Well, on being asked these questions time to time, I have decided to document it, and put it up here, on my blog. So here’s what I would tell you if you had to ask me these or other related questions. And you can use the info relevant to your doubts.
Age old question: Where to stay? North Goa or South Goa?
=> Well, there’s not much of a doubt actually. Go straight to north Goa. It doesn’t take one more than a week in Goa to realize that’s where the fun is. You are basically comparing Panjim and Madgaon, and Panjim is a better place to hang out. Also south Goa has beaches, nothing more special than the north Goan beaches and a few antique heritage sites.
North Goa has Panjim, which is better place to stay; also most of the top beaches of Goa are along the north coast, namely Calangute, baga, anjuna, etc. So go north. Many guys have gone south and then told me they regretted it.
Where to stay? Panjim or Calangute?
=> Stay in Panjim:
Pros: 1. Better food options, specially for veggies.
2. Cheaper accommodation options available during off season
Cons: 1. No night life whatsoever.
2. Just one beach in Panjim city.
=> Stay in Calangute:
Pros: 1. Plenty of options for late evening activities (clubs, shows, galleries, etc)
2. Most popular beaches located close by.
Cons: 1. No great food options. Mostly goan food. Problem for veggies.
2. Accommodation can get expensive during season (eg: December)
My say: If you have transport arranged for, stay in Panjim. Calangute is just 15 kms away. You can always drive back. If you’re walking your way around, stay in Calangute.
Public transport in the form of buses and autos exists. But the bus system isn’t as good as Mangalore, there aren’t a lot of buses going into the inner parts of the city. Autos are out to loot you, don’t expect them to stick to the meter.
If you have a driving license, you could rent bikes, scooters or even a car. Car and bike rental shops available, or ask at whichever hotel you stay. They will be able to provide it to you right there.
What to check out?
In Panjim, check out Dona Paula and go to Miramar beach. You could visit Panjim church if interested. Something interesting to do would be to go for the Evening Cruise which is available near the bus stand, below Mandovi Bridge. There are quite a few cruises available, which take you for a spin along the banks of the Mandovi River, and you can admire the city as you do that. There’s music and other fun along with it too. It’s not as expensive as it is perceived to be, tickets should be less than Rs. 200 for sure.
You could also catch a movie at inox in Panjim, or go for Go-karting in Verna, but if you’re from a metro or something, maybe you wont like to do that.
Try boating at Mayem lake. Approx 20 kms from Panjim, if you use a ferry boat.
Churches: Check out the 2 churches located on either side of the road at Old Goa. One of these churches is the one which houses the preserved body of St. Francis Xavier. Nearby is St. Augustine’s cathedral, it’s the ruins of a large cathedral from Portugese times. It’s a heritage site now. The main wall of the ruin makes most people say wow. There are a lot other churches you could visit, ask the hotel guys about it or google it.
Temples: Plenty of big temples located specially in South Goa, google for “temples in Goa” for more details.
Beaches: Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, Vagator, Miramar if you’re in Panjim, Colva if you’re in Madgaon, Palolem etc. it’s a state with 105 km stretch, and it’s full of beaches. These are just among the popular ones.
Visit Fort Aguada at Calangute. It’s popular for the fort, the jail and the lighthouse. The view from the lighthouse is a personal favorite of mine.
Nude Beaches: Now this is the question I have been asked most number of times. Since 1st year of engineering! Well, its obvious nude beaches do not develop coz of the locals or Indian tourists, its coz of the foreigners. So you have to be in Goa, in the season when they are. But beaches where you’ll find nudity in high probability are Arambol, Betalbatim and Assolna. (I have personally not been there). Nudity is also found on popular beaches like Calangute during season time.
Ask your hotel for info on boats with transparent floor to view coral reefs and about paragliding / parasailing. These are value for money in the off season or mid season times. So are other water sports.
If you are really more interested in making the most out of your day at Goa by sightseeing, rather than chilling out, visit the tourism office near Panjim bus stand and inquire about their 1 day Goa sightseeing packages. It could be 1 day north Goa or south Goa, or the whole state itself. Again, it’s a government venture, so it won’t be too expensive and variable.
Clubbing: Mambos and Tito’s are the most popular clubs in Goa. And there are plenty more in the same area.
How to go to Goa from NITK Surathkal?
=> Passenger train from Mangalore to Madgaon at 7.30 am (Surathkal station)
Matsyagandha express from Mangalore to Mumbai at around 1:30 pm at Surathkal. It was at 3:30pm in the recent past. Do check before you decide.
Netravati express at 12:45am or so from Surathkal station. Drops you off early morning at Madgaon.
My Say: Take the morning passenger train. Though you’ll have to wake up early and make it to the station, the train is comfortable and the fare is just 50 bucks. You can’t get better than that.
Don’t like train? Book a bus from reddy’s. Bus options: Ganesh, Paulo, KSRTC, Mahabaleshwar. Take Ganesh. Insist on Ganesh unless there is absolutely no option. These buses are clean and reliable. Paulo has had incidents you don’t wanna hear about.
Well, I may have forgotten about certain issues. So if you do need to know, leave a comment and I’ll reply. There are quite a few websites which provide details, so check them out as well. This is just a native’s perspective. The above info is not googled or obtained from other sources, it’s just what I’d tell you if you asked me.
So if you do come to Goa, Have fun. That’s just the way of life here.