Goa, also fondly known as a “Hippie’s paradise” because of its 70’s peace-loving dwellers is still a very popular destination. And people of all ages and wallet sizes are drawn to Goa’s beautiful beaches, hip towns and charming countryside. And for the modern traveller on a budget, visiting Goa now is a lot easier than it was a few years ago. With technology on our side and the boom of tourism, Goa and Goans have opened their hearts and homes to all. Budget stays are a dime a dozen, and once you have the stay fixed all you have to do is set your budget on the rest of the gazillion things you can do in Goa. Of course, there are quite a few things you probably can’t do when on a budget; but fret not for we still have compiled a list of amazing, fun things to do that won’t stretch your budget and will ensure you have the perfect getaway in Goa.
The first leg of planning involves deciding what kind of vacation you’re looking for. When on a budget, Goa is best experienced over a weekend. Do you want to party the weekend away or while away time on the beach and flea markets around Anjuna and Baga or you’re looking for a bit of adventure in the form of treks or water sports when you’re in Goa? As we’ve mentioned before Goa is one place that has everything and anyone can experience all these things Goa has to offer with just a bit of planning beforehand.
Based on your budget, let’s divide the planning into three categories; first comes accommodation, after all you’ll need a place to stay in when you reach. Next it’s the mode transport you’ll take when in Goa and finally, food and drink; because why else are we vacationing in Goa?
Staying in Goa on a budget
Goa being such a popular destination has every kind of accommodation based on how big your budget is or even how small; so everyone from king to commoner can vacation comfortably here and have a wonderful experience too. Guest houses, home stays, hostels and budget hotels have popped up around Goa’s landscape like mushrooms. And with evolving technology, booking for a place online has become infinitely easier as well as cheaper too because of the discounts that these apps rain on the consumers. So let’s have a look, shall we?
- Goa get’s a lot of visitors who are backpackers and backpackers are mostly people travelling on a budget. So a lot of places such as Zostel, Wanderer’s hostel, Roadhouse hostel, Wonderland hostel and Red Door hostel have opened their doors to those looking to stay in rooms that don’t cost an arm and a leg. These hostels cost as less as INR 300 per night, they have basic amenities but are hygienic and the crowd you meet there is fantastic.
- The travel industry these days are really aggressive and companies in a bid to succeed this competition have come up with stay options that are cheap as well as comfortable, there are several companies like OYO rooms, Fab hotels, Treebo in the hospitality industry who at prices as low as INR 1000 per night offer a good budgeted room with all amenities that are offered in rooms that cost a lot more. And if you book well ahead of your trip you can grab some promo codes too and bag these rooms at cheaper rates.
- Then there’s Airbnb for those of you who want an authentic Goan experiences; home stays are the best option and they also offer a unique experience. You could also search online for other homestays, beach huts or budget stays to get a similar experience at low prices.
- Goa is one place where budget hotels are spread across the landscape with starting prices as low as INR 500 per night. You can also check out stay options on websites or apps like GoIbibo, Yatra, MakeMyTrip, ClearTrip etc; and with a promo code you can get accommodation in Goa for the price of your choosing.
- You could also check out these options ‘Casa Paradiso’, ‘Bricks and Bamboo’, ‘Oasis Beach Resort’ and ‘Hotel Shankar’ which offer budget accommodation.
*One important thing to remember is that hotels or resorts that are facing the beach or even close to it are always quite expensive, instead stay someplace in the radius of 500m from the beach , this way you will have your budget stay and will also be away from the crowd.*
Getting around Goa
Next thing to plan is how to get to Goa and how to get around once you reach Goa.
- The best and most economical option is to drive down to Goa. And from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore driving down to Goa is a lot of fun and cheaper too; especially if you have your own vehicle and you’re going as a group.
- If taking a vehicle isn’t an option, your alternative is to get on a AC Sleeper and Semi Sleeper bus. They ply daily from Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru and a seat in the bus costs anything between INR 600-1500 per person, depending on the company and when you book the ticket. During the peak tourist season of December – February, these bus rates usually shoot up quite a bit but it’s still the most affordable option.
- There are several trains from Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru to Goa and the prices are the similar as for the buses, but the train journey does take longer.
- If you book well ahead of your travel dates and have a promo code, then taking a flight to Goa can also be cheap.
- Once you reach Goa, getting to your accommodation is the next step and if you’re travelling in a group or as a female travelling solo it’s advisable to take a Government taxi from the airport.
- And once you’re settled after checking in, rent a Car or a Bike/Scooter for the duration of the stay to get around Goa the rates range from INR 200-500 for a 2 wheeler/day and around INR 1000-1500 for a 4 wheeler/day. The roads are in excellent condition and the fuel is economical too making your Goa vacation a very affordable, comfortable and budget friendly one.
Food and Drinks
- In Goa, the food and drinks are very good and very cheap. The shacks are the best places to have some brilliant food that are affordable too.
- Try and avoid the fancy restaurants because they will charge quite a lot, instead try places like Fatima’s Corner in Agonda, Chelsea’s Beach Shack in Calangute, Little World in Palolem, Ryan’s Shack in Candolim, Mandala Cafe in Agonda, Shining Star Beach Shack in Baga etc.
- When you’re Goa, you’re going to want to have something to drink and as we’ve said before you’ll have to avoid the shacks when on a budget because they charge almost double. Once or twice at the shack with your meal is fine but making it a regular thing during your holiday will bankrupt you. So a better option is to buy your booze directly from shops, where they charge about INR 25 for a pint of Goa’s exclusive Kings Beer while the shacks will rip you off for about INR 50 or higher. A word of caution here, if you’re drinking in Goa, be responsible.
And finally now that you’re in Goa, you’ve got to do some sightseeing as well. Apart from the transportation to get to there, here’s a list of things you can do or places you can explore for almost free. And if anything comes for free in life, you’ve got to experience it to the full! So here’s what you can do in Goa at no cost or almost no cost.
- Be a beach bum
You can turn the beautiful beaches of Goa into your playground and at absolutely no cost at all. Make use of the endless stretches of sand in Arambol Beach, Canacona Beach, Agonda Beach or the many beaches in Goa; lounge around and bask in the sun all day, go for a swim in the sea to cool off, build a sand castle or two, collect some sea shells to take home as souvenirs and finally wind up your day by watching a brilliant sun set on the sea. All this and at no cost, so you get free sunshine, free sand and free surf; what more could you want? Anything else would be just too greedy! So the best things in life are free as you’ll find out after this day at the beach.
- Old mysterious things
The Portuguese, the Hindus and the Muslims who ruled Goa over the years have left some indelible memories of their existence and so Goa is home to some of the oldest churches in India, beautiful forts and temples. Some of which have even been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Church of Bom Jesus, dedicated to one of the patron saints of Goa, St. Francis Xavier, Se Cathedral, Fort Tiracol, Chapora Fort and Fort Aguada are beautiful sights that stand as proof of Goa’s colourful history.
- Eco tourism
Goa’s Morjim beach, Mandrem beach, Agonda beach and Galgibaga beach are nesting and hatching grounds for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles. You can go see these turtles in their natural habitat, learn about them and you could even volunteer with local NGOs to spread awareness and take part in their conservation activities.
- Trek the trails
Goa is as famous for its natural wonders as it is famous for its hip streets and fancy lanes. The beautiful green forests, national parks, bird sanctuaries, plantations and waterfalls make for a scenic walk and trek. Set off to explore the forests of Mollem National Park around Dudhsagar Falls or make your way to Krishnapur Canyon through Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Bondla wildlife sanctuary, the butterfly conservatory, Bamanbudo waterfalls, Arvalem caves and waterfalls, Rivona caves, Netravali bubbling lake. Your budget friendly holiday will be a fulfilling one with these experiences.
- For the Night Owls
Goa comes alive at night, once the sun sets the streets take a life of their own. The eclectic night markets of Goa are famous for their food, fun, shopping, dance and music! The Saturday Night Market in Arpora and Mackies Night Bazaar in Baga are definitely worth a visit; check out the performers with their grand acts, the world cuisine on offer, groovy music and the people from all over milling about haggling about the prices with the shopkeepers.
The nightclub scene in Goa is world famous and a wonderful atmosphere to be immersed in. Most of them are quite affordable if you don’t binge on everything that the menu offers.
- Explore Fontainhas on Foot
Goa isn’t just an unending party surrounded by beaches, the charm and culture the place has will make even hardest of hearts fall in love. To experience the true charm of Old Goa, you should go walk around and explore Fontainhas, the old Latin Quarters of Goa. The tiny lanes are quaint and reflect the rich heritage of its previous Portuguese inhabitants who left their mark in beautiful old-world bungalows painted in bright hues of yellow, green, red and blue. This window into Goa’s past is a visual feast for sure!
- Goa’s Viva Carnival
If you’re ever in Goa in February, you’ve come during the right time to attend the annual three-day festival called Goa Carnival, which is a vibrant celebration of the state’s wonderful mixed culture and tradition. The festive spirit and open revelry is infectious as you watch the parades with colourful floats make their way through the streets, accompanied by singers, dancers and performers attired in flamboyant costumes and putting up a grand display for the enthralled audience. The carnival is all about jubilant rejoicing and gaiety when the people and streets of Goa take on a whole new avatar!
And finally, when in Goa, do as the Goans do!
- These are a few things that every visitor to Goa has to do before they return from their vacation; be it shopping for souvenirs or trying authentic Goan cuisine. So here’s a list of things you shouldn’t miss out on when in Goa.
- The cuisine in Goa is greatly influenced by its Portuguese heritage and these are dishes that have a unique flavour and should absolutely be part of every tourist’s palate before they return. Try the Pork Vindaloo, Chicken Xacuti, Chicken Cafreal, Goan Fish, Prawn Curries and Bebinca at least once.
- Feni is the local Goan liquor that is made from Cashew or Coconut; it is extremely strong and has a very unique taste. Most people love to have a try so why shouldn’t you?
- Spices and Cashew nuts are the perfect souvenirs to carry home from Goa, go to a Government approved store to bag some and gift them to your friends and family.
Finally, we leave with a note that a visit to the sunshine state of India doesn’t have to cost the earth. We’ve given you some great tips and examples on how you can experience Goa on a budget and also get value for your money.
So just chill, when in Goa the best ‘free’ thing you could probably do is just chill! Whatever you’re doing and where you do it doesn’t matter as long as you chill and remember when in Goa chilling is a mindset. The Goans even have a word for it – Susegad which in Portuguese loosely translates to a relaxed, laid-back attitude towards life!
As long as you you’re your spend level on accommodation and transport to a minimum and take in experiences that are typical Goan, you can make some beautiful memories even on a tight budget. And that is what matters as it remains forever.