Goa Vacation Survival Guide
Copyright © Vulcanmind
So, you’re going on a Goa vacation. You’ve
made an online booking in what may be the last of the decently priced
hotels in Goa, have your flight tickets in your hand and are raring
to go. Goa beach culture – here you come!
Good for you. I salute your prudence and good taste.
To be sure, there aren’t many options that compare to a Goa vacation.
You’ve made an excellent choice. I love Goa, and recommend it
highly over India’s other beach-based tourist destinations. Kerala’s
Kovalam? Gimme a break. Mumbai’s Juhu? You’ve GOT to be
kidding me. Lakshadweep? Hey, I thought you want to be where the ACTION
So, your plane lands at Dabolim Airport. Or your train
pulls into Margao Station. Or your bus wheezes to a halt a Panjim. Or
you’ve survived a self-driven car journey and are trying to figure
out if this IS Panjim or just another of those towns with pseudo-Portuguese
names that you’ve passed through.
Read the hoardings and see what area the joints they
advertise are at, dummy. Don’t tell me you can’t see all
those Dantesque monstrosities that vie for your attention. Eat that
lobster platter. Drink that beer. Take that pleasure cruise down the
Mandovi River. Move into that Goa resort, because no other resort even
comes NEAR in terms of ‘tropical ambience’, hospitality,
facilities, cuisine (don’t bother looking for the room rates,
You’ve finally arrived at your hotel, dumped your
baggage, taken a shower and are now ready to ‘do Goa’. Everyone
has been very courteous and helpful. The receptionist has handed you
a list of the services available at the hotel and pointed out that the
shopping arcade is just behind the bar.
She has informed you that the hotel offers the best
pleasure cruises down the River Mandovi in Goa. Nothing unusual in all
this. You, as an experienced globe-trotter, smile and nod in all the
right places. You’ve checked out a zillion beach-towns before
and Goa holds no surprises for you. Right? Wrong.
You ask the receptionist which way the beach is. She
gives you directions. Okay, here’s where you need the survival
guide. Scroll down if you’re in a tearing hurry to get at it,
or hear me out first. I strongly recommend the latter course of action.
It doesn’t matter which particular Goa beach you’ve
chosen to patronize on your vacation. It could be Calangute, Baga, Anjuna,
Vagator, Colva, Cavelossim, Benaulim or any other – the fact is,
it is a Goa beach and you are a tourist. In this rather vulnerable capacity,
there are some things you should know of Goa and its people.
As a tourist, you belong to the tribe that made Goa,
The Tourist Destination, happen. Before you and your kind did your number
on this place, it was a quaint, sleepy fishing state that made and consumed
the very excellent brew called ’feni’. The local populace
caught fish, washed it down with feni, found a spot of shade for the
afternoon siesta and was content and happy.
These were (and still are) simple folks who never asked
to be invaded by sweating, white-skinned aliens in Bermuda shorts smelling
of designer perfumes. These simple folks never asked that their beaches
be jammed with suntan lotion-slathered people that jabbered to each
other (and to them) in unintelligible dialects as they marinated themselves
into painful sunburns.
point is – once this alien tribe DID descend, it changed Goa’s
economic landscape forever.
The tourist trade overshadowed the fishing industry,
and even though the tourist season lasted for only four months a year,
there were more bucks in the tourist trade than in fishing.
So fishing continued, but it was no longer the primary
economic driver. Tourism was – and is. And that’s you. You’re
Goa’s primary economic driver. Chew on that for a bit, white alien
in Bermuda shorts.
That salty sea-breeze you’re reveling also carries
a mercenary spirit in it. These simple folks whom you and your tribe
have dislodged from their siesta have four months to make money out
of the likes of you, and they are not – I repeat NOT - going to
miss a trick.
Okay, here’s your Goa Vacation Survival Guide:
- Unless you have oodles of undeclared money stashed
away in some bank at Zurich, get acclimatized to the local water.
Mineral water costs only ten Indian rupees outside your resort –
inside, you’re paying service tax, Value Added tax (VAT), luxury
tax and whatever else one can possibly weigh down a bottle of water
with. You pay fifty or more.
- DON’T drink the feni, unless you know what
to expect. Feni does not hit you from the front – it sneaks
up on you from behind. You’re okay till you leave the bar; once
you’re outside and the breeze hits you, you are WASTED. No pleasant
interim stage of tipsiness – you go from nothing at all, straight
to blotto and wake up with a prize-winning hangover. Stick to Scotch,
gin, vodka or whatever else you’ve been killing yourself with
before you came here.
- DON’T eat anywhere outside your hotel or resort,
especially not the local dishes. Genuine Goan cuisine is meant for
cast-iron stomachs. Western innards pampered by hygiene, soufflés
and light seasoning are no match for it. So – smile at the Beef
Xacuti and nod approvingly at the Pork Vindaloo on the menu, but order
Chicken A La King or Russian Salad.
- Before you opt for one of those river cruises, ask
them what it includes. If it includes a stopover at some small island,
run the other way. They’re going to make you captive audience
to a jazzed-up version of the local dances, and you will die of mortification.
- If you have white skin, do NOT avail of the motorcycle
(‘pilot’) taxies that are the main means of public transport
in Goa. Not AT ALL. If you have brown skin, learn how to ask “How
much to ________ (your destination)” and get someone to interpret
the answer. If you have a Zurich-based bank account, you can, of course,
skip this hint.
- DON’T address a Goan waiter as ‘patraon’.
You will hear the locals call each other that, and it has no insulting
connotations. However, the typical Goan is fiercely partisan and will
not allow an alien to presume that he’s privy to local practices
– Zurich bank account or no Zurich bank account.
- DON’T get into a brawl (or even low-grade
argument) with ANY local outside your hotel or resort. The staff at
Goa hotels and resorts do not represent the typical, unadorned Goan.
The management staff are trained at hospitality training centers and
the lower-downs need the money too badly to get into your hair. If
you get aggressive with a non-resort Goan, on the other hand, he will
emit a sharp, short whistle. Five seconds later, you will be set upon
by a horde of non-assorted locals who will pulp you first and ask
- DON’T enter any of the so-called ‘antique
stores’ you will see near every popular beach. These shops would
like you to believe that Goa dates back to the Middle Ages (it doesn’t)
and that every local family has suddenly decided to sell off its family
heirlooms (they haven’t). Never mind the ‘certificates
of authenticity’ some may offer you, or how genuine some of
the stuff you see inside looks. For more dope on how such ‘antiquities’
are manufactured, ask a street kid in Mumbai’s Colaba area.
- DON’T go to Goa at all unless you have all
urgent and pressing matters of business tightly wrapped up. Only an
uninitiated imbecile hopes to find any business communication centre
or courier open before ten in the morning. They close again at 1.30
p.m. for the siesta and sometimes open briefly again after five.
Even outside siesta timings, Goans spend most of their
waking hours in a kind of stupor that barely supports metabolic life
– sort of like those ascetics you read about in books by Lobsang
Rampa. DON’T expect to be able to mobilize any locals to help
you meet emergencies of any kind. Emergencies do not exist on the
Goan mindscape (While in Goa, you had better get used to the national
policy of ‘susegad’ – terminal lassitude raised
to its infinite power).
- If you’re leaving Goa via road, make sure you
have a license for every bottle of booze that you carry back. It is
NOT legal to take liquor out of Goa without these, no matter what
anyone tells you. The police have flying squads that will intercept
you at key points just beyond the border. If they do, and you have
no licenses for you hooch bottles, you will need to contact that Zurich
bank in a hurry….