Goa: The Frequent Traveler’s Guide

Now, I have been to Goa so often, that if and when I start working as a guide there, there would be a queue of takers. From the engineering days of little to no money to the current days of well, a little more money on a relative scale, I have been there. All seasons. All sorts of budget. I am not a fan of luxury trips. They just seem so easy! Like the true middle class Indian that I am, I love value for money. So, here’s my list of stuff to do in Goa without burning a hole in your wallet. I might miss out on quite a few things, but the ones that are written here are all tried and tested.

  • When to go – I’d say try all seasons except summers. I remember we used to make it a point to go to Goa right when the monsoon begins. I think first week of May. Prices used to be dirt cheap. Seeing monsoon hit the beaches used to be beautiful! The only time when even Baga used to be empty. We used to stay drenched and drive around the entire city in Activas. New year ofcourse is the usual time to go, but it is a tad hard on your pockets. We did go for News Years this year, and it wasn’t so bad. Try the places we tried and you might end up a little less poorer too. October, November, Feb and March are by far the best months if you want to call it even between weather and money.
  • Stay away from Calangute and Baga. I really don’t get it why people flock there. And flock they do! In season, you probably would have to push away a couple of people, remove a few kids from your way and then step into the sea. Okay well, a bit of exaggeration, but some days, it is truly like that! I like my beaches empty and serene. I’d say stay in extreme South Goa (Agonda, Palolem) or extreme North Goa (Ashwem, Morjim).
Baga during  a March sunset
  • Jardim a mar – My favorite out of all the places I have ever stayed in Goa. Well, there was a time I had slept in a sleeping bag on the beach, with a dog staring down at me in the morning. Interesting story on hindsight, but definitely not my favorite! Anyway, charming is the word to describe this quaint little guest house on Agonda Beach. So colorful, so warm and so very cheap! The rooms are basic,  but I rarely judge a place by the rooms. There are huts too, but they were all occupied when we went. So, this place is right on the beach. Agonda beach is as serene as it gets. Hills on both sides and very few people, that too during peak season (we went right after new years).

Jardim a mar and Agonda beach

They have a beautiful restaurant by the sea, done up more like a lounge. A small bar by the side and a library too. The drinks are cheap (as is everywhere in Goa) and the food is just amazing. We paid INR 1200 for a room during peak season which I think is a steal during New Years! A little towards off season, and I am guessing the prices drop exponentially. I suggest go there once. You would be thanking me later. 🙂

The bar, the library and the restaurant
View from the restaurant
  • Brittos – I know I said stay away from Baga. But, this one place is the sole reason which drags me back here. Irrespective of where I stay in Goa, I go to Brittos for lunch atleast once. And eat my standard fare – prawn curry and rice. Try the red/green snapper curry too. And the desserts! Maybe a little pricey compared to other places. But they really are the best! Go a little early and you should be able to get one of those tables by the sea.
  • Club Cabana – For 1500 bucks a couple, you get unlimited liquor (of the really bad domestic variety) and a fairly decent crowd. The music is mostly house. You can party outside, beside the pool or inside. Not bad at all for a fun night, if you are a big group. Just a warning – do not do shots with the free liquor! Stomach might not agree with you a day later though.

  • Titos – Is overrated.
  • Saturday night Live Market (Arpora) – Like the name goes, only active on a Sat evening. Caters to the foreign populace. Avoid buying anything here. Stuff is generally marked up by a big margin. But they have this centre stage. Where, if your luck is good, you can get to hear some amazing world music! What you should do is go a little early (say 6 pm), and hang around a bit. If the music does not appeal, the casino and club cabana are really near. Just hop on to one of the two places and party or gamble the night away! 🙂

  • Granpas Inn – Again, this is a recent find. A small heritage hotel with a restaurant. The kind of place where you would want to spend an entire day. Or more. A huge green lawn and a yellow and white bungalow in the middle. You can choose to sit in the garden or the verandah. There is a pool room too for Rs. 50 an hour. Now, about the food. It simply blew us away! We ate the shrimp eggs benedict which till date makes me drool. And not to forget the chilli martinis and cactus martinis. Refreshing like the first sip of water on a hot summer day! Probably, the next time round I would stay there and not just go for a bite.

  • Shacks – Each beach has its own set. Calangute and Baga are way too crowded. The entire purpose of chilling in shacks gets defeated. Candolim has some really good ones – Jacksons and Ryans shack to name a few. There is one in Arambol too which was pretty good (can’t remember the name). But the thing with North Goa is they give way too much preference to the foreign crowd. Ashwem has sun beds right in front of the La Plage restaurant. I’d say book a table at La Plage and fix yourself on the sun bed right outside! We missed La Plage but heard super reviews of the place. Well, the easiest way to go to a good shack is Tripavisor. Just look up the beach and you’ll get a good shack.

Jackson shack at Candolim beach
Shack at Arambol beach
  • Silent Noise Party – Its a headphone party. Happens in Palolem, South Goa every Saturday at Neptune Point. Another one of those must-do things in Goa. Just for eccentricity’s sake. Cue in to the music you like on your headset and dance the night away. And no one around you complains about the noise! 🙂
  • Chocolatti – This one is a breakfast place at Candolim. We missed but some dear friends went. And going by their pics and never ending words of praise, it must be pretty awesome. Go here for pancakes and waffles if you’re near Candolim.

Breakfast at Candolim
  • Nick’s Place – Another small restaurant run by a British couple, Bob and Linda. Lively place, music quizzes, live music and good food. This is near Arpora too. Try it out when you’re there. Oh, not to forget, this place has the cleanest bathroom I have ever seen in a restaurant!

  • Betty’s Great Escape day trip – Okay now this one I haven’t done. Never had enough days to do this. So, if any of you manage to go for this, just drop me a note will you? So for this day trip, they take you to a secluded beach near Mobor beach by fast boat. Located in South Goa. Unlimited drinks and lunch barbeque. Costs around Rs. 600 per person. And call 91-8322-871456 or 91-8322-871038 to book. Sounds good to me.

  • Dudhsagar Waterfall – Another place where people rarely go. This one is located around 60 kms from Panjim, away from the beaches. The way to the falls is tricky. You must hire either a jeep or a bike with a driver. Do not even bother doing it on your own because the route goes through a rail track, water and forest. There’s some walking involved too, but the view is a treat for the eyes. Especially after monsoon. The water in the falls can be dangerous, so get in only if you swim like a fish.

  • Infantaria – This place is located on the road connecting Calangute and Baga beach. Go here for the spinach and mushroom quiche and the awesome deals they have for alcohol.

Super deals!
  • Shopping – I almost missed out on this one, till someone reminded me. Well, of course you’ve got to shop in Goa. I have gotten over the ‘I love Goa’ tees, with a coconut tree and the setting sun. You know the ones I am referring to, right? But Goa is full of knick knacks, sold at a pretty cheap rate. You just got to know how to haggle. Mostly it is less than 50% of what is quoted. We shop mostly at that road connecting Calangute and Baga. This is how it goes – we eat breakfast at Infantaria, then shop, and then lunch at Brittos which is at end of the road. A good half day I would say. 🙂 Travel really light to Goa and shop for beachwear (abundantly available!). There is also the Anjuna flea market on Wednesdays. Open till about 6pm. This market is a little inclined towards foreigners, so the prices might be a tad higher. Hone your bargaining skills and go here.
  • Kurumgad Island – I am moving a little away from Goa; approx. 40 kms away. This small island tucked near Karwar is an absolute delight. Atleast that’s how it was during New Year 2011. We were a group of 10 and that new year was unbelievable fun! Very secluded with its own private beach, this place is pretty awesome for big groups. I think there is just one resort there. We stayed in tents, lounged on the hammocks, and ate good food all day long. The new year party was our very own with a bonfire and our own music. The private beach was super too, with water sports et al. In short, you pretty much get to own the place and live royally!

As far as Goa is concerned, this list could run really really long. Probably I’ll add another set after my next trip. All I am saying is head a little away from the usual. Its cheaper, more fun and usually a pleasant surprise!  🙂

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