I read once that as a travel writer you shouldn’t use the word “paradise”, but there is truly no other way to describe Goa. Imagine people who love their lives completely. They came to Goa to start a business they dreamed of, play music, or sell paintings. With a low cost of living, people can actually do work they love. Everyone is happy in Goa. You’ll see the slogan “Live Happy” all over. This is an intro to the ultimate guide to Goa, but my e-book is where you’ll find all my tips.
I wrote a 170-page e-book, Insider’s Guide to Goa. After five years of living in Goa, I am confident this book is the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide to Goa plus it has all my secrets inside. Click here to buy it now. (If you join my Facebook group there is a 30% off code in there)
If you’re coming to Goa, I guarantee this book will make your trip 1000x better than if you just showed up here without reading it.
General Goa Travel Tips
- Safety Tips For Solo Female Travel in Goa, India
- BEST Places to Visit in Goa in 3 Days
- 50 Things to Do in Goa
- Best Place to Stay in Goa
Guide to Goa: an Intro
Goa is separated into North and South, North being more “party” and south being a place people go to relax and get away from the party scene in the North.
In the future, I hope to give you great advice about South Goa, but as I live and spent more time up north, I’m going to stick to this part of Goa.
Ultimate Guide to North Goa
In Goa they speak Konkani. Time is GMT +5.5 (IST). The currency is rupees. It is not an international airport unless you take a charted flight from say Manchester or somewhere in Russia.
Most likely you’ll fly in from Bombay- which mean only a secondary 45 minute flight to Goa. I suggest booking all the way through on Kiwi as they also search budget airlines in India and you won’t have to pay for extra luggage.
It’s hot and tropical. There is a risk for malaria and a small risk for dengue. There are fabulous hospitals and many come to Goa for medical tourism to get plastic surgery or dental work on the cheap. You cannot drink the water. Tipping is expected to hotels, services like massage and hair, and nicer restaurants, but not to drivers and other basics. To call India start with country code +91.
You need travel insurance. Goa is more expensive that most of India and hospitals can be very expensive if you crash your scooter or whatever may happen. I swear by World Nomads Travel Insurance.
WHEN TO COME.
October through April is best, but by end of April it’s HOT HOT HOT. December is the peak and it is crowded to the max. You’ll need to book ahead at this time and expect to pay 5x as much as normal. Monsoon is in the summer, May through September and although I love it and stay, most people try not to come during this time.
Here are more tips for seasonal travel in India.
There is nothing more important than food in Goa and for this one I’m going to redirect you to a recent post I’ve written on the topic:
What I don’t mention on these is Sri, a popular little spot in Vagator that everyone from locals to Bollywood stars stops in for a bite. Personally, the food isn’t my favorite, but the scene is pretty cool.
I also didn’t mention a cute little place in Assagao called Vinayak which you’ll pass on the way to Villa Blanche. It’s a local spot with great curries. I love their garlic butter prawns.
Unlike the rest of India, you’ll be substituting chai for sweet lime soda, typical snacks for lime drizzled corn on the cob, and picking up street snacks like Isreali inspired shwarmas, Goan samosas (little less spice I think), and Goan sausages (great on pizza).
The inexpensive local dish is any fish curry rice or chicken xacuti, which is a coconut curry. Goans eat fish almost every day! Also yummy and Goan is cafreal, vindaloo, sorpotel eith fermented rice cakes and chouris.
The local drink is cashew feni, which is very hardcore moonshine- beware!
The local bread is pao, which is delivered to each home by bicycle! Fresh and warm, these buns are great for sandwiches!
Many many people come here for yoga. You can choose either yoga retreats or if you’re already a big yogi, you can do yoga teacher training (YTT) here.
Click this link to see a list of the top yoga retreats in Goa. This site is the most well-known booking site for yoga retreats and courses for YTTbecause it only lists the best and there are tons of reviews on there.
Check with your guesthouse for hook up, but you can go whitewater rafting (more on this later), hiking, waterfall chasing, paragliding, SUP, kite-surfing, or head south to the spice plantation to ride an elephant. Of course you need time to beach out! There are dolphin boat trips, river houseboat rentals, Tai Chi, Yoga all over the place, and Silks and dance at Tito’s White house.
My favorite beach is Vagator, which actually is three beaches. Love going there for a beach shack lunch or a nice greek lunch at Thalassa. We take Huckleberry, our dog, here for a swim on Ozram beach often, the smallest bit of Vagator beach.
Anjuna beach is more crowded, but still nice. At night this beach comes alive with trance parties. You can get 30 minute foot massages for about 200 Rs at both beaches. Women will come by selling sarongs and such- they can be very persistant, and YES there are cows on the beaches ;)
Keri farther up north is gorgeous and empty and known to locals as the best.
Arambol is where you’ll find the hippie drum circles and little beach parties. Here’s a guide to Arambol.
Mandrem/Morjim and Ashwem are nice beaches and I like to go there on Sundays for lunch and lounging! I guess I would call these fancier beaches? People say they are too Russian, but I say who cares- they are great beaches and I don’t get what the problem is with all this Russian talk!
Baga, Calangute, and Candolim are not only three beaches I avoid, but in general I don’t go to these areas very much and if you have limited time they can be skipped. There is much more to Goa than this!
Goa has THE best market in India, if not the whole world: the Saturday night market, followed closely by the flea market. These aren’t the only places to shop but are a great place to start.
The two biggest markets are only open on season: end of October through March-April.
As I wrote this, it got quite long (go figure my shopping information is the most detailed) so I’m linking separate posts:
Goa is the place to stay right on the beach. Shacks are typically non A/C (you don’t need it most of the year). If you are coming peak season (December and Janurary) you need to book way ahead of time.
I tell backpackers who e-mail me to stay one of two areas.
1. Way up north in Ashwem/Morjim
- Vaayu, who offers kite surfing and SUP
- Glamp it up at Amarya Paros
- Marbella the party place with a pool
- Wanderers Hostel to meet friends
2. The other option is in Anjuna/Vagator/Siolim area. There are great backpacking options in this area like:
- Jungle Hostel where lots of backpackers stay
- Bean Me Up vegan restaurant, very hippy
- Evershine cheap guesthouse, have your own room
If you’re looking to splurge out a bit, which most people are who email me… here are some options that I have reviewed and LOVE in Goa:
- Siolim House to get the old Portuguese style
- Elsewhere, a secret beach with affordable cottages or expensive houses
- Sur La Mer boutique style with a pool
- Noi Varo totally amazing house with cook, staff, etc
For more places to stay check out these 3 articles
It’s not secret that Goa is psychedelic, and probably the trance capital of the world. The hippies may have left, but the scene is still psy.
Popular psy parties: Shiva Valley, Disco Valley, Hillop, Club 9, Westend, Curlies (maybe),
Techno/less trance like clubs: Teso, Chronicle, Terrace, Waters, Katzensuppe, Bardo, Guru, Marbela, Sunset Ashram, UV Bar, and Bubble Brunch. These are the ones that I love going to!
Clubs: There are a handful in North Goa. I know near Baga and Calangute there are loads but I haven’t been. For one, I know they are full of drunk dudes on vacation. In Arpora close to home there is Club Cubana though. On Wednesday, it’s ladies night (aka free) at Cubana and I enjoy the music there a lot. They are strict at the door on who enters so you can go and drink without having any issues from men. I mention this on my post about FAQ in Goa for my favorite place to hear r&b and hip hop in Goa and actually have some discount passes if you’re interested.
Snips Salon is where I get my hair done and they have amazing facials and massages.
If you’re curious about Old Goa and Panjim, take a day to hire a driver and see them. Don’t stay in Panjim! You can get a cuter cheaper place right on the beach, next to great restaurants.
Glamour Salon in Arpora between the Saturday market and Club Cubana will do eyebrow threading for 20 rupees. She does a great job!
I like to go to Resort Rio for a massage and to chill by the pool while eating pizza!
Even if you don’t stay at a 5 Star Hotel, doesn’t mean you can’t go to them for drinks! Try the Taj at Fort Agauada!
The neighborhood I live in, Assagao, is adorable. Some call it the “beverly hills” of Goa. Look into staying here.
Think about renting a villa if you have 4 or more people. Airbnb is cool now in India and you can get great deals. Even my complex has our villas on airbnb. I have a discount code for you: $25 (1,555 Rs) off your stay if you use this airbnb link to book. I found great places in India and Hawaii on here!
Bike rentals are the way to go. It’s about 200 Rs a day for a bike and 500 Rs petrol will last you at least all week! You can also rent a car if you have more people. This is Ben and I’s omni!
Although I’m no pro on South Goa, I can recommend this secret beach in Goa.
Check out What’s Up Goa for to find out where that night’s party is at. It’s very off and on so make sure you know the best place for that day.
Check into Couchsurfing in Goa. It’s the ideal place because it’s best when you know a local.
While this post gave a little insight into Goa, I wrote a 170-page e-book, Insider’s Guide to Goa. After five years of living in Goa, I am confident this book is the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide to Goa plus it has all my secrets inside. Click here to buy it now.
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