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Travel Guide for first trip to Goa

by Payel Kundu on November 15, 2017

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Palolem Beach

Growing up in India, the idea of Goa gets introduced to us much before we actually start traveling or at least start traveling as an adult. The dream of Goa lives in every teenager’s heart in our school days and even afterwards, until we finally make plans for that perfect holiday and explore those beautiful beaches. But that first plan can be overwhelming. Given that there’s a whole state to explore and those movies that enticed us in the first place didn’t really provide us with a roadmap for perfect location, a lot of researches need to be done before heading there for the first time. Hope this helps as a guide for the people planning their first trip to Goa.


What to expect :

Coconut Trees and the Sea

What does Goa remind us of? The beaches…? The sunbeds…? Sea food and cheap alcohol…? Goa is all that and probably much more. It is the smallest state in India and yet it has a 101 KM of coastline. So naturally Goa has numerous beaches to offer for tourists. There are beaches for people who like water-sports and beaches for peace lovers, beaches for a romantic stay and also for fun time with friends, there are luxury private beaches and also cheap huts opening to the sea shore.

But beaches are not everything there. The other thing people find interesting in Goa is the Portuguese influenced culture, which reflects through the houses and churches and the lifestyle of locals. In Old Goa there are many monuments for tourists to explore which can take you back in time.

Farther inland, Goa is very different. As the Western Ghat continues through Goa, the landscape resembles the same of Maharashtra and Karnataka, which looks particularly beautiful during and after monsoon. Nestled amongst the hills there are few sanctuaries. But these are not visited by tourists too much. The only place frequented by tourists in the far eastern side of Goa is the majestic Dudhsagar falls, which can be approached from both Goa and Karnataka.

While planning your first trip to Goa, pick the places that suit your own style and you will have the best of time out there.


Reaching there :

Prepaid Taxi Rate from Goa Airport
Prepaid Taxi Rate from Goa Airport (Apr-17)

Goa is connected to all major cities in India by flight, either directly or via Mumbai/Bangalore. The airport in Goa is located at Dabolim, which is almost equidistant from the north and south end of Goa making it a convenient point. From airport pre-paid cabs are available to all tourist destinations. If you wish to take bus, there are a few plying from Vasco Da Gama to Madgaon which passes through the airport road. Madgaon in turn is connected to all important places in Goa by bus.

There are many trains connecting Mumbai and Goa and a few from other cities as well. If you are taking train, you have a few choices of station to reach. To visit beaches of extreme north (Arambol, Ashwem etc.) Pernem is your station and for extreme south (Palolem, Patnem etc.) it would be Cancona. The most popular place to get down at is Thivim, which is closest station from Baga, Calangute, Anjuna, Vagator and Candolim. If you are interested in Old Goa or heading to the capital Panjim, get down at Karmali station. And then there is Madgaon, which is the biggest station among these. While there’s no great beaches near Madgaon, it is still the most convenient stop for reaching a lot of places in south Goa.

There are two routes to reach Goa from Mumbai by road. The one via Alibag & Chiplun is more scenic. But since most of this route goes through hilly area, it takes longer time and makes for a slightly uncomfortable journey. The other route through Mumbai-Pune highway, which passes through Kolhapur and Belgaum is a smoother journey and takes about 10-11 hours to reach Goa. Luxury buses also ply in this road. However it takes about 14-15 hours and not recommended for people who are not used to long bus journeys.

Vagator Coast
Vagator Coast viewed from Chapoda Fort

Move around :

Public transport in Goa is not great. While there are frequent buses between major places, they tend to get crowded and not favoured by tourists. White taxis are usually available near all tourist places. But there’s no proper regulation or fixed rate card in place. So they ask for any random amount based on the driver’s mood and the time of the day. You should be ready to bargain while taking a taxi in Goa.

The most reasonable and popular way to move around in Goa is by renting a bike or scooter. Bike/scooters are easily available near every beach and in major cities like Madgaon and Panjim. The low end bikes and scooters are charged 300-500 per day (without petrol) during regular season. However during peak time, especially during Christmas, the rate may increase drastically. There are self-drive cars also available, although not in as much abundance. You can opt for same if you are in mood for driving. You can also hire a car with driver for your whole trip from any travel agent, the rates are comparable to other major cities.

Night at Palolem Beach
Night at Palolem Beach

Major Attractions :

  • Water Sports: A few beaches in Goa offers water sports such as parasailing, banana boat ride etc. Baga & Calangute are most popular among these. In fact these two are the most popular beaches in Goa, which is crowded almost throughout the year. Water sports are also available in Candolim and Colva beach.
  • Cafes & Restaurants: A big part Goa charm is its cute cafes and pretty looking restaurants. The wooden fixtures, retro look and great music is the least you can expect. If you walk around near Candolim beach, you are bound to come across many such places. But it’s not uncommon in other areas either.
  • Beach Parties: Parties are a thing in North Goa. There are popular clubs and hotels hosting regular parties. But you should look for the open air ones, which is often found near Anjuna & Vagator beaches. On the other hand loud music at night is prohibited in south Goa. So you come across silent parties out there, where everyone wears headphones and dances to music while no noise can be heard outside.
  • Romantic & quiet Stay: For a quieter and less crowded location, you can choose any of the beaches in south Goa. Most popular beaches out there are Palolem, Patnem and Agonda. There’s also Varca beach which is almost a private beach for Club Mahindra and Zuri resorts. In north, Arambol is a good choice of place for a similar experience. While south beaches give more of a romantic experience, Arambol can be a good place to chill with friends.
  • Seafood & Alcohol: Good seafood is available all across Goa. You can either try the beach shacks or known hotels, the chance is that you will be able to find tasty fish or prawns or calamari. Domestic liquor is cheaper in Goa compared to other places and it’s available in almost all restaurants and shacks.
  • Chapoda Fort
    Chapoda Fort
  • Forts & Churches: There are two famous forts in Goa. Aguada Fort and Chapoda Fort. Both are located in North Goa, one near Candolim beach and the other near Vagator beach. The forts look great during monsoon and the view of Vagator coast from Chapoda fort is absolutely beautiful. There are many churches in Gola. But the oldest and the most popular ones are located in Old Goa, which is located at the bank of Mandovi river away from the beaches.


Best time to visit :

Winter is considered as the main tourist season in Goa. In October the crowd slowly starts to increase reaching its highest in December/January and then slowly start reducing again. Up to March the weather remains more or less pleasant, post which it starts to get hotter. Summer is hot in this region which is expected. The weather is similar to coastal towns of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Even during summer, it can be pleasant near the beach where it’s windy. But away from beach it’s usually hot humid.

Monsoon Sea
Monsoon Sea

Shops and restaurants also are most in number during peak season and they tend to close off as the crowd starts to reduce. By monsoon all beach shacks are closed and even away from beach only a handful of restaurants remain open. Even the beaches are closed for swimming during monsoon due to safety issue. Hence not many tourists visit Goa during this time. However if you do visit, it can be a treat for your eyes as the landscape turns beautifully green and the sea gets grey and wild.


Places to stay :

There are many hotels to choose from for staying in Goa, both economic and luxurious. Most of the five star hotel chains are present in Goa including Taj, Leela, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt , Novotel etc. If you are looking for luxury stay with private beach you can go for The Leela (Cavelossim), Taj Exotica (Benaulim), Club Mahindra (Varca), Zuri White Sands (Varca), Grand Hyatt (Bambolim), Taj Vivanta (Aguada) etc. For slightly lesser budget with beach view one can opt for Beleza by the beach, Holiday Inn Resort Mobor, Ozran Heights etc.

It would be hard to get hotels on beach in very economic rate. But there are plenty of hotels and homestays close to beach which offers comfortable stay in low price. Also trying beach huts of Palolem, Patnem and Agonda is always recommended. These are not very expensive and yet gives you the experience of living on the beach. Of course, the structures are temporary and will not give the similar comfort what a hotel would be able to provide. If you are traveling alone and like to save up money, hostels are good options too. There is a Zostel near Calangute beach and there are other independent hostels available across many parts of north Goa.


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