Goa, a state on India's West coast, is a former Portuguese colony with a rich history. Spread over 3,700 square kilometers with a population of approximately 1.4 million, Goa is small by Indian standards. It has a unique mix of Indian and Portuguese cultures and architecture that attracts an estimated 2.5 million visitors each year (including about 400,000 foreign tourists).
Since the 1960s, Goa has been attracting a steady flow of visitors -- first the hippies and returning expat Goans, then the charter tourists (starting with the Germans in 1987), pilgrims visiting Catholic and Hindu shrines, those opting to settle in Goa as their home, people going for medical treatment, and a growing number of those who attend seminars and conferences in Goa.
Goa's heart is in its villages. Prominent Goan architect Gerard Da Cunha has argued elsewhere that, unlike others, Goans don't live in the cities. They mostly live in the villages and they travel to work.
Goa can be reached by its lone airport (Dabolim), by train, and by the many buses connecting the state with cities in India (primarily Mumbai, Mangalore and Bangalore). If you are travelling from Mumbai or Pune, car travel will provide you a journey through breathtaking scenery of the Konkan area.
The Dabolim airport (IATA: GOA), in Vasco da Gama is Goa's only airport. Some airlines fly directly to Goa, but most international flights arrive via Mumbai. Air India has international flights to Kuwait and UAE twice a week. Air Arabia has discount flights to Sharjah. Qatar Airways has flights to Doha, along with convenient connections to Western Europe, Africa and USA.
On arrival, take pre-paid taxis from Dabolim Airport. A yellow pre-paid taxi booth can be found 30 m on the left when you exit the main building. There is also a pre-paid taxi stand in the international arrival area. Rates are slightly cheaper than the yellow cabs .
Many resorts pick up guests from the airport for free, so make sure you ask your resort for free pick-up.
There are several bus routes from various cities, but most traffic is from mainly Mumbai and Pune. Due to increasing demand from the south, there has been an increase in buses and trains from Mangalore, Bangalore and New Delhi. Overnight buses from Mumbai to Goa are an alternative to trains and flying. Book in advance during the crowded seasons (particularly during the Christmas-New Year rush, for Carnival, or when other Indian regions have school holidays when families travel).
Kadamba Transport Corporation is the Goa state-run transport service. Its buses have seen better days, and more efficient times. There are also other state-run buses run by the governments of Karnataka (some services are efficient, specially the Volvo buses), Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Many private players also offer bus connections to other cities, with varying levels of discounts and efficiency, with the two usually being inversely related.
The main centre for booking train and bus tickets, in Panjim, is around the Kadamba inter-state bus terminus. Tickets for the Konkan Railway can also be booked here, though expect long queues during the holiday season (which in India, can also coincide with the timings when children have a school break).
Indian Railways connects Goa with direct train services from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, Thiruvanantapuram, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The destination station is usually Madgaon in South Goa. Travelling to Goa by train is a real pleasure as the route passes through greenery and many tunnels. Goa is also connected to Pune via the Belgaum Miraj line.
A railway station some tourists tend to miss is Thivim, which is served by most trains and is just 20 minutes away from Calangute beach by taxi. For budget travellers, this is the cheapest option, along with being faster and much more comfortable than travelling by road. It is advisable for tourists to make reservations well in advance as the major trains such as; Konkan Kanya and the Nethravati Express are usually heavily booked.
Trains from Mumbai and most other places have a quota of seats set aside for tourists. Quota tickets must be purchased in person at the rail station by the tourist and cannot be booked via a travel agent. Note that quota tickets are only sold at the station of origin. Tickets can be booked online.
Unless traveling on a shoestring budget, it is advisable to travel in air conditioned sleeper coaches. These are quieter and much more comfortable. Each bunk is provided with two freshly laundered sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. You can also have a hand towel on request.
Most travel agents will book tickets for a small fee (Rs 200), but be aware that trains do get busy and you need to book in advance. Do not leave booking your ticket to the last moment as you may be disappointed.
Travelling by train can be quite an experience as you are more likely to interact with fellow Indian travellers visiting Goa from different parts of the country, under more relaxed conditions.
See also Rail travel in India
Hyderabad to Goa road route — Take NH9 (Bombay Highway) and after crossing Patancheru, Sadashivpet, Zaheerabad at Humnabad turn left towards Gulbarga. Do not enter Gulbarga town and as soon as you hit the ring road at Gulbarga turn left towards Jewargi. This road goes over a nice, new flyover they built. So you can't miss it. At Jewargi make sure you turn on to road towards Sindgi, Dewar Hippargi and Bijapur. Have a fuel refill here and then head towards Jamkhandi-Mudhol-Lokapur-Yaragatti-Nesargi and Belgaum. Be careful you pick this road going to Jamkhandi as there are quite a few roads leading out of Bijapur. Also there is a tempting road that looks shorter on the map between Jamkhandi and Yaragatti. It is shorter but a single lane and very potholed. So avoid it. The other road is only 13nbsp;km longer anyway. Now the most important part. From Belgaum take the road towards Jamboti which then goes on to Chorla and eventually to Sanquelim. The road in the ghats here is impeccable and not abused by mining trucks and other heavy vehicles. The drive is very scenic too. From Sanquelim depending on whether you are going to north or South Goa you can choose the road either to Mapusa or to Panaji respectively. Additional tips: Just before you leave Belgaum city and enter the highway towards Jamboti on the right hand side look out for Kshema Inn which serves good food. We used GPS on our mobile phone (my wife was the navigator) while figuring our way around Bijapur and Belgaum to get on to the right road. This is hugely helpful and saves time and effort of having to get directions from the locals which may or may not be right. Allow a trip time or 14 hr from Sainikpuri to Calangute including city traffic, food and rest stops. This route mat have some advantages over various other roads between Hyd and Goa including Gangawati, Anmod, Sawantwadi.
Occasional cruise services used to sail from Mumbai to Goa. This was run in past years, but is currently discontinued.
High resolution maps are not available for Goa. For example, some popular isles are not shown in many maps.
Parts of Goa lack sign boards, so finding your way around could be challenging. When in doubt just ask - usually people are friendly and helpful- but don't expect precise answers(a so-called 'five minute drive' could take a good twenty minutes).
When driving, expect surprises like domestic animals and little children darting across the road, unmarked speed breakers and speed bumps.
Choice of geared and un-geared motorbikes and scooters can be rented (typically without helmets). Those planning to stay long may consider buying one instead. Rentals are around Rs 300 a day (Rs 200 in non-peak season) for a Honda Activa scooter and a little more if one is looking for a geared motorcycle (you buy the gasoline as needed). Many small roadside shops sell gas at Rs 75 per litre, while the going rate at a station (these are hard to locate in the coastal areas) is around Rs 65 per litre.
For the motorbikes, always ask for a discount if renting long-term (one month or more). You should not have to pay more than Rs 100 per day. Ensure that you have all the ownership documents of the bike. Also, avoid taking motorbikes with yellow plates out of Goa, as it is a punishable offense. Hiring a bike with white plates is acceptable for local travel in the immediate vicinity but if you want to travel further afield then always rent a bike with yellow plates.
Wearing a crash helmet is compulsory when you go on any major roads (there is Rs 100 fine for not wearing one). Foreigners will need an International Driving Permit (Convention 1949); this is the first thing police will ask you for if stopped. You should also carry your normal driving licence with you.
Buses are an inexpensive and great way to travel and see the country. Fares are often around Rs 4-6. Rs 10-15 will get you a 30-40 km ride.
There are many car rental companies available.
Goa is an ideal holiday destination for travelers, but tourists should bear in mind that India has its own set of safety issues.
Goa now has a number — ☎ 108 for medical emergencies. This service is run by the GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) and is based out of Goa Medical College (Bambolim) and has ambulances posted at various parts of Goa. These ambulances are fully equipped and have trained paramedics.