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Got To Go To Goa
Member Name: MollyWH
Advantages: cheap to eat, excellent weather, lovely locals
Disadvantages: some areas are very poverty stricken, visa costs £30
My best friend and myself visited Goa in March 2006. It was our first time here; we had a fantastic time and would certainly return there.
Before we left
Before we left for Goa, we were required to buy a Visa. This cost us £30. We downloaded the forms from the Internet and sent them to the Visa office in London. Our visa took about 2 weeks to arrive.
The flight was 10 hours from Gatwick airport to Goa. From the airport our hotel was about an hours drive. Although we were not looking forward to the journey as we just wanted to get to our hotel the drive turned out to be excellent as we got to see various parts of Goa that we wouldn't have necessarily seen if we hadn't made the journey.
The staff at the airport were very efficient. Our baggage came out within 5 minutes of us arriving which was great. I really wanted a cigarette after the 10-hour flight and eventually we saw an ashtray inside the airport and asked the guard standing near if it would be ok to smoke. He told us that would be fine and a few people began smoking. However, when I had finished my cigarette and went to put it out in the ashtray, the guard held his hand out. I thought he wanted a cigarette and went to give him one and he shook his head and said 'tip'. I told him I didn't have any money and he just smiled! I thought he was a bit cheeky for wanting a tip for letting me smoke my own cigarettes but many of the people were tipping him so I guess they know when they are onto a good thing. However, don't feel like you have to tip because you certainly don't! We already had our transfers booked with our holiday so we went outside and were directed to our coach. We had to wait for the rest of the passengers for our coach and we sat near our coach and enjoyed the sunshine. We were approached by lots of taxi drivers asking us if we needed a taxi. We explained that we already had one and they continued to tell us that the coach would take 90minutes to reach our hotel whereas if we went with them it would only take 30 minutes. However, we decided to stick with our transfer. Lots of taxi drivers asked us to take their phone number which we did and they said to call on them anytime while we were in Goa if we required a taxi. Be careful of the locals near the airport. The Indians are one of the nicest race of people I have come across but the people at the airport can be very pushy, wanting to carry your luggage and then asking for a tip (because they know many people will give them one!) We had already been warned that they can be pushy at the airport so we just refused to tip anyone. Baga
We stayed in Baga near Calangute while we were in Goa. We stayed in a 2 star hotel which was basic but very clean. Baga is a small town that has many market type stalls, lots of hotel ranging from 5 to 2 stars and lots of restaurants and pubs. The roads are not like roads in Britain and we were warned by our tour rep that pedestrians come last in the order of the road - you have to look out for the cars and tuk tuk's as they wont look out for you. We were advised to get taxis everywhere but we preferred to discover places on foot and never encountered any problems. Yes, you have to be aware of vehicles and random cows roaming the streets but on the whole we felt pretty safe.
Travelling round Goa
You have three options when wanting to get around Goa, walking, taxi or a tuk tuk. We used a tuk tuk a few times and then met a really nice taxi driver and decided to let him take us everywhere for the rest of our trip. The tuk tuk's are slightly cheaper then taxis though. We did a couple of trips while we were in Goa and the taxi prices were very reasonable. We went to a waterfall that was about an 90 minute drive away and the whole journey (which included three other stops) cost us £10 which is £5 each and we found this very reasonable for a whole day out in the taxi. Our taxi driver also gave us loads of hints on places to see and where to buy cheap items. For example, when we did the waterfall trip we could feed wild monkeys. He pulled over on the way there at a tiny market at the side of the road and told us that if we wanted to buy bananas then we were better doing it here and they would charge us more when we got there. We bought about 70 bananas for 50p and when we got there they were selling the same amount for £5 so his advice saved us a little bit! I find that walking is always a good way to discover places but for some of the places of interest in Goa, I would personally say you would be better getting a taxi as they at least know where they are going. Our taxi driver was great, every time he took us somewhere he asked if we had anything planned for the next day and he would arrange to pick us up for our next trip. Goa is very easy to get around and both tuk tuk's and taxis are cheap. Beaches
There are some stunning beaches in Goa. I wasn't impressed with Baga beach. The undercurrents were too strong and there was no way you could swim in the sea. Although the beach was nice to look at, I have to say I do like going for a dip in the sea when it gets too hot! We only went to one other beach and that was Coco beach. This I was impressed with, gleaming white sand that seemed to carry on forever and clear water the temperature of a bath. There were lots of restaurants along the beach where you could get food and drinks at very reasonable prices. Coco beach was about a 40-minute drive from where we were staying but this only cost us £5 for a return journey in a taxi.
There are quite a few markets we encountered while we were in Goa. Anjuna market is held on a Wednesday throughout the day. The stalls sell fake T-shirts, hand made items such as carved elephants etc and also jewellery boxes. There are also many stalls selling cushions covers, bed covers and sarongs. Although I enjoyed this market, I found a lot of the traders were quite pushy and really tried selling their items even when you made it obvious that you were not interested. If you are not interested, do not hang around the stall and look as they take this as a sign that you are interested and will then pester you. The other downside to Anjuna market was that it was held throughout the day and it was so hot that you soon became bored waling round and just wanted to sit somewhere cool and have a drink. I felt this Market would have been better if it was held later in the day when the sun fades.
Mapsa market is the market where all the locals go shopping. This is held on a Friday again throughout the day. The stalls sell mainly local fruit and veg as well as household items. There are also spice stalls and cloth stalls.
The market I would highly recommend is Baga market which is held on a Saturday in the evening. The atmosphere here is incredible. There are rows and rows of stalls although they do tend to sell the same things, spices, hand crafted wooden items, instruments, jewellery boxes and Kasmir. At the back of the market were some fantastic food stalls serving literally anything you can think of. We had Mexican food and a chocolate brownie for pudding and it cost us £2 each which was great! I found that the traders here we not too pushy, if you stopped to look they would occasionally get you to hold the item you are looking at and then tell you the price. If you are not interested just say thank you and hand it back to them, then walk away. They were fine with this. Towards the end of the market the prices start to get a bit cheaper, I guess because they do not want to be taking all the stock back with them so this is something to bare in mind if there is an item you like which you think is expensive. There were also local bands playing at the market which I believe began around 8pm. As we left the market there was a gorgeous elephant stood near the outside. You could pay the men with the elephant the equivalent of 20p and have your photo taken with the elephant. My best friend loved this, as elephants are her favourite animals. Food and Drink
There is a fantastic variety of food in Goa. I often find it hard to eat abroad as they don't have many options for vegetarians but I could eat so well in Goa. There are some lovely local Indian restaurants and some of their food was the best I have ever tasted. At a local restaurant we paid £2 for a starter and main course each. Drinks were about 50p for a coke and a £1 for a beer. Alco pops and wine were about 70 each so all very cheap. The have a great selection of seafood that my friend enjoyed as it is all caught fresh and the prices are so much cheaper then they are here. For example a baked crab cost my friend £5 and it was HUGE - back here that would cost between £20 - £25! My only advice about food and drink is that you must not drink the local water. It is totally different to ours and has a high mineral content that often upsets English peoples tummy's as we are not used to it. We stayed there a week and I didn't have a funny tummy once!
The Goans are a lovely race of people. They go out of their way to help you. We quite often asked the locals what trips they would recommend and that's how we came across the dolphin trip for £4. Many of the locals ask you about life in England and as 1st I was very wary, wondering what they were after but I soon realised they were just genuinely interested in our way of life. In one restaurant they got my order wrong and they were horrified when I told them. They gave us free drinks and also told us we could have the meal for free. All this after they had bought me the correct meal shortly afterwards. They really do give 100% customer service! Trips
We went on a few trips while we were in Goa. We went dolphin watching from Coco beach. We travelled with Thompson and they offered a dolphin-watching trip for £20. We managed to boo the trips with the locals on the beach and it cost us £4 for an hour of dolphin watching. It was amazing, they took us round the coast and showed us the prison which was near enough in the middle of the sea (nice sea view rooms!) and they also showed us a breath-taking house that was set in the cliff top, it was beautiful. We saw loads of dolphins and even saw some babies! It was a lovely experience! Definitely book the trip with the locals though as you get it so much cheaper than if you book with your holiday company and I would rather my money go towards the local people in India rather then a big tour operator!
Another trip we did was to Dudhsager Falls, which is the biggest waterfall in India. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, it really was outstanding. We walked through a jungle where we fed wild monkeys and eventually after some climbing, we reached the waterfall and were allowed to swim in the water at the bottom. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone. We paid £5 to enter the waterfall sight and it was worth every penny. You have to pay another 50p to be able to take your camera, which we found was quite reasonable. My only advise is wear some sturdy shoes, as there is a fair amount of climbing to do, which I found quite difficult in my flip-flops!!
The last trip we did was to a Spice Farm. This trip was very educational and included a guided tour around the spice farm and the guide explained what each spice was and explained how they grew etc etc. We paid £5 for entry into the Spice Farm and this included a drink and a meal. As we entered the spice farm, two very pretty Indian girls threw flowers petals all over us which was a nice touch, it certainly made you feel welcome. At the end of the spice farm, we were told that we could ride or wash an elephant if we liked. We were shown the elephants and then given the prices. It would cost £5 to ride the elephant and £5 to wash it so we decided to do both. I found the ride itself a bit disappointing. I have done an elephant ride in Thailand and thought that it was much better. We only got about 5 minutes on the elephant and had to sit with a guide who was pushing for a tip the whole ride. Washing the elephant was unreal though. We went to a big lake with the elephant and we given two scrubbing brushes. The elephant was laid down on her side and just laid there and let us wash her. The men then told us to climb on her back (by this point she was sat upright in the water). We climbed on and then men shouted some commands at the elephant and she began collecting water in her trunk and throwing it backwards onto us! It really is an experience I enjoyed with all my heart and would repeat again if ever given the opportunity.
I would definitely recommend Goa to anyone. It can be a bit shocking for the 1st couple of day as there are some really poverty stricken areas but once you have had time to adjust, I can promise you will have the time of your life! ..
Summary: Got To Go To Goa