Goa is a small state. Traveling from north to south by car only takes about 2-1/2 hours. It is easiest to address Goa by doing the north first and then the south (but vice versa is okay too) to get a flavor of both areas, each of which have distinctly different characters. Each region has a wide selection of properties ranging from high-end hotels to less expensive options. Unique to Goa are the rustic beach huts which are very popular with visitors and also come in luxury and budget lodgings. Both are great options if you choose to stay on or near the beach to enjoy the sun and surf, or stay in one of the villages for more of the Goan experience. Due to its small size, most of the sites you want to see will be within a one-hour radius of wherever you stay in Goa.
WHERE TO STAY IN NORTH GOA
Siolim House – Siolim House is a beautifully restored 17th century Goan-Portuguese house. It is located in the quiet Siolim Village, which is a picturesque coastal town on the south bank of the Chapora River, where it meets the Arabian Sea. This heritage boutique hotel has luxury rooms which all face into the enchanting courtyards. A swimming pool and open-air dining room are close by. Siolim House captures Portugal’s vast colonial empire within its estate. Staying off the beach is, in fact, a far better way to get a taste of traditional Goan hospitality. Siolim also provides the quickest access to the unspoiled northern beaches, including Morjim, Mandrem and Arambol. It is very easy to get to Siolim, which is only 10 minutes from Mapusa and about 30 minutes from Panjim.
Lemon Tree Amarante Beach Resort is conveniently situated in the heart of Candolim, surrounded by trendy restaurants, boutiques and spas. The beach is a mere 250 meters from the hotel and is in close proximity to all hip and happening beaches like Calangute beach, Baga beach and Anjuna beach. Here you can escape the crowds and traffic, but still be near enough to enjoy the party spots.
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH GOA
South Goa is famous for its beach huts, which range from rustic to luxury. It is a must-do to experience. This is unique and distinctly Goan lodging. Huts are only available from November to May.
Art Resort – Art Resort is located at the south end of Palolem Beach, with a stunning view of the Palolem panorama under the shadow of the canopy of palm trees. Its’ luxurious and superior beach huts reflect a combination of modern Indian art and design with European comfort. The huts include private verandas, lovely tropical open air bathrooms and spacious rooms with charming Indian furnishings. Their amazing beach front restaurant also serves as an art gallery for talented local artists.
Bhakti Kutir – A tropical oasis nestled within the coconut groves between Patnem and Palolem beaches. It offers posh individual cottages and huts, wholesome food and drink at the relaxing restaurant, yoga, relaxation, an Ayurvedic treatment and massage center, music and other events. Fashioned from local materials like rice straw, and bamboo, the cabanas are built to include the trees and leaves, and to let you see the moon and star-filled skies. Conveniently, its just a short walk to the restaurants and activities of Patnem beach.
Maria Guest House – A budget accommodation option in South Palolem Beach….sorry friends but this is a shameless plug for my own guest house which my husband and I run 🙂 We are located just 3 minutes from the beach in the more tranquil area of Palolem but still close to all the action of the beach shacks, shops and everything you want to enjoy your holiday in Goa. We have 8 budget rooms with charm and comfort and a very welcoming atmosphere….your home away from home!
Climate & Weather
The prime tourist season is from November to April. The Goan monsoon typically lasts from early June to late September, with the heaviest rains in July. Most of the tourist facilities in the south close down after May while the north tends to remain open. If traveling off season, make sure everything on your wish list is still available and accessible.
Getting To Goa
By Air: Diabolim is Goa’s only airport and is located almost in the center of the north and south areas of Goa. NOTE: Goa’s Diabolim Airport is now offering a “Visa Upon Arrival” to certain countries for a period of 30 days. Applications must be done online prior to arrival. Check to see if your country is approved for Visa Upon Arrivals. Pre-paid taxis are available to take you to your destination. Public transportation from the airport is not available, so taxis are the best way to go, and offer very affordable rates.
By Bus: If you need to get to the big travel hub of Mumbai, dozens of bus services make the 12- to 14-hour trip from Mumbai to Goa each day in modern Volvo behemoths with air-conditioning and reclining seats. Paulo Travels is the biggest coach company, with daily services. For in-state travel, local buses are very inexpensive, but not especially comfortable if going long distances. But, if you have time and patience, you will save a lot of money taking the bus. From north to south, or vice-versa, you will likely need to take 3 buses. The main bus stations are at Mapusa and Panjim in the north, and Margao in the south.
By Train: Trains chug into Goa five times each day from Mumbai and other areas of India. If you travel in the daytime, trains going through Goa offer magnificent views of the Ghats and the lush Riverine Plains of the Konkan coastline. The major stops are Tivim for North Goa, Karmali for Panjim and Margao for South Goa. You can book online with Konkan Railways, but it can tend to be a little complicated. Using a trusted travel agency is much easier. In peak season, trains berths can be hard to come by, but there’s a ‘foreigner’s’ quota’ for one-way tickets (buy on the day of travel or the day before).
What To Do Upon Arrival
Whether you arrive by air, train or bus, it is likely that you will be tired and anxious to get to your final destination. Depending on where you arrive into Goa, taxi is the most convenient means of transport. Prices are quite reasonable, but feel free to haggle for a better rate (unless it’s a fixed-rate pre-paid taxi). Tuk-Tuks are numerous and cheap if you just have a short way to go; they won’t take you long distances. It’s a great way to feel like you are really in India!
Getting Around Goa
Taxis: Easy way to travel from one place to another. It is the more expensive option, but the most convenient and sometimes the only transportation option.
Public Buses: Cheap and safe way to travel around your immediate area. Traveling north to south or vice-versa is possible, but few buses are direct, so you’ll have many stops along the way, and possibly multiple bus changes.
Tuk Tuks: A cheap and easy way to get from place to place locally.
Scooters & Motorcycles: This is the most popular option for visitors to Goa because it gives you the freedom to explore and get from place to place quickly and easily. Rental costs can go from daily, weekly and monthly rates as needed.
Rental cars: Hiring a car is quite easy and prices vary. Just remember that in India they drive on the lefty side. Driving in Indian traffic can be quite challenging for inexperienced foreigners.
Goa uses the Indian Rupee as their currency. ATM’s are readily available and accept most international credit and debit cards. Money exchange offices and banks are also easily accessible throughout Goa. Cash is the most accepted form of payment in India. Higher end hotels, shops and restaurant will accept credit cards but, in general, most just accept cash.
Text as written for my article “7 Day Itinerary – What to see and do in Goa, India”