I just came back from Goa yesterday with friends.I spent my 21st in Goa. My first trip was with family 9 years ago. Goa is beautiful. I went for two things, to eat and to sit on the beach,read a book,listen to music,sip beer and relax. And I also managed to do the ‘only three things my mom told me not to do’; swim in the deeper parts of the sea, ride a two wheeler and eat shell fish.
Hotel- The hotel where we stayed is called ‘Estrela Do Mar’. Its bang in the middle of Calangute and Baga. Extremely well located, and the beach is a mere 200 metres or so from the room. They have two restaurants one inside and one on the beach. Huge property. They have their own deck chairs and bearers. The beach owned by the hotel, isn’t as crowded as Baga. Had booked a beach cottage but due to non availability, were upgraded to a luxury room. Quite a lot of foreigners staying here. Most of them Russians. Most of the bearers speak Russian, the menu is in Russian and I even saw signs in the Airport in Russian. Seems except the people from Moscow, the Russians don’t know a word of English. Contrary to popular belief, they stick to themselves and are peaceful normal looking people. The hotel was a pleasant surprise, didn’t know what to expect. it was quite quite good, surpassed all expectations. It is also a little on the pricier side per night at ~5-7k depending on type of room, but well worth it in my opinion for the location, proximity to the beach and facilities. The food and drink at the hotel is reasonable. Alcohol rates at the hotel were less than what I pay at the theka in Gurgaon. I highly recommend this place to stay. Another place which is superbly located is Taj Fort Aguada! Although, time spent at hotel is a bare minimum, having a good hotel surely makes a difference.
Taxi- Airport transfers are comparatively reasonable. Baga and all are about 45 kms from the airport. Takes about an hour. Costs 900-1000ish. AC cabs cost a little more. Taxi within Goa is expensive and a rip off. Taxis on the road can be hailed but they don’t wait, its point to point. a 2 km journey costs anything between Rs 150-200 depending on how well you haggle. For example, the distance from a club called LPK to our hotel is 8kms, it was a flat rate to Calangute-Baga. It was 700 bucks. There’s nothing you can do. In fact, I believe there was a taxi strike a few days before I got there. Taxi operators were protesting against the entry of radio cabs in Goa. Radio cabs were very much needed if you ask me.
Ride- Considering how much inter Goa travel costs, you should consider renting a vehicle. It’l work out cheaper and much more convenient.The signage and all are adequate, it’l take a day to get your bearing and then its easy. I have never ridden a two wheeler in my life. I had thought of getting a car or a thar. Cars like i10,swift, santro cost about 700-1000/day, Thar costs 1800-2000 a day. These were the prices for this time of the year. Fuel is on you. Fuel is cheap, but pumps are few. But, most deparmental stores sell petrol in 1L bottles for 80-100 bucks. A lot of tourists get lost and run out of fuel! First day, we used cabs. Roads are narrow, traffic moves a little slow. Someone told me,the best way to see Goa is on a 2 wheeler. Seeing the situation there, I took his word for it and rented a Honda Activa, with the help of a guy from the hotel.Within 5 minutes of riding it I got comfortable and managed well at slow speeds and in traffic. This is in spite of never having ridden a two wheeler ever before.In fact with the exception of the 30 seconds I sat pillion a friends Bullet 500 which he got for his birthday I have never sat on a two wheeler.It worked out to 300 bucks a day for each Activa and I filled up 300 bucks worth of petrol. We took 3 Activas and the guy kept one id, I had a photopied and laminated aadhaar card which he took happily.The Activa had a yellow on black number plate,papers were provided and the guy even gave a helmet.He also checked if we had licenses. Wearing a helmet is compulsory only in Panjim. The keychain of the Activa was a tiny white number plate with the number of the scooter to figure out which one is yours I guess. Black activas are very common. Twice I sat on someone else’s Activa at night thinking it was mine wondering why it wouldn’t start. Honestly, taking the Activa was a great decision. It was easy to park and extremely convenient to potter about on. I returned my Activa with 150 kms clocked on the odo in the 3 and a half days that I had it. With a car, you’l be spending a fair bit more time in traffic, and the cool wind while riding along is something else. I’m really missing my Activa. A couple of places, you need to pay for parking like to go to Brittos, but its nominal-20 bucks. The parking rates for the night market is 50 for two wheelers and 100 for cars.
Things to do- We were short on time, stuck to a 10 kms radius around the hotel. The beach outside our hotel was amazing! further up, in Baga its crowded and very busy and a little dirty. Go to Sinquerim beach just by the Taj Aquada and spend time in Candolim beach, it’s much less crowded. The water here seemed much calmer. Go to a shack, order some beers, theyl be happy to give you a deck chair. I spent hours and hours, lounging on the beach, having fried prawns and such snacks. You can get a temporary tattoo. Costs about 200 bucks and will last for 20 days they say. lets see! Water sports happen at Candolim, they are more expensive on the Taj side and cheaper as you move away. Water sports in Calangute-Baga costs a bit more, but it’s crowded. Many boats, jet skis, fishing boats ,people swimming in the water all at once.Accident waiting to happen. Be very very careful! Also, heed to coast guard warnings, they come and go in their jeep and on a jet ski. I heard water sports in Arambol is better, but Arambol is 35 kms away. The water sports are jet ski, para sailing, banana boat and rubber round dingy thing which is towed by a motorboat. Try and bargain for a packaged deal for all 4 of the sports.If you are in a group you can bargain more. Definitely go to Fort Aguada, take a picture in the Dil Chahta Hai pose and go to its lighthouse.The lighthouse has a nominal entry fee. They let you climb all the way to the top. The lighthouse has specific timings. It’s not open for very long. This 19th century lighthouse offers breathtaking 360 degree views of the vicinity. You can see Sinquerim and Candolim. Between Fort Aguada and the lighthouse there is a kacha road towards the sea, take it for a bit, park your car/scooter and go on foot. There are trees and all and then this clearing comes where you can sit and watch the sea. It’s a cliff at a height and its completely empty. We were the only ones there. There is a flea market in Anjuna and a Saturday night market on the way to Anjuna. I’m not one to shop, can’t say how the stuff was. It was very crowded, whole road was jammed. Other things to do which I didn’t have time for and will definitely factor in for my next trip is to see the churches in South Goa. The sand in South Goa is white. I have pictures of Colva from 9 years ago. There is a spice garden and a waterfall a little way off from Panjim. There is a go-kart track on the Arpora road. There is a naval museum with choppers and planes, I went to on my earlier trip. Also, I want to stop by and spend some time in Panjim city next time.
Food,drink and nightlife– Restaurants I didn’t really experiment much. Stuck to what I remember from my trip with family and recommendations from friends. Good things is all the prices are inclusive of all taxes everywhere. Coming from Delhi where you pay 20 different taxes on what you’ve ordered this was a sigh of relief. Alcohol is cheap, a Budweiser pint costs 29 bucks, Kingfisher draft 500 mL can 45 bucks. Buy a few and keep it in the room fridge and take it on midnight strolls. This same beer at restaurants and shacks and clubs cost 60-150 rupees depending on the place you go to. There is a local beer called King. Try it! Also, most clubs which offer unlimited drinks have the likes of Blenders Pride and stuff. I usually stick by whiskey, but I would strongly advise to stick to beer, have as much as you like. Hard liquor is going to ruin your next day. When you have limited time it’s not a good thing. I thought food in Goa was damn good.My stomach was completely fine. Avoid the usual pastas and pizza’s, make the most of Goan food. I ate Chicken,Beef,Pork,Prawn and fish in an assortment of ways;lamb chops, pork ribs, beef xacuti, prawn vindaloo, chicken vindaloo, fish curry,beef & bacon burger etc. Restaurants I recommend are Brittos, I remembered the Apple pie and cream back from 2005. Tito’s restaurant,St. Anthony, Calamari in Candolim and Curlies in Anjuna. We went to Tito’s restaurant, Brittos and Calamari twice each. We liked them so much. The hotel suggested a place like Britto’s called Suzza Lobo but didn’t go there, it seemed a little adult-ish. As for nightlife, most clubs stay open till 3-4 am. Have a nice dinner and go out for the night. Go to Titos, LPK,Club Cubana, Hype and Curlies to chill at night. LPK and Club Cubana have strict couple entry policies. Curlies has a stag entry fee. So you would want to find out all this before making your plans. LPK stag entry costs 5k. No point going as a stag. Also, most clubs and restaurants have theme nights, like ladies night, karaoke etc. Find out whats on and plan accordingly. On weekend afternoons, restaurants have live bands. On sunday night, went to St. Anthony, it was a DJ night plus karaoke, full house. Crazy it was! Plan your days & nights well. Titos lane is crazy, its only by 330-4am that places start emptying out.There are some cafe’s which are open 24 hrs around here. So typically used to have coffee before going back to the hotel early in the morning.
Other things- Goa airport is a joke. There is a new terminal under construction. Cell phone reception isn’t great, especially data network. There is no 3G,so forgot about Google Maps. But it’s okay, stop and ask for directions,dont find out the hard way, people are more than happy to help.Since, the area caters to alot of foreigners, cigarette shops send all sorts of imported cigarettes, including Russian brands. I wasn’t paying attention, managed to pick up an imported box of B&H thinking its what I smoke. One evening we kept asking around which is the best place to see the sunset, before realising Goa is in the West and you can only see the sunset.If you look hard you can see big big ships like tankers and container ships anchored far out to sea. Try not to spend too much time sleeping, Atleast one day stay awake from sundown to sunrise. Standing on the road or waiting in the queue at an ATM people would stop and hand out cards for parties. This once a foreigner handed me a card for a party at Westin Club. Goa is happening like that! I’m not one for shopping, so at times I was riding alone or going around alone, right outside Taj’s Aguada’s parking lot after parking my Activa and walking to the beach in the middle of the afternoon, atleast 5 guys stopped me every ten steps and offered me all sorts of massages and full service and whatever the code name for all of that is. It was extremely creepy, how they jump on you and try to sell ‘this’ to you. Also, saw a drug deal going down very close to the ATM on the Baga-Calangute road just where the Tito lane starts at 12ish one night. While returning to the hotel at 2-3-4 am, if you go slow on the Baga-Calangute you’l see girls standing in the shadows in the lanes for you know what. I barely saw cops in the entire duration of the trip. Only on the way to the hotel and back, thats it. My ego committed suicide when two blonde girls overtook me on a Royal Enfield. hahaha. It happened twice. Be prepared to see all that, while you ride your activa. The most foreigners I saw were between our hotel till Titos lane and a bit beyond. By the time you hit Brittos and St Anthonys most of the crowd is Indian.Was speaking to a girl from Finland at the hotel, she couldn’t believe i knew English and i studied in English. God knows what the goras think of us. Be on guard, ride safe, if you ride a two wheeler wear a helmet, if you drink a lot don’t ride, probably walk instead. I saw an accident on the way back from Anjuna late at night and realised, how easy it is to get carried away.
Cars- I saw a white GA registered new shape Cayenne, a red MH registered boxter and saw a HR51 convertible Bentley GTC standing outside Cafe Mambo almost everyday. There was a maroon Evoque parked in a garage in my hotel. Probably belonged to the owner of the property. Otherwise saw a lot of Pune and Bombay cars. Also saw a couple of HR26 Gurgaon cars. Driving down to Goa is definitely on my bucket list one day. “sigh” I’m having major Goa withdrawal symptoms. It stays for a week I hear. Sorry about this rant.Tried to summarise my trip for everyone else. Hope this helps. In my eyes at the moment Goa is the best place in the world. The only other beaches I’ve been to are Puri as a kid, New york and Pattaya. Pattaya was the most recent beach trip and it can’t hold a candle to Goa if you ask me. My parents compare Thailand and Goa, saying they cost same etc etc, but do go see Goa once.You must go. It’s amazing!