Backpacking to North Goa

by The Viewspaper / Nov 26, 2009 / 0 comments

Goa is probably one of the hottest tourist destinations for both international and domestic backpackers. On my last trip to Goa, I headed straight for the hippie haven of Arambol and during the course of my holiday covered most beaches of North Goa. Goa as a destination offers something for every kind of tourist. The laidback who need minimal comfort and like to have a good time can head to the North; those looking for ‘touristy’ resorts and activities will feel more at home in central Goa and those who want to connect with the culture can head to the South. In my opinion, youngsters looking for a good time and who don’t mind roughing it out should definitely backpack across North Goa, as there is no better way see to see the place, particularly on a first trip.  

There are various ways to get to Goa from Delhi, the capital of India, depending on the budget and the spirit of adventure. Air travel is convenient and cheap enough if booked in advance (Rs.3000 – Rs. 4500). The only point of concern is that the airport is a fair distance from North or central Goa and a cab ride to Calangute would cost anywhere between Rs. 350 to 450. But then the train station and bus stop are also a fair distance. The train journey is an extremely prolonged affair; after all, spending two nights in a train will probably affect the holiday spirit quite a bit. A better option is to take a train to Mumbai and subsequently hire a car or make a bus journey to Goa. This will cut short the time and increase the scenic value of the journey.  

The best time to plan a backpacking trip to Goa is during the months of September or October. This is because the tourist season is just picking up and therefore accommodation is easily available and the beaches are much less congested. Consequently the costs of hiring bikes/kinetics and accommodation are also relatively lower than the peak season of December, making it easier to keep the trip within budget. One can see half constructed shacks and unhurried locals just waking up to the inflow of tourism. The ideal way to start the trip would be to first get to Calangute or Baga from the Airport/Railway station/ Bus stop. Once in town, hire a bike, or if you have never driven a bike before, hire a kinetic scooter (time taken to learn is ~3 minutes). Usually the hiring out agency or shop asks for some proof of identification, so carry a colour photocopy of the driving licence which can be deposited with them. The scooter or bike will cost approx. 100 – 150 a day, but its worth every penny as it makes one completely independent (also, the public transport tends to be expensive, particularly for tourists). With a hired vehicle and backpack in tow, you are now ready to go forth on a discovery of North Goa.    

The key to backpacking is to play it by the ear. There is one main road that links all the main beaches of the north. You may have to start with a few directions here and there till you get the hang of it, but it won’t take too long. While moving about, if you come across a nice beach or an area takes your fancy, you can just look around and take up a place for a night or two. The technique that I used most often (and most effectively) was to first reach a destination and then scout for a place to stay. The local populace is generally very helpful and one can easily find a nice apartment or room which can be leased for the duration of a night up to a week, according to the need. Plenty of accommodation is available without having to book before hand and comfortable rooms can cost between Rs. 100 – 200 per person. Of course, if one is comfortable in a more luxurious setting then those options are available too; but the prices rise accordingly. If the backpackers are travelling in a group then the costs for renting apartments can be shared, thus reducing the per-person cost considerably. Once you settle into a place for a couple of days, you can visit any of the beaches or hotspots in North Goa and come back home for the night. The time taken between any two beaches is not more than 20 minutes.

I recommend the beaches of Arambol, Morjim, Baga and Anjuna. Calangute should also be visited, but mostly at night when the crowd starts to dissipate. Arambol is where the hippies have found solace after the commercialisation of some of the beaches to the south. It is quite clean but I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the water. There are plenty of nice shacks offering good food and drinks. My personal favourite was the Morjim beach. I found it delightfully secluded and clean; an excellent spot for a picnic where one can spend the entire day swimming in the water and relaxing on the beach.

One of the most happening spots around town is the infamous ‘Curly’s beach shack’ on Anjuna beach, which is like a live wire on party nights. A note of caution though, if you reach Curly’s on a weekday, chances are that its going to be pretty dull. Weekends and festivals (Diwali night) are the best times to visit. Tito's is another popular hangout (Calangute-Baga lane) with a happening night club. A stone’s throw away from Tito’s you discover Mambo's, an open air pub/club which is usually swarming with tourists.  

For those who get some time off during the months of September or October, the North Goa trip is a must. The best way to do it is to pack your clothes and just get there. The rest will figure itself out.

By Saiyid Lamaan Hamid

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