Goa/India


How to make the most of two weeks backpacking around Goa

Find the best spots, beaches and psytrance parties

You cannot believe, how happy we were as soon as we stepped out of Dabolim airport in Goa. Me and my boyfriend had managed to escape the European winter. Our plan: Traveling on a  budget around Goa for two weeks in November and to make the most of it. We wanted to enjoy psytrance parties in Vagator, feel chilled out vibes in Chapora, go shopping at the Anjuna Flea Market and experience beach hut life in Arambol. For sure, backpacking Goa is a top tip for everyone, who likes to relax in a beautiful alternative environment and travel on a budget – no matter if you are a solo traveler in Goa or a couple on a stopover backpacking around India.

Goa is an easy travel destination

Goa is an easy travel destination for everyone, who is looking for an exotic backpacker’s heaven with some touristic safety net and some fellow travelers in the same mindset around. Many people like to say: Goa is not India. What they probably mean is that backpacking Goa is less challenging than most other parts of India. It’s a place, where you can relax instead of facing the Indian reality with its beauty, cultural differences and poverty. In Goa, you can be. If you can still develop in Goa is something, that depends just on yourself. For sure, the living standard in Goa is higher than in most parts of India.

Backpacking Goa on a daily budget of 10 to 20 Euros

Be aware: Goa is already much more expensive than the rest of India. But if you try to avoid the tourist traps, use public transport or a motorbike, don’t always eat in the places recommended by Trip Advisor and ignore most of the hostels listed by famous guide books, you can still enjoy backpacking Goa. With a daily budget of 10 to 20 Euros, you can have a fantastic time backpacking Goa, sharing a beach hut, staying in a hostel, getting your drinks in a shop instead of a restaurant, eating street food once in a while, being a few clothes, using buses and swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. What else do you want? We tell you, what else we wanted and how we got it…

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Day 1: Arrival at Dabolim Airport in Goa

Arrival in paradise. Big smile in my face. The air was still fresh in the morning, when we got off the plane. It had been a dream to travel to India. We finally made it. We had two weeks to discover the place. Just two weeks, but a lot better than nothing. We just stepped out of Dabolim Airport in Goa after passing the long queue of Russian tourists, who had arrived on charter flights. Me and my boyfriend had already spent 20 nerve wrecking hours traveling from Europe, changed planes twice – in Paris and Mumbai. We had to cope with a lot of queues, delays and had missed our connecting flight in Mumbai. We felt like falling asleep immediately.

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Dabolim Airport: Take the pre-paid taxis – Avoid to get ripped off

But no way. There was no time for a nap at the airport.  Paradise was waiting as well as dozens of taxi drivers in front of Dabolim Airport in Goa. “Try to use a pre-paid taxi from the booth to reduce the chances of you being ripped off” were the words, I had been reading before on the airport’s website. Our first destination: Vagator. To get to Vagator from Dabolim Airport, we had the choice of taking a local bus going to Vasco da Gama and from there to further locations in Goa for just a few Rupees. But at that point, we were too tired for experiments. We needed to sleep. Soon. That’s why we paid for a taxi to Vagator at the pre-paid taxi counter. We had to choose between aircon and non aircon taxis. Of course, the taxis without air-condition were much cheaper. It was still a little chilly at 8 am, so that we took the cheaper non aircon taxi for 1100 Rupees.

ATM at Dabolim airport broken: Exchange at really bad rate

he tricky part: The only ATM at Dabolim Airport in Goa was broken. I rolled my eyes. You don’t need that after a long flight. We were irritated and finally had to exchange some Euros at the airport at a really bad rate (1 Euro = 65 Rupees) to pay for the taxi. That’s the price for paradise. I loved the view trough the taxi window, saw palm trees, old colorful Portuguese style houses embedded into a lush green scenery. The wet season was just finished.I could hardly keep my eyes open and was happy, when we arrived nearly one hour later in Vagator. Find out more about airport transportation from and to Dabolim airport.

Taxi Ride to Dabolim Airport Goa India

    Vagator: Check in into the famous Jungle Hostel

    Cows in all sizes and colors walked around the main Vagator beach road in Vagator between souvenir shops, restaurants and guest houses. It was hot. Dusty. We decided to stay at the Jungle Hostel to start backpacking Goa. The Jungle Hostel was a guidebook recommendation.

    At the Jungle Hostel in Vagator, there were already some young travelers chilling in the hanging seats in front of the stylish house with a lot of green around. Some guests were having the free breakfast – some Samosas, eggs, bread, coffee and tea – all included in the costs for the room or the dormitory bed. Suddenly, a girl showed up on a motorbike and invited all guests to have free yoga lessons at the beach. She told us about the new art café, that she and her friends tried to set up in Anjuna. A lot of impressions within a few minutes. The ladies working in the hostel were giving us big smiles.

    Vagator: Dorm beds for 500 Rupees per person in the Jungle Hostel

    In the Jungle Hostel in Vagator, they offered beds in a dorm room for 500 Rupees per person. For a simple room with air condition and free breakfast they charged 1800 Rupees a night. We took the last double room available. We didn’t say too much. It was the last room in that hostel and we were not in the mood to search around for a different guesthouse, but we found it slightly expensive. The room, which was located in a different building a few minutes away from the hostel, was really nice and clean. For that moment, we were happy. But we felt, that we would have gotten better deals by not following popular guidebook recommendations. It is really worth asking around, but you still have to keep in mind, that Vagator is a famous spot for all travelers hanging out in Goa.

    • Find out more about the Jungle Hostel here

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    Jungle Hostel Vagator Goa India

    Vagator: No working ATM in town

    Before going to sleep, we first needed to find an ATM to pay for our room at the Jungle Hostel in Vagator and to get some cash for backpacking Goa in general. That was a problem. We walked around the town of Vagator, but both ATMs in Vagator were broken. No chance to get money out of our bank accounts. Shit. The next ATM available was in Anjuna, a few kilometers away.

    At that time, I was not in an especially good mood anymore. Nor was my partner. We just haven’t had real sleep during the 24 hours before. We tried to stay relaxed, not to argue, and finally found a travel agency, where we could exchange some money, at a far better rate than at the airport (1 Euro = 70 Rupees). We also would have had the possibility there to get some money with our credit cards, but just for a high fee.

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    First day in India: No water, no toilet, no shower

    After more than 24 hours without sleep, we just wanted to have a shower and sleep in our hostel in Vagator. Obviously too much to expect in a room for 1800 Rupees. There was no water. The shower wasn’t working, the toilet didn’t flush. I walked back to the reception to make them find a solution. I knew, that it wasn’t their fault. But I was smelly, dirty, needed a toilet and looked horrible in comparison to all the beautiful Indian women and happy travelers.The water tank on the roof got refilled. After two hours, we finally were able to shower and got some sleep.

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    Vagator: Time for psytrance at the Hilltop Bar

    We were super happy to fall asleep on our first day in Vagator. That’s how we started backpacking Goa. It was already dark, when we woke up again around 7 pm. The sun sets early. We noticed a Gecko at the wall of our hotel room, which didn’t want to move out during the next few days.

    We knew, that there was a three-day psytrance festival going on in the famous Hilltop bar in Vagator, where parties and festivals take place on a regular basis. We had read about it online on Goabase before we went to Goa. It was the last day of that festival and we had planned to be part of it.

    We looked at each other, still sleepy, but smiling. We made that plan come true. We had some dinner at one of he nicely set up restaurants for tourists at the main road. The prices were as high as we had expected. There were no street kitchens, but a lot of professionally run restaurants, where better off guests enjoyed Indian dishes, burgers, pizzas, fruits juices and lassies. Still, for around ten Euros, two people were able to get simple starters, dishes and drinks. We just realized quickly, that we were not able to continue like that, if we wanted to stick to our budget while backpacking Goa for two weeks.

    The Hilltop bar in Vagator was in walking distance, so that we managed to dance among the stars, watched fire artists, enjoyed the atmosphere, saw Indians and travelers united in sound. Being there, dancing, watching, laughing – it was the moment, we finally arrived in Goa.

    Psy trancing through the night: Finally the Goa vibe got us

    At humid temperatures of still almost 30 °Celsius at night-time wearing summer clothes, we realized, that we escaped Europe’s cold temperatures and got ready for the Goa vibe. We had a really good time in the Hilltop bar in Vagator. In that moment, we didn’t care, that prices for beer (150 Rupees for a small beer) and cigarettes (at least 250 Rupees for a packet) at the party were much higher that in street shops (around 60 to 70 Rupees for a big can of beer, 20 Rupees for a bottle of water, 30 to 40 Rupees for a big bottle of soft drink and around 60 Rupees for a packet of WIN-cigarettes). And that the music stopped at 2 am sharp.

    Still, the season had just started. And there was space at the party venue for a lot more people. I was sure, that they would come within the following weeks. I became curious about, what is left from the legendary Goa days, the parties, the people. And I was happy to find out more during the following days.

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    Vagator beach, Goa, India

    Day 2: Welcome to the shopping heaven Vagator

    In dozens of shops in Vagator and all around Goa, I could have filled up my backpack immediately with shirts, dresses and bikini wear to fit into the happy hippie beach scene. There would have been no need to bring clothes from Europe at all.

    And forget about bringing warm clothes like jumpers on a backpacking trip to Goa. There was not one single moment in Goa out of the monsoon season, when I needed to wear more than a t-shirt. Just travel with light luggage and get the clothes there. It is very cheap. Just don’t forget to bargain or ask with a smile for a discount. People expect you to bargain. You will constantly hear sentences like “Come to my shop! Promise, that you will have a look later! Yes Ma’am!”. It doesn’t take long to get used to it.

    Vagator: Jump into the Indian Ocean

    But before shopping, I wanted to get a feeling for Vagator first. I was very keen to see the beach, to jump into the waves of the Indian Ocean or better: the Arabian sea. I couldn’t wait. On the way down the Vagator beach road, I realized the relaxed vibe among the locals who walk between the old colorful nicely built houses. People smile. Some offered taxi rides, others wanted to rent out motorbikes, which you can get at almost every guesthouse for around 250 Rupees a day.

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    Selfie requests: When strange Indian men ask you to pose for pictures

    The town’s beach in Vagator is popular for its beauty and waves. We saw tourists from all over India arrive there during the day time. Busloads. But there was just one thing, that I started to get afraid of the following days while backpacking Goa: The selfie request.

    Quite a few Indian tourists love taking selfies with western travelers. When my partner got surprised by the first request, he wanted to be a polite traveler. He agreed. Suddenly, there was a queue of ten Indians waiting for him to smile together with every one of them on a personal picture. After a while in Goa, we always expected some selfie requests EVERYWHERE.

    Vagator: Strangers invited us for welcome drinks

    We experienced so many funny situations. We were nowhere safe to meet new people. Especially not in Vagator.  Some guys came up to us while we were swimming. The typical questions were about our names, where we came from and if we were married. The right answer is: “Yes, I’m married and I love my husband/wife.” Complete strangers invited us for drinks (no refusal accepted), even brought bottles into the water.

    At that point, there was no escape anymore. We had to get off the water with them after a while – of course to finally take some selfies. I just made sure, that I was never only wearing a bikini on a picture. After a random guy had secretly taken a picture of my ass, I felt, that this was a good idea.

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    Vagator beaches: Avoid crowds at Little Vagator Beach and Ozran Beach

    The main Vagator beach was crowded. Some fun activities got offered. But a lot fewer people make it to little Vagator and Ozran Beach. These are secluded bays with a lot of space to chill on sunbeds. You can chill on the sunbeams for free, if you buy food or drinks.

    At least, backpacking Goa in November, you had free choice, where to lay down or where to leave your towels in the sand. The high season in Goa was just about to start. We loved relaxing there sipping a fruit juice or a beer, while listening to some music from the beach shacks mixed with the sounds of the ocean. There was enough space to play in the water, play Frisbee, watch happy cows and dogs in the sand. We also noticed a few fancy beach bungalows with sea view set in the cliffs. We didn’t ask, but it didn’t look like the kind of accommodation waiting for travelers on a low-budget. It was different set up for example in comparison to Arambol, where we saw simple beach huts for rent everywhere.

    Dramatic cliffs and Russian tourists in Vagator

    We reached Little Vagator and Ozran Beach from the main beach over a walkway down the cliffs. The view over the dramatic red cliffs made me happy. We passed a lot of people, palm trees, cows, vendors, Indian and Russian tourists. There were seriously a lot of Russian tourists in Goa. Nice tourists, but all from the same country. We felt being exotic.

    The waves were strong enough to offer a challenge. I could have played in there for hours. The water was warm, the rays of the sun constantly spoiling me. At the beach, some guys were selling beautiful handmade drums. The same, that you can also find at the Anjuna Flea market.

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    Jewelry, sarongs and massages: Saleswomen raising money for marriages

    And there was no lack of Ladies dressed in saris trying to sell jewelry, sarongs, feet massages, henna tattoo art and fruits at the more touristy beaches in Goa. I called them the “Sari Ladies”. I heard a hundred of times, how beautiful my eyes were, my nose stud, my dress. A lot of them talked about how many daughters they have to feed, to sent to school or to get prepared for marriage. Some of them told me, they spent the season in Goa for business and work in different parts of the country during the rest of the year, for example helping with the harvest.

    I listened to a few stories, but I got almost crazy after some of them came back a third or fifth time after I made the “promise” to look at their products later. I needed to change my tactic to enjoy my holiday. As long as I didn’t really want to buy anything, I started to behave respectfully distant. And some of their prices need hard bargaining skills, so that I got the idea, that shopping at the beach takes some time.

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    Day 3: Chapora: An easygoing little hippie village

    From Vagator, it is just a short walk to Chapora, an easygoing little hippie village with a fort up a hill. It is worth a small detour when backpacking Goa. Well, it was a very stupid idea to visit the Chapora fort around noon, when the sun burns without any pity and the shade minimizes to almost nothing. It was stupid to choose a day, where there was no wind. I hated every second of the walk up the hill to the fort. We drank a liter of water each within seconds. The Chapora fort is just a short walk away from Vagator’s main road.

    In the fort itself, there is basically nothing much to see apart from an empty space surrounded by a few old small walls and rocks. Call me ignorant, but I didn’t get the point, why people go up there. Luckily, the entrance is for free. The view down on the beaches and the ocean is nice though. We were just happy, when we could tick it off the list and walk down to the much more exiting village of Chapora, that you can as well as the fort reach within a few minutes walk from Vagator.

    Chapora: Colorful homes, temples, small bars

    The chilled out vibe of easygoing Chapora caught me at our first visit. It is really small and by far not as busy and packed with restaurants and clothes shops as Vagator. It has a different vibe and is much more a place, where people live. Not a place, where busloads of tourists arrive. My impression was, that some lucky long stayers use it as their base. The Rough Guide travel book calls it the place, where you see the “Boom Shankar Brigade” out in full force after sunset toking on chillums under the banyan tree.

    Chapora: The place to get away from the tourist crowds

    I could at least imagine how being in Chapora must feel in high season. Even in November, the juice bars at the main junction were really busy. Western travelers seem to love that place. At night, it’s the few little cafés and wine bars, that draw whole groups of older travelers. In the village of Chapora, we discovered nicely decorated colorful homes, little temples, small but quiet bars with names like “Albert Hofmann Café” and the small fishing boats in the harbor.

    There is no beach in Chapora, which is probably the reason why the place is much more relaxed and not as busy as Vagator. That is one of the reasons, Chapora is a popular destination for travelers in Goa. If I wanted to rent a house in Goa, I could imagine to stay in Chapora, get a motorbike and live in peace.

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    Chapora Goa, India

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    Looking for cheap eateries in Vagator

    In the evening, we tried to find cheap eateries in Vagator. But even the roughest restaurant seemed to have a relatively “pricey” menu. In many places, it basically seemed to be exactly the same – no matter if the restaurant was designed like a hipster place or set up with half-broken furniture.

    Across the ATM on the road to Anjuna, which was broken for our entire stay, we finally tried a much more local restaurant, where Indians came for beers and watching TV. It was specialized in chicken dishes and didn’t have waiters, that were trained to smile for tourists. Not the place, where you would take a girl for a date, especially, because there were no women eating there.

    Vagator: Choose between English and Russian menus

    We sat down outside. At least, we were able to save a few Rupees and to have a different experience. But we kind of had to accept, that the standard of living in the beach towns of Goa is much higher than in many other Indian places. Stories about India as “In India, you get a plate of food for 20 Rupees” definitely don’t come true in Vagator. But as a compensation, almost everywhere, we were able to choose between an English and a Russian menu.

     

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    Day 4: A short ride by bus from Vagator to Anjuna

    After a few days, it was time to leave Vagator and to travel on and discover more of Goa’s beaches. We had to get out of our far too expensive room at the Jungle Hostel, that we had been too lazy to change. We took the local bus to get for Vagator to Anjuna. The bus runs every 15 minutes. We didn’t have to wait long at the bus stop.

    Anjuna is just a few kilometers away from Vagator. The ride took five minutes and costs 10 Rupees. Easy. We could have probably even walked. In Anjuna, the bus stops in the middle of town at the “Starco”-junction. We just walked around, a little confused at first. The town seemed to be much bigger and more lively than Vagator. More traffic. A lot of Indians and tourists were cruising around on motorbikes. And there was a working ATM right at the junction. Relief. Finally, we were able to get some money out of our bank accounts.

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    Anjuna: Finding a budget room at Manali guesthouse

    Just five minutes after we had arrived in Anjuna, we found a room at the Manali guesthouse just 100 meters away from the bus stop. The boss was waving at us, when we walked by. It was a lovely safe family run place. On the grounds, there is a little shop selling drinks and postcards and stamps, a bookstore with a lot of English books and a travel agency. You were also able to rent scooters for 250 Rupees a day. We loved it.

    Anjuna: Ignore the guidebook recommendations

    In the Manali guesthouse, we paid 600 Rupees for two people per night in a double room with an ensuite bathroom and a fan. We were happy about the deal. Especially, because next door at the Red Door Hostel, they tried to charge three times as much for a double room. They are mentioned in the popular guide books though. This fact probably let prices rise in Goa. Just ignore the guidebook recommendations while backpacking Goa on a budget.

    Manali Guest House Anjuna Goa India

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    Meeting travelers from South Korea, Italy, India and Germany

    Anjuna is packed with hostels and guest houses. In town or close to the beach. Even in the back of some beach bars, there are rooms or huts for rent. We wanted to stay in town, close to shops and restaurants with reasonable prices and good food as for example the “country kitchen”. And we were really happy about the much better deal, that we got in Vagator. The room was perfectly clean.

    And having a room on the first floor turned out to be a perfect chance to meet other travelers as some of them were hanging out on the common balcony in the evening hours. We met interesting, strange and lovely people from South Korea, Italy, India and Germany and had fun conversations about holidays in North Korea, smoking habits, Indian marriages and holy cows. And after a while, we even got used to the regular power cuts.

    Indian Barbie at Anjuna Oxford Stores

    Oxford Stores in Anjuna: Tooth paste, tampons and Indian Barbies

    One great thing in Anjuna were the Oxford Stores very close to the Starco junction on the road to Vagator. It was the first time while backpacking Goa and staying in the popular backpacking places, we saw a real supermarket with shopping trolleys. Here, you can buy everything from anti wrinkle eye cream to Indian spices, Indian and western brands of tooth paste, sunscreen and shampoo, tampons and shaving equipment, alcohol, cheese, bread, rice, Indian soap and beauty care at fixed prices printed on the package. We even saw Indian Barbies.

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    Anjuna Flea Market: Still beautiful enough for a shopping tour

    I really gets on my nerves, that people always try to explain to me, that Goa is not anymore the place, it used to be. Right. That is maybe true, but I unfortunately cannot travel back in time. I haven’t seen it in the 1980s or 90s and have to try to have a good time in the present.

    Seriously, I couldn’t go anywhere, if I would listen to all the people, who are 20 years older than me. The world has gone downhill. More people go traveling and on holidays. But hey, it is still beautiful enough to get discovered. There are lovely people to meet and things to experience. And that is definitely possible in Goa, also on the Anjuna Flea Market.

    In Anjuna, we arrived on a Wednesday. That meant: Flea Market time. There is a massive market right at the beach, where we suddenly found us among hundreds of stalls with clothes, jewelry, spices, arts and crafts like instruments and Ganesha statues. It’s shopping fans’ heaven. It has been there since the first hippies came, but is said to be now more commercialized as everything in Goa. It still is worth a stopover while backpacking Goa.

    Anjuna Flea Market Goa India

    Anjuna Flea Market: high competition, good deals, imports from China

    At the flea market in Anjuna, we mingled with the hippies, travelers and tourists bargaining. At a lot of stalls, you get the same kaftans, “Alladin” trousers, summer dresses and “Sure”- shirts made in Thailand. The competition among the vendors is high, so that we found to have gotten good deals. Depending on the quality and uniqueness of design, we got t-shirts, cotton trousers and dresses for around 150 to 350 Rupees. For some travelers in India, that might maybe sound expensive, but these prices seemed to be normal in Goa, where the standard of living is higher than in the rest of the country.

    Of course, in between the standard Indian clothes and imported goods from China or Thailand, there are also a few designers offering more unique products, that are even more expensive. How much fun the market is probably also depends on how well you cope with the heat. It was terribly hot while we walked around to buy finally more than we planned and to drink less water that we should have. But we were happy about a few new clothes, that we could use in the hot climate immediately.

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    Dress code at the beaches: Travelers showing skin and swimming in bikinis

    At the Goan beaches, it is perfectly alright to wear not a lot of clothes, to show some skin and to swim in Bikinis. But as soon as I used the public bus or walked around small towns in Goa, I felt more comfortable as a woman to wear more decent clothes as the local women also do so.

    And even, if you are in Anjuna not on a Wednesday, you still will have the chance to go shopping. If you use the main road to the beach, you will pass a lot of shops and stalls on the way. We got offered taxi rides almost every minute and also everything else, you can imagine to enjoy a chilled out holiday. Whoever misses the Wednesday action in Anjuna, there is also a Saturday night market taking place in Baga.

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    Day 5: Beach life in Anjuna

    Within two hours, two cows passed my sunbed at the beach of Anjuna. I got offered a massage three times, new jewellery and sarongs two times as well as fruit, CDs and a lot of handouts with information about the clubs and restaurants at the beach. I don’t react anymore, in case some people want to sell us something. It might be rude and of course, that is not, what we want to be. But after a few days backpacking Goa, I found out, that the people leave you exactly two options: Buying something or ignoring them.

    There are moments, when I’m feeling bad about myself and sometimes still guilty, that I’ able to enjoy the sun, the drinks, my sunbed, my holidays, while a lot of Indians have to work hard, probably never go on holidays and depend on some generous tourists. I know, that a lot of people cannot influence their status in our world. But I still cannot change it, even if I bought kilograms of Indian bracelets or even worse to tell them politely in a five-minute conversation, that they try to get you into, that I don’t want to buy kilograms of bracelets.

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    Tourist entertainment: Banana boat riding and parasailing

    At Anjuna Beach, I saw people banana boat and speed boat riding or parasailing. They were playing reggae music at one of the beach bars behind me. Palm trees grow between the shacks. There was no rubbish. I felt relaxed, lazy. The 2,7 kilometers long beach was beautiful. I wanted to soak up the fun, the smiles, the lively atmosphere.

    The beach still wasn’t packed with people. There was enough space to leave individual space to everyone. The bar staff hopes, that the situation will change in high season with travelers from all over the world coming to Goa. I was happy to be early.

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    Beach bars in Anjuna: Best and cheapest food often in worst huts

    The beach bars in Anjuna differ in shape and standard. Some are still simple bamboo huts with food and drinks at reasonable prices. Some are already concrete buildings with different levels, evening entertainment program or Djs, more upmarket menus and cocktails just a little cheaper that in Europe.

    We tried different places. The quality of the food didn’t always depend on the look of the building though. You can stay everywhere on the sunbeds for free as long as you consume something. In the evenings, the restaurant staff put tables with candle lights in front of every restaurant. We even got handouts of beachfront restaurants offering Bollywood dancing, traditional live-music or an all-inclusive-seafood-buffet. Others invite musicians or start psychedelic trance parties.

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    Anjuna: No idiots around: Most travelers with chilled out attitude

    I realized, how commercialized Goan beaches are. But I didn’t find it cheap or cheesy. Really not. I have been to a lot of worse places on earth. I saw drunken idiots misbehaving in many locations around the planet for example in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, but not in Goa. Probably, it always depends on the people. Yes, there are a lot of people or holiday makers, but most travelers, that I saw, were colorful people with the right chilled out attitude.

    Sunset at Anjuna Beach Goa India

    Anjuna: Good open air psy trance parties at Curlies’

    We saw a lot of posters in Vagator and Anjuna announcing festivals and parties, mostly electronic sounds. We wanted to check out Curlies. It’s a restaurant and party venue right at the beach in Anjuna. You can find their programme online on Facebook. We were able to see the lights and hear the sound already from a distance.

    I loved the place, the decoration, the lights, the waves in the back, the beach, where people let sky lanterns fly and some Indians tried to sell some black light gimmicks. It wasn’t as busy as it could have been. But a few hundred people danced, drank, smoked, enjoyed themselves. And I was sweating a lot as there was no wind that night. After a few minutes dancing, I felt like I had to jump into the ocean – and wondered why no one elso was doing that. Maybe too dangerous.

    Prices for drinks rise at night. It’s not a bad idea to buy a few drinks before at a shop. Otherwise, you will have the same price standards as in Western countries. But I can imagine it to be a real fun place for great outdoor partys at high season.

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    Day 6: Street kitchen cooking lesson in Anjuna

    In Anjuna, we sometimes had breakfast at a little street stall just close to our hostel. It was basic and cheap. And we didn’t just get some food, but also heart the story of the self-made man, who owns the shop.

    He was very proud of his little food place and about how he made his way. He told us, that he and his wife came from Calcutta with nothing to start a new life in Anjuna. Here they were. Jobless. Without friends, family or great perspectives. After working for a while in a restaurant earning just 5000 Rupees a month, almost desperate, he borrowed some money and started his own business. A small Indian fast food place with one table and two chairs for customers, where he and his wife are working now. “Now, I even own a fridge”, he said while making Aloo Paratha for us.

    He was such a positive person, that we started to enjoy it a lot eating in very small places and supporting people like him. His wife even showed me how to prepare Paratha and Dhal. She was definitely more talented than me. But I’m learning….

    • For more professional cooking lessons ask Mukti. We saw the flyers everywhere.

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    Day 7: Getting to Arambol’s beach by local bus

    We needed to take care not to get stuck in Anjuna for the rest of our backpacking trip around Goa. We liked it, felt comfortable, relaxed, just good. But my wish was to sleep in a beach hut at least once. So we packed our backpacks again. Next destination Arambol.

    To get to Arambol by public transport, we had to take the local bus from the main junction in Anjuna to Mapusa first. There was no direct way to Arambol. The ticket was 20 Rupees. The ride took something like half an hour. And because we had been a bit too polite while getting in the bus, there had not been any seats left for us. So we were standing like sardines in a can while the bus driver stopped every few minutes to let some 20 people more into the bus. Obviously, half of India is traveling to Mapusa in the mornings.

    Take care of your luggage on bus rides!

    On the bus ride from Anjuna to Arambol, we had to leave our backpacks with the bus driver and just carried our valuables with us. We had met one German traveler the day before, who told us, that all his personal belongings including his diary got stolen during a bus trip. He had also left a small backpack with the bus driver. When he wanted to get off the bus, it was suddenly “lost”. Luckily, we didn’t have any problems. It’s common sense to keep your important documents and money with you.

    Bus

    Bus Ride in Goa India

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    A lot of begging kids at Mapusa bus station

    As soon as we got off the bus at the bus station in Mapusa, there were some children around us begging for money. We looked at the buildings, into our guidebooks. We didn’t really feel like staying there. It took us ten seconds to find the right bus to Arambol, which left Mapusa 20 minutes later. The ride was 25 Rupees. It took another hour until we arrived in Arambol. There, I knew, that we had to find the road leading to the beach. I wanted to sleep right there with the sound of the waves around me. On the way, a girl came up to me begging – for an ice cream. Well, she must be used to getting it from tourists.

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    Great beach hut life in Arambol  – for cheap backpacker places: Go left!

    After our arrival in Arambol, it was maybe a one or two kilometers walk to the beach from the bus stop in the middle of the town center. It was hot again. We passed a church, a temple, a kiosk and finally a lot of stalls with clothes, souvenirs and handicraft before we saw it: The most amazing, big and beautiful beach in Goa

    Facing the water, I could see some cliffs with guest houses, restaurants and concrete bungalows and shops to my right and a long stretch of sandy beach covered with restaurants and beach huts to my left to the direction of Mandrem.

    Simple beach accommodation in Arambol: No online reservation possible

    At the beach in Arambol, we decided to go left and to ask for a beach hut. Since, we haven’t found a lot of places online, we now had to find the best place to stay directly in Arambol by ourselves. It was tough to walk with our backpacks in the sand around lunchtime. I wished again, that I wouldn’t have brought anything from home with me as I was able to get new great summer clothes in Goa.

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    No problem to find cheap beach huts in Arambol in November

    In Goa, the dry season had just started when we got there in November. Some beach shacks and huts were still closed or in the process of being built up. Not too many travelers were staying there. It was absolutely no problem to find a place to stay at a reasonable price. We had the choice. We checked out three different places and decided to stay in the “Green Garden”. Mostly, because we liked the hut manager immediately.

    The bamboo hut was basic with a double bed, some sheets and a simple bathroom inside. We agreed to rent one hut for 600 Rupees per night. Later, the hut manager told us, that he makes different prices for different people. If someone is nice, he gets a good deal. If someone behaves in an arrogant or stupid way, he will pay a lot more. Anyway, I’m sure, that this rule just works in low season. But I liked it.

    And I liked the hut. I liked it being back to basics. I liked the sand everywhere. The sound of the waves at night.

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    The food question: Beach shacks in Arambol with similar menus

    Our hut in Arambol was just a few meters away from the ocean. So we first went have some food at the Green Garden Restaurant – basically some chairs, colorful mattresses and wall decoration made of sheets – under a bamboo construction.

    The beach shacks at Arambol beach were all similar in style and food. The prices and cooking skills varied a little. The cheapest food, we saw in eateries on the way to the village center of Arambol. But for around 150 to 250 Rupees, you should already get a vegetarian dish with rice, for around 70 Rupees a fresh fruit juice right at the beachfront. (Of course, there are always places, where you have to pay more).

    Pakoras and Fresh Juices at Arambol Beach Goa India

    Arambol: Best place for swimming, reading, eating and sleeping

    All restaurants and bars in Arambol gave their customers the chance to lay down and chill. I felt, that after my arrival in Arambol, I was put into a different level of time. I moved more slowly. And all the stress fall off me. I didn’t want to do anything else than swimming, reading, eating, sleeping, walking around, but not too much. I realized, that I needed a bit of relaxation from work, from daily life. Just peace. I felt, that I was totally exhausted. I didn’t notice it before. And it was the perfect place to just move slowly and to keep my breath at a healthy rhythm. That was why I started backpacking Goa.

    I didn’t want to leave Arambol. I looked at the sea, the wide sandy beach, that left space to lay in the mud by myself while the waves were running over my body. You could see, that the tides leave traces in Arambol. When we arrived, the sea was drawn back and left a lot of space. The first day, we didn’t do anything else than to be happy.

    Arambol-restaurant

    Day 9: Daily power cuts and unreliable wi-fi in Arambol

    After a while in Arambol, we moved to a different beach hut with sea view. Just 500 Rupees per night. It’s funny to realize the differences. In Vagator, people pay 500 Rupees for a bed in a six-person-dorm-room 15 minutes away from the beach. In Arambol, you get your own hut for the same price.

    Of course, it depends on how you travel and what is best for you while backpacking Goa. If you are traveling alone and are happy to meet fellow traveler, a hostel will always be one of the best spots for you. But in that moment, the hut was a great deal for us. We were also already completely familiar with daily power cuts and with unreliable wi-fi throughout Goa.

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    Arambol: 20 minutes walk to peaceful Sweetwater Lake Beach

    After breakfast, we started to discover the area in Arambol around the cliffs. Again a lot of restaurants, sunbeds. You won’t starve in Arambol for sure. Nowhere in India as long as you carry some money. And you won’t miss the chance to buy some clothes.

    The way over the cliffs right to the Sweetwater Beach was lined with clothes and souvenir stalls. We even found a book store with English books. It takes around 20 minutes until you arrive at peaceful Sweetwater Beach at the Sweetwater Lake. A lot of people walk by though and continue the track to the much more quiet Querim or Keri Beach.

    Instead of doing that, we had the super stupid idea to climb up one hill. The first one at Sweetwater beach. Never again. The way was steep, the path hasn’t been used a lot recently, the plants were reaching to our knees and hurting our skin with every step. Finally, we had a view over Sweetwater beach. We were shaking when we climbed down again. But we survived it.

    • You can also visit the “Baba” close to the Sweetwater Lake.

     

    "Sweetwater Lake" Beach at Arambol Goa India

    Saltwaterlake

    Evenings in Arambol: Artwork, gypsy style music, ambient, psy trance and reggae

    When we walked back to our hut in the evening, we saw a lot of western travelers offering their artwork on blankets right at the beach. It seemed as if they would do that on a regular base.

    We had arrived at a very interesting time of the year in Arambol. Every evening, a new restaurant would celebrate an opening party after the monsoon season. Some had live acts. We saw Russian artists and singers, listened to gypsy style music, traditional and experimental musicians, ambient, psytrance DJs and also went to a reggae party right at the beach. Sometimes, there were 20 guests, sometimes 200 dancing.

    Just the way back to our hut wasn’t always easy. You feel the tides. At full moon, there was almost no beach left to walk on during night times. Some restaurants used sacks full of sand to protect their buildings against flooding. A few times, we were not sure, if we would manage to get back to our hut at all. For sure, we got wet feet more than once.

    Sunset at Arambol Goa India

    Arambol-sunset

    Day 10: Eating Samosas in Mandrem

    In the afternoon, we took the bus from Arambol town center to Mandrem. Basically to do something else than swimming, eating and sleeping. The highlight of Mandrem’s busy center is definitely the wall paint in the middle of the town stating “Mother Earth is a temple, not a dustbin”.

    Apart from that, the small town of Mandrem is very busy. There are a lot of motorbikes on the streets. We found a good shop for Samosas right in the center, bought some cake and got bitten by mosquitos almost to death while sitting in a restaurant next to the street to Arambol while the sun was going down.

    But the beach of Manderem is a highlight, one of the quiet beaches. Pure beauty.

    Manderem2

    Mandrem Goa India

    Manderem3

    Mandrem Beach Goa India

    Day 13: Back to Dabolim airport by taxi

    We had to leave. We didn’t want to. Now, we felt ready to see more of India, to discover the whole country. But our flight was going in the evening. It was the last day of our experience backpacking Goa. Last swim. Last taxi ride.

    We could have made it with local buses from Arambol via Mapusa, Panaji and Vasco da Gama to the airport, but decided to pay a thousand Rupees more for a taxi instead. This way we were able to stay the day at the sea. 1500 Rupees was the price, the transport got arranged by our hut manager. The ride to the airport took about one hour. See you Goa. We will come back.

    Stopover at Mumbai Airport: You need good nerves!

    On the way back home, we had a stopover in Mumbai. For many travelers, Mumbai Airport is the gateway to India. It’s massive. The architecture is amazing, mellow electronic sounds flow between white elegantly curved columns.

    The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is one of the most busy airports in South India. 34,99 Million passengers passed through the airport in 2014, as you can read on the airport’s website. When I arrived there, I got immediately a feeling for how many people live in India. It seemed as if half of the population wanted to pass immigration at the same time. You need good nerves and some time in case, you want to get a connecting flight. We were not lucky with that on our way to Goa.

    Tuk Tuk Ride to Mumbai Arport India

    Mumbai at night with a clueless taxi driver – On the way to Juhu Beach

    On the way back from Goa to Europe, we had to wait six hours in Mumbai for a connecting flight. We used that time to visit Juhu Beach. The airport information staff told us, that this was the only reasonable destination to visit within that short time during the evening rush hour.

    So we took a taxi at the pre-paid taxi booth. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English and didn’t have a clue how to get to Juhu Beach. Well, he didn’t say that. We realized within the following hour, that he was constantly asking people for the way. But this way, we caught a glimpse of Mumbai and of some rough corners.

    There was smog in the air. It took some time to get used to the smell. The streets were very busy during the evening time. There was a lot of traffic. We drove by a lot of shops, where people were selling bakery goods, repairing motorbikes, fixing stuff, eating outside on small chairs and tables next to the road. It seemed rough. Lively.

    Mumbai2

    Mumbai: Poverty in the streets

    We saw women rummaging through the rubbish. We saw mothers, fathers, kids lying on the street half-naked. We saw poverty. We saw the contrast to Goa. Of course, there are also poor people in Goa. We also saw people in Goa living in self-made huts peeing on the street, because there was no toilet or running water in their homes. But seeing the old ladies digging in the garbage in Mumbai caused a very intense feeling.

    Juhu Beach in Mumbai: Family entertainment, plastic rubbish and airplanes

    Finally, the taxi driver made it. He found the way and brought us to Juhu Beach, which is at nighttime obviously a place for family entertainment. There are some fancy restaurants in that area. A lot of people were sitting there on blankets at the beach. You could by some sweets, toys and all kinds of little snacks at little stalls. There were also some fast food restaurant places, where you could get food like “’Pav Bhaji“. We walked along the beach. Between the sea and the backs of some giant hotels.

    There were constantly airplanes flying above us. It was close to the airport. We saw plastic rubbish lying around at the ground. Well, there might be some really nice parts of the very long beach, but what we did see, wasn’t overwhelming. We also definitely felt, that this could be a place starting a trip to see the real India. But this time, we took a Tuk Tuk (120 Rupees) to go back to the airport. Unfortunately.

    Juhu Beach Mumbai India

    Passing border control at Mumbai airport: Be patient!

    When we arrived in India and wanted to pass the border control in Mumbai, there was a separate counter for travelers carrying the e-visa, which is valid for 30 days. You need to follow the signs to find it and queue at the e-visa-desk! At all the other border control counters, they won’t let you into the country, so don’t waste your time queueing there as we did. Me and my boyfriend had our e-visas printed out, queued for more than one hour in the wrong queue and got finally sent to the right e-visa-counter to queue again.

    Missing a connecting flight in India: No worrys!

    On the way from France to Goa, we finally missed the connecting flight to Goa Dabolim Airport in Mumbai. We missed it, although we had two hours between flights. But no chance at all to catch it. The reason: We queued too long in the lines for the immigration. After immigration, you need to wait for your luggage. Then, you wait again to pass customs. Your luggage gets x-rayed again for that. There were  40 people with 140 suitcases standing in the queue in front of us. And as almost everyone is in a hurry, the chances to overpass other travelers can be low. You have to wait terribly long to check in your luggage for a connecting flight, for which you might have to change terminals. A free shuttle bus runs between the terminals, which can take up to 30 minutes. I was overwhelmed by how big this airport was, but too tired to enjoy. If you travel to Mumbai for the first time and need a connecting flight, I would really recommend to book your flights with having more than two hours in between.

    Finally, there had been a group of seven travelers of my plane, who missed the connecting flight to Goa. It was not much fun. The airport crew of my airline was friendly, but very slow in finding a solution. But after a while, they probably felt quite pity for me looking quite desperate after almost 24 hours without any sleep. Our airline Air France finally just put us on a different flight with a different company. In the end, we arrived in Goa with four hours delay. It could have been much worse. But I learned, that there will always be a solution. It’s no need to panic, if you really miss a flight. Two Austrian ladies on our flight told us, that it happens to them all the time in India.

    On the way back to Europe, the situation at Dabolim Airport was nearly the same: Long waiting times and a lot of security checks. We were really happy, that we got more than two hours at the airport before our flight left.

    Going to India on a e-tourist visa: You get the visa within 24 hours online

    Every foreigner entering India needs to possess a valid international travel document in the form of a national passport with a valid visa obtained from an Indian Mission or Post abroad.

    There are different categories of visa depending on the nationality, duration and purpose of visit. If you just want to stay 30 days or less in the country, you will get offered an e-tourist visa, that you can apply online for. When I applied, it took less than 24 hours until I got the visa. No worries. As long as you are not a criminal, pay the fees, have a passport, which is valid for another six months, a camera or a smart phone to take a picture and a computer, it will work.

    I followed the instructions on the government’s homepage really well. You had to send in passport pictures. I still was a bit worried, because there were no shadows allowed on the picture. Me and my boyfriend took the pictures ourselves with a camera, but we couldn’t get rid of the little shadows at the back. I tried to send it to the Indian visa office like this and it worked out well. Obviously, it has to be good, but not perfect. This way, I saved some money for a professional passport photo shoot. Find out more about the Indian e-tourist-visa.

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    Useful extra things to pack

    • mosquito repellent

    • flashlight (to be prepared for power cuts)

    • some cash like US Dollars or Euros (in case ATMs don’t work)

    • toilet paper or tissues (in case you cannot cope with the water hose at the toilets)

    • driving license (in case, the police stops you on a scooter or motorbike)

    • bikini

    • long sleeve shirt or t-shirt (for bus trips or chilly nights)

    • cups (in case, you wanna create your own drinks)

    • digital camera

    • tampons

    Things, you don’t need
    • too many clothes

    • warm clothes

    • lighter (they will take it off you at the airport check)

    Janina

    Janina

    Travel writer at Travel Steps
    Traveling around the world is my passion. On www.travel-steps.com, I'm writing about my backpacking trips with all ups and downs.
    Janina

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