Backpacking Goa – All You Need To Know in 2019
If you plan on backpacking Goa or taking a Goan holiday, then you have come to the right place. In this post I will tell you everything you need to know about visa’s, transport, food, accomodation, parties and how much to budget! Just keep on reading!
Goa is India’s most accessible destination and is eternally popular with tourists from both within India and across the world. It boasts laid-back vibes, some beautiful beaches, and a thriving party scene. Whilst perhaps not quite the unspoiled paradise it once was, Goa remains utterly charming, offers something for everybody and is fully deserving of its prominent place as the jewel in the crown of Indian tourism. Goa is very accessible. What I mean by this is that it’s not quite the intense, culture shock that the rest of India is. The towns and cities are a bit quieter and cleaner and the people less in your face. English is very widely spoken and there are plenty of comfortable accommodation options and western cuisine options around.
For this reason, I often refer to it as “India-Lite” and because of this, it attracts “normal holidaymakers” the UK and Russia as well as the backpackers and hippies who have been coming for 40 years now. Goa is also a great destination to bring the entire family, if you intend to do this then this helpful guide to the Best Beaches in Goa with Kids may be useful. Firstly, whilst Goa is India’s smallest state, it is still a state and there is not one single place called “Goa”. Rather, there are numerous towns, cities, and beaches which tend to cater towards different demographics (with some overlap). If somebody tells you they are going to or have been to Goa, then press them precisely where they went and what they got up to! Whether you are looking for a beach to lay on, some wild parties or a little taste of Indian culture, then you will find it in Goa. In this guide, I will show you the best things to do in Goa, best places to go in Goa and provide intel about visas, budget, food and health, and safety!
When To Go to Goa
The peak tourist season is November to February and this is the best time to visit Goa. This is when the weather is at its best and consequently when Goa really comes to life. June to September sees some heavy monsoon rains and March to May can get uncomfortably hot. Christmas, New Year, and then, Russian Orthodox New Year, can get very crowded. Accommodation prices will spike and you may even struggle to find anywhere to stay in certain areas. There are also a lot of Indian National Holidays which send hordes headed to the coast although these peaks only last a few days at a time. Visiting Goa in the offseason is still possible and some people even prefer it. However, the heat and the rains can be extremely uncomfortable and some towns will be pretty much closed down entirely. To fully experience Goa, one has to come and see it during “the season”.
Best Places To Visit in Goa
A Trance Party For me, the word Goa is synonymous with the word “Trance”. The genre started it’s life here before spreading across the world and Goa remains its spiritual epicenter. The trance parties are legendary, offering a curious mix of wild hedonism and profound spiritual revelation. Many people come out here purely to party in Goa. For me, it is a definite highlight not only of visiting Goa but of Backpacking India.
Arpora Night market This is another definite Goan experience. Come here to barter for souvenirs and clothes whilst sampling delicious food inspired from all over the world. Then, you can have a wee dance at one of the bars before heading home. No trip to Goa is complete without a visit here – it’s one of the very best places to visit in Goa.
Old Goa Historical Goa is fascinating. Once you’ve had your fill of sun-bathing & drum circles, set off for a day of culture and education amidst the ruins of the Portuguese colonial legacy. If you set of early in the morning, you may also be able to combine this with a visit to the state capital of Panjim. No trip to Goa is complete without a visit here.
Palolem Beach The quietest, most pristine and best preserved of Goa’s many beaches. Come here for a little taste of the tranquil Goa that has been lost over 40 years of hippy madness and commercial tourism.
A Motor Tour One of the best things to do in Goa is to simply rent a scooter and ride around the coastal and jungle roads and tracks. If you get lost, then simply ask the locals and they will point you on your way!
If you are visiting Goa internationally, then you will need an Indian visa. These need to be obtained in advance. You can obtain the e-Visa by applying online and paying the fee (around $50 for most nationalities but it does vary). This is now valid for 2 months from the date of entry into India so it is perfect for short holidays. If you are hoping to stay in Goa for longer than 2 months then you will need to get a proper Indian visa. The fee ranges from $80 – $150. You will need to make a formal application, in person at either the Indian consulate or an approved Indian Visa Service. You can get up to 12 months. Citizens of the UK, USA, and Australia can now obtain 5 or even 10 years Visa’s.
Transport to and from Goa
There are a number of ways of getting to Goa. How you get to the state and then your eventual destination depends on where you are coming on, how much time and money you have and how highly you value personal comfort.
Flying to Goa
Goa airport receives international flights from all over the world as well as domestic flights from inside India. During the high season, there are daily direct flights to and from Moscow, London, and Europe. Many flights will change domestically in Mumbai or Delhi or alternatively, they will change somewhere out in the Middle East. The direct flights tend to be charted by the big airlines or package holiday companies so are at the more expensive end of the spectrum. Taking a flight with a change can save you a lot of money. For example, I flew home from Goa to Manchester via Oman for under £200. It did mean waiting around in Muscat airport for a good few hours though. Goa airport is situated inland at Dabolim, well away from the beaches and away from anywhere of interest. It is 4 km from the nearest city Vasco da Gama, 23 km from Margao, and about 30 km from the state capital Panjim. Public transport to and from the coast is available but will mean making several changes, on crowded buses with your bags. It is not something I would want to do after a long flight or before a long flight. Taxi’s are therefore the best option. A ride will cost between 1000 – 2000 rupees depending on how hard you barter. If you are headed to the airport from your resort, then arrange a for the ride a few days in advance to get a better price. Arrive 3 Hours Early Despite being pretty small, Goa airport is busy. It is constantly crowded and utterly inefficient even for Indian standards. Note that before you are even allowed into the building you will have to queue in line and show the police some form of a flight-booking document. They will not accept anything digital so make sure you print something to show to them (an e-ticket or booking confirmation). This can take 30 minutes in busy periods. You will then have to have your bags scanned and possibly searched before even checking-in for your flight. Indian passport officers also have the baffling tendency to act like it’s the first time they have ever actually seen a passport. Allow at least 3 hours before your flight. When I left Goa in February, I arrived 3 and a half hours early and still only narrowly caught my flight. It was a torrid experience and a shameful way to end such a happy period of my life. Land Transport in Goa If you are arriving from another part of India, there are a few options available. Popular destinations to and from Goa are Kochi/Cochin in Kerala, Hampi, Gokarna or Mumbai. All named destinations are an overnight journey away. Sleeper trains and buses are available and are highly recommended. Goa train station is located at Margoa (Madgoan). Again, it is inland and not in a particularly interesting spot so you will want to pass through as fast as possible. To get from the station to your destination will require a few more miles of travel. There are local buses and these are very cheap and fairly frequent. However, wherever you are going will probably mean making several changes and the busses will be crowded. You may, therefore, wish to consider a cab, a rickshaw or a motorbike taxi. If you come by bus, then you will most likely be dropped in Mapsua. Mapsua is a dirty, noisy but very useful town which you will probably have to visit or pass through at least once. Busses from other states tend to arrive and depart from here. Again, there are local buses from Mapsua to the coast but you will need to change a few times. Alternatively, taxi and motor taxi’s are available.
Busses in Goa
Long distance busses always need to be booked ahead (try to book at least a clear 24 hours ahead of your journey to ensure getting a seat/sleeper). You can do this at any of the travel and exchange agents you see in any town. There is no need to shop around as the rates are fixed. If you are going overnight then I advise spending the extra money and taking a sleeper rather than just a seat.
Trains in Goa
I would also advise booking trains in advance if you are going long distance and especially if you want a sleeper. You can do this either at the travel agents or by visiting the train station itself. You can technically book at the platform right before departure but there is some risk of comfortable seats been sold out. There is an Indian Rail Website but it is extremely poorly designed and confusing and I do not recommend using it. Trains come in a variety of classes and comfort levels. In my experience, a standard sleeper is adequate as the air rushing through the windows keeps things nice and cool.
Motorbikes and Scooters in Goa
Goa travel is varied and there are transportation options for everybody. Once you get settled in Goa, you may want to obtain a scooter. All of the beach towns themselves are small and self-contained so can easily be walked around. However, you will definitely want to travel between beaches and towns at some point which is where the Scooters come in very handy. The ride from Arambol to Anjuna, for example, is around 30 minutes riding and Anjuna to Mapusa around 20 minutes ride. Scooters can be hired pretty much anywhere. Your guesthouse will probably offer you or you will see signs in the street. Hire prices do vary depending on the model and time of year. Haggling is recommended although to get a real discount, you should commit to taking it for a week or so rather than day by day. Be sure to check that it is working order before you ride away. Check that the mirrors are there, the brakes work and also inspect for any scratches or dents – take pictures of any you find. You will also need the paperwork and a helmet and you must wear the helmet if you are “crossing the bridge” towards Maps or risk a hefty fine. Scooters are very easy to ride and most people can pick it up in 15 – 30 minutes. If you have never ridden before then find somebody to show you on a quiet back road. The rental people will probably agree to do this if you offer then a few hundred rupees. Royal Enfield motorbikes are also available. They are, however, completely unnecessary in Goa, serving no real purpose other than to create noise and smog pollution and invite accidents from inexperienced riders. When riding, be very mindful of both inexperienced and inebriated tourists in the road as well as animals in the road such as dogs who will chase you and cows who will block you. Indian traffic is also pretty chaotic. Road conditions vary and there are some severe bumps & potholes which can be very hard to spot at night. Ride slowly after dark and try to stay to lit areas. Do not drink and ride or ride whilst under the influence of drugs. If you are headed to a party then take a taxi, you will always be able to find somebody to share the costs with. You will note that there are very few Tuk Tuk’s in Goa and they are completely banned from many popular areas (the Goa taxi Union seems to have muscled them out of many areas). Modern, AC Taxi’s are widely available, are strictly regulated but relatively expensive. A very smart move is to find your own “Taxi Guy” and use him throughout your stay. This will guarantee you a preferential price. Public transport is available but can be onerous and it doesn’t run late into the night. Therefore, getting yourself a 2-wheeler is the most effective way to get between the best places to visit in Goa.
Budget for Backpacking Goa
India is by far one of the cheapest countries in the world to backpack. Goa’s popularity and higher living standards do make it one of the more expensive parts of the country to visit but it is still unlikely it will trouble you too much. Costs, of course, vary depending on which part of Goa you are in and the time of year. Haggling is deeply entrenched in Indian culture and is expected. The notable exceptions are food, public transport, and products in stores. Be sure to haggle on taxi’s, accommodation, services, and any souvenirs. Haggling in Goa can be a lot of fun and an essential part of any Goan holiday. The currency in India is the Rupee. It is only available inside the country so you will need to make a withdrawal or change at the airport. Exchanges and ATM’s are available in most towns but do sometimes run out of cash. At the time of writing (September 2018) the exchange rate is; $1 (USD) = 72.70 rupees. Some basic cost estimates are provided below. Hostel Dorm – 700 rps per night Private room in Guest House 1000 rps per night Beach Shack – 500 rps per night If you are staying long term (+ 1 month plus) then you will definitely be able to negotiate some kind of discount. Alternatively, if you move slightly away from the beach and the tourist hubs (which is wise long term), you can easily get a house for $200 – $400 per month. Dall Fry – 80 rps Chicken Curry – 200 rps Western-style food – 300 rps Kingfisher Beer at the shop – 20 rps Kingfisher beer at bar/restaurant – 50 rps 2 Litre Bottle of Water – 20 rps Please note that prices offered here are for “backpacker” type places. If you stay in a formal hotel, expect to pay more. Likewise, if you choose to eat at the fancier restarts rather than the beach shacks, you can also expect to pay more.
What To Pack For Goa
In case you don’t already have one, I recommend buying a good quality backpack. These are far more practical than suitcases as they can easily be carried on your back and can survive been thrown on and off buses and even Motorbikes. I use the Osprey Aether 70 litre. It’s the 3rd backpack I’ve owned and by far the best so I will be sticking with it It’s light, it’s designed to support its weight, it’s tough and durable as well as breathable. If you buy it from the icon below I get a small little kickback which helps me to keep this blog going. In terms of what you need to put in this bag, I recommend the following; Clothes – You will need light clothes suitable for hot temperatures. Shorts and revealing clothing are suitable on the beaches and beach towns in Goa. You may wish to cover up if you are heading inland to Panjim, Mapusa or Old Goa (seriously, please do). Nights can get cool so bring a hoodie or sweater. Clothes can be bought cheaply across Goa. Adaptor – India uses a weird combination of both the British and European plug sockets. Often you will see both inside the same room. Bring a world-adaptor to ensure that you have both eventualities covered. Surge Protector – Power cuts are frequent in Goa and the sudden overloading of electric sockets can seriously damage any equipment that is plugged in at the time. I, therefore, highly and sincerely recommend bringing a surge protector too – the $20 investment may well save the life of your phone and laptop. Browse one on Amazon by clicking the icon below. Toiletries – You can pick up most toiletries in Goa although I did find men’s moisturizer rather hard to come by. Medication – Bring any medicine you need as well as a selection of basics such as Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, anti-diareah and rehydration sachets. Many medicines sold in India are fake.
Where To Stay in Goa
Accommodation in Goa is very varied. There are beach shacks, guest houses, homestays and even western style hotels in some towns and beaches. There are quite a few hostels in Anjuna and Arambol. These are great places to meet other travelers but not necessarily the very best value options. For example, most charge between 500 – 800 rps for a dorm bed whereas you can often get a private shack or even a room in a guesthouse for that amount. However, most of them are of a decent standard in terms of cleanliness, comfort and professionalism. Wherever you stay, you need to consider whether or not you need AC. This will add a few hundred rupees on to any price. In my experience, as long as there is an over-head working fan then you do not need proper AC. Book Online? Whilst many hostels and guesthouses can be found and booked online, many cannot. It is also sometimes a good bit cheaper if you show up at a place and barter the price in person rather than by booking online. However, you will definitely need somewhere to stay when you first arrive whilst you get settled so I would advise at least booking the first few night, in advance, online. You can browse properties on Booking.com by using the widget box type thing below . There are not too many Air B n B properties in Goa yet.
Food in Goa
Indian food is possibly my favorite cuisine in the whole world and the classic Indian dishes are cheap and widely available throughout Goa. A personal favorite of mine is a Panner Chill Fry (a curried cheese type dish) best served with Roti (bread). It will set you back around 200rps in a beach shack although more established ones, such as Curlies in Anjuna, are more expensive. The cheapest option is Daal (lentils) and this makes up the bulk of the average Indian’s diet. Daal fry can often be found for under 100rps so is great value. If you go away from the beaches and into the trade towns, you can even eat on the street for 20 rps. Before becoming a tourist hub Goa, was a fishing community and you will still see the fisherman going out to sea and then returning with the catch most days. Goa is therefore noted for its fresh fish offerings and you will find curried fish and grilled fresh fish throughout the region. In Arambol, each night the beach shacks do live barbecues where you choose your fish and they grill it for you. Prices are charged by the weight but are generally remarkably cheap. Because of the 40 year influx of travelers and hippies, there is a wide range of other foods available in Goa such as Pizza’s, Pasta, Israeli, Russian and of course token Chinese dishes. There are also quite a few delicious vegetarian, vegan and even raw vegan restaurants. These are often western owned and substantially more expensive than traditional places, although they are generally of a very high standard and offer a very healthy selection. There are also quite a few “German Bakeries” offering croissants, sandwiched and cookies. My pick is the one in Anjuna where you can quite easily spend the entire day. Coffee Real coffee is widely available in proper coffee shops, German bakeries, and cafes but may often cost you the price of your meal. Alternatively, instant Nescafe is available. Traditionally, Indians prefer to drink Chai (tea) and this is abundant and very cheap. Alcohol in Goa Goa is easily the drunkest state in India. Because of tax breaks, alcohol in the region is often 3 times cheaper then elsewhere in the country hence the sheer numbers of Indian tourists headed here purely to get smashed. The national beer is Kingfisher lager which comes in 2 varieties – normal is 5% and strong around 8%. Indian’s tend to gravitate towards strong although personally,y I advise against it. Despite making decidedly average beer, Kingfisher has something of a monopolizing stranglehold on the Indian brewing scene and there isn’t much else available. However recent years have seen the rise of the Bier brand who offer a few different types of beer including a very refreshing blond ale. It is more expensive than Kingfisher but a whole lot better. As for imports, only Tuborg and Carlsberg are generally available. Another favorite tipple in India is Old Monk Rum which is often sold in cartons. It is very heavy in sugar content so expect truly shocking hangovers. Personally,y I don’t ever want to drink Old Monk again. Best Places To Eat in Goa Arambol Rejoice Inn – Delicious South Indian breakfasts as well as varied Thali platters. This Is It – Cheap Indian favorites right on the beach. Try the Paneer Chilly Fry. Cool Talk Cafe – Great Museli, Coffee and cakes. Lamuella – Best Shakshuka outside of Israel Anjuna German Bakery – Extensive options of Indian food, cereals as well as pastries. Curlies – A bit pricey but great Indian food. Morjim
Best Places To Visit in Goa
Panjim Panjim is the state capital of Goa. It is noticeably clean and pleasant for an Indian city. The art gallery stages some very interest exhibitions and its cinema showcases Hollywood releases. It is also a good place to shop for gold and more “classic” style jewelry. The main attraction though is definitely the white churches. Panjim is inland, away from the beaches and neither the airport not train stations are situated here. Therefore, you may well never actually need to visit Panjim during your stay in Goa, but if you have time, it is definitely worth paying a visit. Old Goa Old Goa was the Portuguese Colonial Head Quarters and is now UNESCO listed. The area boasts some very impressive European style churches as well as the ruins of an old monastery. Visiting Old Goa is a great way to spend a day. The view from the monastery over the ruins set in the jungle is very impressive and would look utterly sublime at either dusk or dawn. The ride to Old Goa from Anjuna/Arambol is quite long so bank an hour each way. It also goes over some very busy roads so do take care. Alternatively, you can book a private tour or join a bus tour which can be arranged at any of the Goa travel agents in any town. Do shop around and barter to obtain the best rate. Mapusa Mapusa is a trade and transport hub situated 13km north of Panjim. Most inter-state busses leave to and from here. Mapsua is also a useful place to shop for fabrics and domestic items (pots, pans and stuff you will need if you are staying for the season). The town is a bit dirty and noisy though so I doubt you will want to hang around. The Friday market is frequented by native Goan’s and well worth a visit to buy cheap fruit, veg, plants and pretty much anything direct from the source. Arambol
Arambol is the ultimate hippy beach. It has blossomed from a tiny fishing village into a miniature, hippy-mecca. During the high season, it becomes a bustling small town where you can shop, do endless yoga or simply mingle with the freak scene. Every night at sundown (18:00) there is the Drum Circle where musicians jam with all kind of different drums. The sound they make is pretty un-engaging but the nightly event has nevertheless become the place to be between dusk and dark. The Arambol party scene is subdued for Goan standards. There are no big parties in Arambol and evenings usually wrap themselves up by around midnight. Organic Vibes does a “sober rave” twice a week & Twice In Nature, The Source and Ash do live music most nights. Some of my personal favorite spots are Cool Talk Cafe which does a delicious “Dharamkot Special” for breakfast. Rejoice Inn does decent, wooden private rooms and the Punjabi owner cooks remarkable Indian food (the Idli’s are possibly the best breakfast in Goa and the daily Thali’s are sublime). Lameuella does a delicious Shakshuka but it does cost around 400 ops making it relatively expensive. Relax Inn does decent Italian food (by Indian standards) and Cheeky Monkey on the beach has a really interesting and delicious menu. Most of the beach shacks do very good Indian food and the ones towards Sweet Lake do nightly fish barbecues. Organic Vibes offers a wide selection of vegan food and healthy beverages. One of my favorite guest houses in Arambol is Rejoice Inn where you can stay in a modern, wood shack 5 minutes from the beach. Their breakfasts are sublime. You can book through this link here. If you are looking for a hostel then I recommend Happy Panda as it has the best vibe. For me, it is amongst the best hostels in Goa.You can book it here. I will add a further resource about Goan hostels in the near future. If you want to stay right on the beach, then look no further than Love Temple. The shacks are amongst the best beach shacks in Goa and there are regular Yoga Sessions. You can book by clicking right here. Anjuna
Anjuna is dusty, dry and very surreal hamlet built on clifftops overlooking a series of little cove style beaches. Anjuna is Goa’s party pulse and is where most of the nocturnal action is. Aside from that, it is also a good place to hang out for a while. Anjuna is a weird, very “trippy” place, 40 years of acid parties seems to have manifested changes even in the very landscape. Anjuna is more spread out than Arambol and still feels like a village. You will, therefore, have to do a little bit of walking to get between shops, cafe’s and from your guesthouse to the beach but nothing too strenuous. The German Bakery is something of an institution. It opens all day long, offers very comfortable seating and decent Wi-Fi. You can pop in for breakfast, coffee, cakes or even Indian standards for lunch and dinner. Curlies on the beach is a well-established beach shack doing very good Indian food and cold beer, but its location does mean its a bit more pricey than some of the others. Anjuna kinds of blends into Vagator and Ozran as one continuous sprawl and there is no clear boundary between them. Vagator is very popular with Israeli backpackers and Ozran has some very lush restaurants popular with Indian middle-class families. Ozran is also the setting for the Shiva Place trance parties which take place between 11 pm – 9 am on weekends. Baga & Calangute Baga & Calangute largely caters towards package holidaymakers. There are some resort style hotels and a lot of white bodies writhing on beaches. In my opinion, they offer relatively little of interest to backpackers. Morjim Morjim is another beach town situated on the Estuary of the Chapora river across the bridge from Arambol. It is known for the Olive Turtles who come here annually to lay eggs, the beach is an important turtle breeding ground so strict wild preservation regulations are not in force. Morjim strikes a nice balance between the busy beaches such as Anjuna & Arambol and the quieter ones down south. There are a few clubs here such as Rockwaters which attract tourists from other towns most nights. It is also a good place to access Chapora Fort from. The town has also acquired a somewhat dubious reputation as a center for Russian and Nigerian crime gangs. Palolem Palolem is situated in south Goa which is less developed than the northern areas. Palolem is a white sandy, peaceful beach which serves as a fitting reminder of how Goa was 40 years ago before it opened up to mass tourism. Other nearby beaches included Agonda Beach, Patnem Beach and Polem beach. The area is a perfect contact to Arambol and Anjuna in the north and you may way wish to come here for some peace and tranquility. Other towns and beaches in Goa There are several other cities, towns, and beaches in Goa and it is not exactly necessary to list them all. I have covered the most popular or interesting ones but I do recommend getting of the beaten track and heading out to find your own little beach. Vasco De Gama is another major city and Goa’s chief port. It is stated near to the beach town of Dona Paula. The below list is taken from World of Lists.
|1||Anjuna Beach||North Goa||8 Km from City and nearest to Mapusa|
|2||Arambol Beach||North Goa||One hour drive from Dabolim Airport|
|Ashwem Beach||North Goa||20 km from Panaji City|
|3||Baga Beach||North Goa||9 km from Mapusa and 16 km from Panaji|
|4||Calangute Beach||North Goa||Just 45 to 50 minutes to reach from Panaji|
|5||Candolim Beach||North Goa||Located about 14 km from Panaji|
|6||Dona Paula Beach||North Goa||7 km from Panaji|
|7||Keri Beach||North Goa||Around 28 km from Mapusa City|
|8||Mandrem Beach||North Goa||Situated northern part of Ashwem beach|
|9||Miramar Beach||North Goa||Just 1 km from Panaji and 1 km from Dona Paula Beach|
|10||Morjim Beach||North Goa||13 km from Mapusa and 28 km from Panaji|
|11||Sinquerim Beach||North Goa||13 km from Panaji|
|12||Siridao Beach||North Goa||Very close to Panaji City|
|13||Vagator Beach||North Goa||22 km from Panaji|
|14||Vainguinim Beach||North Goa||7 km south from Panaji|
|15||Agonda Beach||South Goa||37 km from Madgaon|
|16||Arossim Beach||South Goa||15 minutes ride from Dabolim Airport|
|17||Benaulim Beach||South Goa||2 km from Colva Beach|
|18||Betalbatim Beach||South Goa||8 km away from Madgaon|
|19||Betul Beach||South Goa||17 km from Madgaon|
|20||Bogmalo Beach||South Goa||4 km away from Dabolim|
|21||Canaguinim Beach||South Goa||55 km from Dabolim Airport|
|22||Cavelossim Beach||South Goa||17 km distance from Margaon city|
|23||Cola Beach||South Goa||10 km from Angola Beach|
|24||Colva Beach||South Goa||7 km from Madgaon|
|25||Consaulim Beach||South Goa||10 km from madgaon|
|26||Galjibaga Beach||South Goa||70 km from Dabolim|
|27||Majorda Beach||South Goa||15 minutes from Dabolim Airport|
Shopping in Goa
Goa is a great place to do some shopping. You can pick up “standard” Indian memorabilia, as well as some cool, boutique items made by local designers (both Indian and foreign). The main drag at Arambol is full of shops selling Indian shirts, bright T-shirts, trance-wear, jewelry, Psychedelic art, lamps and basically all kinds of hippy flavored stuff. If you head inside Marabella, the front of the store sells some great clothes but expect to pay European prices. The Saturday night market at Apora is packed with artisans and designers. Even if you are not in the mood (or have the money) to shop you should definitely still head here. It is a very cool, happening place to gather, there are some great food stalls and some bars playing Techno and mild-Psytrance. Don’t miss it. Anjuna hosts a twice weekly, outdoor flea market on Anjuna road. The town is also home to a few boutique stores specializing in trance-wear like Seed of Life.
Drugs in Goa
Drugs are widely available in Goa and some would even say that they are an essential part of the Goan traveler culture. Certainly, it was the abundance of hash, and lax policing towards other substances, which helped make the state so popular with the original hippies in the 60’s. I must make it very clear that I neither condone nor condemn the use of banned substances. It is your personal choice what you put into your body and mind and I am only providing information. Cannabis (hash and weed) is popular throughout India and is readily available across the country. Apparently, the best stuff is from the North of the country. You will almost certainly be offered weed at some point during your stay. Despite being openly smoked, it is nevertheless illegal and the police have been known to occasionally bust tourists. LSD, MDMA & Ketamine are also widely available in Goa and are an intrinsic part of the Goan Trance scene. That said, it is less likely that you will be solicited for these and if you want to find them, you will have to seek them out yourself. Be mindful that the quality of synthesized drugs varies hugely and sometimes dangerously. Apparently, the LSD sold in Goa is generally of very high quality and should be consumed responsibly. It may be sold in liquid form or on a “tab” of blotting paper. Budget for 1000 rps per pop. Buying MDMA or Ecstasy carries risks as these substances are often mixed with other, very unpleasant, stimulants. Each year there are a number of drug-related deaths in Goa. If you do decide to take drugs, take small quantities to assess their effects on you and stay hydrated. Stay away from the sea whilst high and under no circumstances should you attempt to drive or ride any motorized bicycle under the influence of anything stronger than Chai. If you are caught with a banned substance, the penalties can be severe although in all probability you will simply have to haggle with the police to agree on a suitable, on the spot, “fine” which will run into the hundreds of dollars.
Nightlife in Goa
Goa’s nightlife is thriving and there are plenty of places to party in Goa. You will have no problem occupying your evenings and will be able to carry on dancing until daybreak 7 nights a week if you wish. Trance Parties The legendary Goan Trance parties happen in and around Anjuna. The legendary Shiva Valley (in Anjuna) occurs every Tuesday night during high season from sundown until 8 – 10 am the next day. Entrance is free for women but 500 rps for men. Hilltop in Little Vagator is a more of a club concept and puts on a lot of daytime events – entrance prices often run into 1000’s, the place is dusty and arid I am personally not a huge fan of the venue. UV Bar, Nine Bar and Pirates Cafe in Anjuna/Vagator also do Psytrance club nights. However, the best Trance parties are the haphazard, semi-legal ones which occur either in the forests or right on the beach. In the 2017 – 18 season, Shiva’s Place at Little Vagator staged wild parties on Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s. Expect the police to occasionally turn up soliciting bribes from the organizers. If you have no frame of reference to understand what is Psytrance, it is a fast, hard form of electronic music characterized by a tribal beat and overlaid with “trippy” sound effects. It is definitely not to everybody’s taste but apparently makes more sense under the influence of psychoactive substances such as LSD, Ecstasy and strong coffee. There are many variations and sub-genres within the Psytrance spectrum but the one you usually here in Goa is known as “Dark Forest” on account of its haunting, yet organic feel. If you are going to Goa you absolutely have to experience at least one Goa Trance party. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that if you haven’t been to one, then you haven’t truly been to Goa. Techno/House Trance is too intense for some people which is why recent years have seen more conventional Techno/House clubs pop up. Popular ones are at Mojim and UV Bar. Pirates Cafe also do club nights. Reggae Apparently, every Sunday at Rockwaters in Morjim is Reggae night. So if you like slow, one chord jams with a guy intermittently shouting “Jah” and “ I a& I” over the top, then head here. Live Events In addition to full-on parties and club nights, there is loads of live stuff going on across Goa. Arambol is renowned for live music with Twice in Nature and The Source putting on decent live acts most nights. You can also find singer/songwriters of varying standards playing most nights in many of the cafes around the state.
Dangers of Goa
Goa isn’t an especially dangerous place. There is relatively little crime and violence is quite rare. However, there are some dangers you do need to be aware of. One of the biggest dangers is traffic and road conditions. Whether you are on the road yourself, crossing the streets, or simply walking on the pavement, keep an eye out for bad drivers. Do not add to this danger by driving whilst drunk or high. Also pay attention to road quality when riding a bike as there are some severe potholes which can send you flying over your handlebars – over the years, scores of travelers have met their ends this way. Be sure to curtail your excess’. As I said before, each year there are drug-related deaths and hospitalizations. Indian booze also seems to give me especially bad hangovers on account of its high chemical content and lax quality control. Wild and stray animals can also be a bit of a problem. Whilst there are relatively few of the pesky monkeys which blight the rest of the nation, there are plenty of stray dogs who can sometimes turn aggressive; the ones in Anjuna, for example, are all completely insane. Beach cows are usually placid but again, have been known to butt people for no apparent reason. There are also snakes in and around the forests (sometimes wandering inside guest houses) and plenty of thirsty mosquitos after dark. Tap water is not safe to drink. Also, there are occasional cases of women been assaulted, raped and even killed in Goa. It is very important that female travelers are extremely cautious especially at night, in lonely areas, around trance parties, and whilst under the influence of narcotics. I wrote an article about Rape Problems in India after my first visit and women visitors should have a read.
Where To Go From Goa
Kerala Kerala is India’s southernmost state. It is lush green, peaceful and the people are very relaxed. It may prove to be the perfect tonic to Goa’s hedonism. Kerala is known for meditation centers, Yoga classes, and backwater river cruises. You can even rent a houseboat for a few days. Popular spots in Kerala are the state capital of Cochin (get out of the city and head for Fort Kochi), Thina.. and Volkana is a popular, hippy-ish beach resort. Hampi
Hampi is one of South India’ absolute highlights. It is an awesome & crazy dreamscape which is home to a series of ancient temples and some baffling, huge rock piles. The place attracts a lot of backpackers who usually end up staying longer than planned. In Hampi, you can take a bike tour around the temples which is much better if done with a group and a guide. Hampi is currently going through a weird phase regarding alcohol so it may or may not be available when you arrive. You will arrive at the bus station so will need to catch a Tuk Tuk to Hampi itself. You then have to choose which side of the river you stay at – I recommend the other side as this is where the backpacker scene is. Goan Corner and the nearby hostels are by far the best. You will have to pay a boatman to take you across the river unless the river level is low in which case you can walk across it. Hampi is also very popular with rock climbers on account of the madcap, huge boulders for which it is famed. Mumbai I guess Mumbai is India’s second city. It is home to its movie industry and much of its financial and media hubs. It is very crowded, noisy, hot and intense. There is a quite a bit to do in Mumbai. The city boasts some magnificent British-era architecture, you can do a Bollywood set tour (and even become a film extra) and you can visit India’s largest slum. Most of the hostels are out towards the airport so you just take a train into the center. A few days in Mumbai is plenty. Mumbai is a major transport hub. You can catch trains and buses to Delhi and flights to the anywhere in the world from Indira Gandhi airport. Gokharna
Gokarna in Karnakata State is situated some xx km north of Goa. It is a small temple town with a few isolated, quiet beaches attached. Backpackers come here for a real beach escape, there is nothing but wooden shacks, sand, sea, and jungle. It is very peaceful, remote and another perfect antidote to Goa’s bustle. Om Beach is popular with Israeli’s and Cuddle Beach with other backpackers. Be warned, there are a lot of snakes about and they regularly enter guest houses!
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