Goa in India.
India's beautiful State of Goa is a great place to go too on holiday with it's generally speaking wonderful and consistent weather - fairly hot days (but usually tempered by a sea breeze or two) and lovely relaxing evenings where you can wander around in shorts and t-shirt quite happily.
Goa can be as quiet or busy around it's beaches and hotels depending on which part you chose to stay whilst on holiday with generally the further south you go the quieter it all is. For days out you easily have access to excellent scenic countryside and jungle just a
little way inland including waterfalls and wildlife parks as well as visiting the lovely churches and buildings at Old Goa. On top of this there is the really great food you can get from the small restaurants frequently located along the beach areas in Goa. These
Goa beach restaurants usually have surprisingly extensive menus available with all sorts of beautifully cooked delicious fish, curry and spice dishes to try out - and they are inexpensive.
Flights to Goa and Dabolim Airport, India. Goa's Dabolim international and domestic airport is located on the coast which is next to Bogmalo - just a little south of Panaji and Vasco da Gama. The airport is run by the Indian military (who use it regularly for flying their various jets and helicopters about) and it shows.
Basically the facilities from waiting rooms to baggage handling and getting through the various paperwork checkpoints is an old-fashioned untidy mess. Quite a few international airlines fly directly into Bogmalo and their are also plenty of domestic direct flights from for instance Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and even one a day from Ahmedabad. Domestic airlines using the airport include Spicejet, Indigo, Jet and Air
India. There are always plenty of taxis waiting for inbound flights at Dabolim airport - as always remember to firmly agree the fare with the taxi driver before setting off (and that the price includes how ever many of you are travelling and also includes your luggage). It is always worth having the complete name, address and phone number of the hotel you want to go too printed out on a sheet of paper.
Getting Around Goa - buses and taxis etc.
Local Buses run constantly but can get very crowded especially when the schools close at around 1300hrs - however the tickets are really inexpensive and it's worth trying the buses out just for the experience. It is also possible to hire mopeds or scooters but when
you watch the driving around in for instance Vasco da Gama - which is haphazard to say the least - then it's probably not worth the risk especially when considering how cheap a taxi fare is.
In addition many of the roads have really bad potholes - particularly outside of the towns - and even fairly main roads can suddenly go from tarmac to track for short distances. There are a huge number of lorries and buses on the roads and they don't tend to stop even at junctions etc. - the trick is just to
let out a blast on the horn and go for it regardless. One major headache for drivers (mostly out in the countryside but we saw them wandering about in Vasco da Gama, Panaji and Margao) are the wandering cattle - they roam freely even on dual carriageways and of course you really don't want to hit a cow in India.
Taxis are the answer - we have used the same driver each time we have stayed in Goa - often hiring him for the day. Depending on how many miles/kms you went on a day you could probably have your own driver for around 15 to 1800 rupees. Our driver was excellent and often went round the
various places we wanted to visit with us - giving us a guided tour sometimes in places like Panaji. Note there is a huge price difference in doing a deal (usually cash) with a driver as opposed to getting your hotel to sort it out for you - not only would the hotel add on a chunk for their trouble but the whole thing would be liable to taxes and so on - the difference can easily be some 1000s of Rupees.
Restaurants, Cafes and Bars i.e. Food and Drink in Goa.
Even the smallest restaurants generally offer an extensive inexpensive menu, especially those on the beaches - the variety of fish, prawns, curries made with all manner of spices - hot, mild whatever you want - all you do is ask and they are so willing to give you what you want. There are also of course loads of
vegetarian dishes on offer - wide use of peppers, lots of different vegetables - the main problem is picking out what you want this time and what you will have next time instead etc. Also the variety of rice mixes are brilliant and finally the stone cooked rotis and nanns from plain to prawn mixes to chicken and so on.
Typically a starter cost 120 rupees, average main course dish around 180 rupees, various rice dishes around 90 rupees and nanns/rotis about 30 rupees - so for a couple
of UK Pounds you get a lot of good food. The beer on offer is usually local Kingfisher plus you can get stuff like Fosters etc. at around 100 to 120 rupees a bottle and whisky/vodka/gin goes for around 140rs depending on make.
For anyone on an extensive tour of India then being in Goa is a delight especially if already having stayed in for instance certain parts of Rajastahn where food quality is sometimes to say the least debateable. There is no-where else in the country close to the food quality and so on to be found in
Hotels - Guesthouses and where abouts to stay in Goa.
Generally hotels in Goa are considerably more expensive to stay in than many parts of India that we have visited - only the likes of Delhi and Mumbai hotels charge more per night. How much you pay does depend enourmously on whereabouts in Goa you intend to stay. There are plenty of hotels north of Panaji and these tend to be
the cheapest - as you head south the prices really shoot up with some really expensive but beautifully located and set up hotel complexes somewhat south of Margao. Our favourite place to stay though is at or near Bogmalo which despite being close to the airport does not seem to suffer from noise - just the occasional military jet around and a few commercial aircraft (and anyway the
military regularly fly up and down the Goan coastline during the day so their activity cannot be avoided).
Bogmalo Beach Goa.
This fairly small Goa beach is located in a cove and is around 4kms off the Vasco da Gama - Margao main road (Vasco da Gama is around 8kms North). Bogmalo beach has an unobtrusive six storey hotel edged with palm trees on one end of it's cove plus several small guest houses, about half a dozen restaurants, quite a few tiny shops selling t-shirts, beach wear etc.,
several jewellers and also a couple of tailors - the latter will make you an excellent suit in just a few days of good quality and also really cheaply. Bogmalo is really quiet with the beach almost deserted most days - at least
until the early evening when the locals wander down and also on Sundays when loads of people arrive for a stroll.
There is a local bus running frequently all day between Bogmalo beach and Vasco (the ticket costs an awesome 25rs) plus there are always taxis around. The beach has sun beds available which can be hired from various local bars and restaurants, also one jet ski for hire and you can also hire out a small speedboat for going fishing or a trip out to Grande Isle etc.
The wildlife is pretty good - with lots of kites, buzzards, waders and fish eagles around as well as quarrelsome crows - then there is the flashing site of kingfishers - and we also saw dolphins several times a little way out in the Bay. Near to Bogmalo you can also stay at a medium size complex within the Valley of the Gods Devasthali - this is located in a deep valley and is very peacefull (apart
perhaps from the horns from the fairly infrequent trains passing along the track on the opposite side of the valley). From this location you can take a very nice wander down the valley's beautiful trees and shrubs etc. to Hollant Beach - a small beach but you can put your feet up at the beach bar and watch nothing happening there.
Travelling to somewhere else from Goa i.e. touring India.
If on a self-guided tour of India (i.e. not on an organized package which would obviously sort out your itinerary for you) then there are several options to get to the next destination. The obvious way is to fly to the next place which works if there is an airport near or at to wherever that is - however it's possible that the next place
to visit might well be out in Karnataka State at Hospet or Hampi to visit the Hampi World Heritage Site there - and there is no open airport anywhere near.
Choice becomes reduced to taking a long-distance coach or bus (which is not a particularly good option unless on a really tight budget) or by taking the several times a week train from Vasco da Gama. This train does have quite a few 4 sleeper berths but gets very heavily booked often weeks in advance
- however like the long-distance buses this is quite inexpensive.
The other option is to hire a car and driver for a one way drop off - with two or more of you travelling this is actually quite a good way of getting to Hospet and you get to see lots of countryside, stop and look at anything that interests you and so on in the process. For instance you could take a slight diversion to
see the lovely little Mahadeva Temple.
As mentioned above the cost effective way is to approach a driver (any taxi driver will certainly make you an offer or know someone who will do so) - with negotiation the one-way (i.e. drop off) trip from say Bogmalo to Hospet can be done for around 10500RS.