Goan people. You are not at home! I repeat you are in some one else’s backyard.
- If you should so chose to drive a car/ride a bike on Goan roads, show some respect to Goan traffic when you drive.
- Do not pollute the area. Goa is not like other places in India and you will be seriously taken to task. It is not just a place for tourists but is also a place that many people call their home!
- Take a camera. But do not cling to it like its Anne Hathway. Whip it out of the bag sporadically. Take at least one picture every place to go, so that you remember it later. But don’t turn it into a click-fest. Pictures are important during vacation, but they should not be the only thing you do during them.
- Always carry your driver’s license.
- Do not drink and drive.
- If you are planning to drink at night, make sure you get a cab or find a place near to your hotel. In any case, make sure there is at least one sober person in the group
- Relax. The number of places you visit is not important. What is important is that you had fun. So take out time to relax on a beach, gazing into the horizon lit by the orange sunset while gorgeous ladies soothe your eyes, cold beer drenches your soul and the cool winds make you feel it’s all a dream.
- 4 years of sponsored stay in Goa