Just got back a few days ago and would like to thank everyone who helped me as I planned my trip. Hopefully someone can find some good info here. I went with my wife first to Kerala and then to Goa. This was our first time in India. This trip report covers the Goa portion of our trip. I’ll mention the places we stayed but won’t get into the details as I’ll be writing reviews for each place.
We arrived in Goa by overnight train. We took 2 tier AC and thought it was good value and somewhat comfortable (the Ambien helped). Do note that train stops are not announced. You will have to know what time your train stop is scheduled for. The train took 15 hours and we slept most of it so it really wasn’t so bad. Plus, by doing the overnight train, we were able to save money on a hotel and keep our days free.
From the train station in Margao we took a prepaid taxi to Calangute. The trip was a little more than an hour and cost us about 1100 rupees. We were taken to the Chalston Beach Resort, conveniently located right on the beach. Chalston was nice but overall, we didn’t care much for Calangute Beach. It’s crowded, not particularly scenic, and the sellers are disturbing. The first day we spent on the beach and ate lunch at the hotel and dinner at Baga Blue beach shack, which should be noted had the very best butter garlic nan we had on our whole trip – very buttery and very garlicky.
The next day, we arranged a day trip with a taxi driver that I found here on Trip Advisor. His name is Arthur but I would not recommend him. First off, he drives a hulking SUV and you pay for that premium so if you are only two people, look elsewhere. Our trip started at the Anjuna Market. It’s definitely a good idea to get there early before the heat, the crowds, and the traffic. We stayed for about 2 hours and bought a few trinkets. Definitely bargain hard, at least half of what they offer. When we got to Old Goa, Arthur tried to drop us off and told us we could get a guide at the church. Excuse me? But for 2,000 rupees for the day, you’re going to be our driver and guide! He agreed but it was frustrating. The rest of the trip through Old Goa felt very rushed. I think we ended up staying in Old Goa for about 2 hours. Finally, we went to Panjim. He didn’t want to stop at the famous church but I made him so I could get a picture. We stopped for lunch at Sher e Punjab – very good! When we wanted to go to Fontainas (the old Portuguese quarter), he claimed he didn’t know about and tried to drop us off in a different neighborhood and say that was it. We ended up finding the neighborhood and had a pleasant walk. Unless we missed something, Panjim wasn’t very exciting (unless you are into shopping). We are in Panjim for 2 hours, including lunch. That night, we tried to go to Tibetian Kitchen for dinner but couldn’t find it; so we went to another Chinese restaurant. Can’t remember the name (maybe something with a “Kim”) but it was very good. It was on the side of the road, opposite of the beach. Afterwards, we went to the Melting Pot for karaoke. At 11pm, the bar closed and everyone, sadly, went home.
After Calangute, we were taken to Olaulim Backyards, about a 30 min drive inland. What an amazing place! I wrote a full review, but I can’t help but reiterate that this place is a must visit if coming to Goa. Take a few days and get away from the crowded coast and soul-less hotels and stay here. And don’t worry sun worshipers, they have a very nice pool. The cottages are fantastic, the family is extremely warm, and the food delicious. We thumbed our nose at the police and stayed up drinking Honey Bee with the hosts and other guests well after the 11pm curfew. Besides laying out by the pool, we rode bikes, canoed in the lake, went for a hike, and a walk through the village. Staying at Olaulim Backyards was definitely one of the highlights of our vacation.
After reluctantly leaving, we headed south to Agonda. What a beach! It reminded us of Koh Lanta in Thailand. The beach is relatively empty, but it is still lined with restaurants and beach huts and the beach road has all the necessary shops, including a pharmacy, tourist services (internet, money exchange with pretty good rates and no commission), and general stores. However, there is no bank or ATM. In Agonda we stayed one night at Agonda White Sand and four nights at Agonda Villas. White Sand was pretty good but Agonda Villas was fantastic – and also very expensive but worth it if you can budget for it. Basically, we lounged around the beach all day, going in the water when we got hot. The water is nice and warm and free of rocks and creatures. We liked the waves which were not overwhelming or dangerous. The beach was empty and there were no sellers. Memorable meals included Simrose and Dunhill (beware of the huge portions). White Sand was pretty good too and it should be noted sold large Kingfishers for only 70 rupees.
One of our highlights was the dolphin trip. Dolphin trips leave early in the morning (about 7-8am) so be prepared for that. We arranged our trip at the Two Sisters shop over by My Place and Agonda Villas. We paid 1000 rupees and went in a local fisherman’s boat – just the crew (2) and my wife and I. If you’re looking for a private dolphin trip, go to Two Sisters. We saw loads of dolphins and the trip lasted for about an hour and a half. If you have motion sickness problems, definitely take some meds. I had a wristband which gives off no side affects (most motion sickness meds cause drowsiness).
Two Sisters also arranged for our taxi to Palolem (250 rupees) and our taxi from Palolem to the airport (1200 rupees; or 1100 rupees from Agonda). Over in Palolem we made the mistake of settling on the first place we looked at, which was Hi Tide on the southern end of the beach. It’s not that Hi Tide was horrible, but it’s just smart to look at at least two or three places before making your decision. We paid 800 rupees for a beach hut with a private bathroom, so I can’t complain. But if I would have saw something nicer for 1000, I probably would have sprung for that. Oh well.
Palolem itself is a very nice beach with loads of swaying coconut palm trees, it’s really pretty. Also, not really any sellers. One guy was pushing massages pretty hard but other than that, it was just people selling newspapers and fruit – but not in a pushy way at all – they just announce what they have as they walk along the beach. And there is nothing wrong with paying 100 rupees for a whole pineapple or watermelon (though the watermelon has loads of seeds). The beach is busy but not annoyingly so. The water was warm and the waves were nice. In Palolem, we had one of our best meals at Dropadi. The seafood muglai was awesome! Not coincidentally, it’s owned by the same folks who own Dunhill in Agonda. Magic Italy is also very good, but the specialty pizzas can be expensive. We opted for the plain pizza and the gnocchi. I was surprised to find out that there is no pharmacy in Palolem. I was sure if there was one in Agonda, there would be one in Palolem but that is not the case. Also, no bank or ATM. At night, we met a small group who started a bonfire on the beach, which soon become a party of some 40 people all looking for something to do since the bars had closed at 11pm.
On our last day in Palolem, we extended our booking for a half day, since our flight didn’t leave until 6:45pm. We dreaded that time, but unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end. The same guy from Two Sisters in Agonda who dropped us off in Palolem picked us up promptly at 4pm. Actually, he came at 3:30 to demonstrate that he did not forget about us! It took about an hour and a half to get to the airport. Even though we go to the airport early, Jet Lite cancelled our reservation but were able to get us on a flight with Kingfisher. It still annoyed us because that flight didn’t leave until 9:30 at night and we had planned on using our long layover in Mumbai to visit Juhu Beach. What can you do?
When we landed at the domestic airport, we were not able to take the free bus to the international airport. Why? Because we hadn’t checked into our flight yet and airport officials will not let you board the transfer bus without paperwork. It’s idiotic, but I guess that’s India for you. Do make sure you have your paperwork, especially if you’re coming into India and you haven’t exchanged money yet. The only alternative is taxi, which costs about 200 rupees and takes about 25 min. Even still, if you can’t produce an e-ticket, airport security will verify you before you’re allowed to enter the airport. The international airport in Mumbai is a sad excuse for an international airport, especially considering the size and importance of a city like Mumbai. Note that if you want to get rid of your rupees or stop by a pharmacy, you’ll need to do so before going through security. Unlike nearly every other airport in the world, shopping and dining options on the other side of security are very, very slim.
That concludes this trip report. Overall we had a great time and generally enjoyed all the places we stayed at. I will be writing reviews for all the places we stayed, so do check those out. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks!