Goa Mollem National Park
Mollem National Park (Photo credit: Bishnu Sarangi)

Goa Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Located in West India, Goa is the smallest Indian state. Population: ~1.5 million.
  • Goa is famous for its beaches, cultural heritage, and natural landmarks. The city attracts a large number of international and domestic tourists.
  • A former colony of Portugal, the city still reflects the cultural influence of the Portuguese (who first landed here as merchants in the 16th century).
  • The state capital is Panaji, while the largest city is Vasco da Gama.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
  • Spoken languages: the official language is Konkani. Marathi and Hindi are also used extensively.
  • Best time to visit: from October to February. Perhaps the most interesting time visit is during the Goa Carnival, in February.
  • Goa summers are best avoided, as the temperature can get as high as 40 °C (104 F).
  • Arriving via airport: Dabolim Airport is the Goa’s international, located 4 km from Vasco da Gama city and 30 km from Panjim (the capital). On arrival, the best way to get to the city center is to take a pre-paid taxi from the airport. Indian Airports commonly have a yellow pre-paid taxi booth at the exit and the rates are fixed by the Government – this will be slightly cheaper than hailing a random taxi outside the airport.

WHERE TO STAY

Goa offers a wide range of hotels, resorts, huts, and beach shacks to choose from. For those who want to party hard: choose between Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, and Vagator. If you would like to relax at a quieter beach setting, head north to Morjim, Arambol, Querim, or Benaulim beach.

GETTING AROUND

  • Note: Keep in mind that Goa is a whole state, and that there are actually several towns (with a considerable distance between them).
  • The best way to get around Goa is to hire a motorbike or book a car. Motorbike rental is around Rs.300 for a day (discounts available for longer bookings). Motorbikes with yellow plates are not allowed outside of Goa. Foreigners will need an International Driving Permit to ride a motorbike in Goa. A car can be hired from the hotel/resort or from travel agents (found all over the city). A full day hire will cover 80 km in 8 hours, and will cost around Rs.1200 (depending on the make/model of the vehicle).
  • Taxis can be booked by calling (0832) 2452549, +91 9422451927, +91 888 023 4455. Taxis are not very expensive in India, and often are the most convenient way to get around a city.

GOA NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, last call is midnight.
  • Hip/local scene: The classic Goan shacks, located on the shores of the lazy beaches and the beachfront lounges, are the hippest destinations.
  • Trendy scene: From beach shacks, chic trendy lounges to jazz concerts, Goa has it all. The city is well known for the Goa Trance and the hottest trance parties.
  • College crowd: The Club Cabana in Goa is the place for the young and vibrant crowd. Located atop a small hill, this glamorous nightclub has a VIP lounge and a pool, the entry fee is quite affordable at Rs. 1200 (Including drinks).

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Bom Jesus Basilica. There are five churches in Old Goa which should not be missed, and Bom Jesus Basilica is one of them. Built in 1605, the Basilica contains the mortal remains of the Patron Saint of Goa, St. Francis Xavier. Located in Old Goa, this calm and peaceful church  is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Se Cathedral. Located in Old Goa, this Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria and is built in Portuguese-Gothic style.
  • The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, located in Old Goa. The interior of this church is designed with gilded and carved woodwork.
  • The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception – this is the oldest church of Goa, built in 1541. Located in Panaji, the church has the second largest bell in the world.
  • The Church of St. Catejan  built in 1700, this church presents a contrast to the Portuguese influence. Built by Greek and Italian priests, it bears a striking resemblance to St. Peter’s Basilica (in Rome).
  • Goa is well known for its beaches. The most frequented beaches are in North Goa, offering spectacular views of the sea, sand and the sky (along with great food options and the hippest parties). The beaches in South Goa are quieter, and rockier. Anjuna beach was considered to be the second home to the hippies in the 1960’s.
  • Note: Calangute and Baga beaches are usually very crowded, and should be avoided. Agonda beach, in South Goa, is perfect as a quiet get away spot.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Walk down the curvy tree-lined streets in North Goa and soak up the Goan culture of the coastal villages – Calangute and Saligao.
  • Head to the lush green avenues of Margao and walk around the baroque church square – the Holy Spirit Church. Walk up to the Monte Hill to capture the charming view of the countryside.
  • Start from the Tobacco square and proceed to the Mint house, meandering through Sao Tome and Corte de Oeteiro. Continue on to the Catholic dominated precinct of Fontainhas, the Chapel Of Saint Sebastian, and end at the Panjim inn.
  • Head to the church overlooking the main square of Panaji – the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Walk around the interesting alleys and by lanes of the Old Town. Panaji offers the most exciting shopping area of the state.
  • Chasing the sun: head to the Miramar beach, a 3 km walk from the city center. Proceed to the Dona Paula beach (7 km away), where you can catch a magical sunset.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Hindi is the national language of the country, and basic knowledge will help greatly when dealing with locals. In any case, English will suffice inside hotels, resorts, restaurants, and clubs. Many locals in Goa understand some basic English.
  • Where to find good cheap eats: the beach shacks in Goa are a gastronomical paradise, at a very reasonable price. Most of the beach shacks have exotic fish, salads, and cocktails on their menu. There are some excellent urban beach shacks in North Goa which are quite reasonable.
  • Dangerous areas: Goa has been gaining notoriety in the news for all sorts of incidents, ranging from muggings and drug deals to physical assaults and rape. It is best to be cautious in Goa – avoid overcrowded beaches and drug dealers. Do not walk alone at night. North Goa is considered a particularly dangerous area, and is best avoided at night.

RECOMMENDED GOA GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Goa Travel Guide was last modified: September 26th, 2016 by Nick
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