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Welcome to Goa


This small state, halfway down India's west coast, was a Portuguese colony until 1961. This goes some way to explaining the alternative atmosphere here. Cut off from British India by a wall of mountains and vast alluvial plains, for many years, Goa relied on trade with a declining Portuguese Empire. However, what was lost in terms of British trade, was more than made up for in terms of Portuguese attitude - to this day, Goa retains a distinctly laid-back and relaxed feel.

Goa was discovered by travellers in the late 1960s, who were relieved to have found somewhere away from the mainstream, and where holidaying meant simply hanging out, doing some recreational drugs and partying on the beach (particularly during full moon). The state quickly grew a reputation for its hedonism and liberal attitude - not to mention its hot sun, that sets in splendour every evening over the Arabian Sea. In recent years, though it still hosts epic trance music festivals (such as Sunburn), the authorities of Goa have tried to discourage hippies and budget backpackers from swamping the area, angling rather for clientele with fatter wallets - with the nett result that Goa is slowly losing its reputation as India's 'party central'.

Now with a quick rail link to Mumbai and charter flights from the UK, thousands of tourists flock here each winter to relax and enjoy the famous Goan cuisine - which largely consists of fish and seafood, prepared in exotic Indian spices. Many hotels and resorts have popped up over the last few years to cater for this ever-popular destination, but with more than 25 miles (40km) of beautiful sandy beaches, there is still plenty of tranquillity to be found.

Information & Facts


Goa has a tropical climate, with hot, humid weather for most of the year. In summer the temperatures can reach as high as 91°F (33°C) and there are monsoon rains from June to September. Goa has a short winter, lasting only from from December to February, with temperatures averaging around 77°F (25°C).

Eating Out

Goa's culinary fare is as good as its beaches. Colonised by the Portuguese, Goan cuisine represents an interesting meeting-point between the spiciness of India and traditional Portuguese tastes. With a wide range of restaurants and an active fishing industry, gastronomes travelling to Goa will find themselves spoilt for choice.

Getting Around

A wide variety of transport is available in Goa. Most tourist sights can be accessed by road and there are buses, rental cars, taxis and scooters available for travellers to use. The best (and funnest) way to get around Goa is to hire a motorcycle/scooter, but be sure to carry the necessary paperwork (licence, registration and insurance) because checks on foreigners are a lucrative source of baksheesh for the Indian police force. Roads and attractions are not well sign-posted, so don't hesitate to ask for directions. Local buses stop at the main beaches. Auto-rickshaws are also a popular transportation option, and are available in town and from the airport, railway station and bus terminus.

Kids Attractions

Goa is a wonderful, relaxing destination to take the kids on holiday. Children will love the variety of things to see and do, be it renting a bike to explore the local area or catching a boat for some swimming and dolphin-watching. There are flea markets where the little ones can spend their pocket money, and pretty waterfalls to visit when they're in need of cooling off. And then, of course, there are still the beautiful beaches for the kids to run loose on...

Please note: Some hotels or guesthouses may offer childcare services, and although this may be tempting it is strongly advised that you keep your children with you at all times while in a foreign country.

Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language common with the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 official languages

The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de changes. It is impossible to obtain rupees outside India, but no matter what time you arrive in India there will be an exchange office open at the airport. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are not generally available.


Flaunting its strong Portuguese heritage, Goa is definitely the nightlife hub of India. Impulsive beach parties are a common occurrence, with visitors and locals relaxing on the beach after sunset with a couple of cold drinks and some mellow tunes. There are also numerous houses which have a room open to the public as a bar-cum-restaurant, usually serving great seafood. Tito's, on Baga Beach, is a Goa hotspot at night, as is the new Beachotheque club. Lidos, in Dona Paula, is also very popular, and Club Cubana on Arpora Hill attracts quite a crowd, as does Nine Bar. Goa hosts great rave and trance music parties, especially in winter under the full moon. The venues for these raves are kept secret till just hours before they kick off, and visitors will have to ask around at local bars for details.


There's great shopping to be done in Goa, with the most popular shopping spots being in Panaji and Anjuna. The quintessential Goan souvenirs are azulejos - Portuguese-style tiles and ceramics that have been beautifully hand-painted (available at Velha Goa Galleria in Panaji).

The Anjuna Wednesday market has everything from trendy rave gear to comfy hammocks; while semi-precious stones, paintings and local crafts are available from the Ingoe and Mackie night bazaars. The Mapusa Friday Market is good for freshly-baked Goan breads, homemade pork sausages and an assortment of pickles.

In Calangute, the Casa Goa boutique offers local designer wear, artwork and silk drapes, and tribal art is available from the nearby Leela Art Palace. Visit Sangolda for rattan loungers and Rajasthani chests, and there are stunning lamp shades available at Soto Décor.


Goa boasts a number of great attractions for visitors to enjoy while on holiday. This area is of course famous for its gorgeous beaches, but there are also many historical sites to visit in Old Goa, colonial architecture to explore in Margao and Panaji, and a vast flea market to browse in Anjuna. The Dudhsagar Waterfall and Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary are also popular Goa attractions.

Once just a backpacker and hippie hangout selling kaftans and chillums, the Anjuna Flea Market is now more commercial, with a broad range of high-quality goods on sale. Traders from all over India come to sell their wares: Lamani women from Karnataka, dressed in their traditional garb, sell colourful, elaborately woven clothes; Kashmiri stalls display silver and papier-mâché boxes; and Tibetans preside over orderly rows of sundry Himalayan curios. Even if not planning to haggle for anything, the market is a great place to watch the world go by and mingle with bands of musicians, snake charmers, beggars and the inevitable juggling hippies. The market takes place every Wednesday.

Goa has some amazing beaches. In the north, Anjuna Beach once played host to hordes of hippies, but is now home to a number of trendy beach bars as well as the famous Wednesday Market. The new hippie haven is Arambol beach, also good for dolphin-viewing and paragliding. With its white-sand beaches, Vagator is gaining in popularity; however, the sea is not safe for swimming there because of rip tides. The busiest, most commercial beach is Calangutell; while neighbouring Baga Beach has great nightlife spots including Tito's and Café Mambo, with its hip-hop and salsa-themed nights. In the south, Agonda is a quiet stretch of beach with a few souvenir stalls and restaurants, while Benaulim Beach, south of Colva, is known for its fishing and laid-back atmosphere. In recent years, Benaulim has become popular with tourists wanting to get away from Goa's party reputation and just lay back, jog along the long stretch of beach and indulge in the city's fresh and healthy culinary fare. The shady palm trees and soft sands of Palolem Beach, also known as Paradise Beach, are backpacker territory; however, it's also a great place for a dolphin cruise or picturesque sundowner at one of the many beach bars lining the water. Nearby Patnem has some lovely beach huts available to rent.

Take the kids on a trip to Bondla Forest, in the foothills of the Western Ghats, where they can see exotic animals like sambar deer, wild boar, monkeys, langurs and maybe even leopards! There are also elephant rides available at the wildlife sanctuary to entertain children. The botanical gardens are also a lovely attraction.

There are a couple of great beaches to take the kids to in Goa. The fishing village of Benaulim, near Colva, has a few quiet spots with soft sand and beautiful clean water. A firm family favourite is the Mandrem beach area, which offers shallow waters for kids to play in, and beach beds for parents to relax on. Between the beach at Mandrem and the dunes, there's a little wooden bridge crossing a river that kids love to play on.

The Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is home to around 400 species of birds, both local and migratory. Here visitors can expect to see kingfishers, pintails, coots and egrets, as well as a few crocodiles, jackals and foxes inhabiting the mangroves. Although this is one of the smallest bird sanctuaries in Goa, it is among the most famous in India. The best time to see the migratory birds is after the monsoon season, from October to March.

A great outing in Goa is a trip to the Dudhsagar Waterfall. The falls are located in a tropical jungle near the Goa-Karnataka border, and are surrounded by a network of gently flowing streams. Swimming, hiking and picnicking are popular pastimes at the falls. The waterfalls are among the 100 highest in the world, and visitors who take the difficult climb to the top will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Western Ghats' wooded mountains.

Old Goa was the state's capital city until 1843, when it was moved down river to Panaji. Once a byword for splendour, with a population of several hundred thousand, Old Goa was virtually abandoned from the 17th century, as the river silted up and a series of malaria and cholera epidemics drove out the inhabitants. It takes some imagination to picture the once-great capital as it used to be. The maze of twisting streets, piazzas and grand Portuguese villas have long gone: all that remains are a score of extraordinarily grandiose churches and convents. Old Goa has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today is the state's main cultural attraction. Tourists take a break from the beach resorts to come and admire the massive facades and beautiful interiors of the city's well-preserved churches. The Tuscan St Catherine's Cathedral is the largest church in India and took eighty years to build, finally being consecrated in 1640. The scale and detail of the Corinthian-style interior is overwhelming: huge pillars divide the central nave from the side aisles, and no less than fifteen altars are arranged around the walls. An altar to St Anne treasures the relics of the Blessed Martyrs of Cuncolim, whose failed mission to convert the Moghul emperor Akbar culminated in their murder; while a chapel behind a highly detailed screen holds the Miraculous Cross, which stood in a Goan village until a vision of Christ appeared on it. Reported to heal the sick, it is now kept in a box; a small opening on the side allows devotees to touch it. Other sights worth seeing include the Arch of the Viceroys, built in 1597 to commemorate Vasco da Gama's arrival in India, and the distinctive, domed Church of St Cajetan (1651), modelled on St Peter's in Rome. Old Goa is a major site for Christian pilgrims from all over India who come to visit the tomb of St Francis Xavier, the renowned 16th-century missionary whose remains are enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus.

For most visitors to India, Panaji is simply a busy bus terminal, offering connections between India's southern cities and the beaches of Goa. However, this most sedate of state capitals has plenty to offer tourists, and should rightly have a day or two devoted to it on any Indian travel itinerary. Situated on the southern banks of the Mandovi River, Panaji only became the capital of Goa in 1843, after the harbour at Old Goa silted up and disease had driven its inhabitants out. The best way to explore the town is by foot, wandering around the old cobbled alleyways, colonial villas, red-roofed houses, taverns and cafes, all with the look and feel of any small Portuguese town. There are some wonderful old government buildings, dating back to before colonisation, and some elegant Catholic churches. Most memorable is the Church of the Immaculate Conception: built in 1541, it's topped with a huge bell that sits between two delicate Baroque-style towers.

Children will love a shopping trip in Goa: there are a number of great stores in Panaji selling a variety of toys and games for kids. Totally Toys is a vast toys and games arcade, and Archies Gallery offers gorgeous giant-sized teddy bears. Children's sports equipment is available from Nilesh Stores, while Pinakin Enterprises sells toy walkie-talkies and binoculars. Beach toys, as you can imagine, are available everywhere.

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