Travelling to Goa soon? In this post, I am going to share with you the Goa travel tips that you absolutely need to know before you travel to Goa.
The tips are in random order but comprehensively cover everything you need to know about
- Commuting within Goa
- Renting a car or a scooter in Goa
- Shopping in Goa
- Drinking and eating in Goa
- Planning your Goa itinerary
- and many more aspects associated to Goa travel
All the tips contain detailed insights based on my 20+ trips to Goa. So if you want your trip to be magical but not challenging and fun but not frustrating, make sure you read the article thoroughly!
(You can thank me later… I will tell you how!)
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Goa Travel Tips: Everything you need to know before your Goa trip
1. Book your taxi at the airport prepaid counter or using the Goamiles app
As soon as you exit Goa airport, you will notice hundreds of pick-up placards and dozens of cab drivers calling you out.
Don’t pick the first driver who approaches you as he will definitely take overcharge you.
Instead, choose one of the options below:
- Book a prepaid taxi from the prepaid taxi counter just before you exit the Goa airport. Expect to wait for about 10-15 minutes for your prepaid taxi to arrive. The benefit of booking a prepaid taxi is that the charges are fixed and you don’t have to worry about getting ripped.
- Download the Goamiles app on your phone and book a cab once you’re ready to exit. Goamiles is a Government app that lets you book a cab online the same way in which you would book an Uber. The rates are usually much cheaper than local drivers and at times even cheaper than the prepaid counter. The only caveat – you may have to wait for a cab to be available for booking.
- Prebook your cab online – this option would be a bit expensive but it would ensure that you have a cab ready the moment you’re ready to leave from the airport. In any case, this option often works out cheaper than booking an airport pick up from your hotel (Especially if you’re staying in 4+ star property)
2. Carry your ID cards for renting a vehicle
To rent a vehicle in Goa, you need the following ID cards
- two Government issued ID card and
- a valid driving license
Also a practice that I find rather annoying is that of depositing your ID card like your PAN, Aadhar Card or Passport with the bike rental shop for the duration of your rental.
So it would be prudent to carry two Government ID cards – one to be kept as a deposit and the other to show at bars and clubs requiring age verification.
Make sure you get a written acknowledgment of the deposit of your Government ID card to avoid issues later.
3. Understand how huge Goa is
Many people who have never visited Goa imagine it to be like any other tourist destination in India – i.e. they believe it to be a small town or a city.
But what you must remember is that Goa is a state. Even though it is one of the smallest states in India, it is still much bigger than a regular tourist town in India.
In fact, the vertical length of Goa is approximately 105 kilometres and its approximate width is 60 kilometres.
Thus, you can never ‘cover’ all of Goa in one trip. You will have to mostly cover only a small part of Goa in one trip or divide your time in Goa wisely between North and South Goa to make the most of your trip.
As a first-timer in Goa trying to visit major tourist attraction, understand that you will spend a considerable amount of time commuting between places.
In my digital travel plan Goa: Planned for You, I have created a full itinerary to cut down your trip planning process.
All you have to do is follow it!
Goa: Planned for You
A handy digital travel plan that includes
- Specially curated stay recommendations
- restaurant suggestions
- a day-wise break-up of things to do
- a fully interactive Goa map
- special insights and lots more!
4. Rent a two-wheeler to make the most of your trip
Given how huge Goa is, the best way to cut down on time spent travelling is by renting a two-wheeler.
Two-wheelers are perfect
- for riding through the narrow interior roads of Goa
- for avoiding traffic jams in main cities like Panjim or Madgaon
- to cut down overall costs as a typical per day scooter rental only costs INR 400 and petrol in Goa is also much cheaper than most Indian states.
The roads in Goa are also in good condition for most parts of the year.
The only time when riding a scooter won’t be a convenient option is during monsoons.
Foreigners not used to riding in India can safely initiate themselves in Goa as there is hardly any traffic in the internal roads in Goa. Once you build confidence, you can then venture on the highways and in main cities.
You can also get fancier, bigger bikes on rent. Expect to pay a higher rent for these.
I personally prefer a scooter over a bike for its storage space.
5. Practice caution when getting a vehicle on rent
It is very common for tourists to take a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler on rent when in Goa.
But to avoid getting in any kind of rental troubles later, check the following
- the condition of the vehicle you are taking on rent. It is advisable to take a good-quality video recording of the vehicle you plan to take on rent before you make a payment in respect of the same. Make sure you capture all dents, scratches and damages to the vehicle.
- the vehicle you’re taking on rent is a tourist vehicle i.e. one with a yellow number plate. White number plates are private vehicles and you will be penalized for taking those on rent.
- The quantity of petrol in the tank. Most vehicles will only come with just about enough petrol to take you to the nearest petrol pump.
6. Check reviews on multiple platforms before you book your hotel
Goa is one of the prime most tourist destinations in India. As a result, there is cut throat competition amongst hotels, hostels and homestays.
To lure customers into booking the hotel, a few hotels have been known
- to put false photos on websites or
- put photos of superior rooms only or
- put super edited photos
Tourists have faced difficulties on account of such scammy behavior.
To avoid getting into such situations, please
- check tourist photos of a hotel
- read reviews across multiple booking platforms
- book a hotel recommended to you by an expert or someone who has stayed at the property in the recent past.
I faced a similar issue on one of my trips when I booked a highly-rated hotel only to find multiple cockroaches in my room. It was a horror!
After that, I have exercised tremendous caution when booking hotels in Goa. To avoid getting into trouble, I book all my stays in Goa using Booking.com which allows free cancellation.
7. Book a taxi outside your hotel
Booking a taxi for sightseeing or for pick up and drops to the nearest station often proves to be much more expensive.
This is because hotels are not allowed to hire their own drivers.
Most hotels use the services of local taxi drivers from their area and thus charge a surcharge or extra commission to you.
To save money, directly approach a taxi driver waiting outside your hotel.
The only minor inconvenience caused to you is that you will have to carry your luggage outside as the taxi driver that you’ve booked directly won’t be allowed entry inside the hotel premises.
(As ridiculous as this may sound, that’s exactly how Goa works!)
8. Be prepared for massive crowds in touristy Goa
Many a times when people read that some areas in Goa are crowded, they don’t fathom the degree.
So let me help you get an idea.
The tourist side of Goa i.e. areas between Candolim and Vagator are massively crowded.
- Thousands of tourists throng the beaches in this area at any given point in time.
- Most of the restaurants are full and you will need to wait to get a place.
- Every inch of party clubs is packed with people
If you are someone who absolutely can’t stand such massive crowds, please avoid visiting touristy areas on weekends (in particular long weekends).
The crowds in touristy Goa recedes considerably on weekdays.
9. Bargain hard everywhere
Like all tourist destinations, if you want to maximise the return on your buck, bargain hard.
Don’t hestitate to bargain at
- flea markets
- street shops
- vehicle rentals
- tourist taxis
- tour operators
- watersport vendors
Put your shameless haggle pants on and start negotiating from at least 60% of the price quoted and then go upwards.
Probably the only places where you won’t be allowed to bargain is at cafés and restaurants.
10. Pack light and shop locally
As I have stated in my (soon to be published) article on what to pack for a trip to Goa, it’s is best to pack light for a Goa trip.
You can find lots of shops selling clothes, swimwear, sarongs, jewellery, hats and other accessories near all beach and tourist areas.
Plus, all the areas have
- grocery stores
- medical shops and
- liquor shops
So it is best to buy stuff that you need on reaching Goa and pack as lightly as possible.
This saves space in your luggage as well as proves to be economic especially for longer stays in Goa.
Don’t plan a hectic trip (you’ll miss the real beauty of Goa)
11. Skip tourist attractions that don’t interest you
Let me be honest with you-
As much as I recommend visiting the tourist places in Goa, in my opinion, they hardly encapsulate the essence of visiting Goa.
The essence of Goa lies in experiencing
- a laid-back way of living
- a live and let live way policy where there is a lot more social acceptance to practices otherwise frowned upon in the country like drinking, partying, dressing less conservatively, etc.
Unfortunately, a mere visit to a tourist attraction hardly let’s us experience this beauty of Goa.
Therefore, if visiting churches, museums or forts doesn’t interest you, it’s okay to leave those places out of your itinerary.
12. Explore as many offbeat places as possible
Goan tourism has grown extremely commercial over the years. This has resulted in slow damage and loss of charm of prime tourist attractions like
- Fort Aguada
- Chapora Fort
- Old Goan Churches
- Calangute and Baga beaches
To enhance the quality of your visit, include as many offbeat locations in your itinerary as possible.
Some recommendations are
- Tambdi Surla temple
- Bondla Wildlife sanctuary
- Mahavir Wildlife sanctuary
- Less touristy beaches like Cola beach, Patnem beach, Talpona beach, Betalbatim beach etc.
13. Try out street food and local bakeries
While Instagrammers may be populating your feed with the trendiest restaurants and cafés all around Goa, the real magic lies in its local street food and bakeries.
Local street food and bakeries in Goa offer absolutely delicious yet inexpensive food.
For breakfast, eating freshly baked food at a bakery feels much more satiating than eating at a fancy eatery.
For main meals too, you can safely rely on streed food joints that serve Poi, Ros Omelette, Xacuti, Goan Chilly Chicken, Samosas, Bhaje and Patal Bhaji and Wada. The food is super filling and hardly puts a dent in your pocket.
The food sold here is also classic Goan food that you won’t get to taste in other bigger food joints.
14. Be ready for food overdose
When in Goa… you eeeaaaaaat!
It’s so difficult to limit your portion sizes thanks to the sheer variety of delicious food that surrounds you.
From seafood specialities to a fish thali to continental cuisine to baked goods, it is safe to label Goa as a foodie’s paradise.
The intake of main meals is further loaded with occasional drinks, juices, finger foods, coffees and desserts.
So, in short, be ready for some calorie overload.
15. Don’t accept random stuff from strangers
The consumption and distribution of drugs is a serious legal offence in India. The law prescribes a very harsh punishment that includes rigorous imprisonment for the same.
Yet, cases of illegal distribution and consumption of drugs repeatedly come to light as Goa police cracks down on offenders.
Don’t accidentally fall prey to such crimes.
- Accepting anything from strangers
- Visiting a stranger’s room
- Attending parties hosted by people you don’t know
16. Don’t be tempted to drink irresponsibly
Alcohol is available all across Goa. From liquor shops, to restaurants to beach shacks, you can find liquor easily.
But don’t be tempted to drink irresponsibly.
- you aren’t drinking and driving
- you have made arrangements of being dropped back to your accommodation if you are planning to get drunk at a late night party.
17. Beware of common scams
Like every major tourist destination in the world, Goa has its share of scamsters looking for innocent tourist preys.
Here are a few common scams
- Owner of the vehicle secretly damaging the vehicle rented to you to stake a claim at the deposit.
- Selling you a boat ride promising a certain distance or time and then finishing it off much sooner
- Guaranteeing a dolphin watching experience when in fact there is hardly any likelihood of dolphin spotting
- Paying for a permanent tattoo and it getting washed away in a few days
- Showing high-quality cashews from the window of a packet but the rest of the packet being filled with spoilt cashews.
- Claiming to sell top-quality spices and tea to foreigners which then turn out to be fake or of extremely low quality
- A friendly-stranger chatting with you and singing songs with you at the beach and then forcing you to pay for his performance
On top of this, there are many scams where people looking to engage in illegal activities like drugs and prostitution are duped. But the only way to protect yourself from such scams is by not indulging in any activity that’s illegal as per the laws of the land.
18. Don’t travel with a pocket full of cash
I think in today’s age of technological advancement, not travelling with a pocket full of cash should be a no-brainer.
Why attract the risk of being robbed when you could be transacting digitally, right?
So to avoid being pickpocketed or robbed in Goan tourist areas, don’t walk around with a loaded pocket.
There are plenty of ATMs in all tourist areas. Most commercial establishments also accept digital payments and cards.
19. Embrace slowness
Goa takes the meaning of ‘slow’ to a whole other level.
People in Goa don’t hustle and that’s evident from
- shops and restaurants remaining shut in the afternoons (Don’t worry, beachside shacks and popular joints remain open)
- shopkeepers taking their own sweet time to get you what you need
- Taxi drivers and autorickshaw drivers driving at their own pace (i.e. slowly)
- Dispensaries and offices opening by 10 am and shutting down before 6 pm + take an afternoon break.
- Restaurants and cafés taking time to serve you your food
You will also notice the laidback attitude in all walks of life.
You will rarely find rickshaws queueing up at railway stations or airports early in the morning, in the afternoon or after sunset.
If you have a flight or a train to catch at odd hours, please book your commute in advance.
Finding someone on the streets at odd hours is nearly impossible.
Basically, if you want something done fast or need some urgent assistance, you are in the wrong region.
The only way to cope with this slowness of lifestyle is by embracing it and planning around it.
20. Protect your skin
I have written extensively about the damage sunrays can cause you in Goa in my article on what to pack for a trip to Goa.
I have learned the hard way by getting my skin burnt to the point of the sunburnt skin flaking and peeling off. But you can learn from my mistakes.
Please do the following to protect yourself from the harsh sun
- use an SPF-50 sunscreen like this one
- wear good sunglasses (avoid buying the cheap ones you get at local street-side shops)
- wear a hat or a cap (buy locally – good variety at affordable pricing)
- drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
- avoid direct sunlight in outdoor areas in the afternoon
- wear comfortable, light cotton clothing
Likewise, expect mosquitoes and small insects in many budget rooms and beachside accommodations. Carry a good skin cream and mosquito repellant to protect yourself.
21. Choose to stay longer
As I told you earlier, Goa is not another tourist town.
It’s an entire state and the only way to do justice to it is by
- planning a long trip to Goa
- planning multiple trips to Goa where you explore different sides of Goa everytime
Doing this will get you closer to the beauty of Goa, make you understand its culture and its way of life.
A rushed trip to Goa that covers tourist places and leaves no extra time is the worst way of exploring Goa.
22. Buy drinks from a liquor shop
I have let you in on this trick in my article on 12 useful ways to visit Goa on a budget. But let me quickly summarise it for you here-
Alcohol is cheaper in Goa but only if you buy it at a local liquor shop.
Popular restaurants and pubs serve alcohol at rates comparable with major Indian cities. Drinking here will cause a hole in your pocket.
So be smart and buy drinks from a liquor shop and enjoy it with your friends and family at your hotel or hostel.
23. Opt for street-side shops to buy clothing (instead of flea markets)
Goan flea markets are truly one of a kind. They are weekly and have a certain attractive vibe to it. The most famous flea markets in Goa are
- Anjuna flea market (Wednesday only)
- Night Bazaar at Vagator (Friday only)
- Saturday Night Market at Arpora (closed following the pandemic, could reopen shortly)
While these places sell some truly exquisite clothing and jewellery items, I think that they don’t justify their once a week tease.
Most of the clothes sold at these markets are found in street-side shops (Especially in the everyday market that sits near Anjuna). Buying at street-side shops proves to be beneficial for two main reasons
- it’s often much cheaper
- damaged items are easier to replace or return as the shop is available on all days and not just once a week.
Plus, you also save on the entry fee charged by some flea markets by shopping from local street-side vendors instead.
24. Dress modestly at temples and churches
Just because Goan dressing standards are not as orthodox as many other places in India does not mean that you are allowed to disrespect local culture.
Goa is home to some of the most beautiful and religiously symbollic temples and churches.
Do not enter these religious institutions skimpily dressed.
Avoid wearing sleeveless clothing, deep neck tops or clothing that’s above your knees.
25. Save maps offline
Goa, in general, enjoys excellent network coverage. But there are still a few regions where you won’t get any connectivity. These areas include
- some routes leading to Cabo de Rama
- Cola beach and nearby areas
- portions on the highway near Uttorda and Majorda
- approach road towards Dudhsagar falls.
If you are using Google Maps or Maps to navigate, you may risk getting stuck in such regions.
Always save maps offline when covering major distances by road.
26. Wear night driving glasses for riding on Goan roads at night
Riding a two-wheeler in Goa is a fun experience, except at night. At night, when you ride from one place to another you will notice a number of small flying insects. (I wish I knew the name of these insects). My husband was troubled by these insects as they would enter his eye and make riding extremely difficult.
This problem is particularly faced on the highway connecting North Goa to South Goa.
Wear night driving glasses to beat this issue.
I have tried to pour all my experience of travelling to Goa in a long helpful listicle. I am sure you found it helpful. Is there something you would like to add? If yes, please leave a comment down below.
Travelling to Goa soon? Read my other articles on Goa:
- 17 best areas to stay in Goa: A comprehensive guide – read article
- 46 kickass things to do in Goa: An ultimate guide – read article
- The best places to visit in North Goa: A 3-day guide – read article
- The Ultimate 5-day Goa itinerary – read article
- How many days are enough in Goa – read article
In my readymade digital Goa travel plan, I recommend where to stay, where to eat and what to do to suit your travel style. Check it out here.
GOA: PLANNED FOR YOU
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