Planning a Goa Vacation? Here's how to make the most of it!

It's throwback time! It's been two years since our Goa trip and we can't wait to be back there soon again. That said, a post on Goa is inevitable for a travel blog in India. Here's sharing our experiences and best picks of things to indulge in when in Goa. It is best said, what happens in Goa remains in Goa. But, there are lots of memories you can bring back with you.  We did.

1. Grab a Vehicle!

 Perhaps, the first things to do when you reach your Goa hotel (most preferable along Candolim-Calangute-Baga coastline) is to hire a vehicle on rent. An activa, a bullet or for that matter a Jeep, it is all available on rent. All you need to show is your driving license and also submit one original photo ID as a security. They'll provide you with the service of collecting the vehicle back from your hotel on your desired date and time. Here's a pic of the visiting card from where we got ours! Mate was helpful. Even arranged a cab to the airport on our departing day.

Once this part is done, the streets are all yours and you are on your way to explore this enchanting place. If you are a bit on the adventurous side, you may well, go shirtless like this gentleman below! (Not recommended for the non-white skinned!)

2. Assemble your explorer gears!

 Well, the sunglasses might well already be on top of your nose by now, but where's your head gear? It is wrong to unnotice the numerous roadside stalls selling these wonderful hats for like 100 bucks. Buy one! Even if you have already applied your sunscreen with the max SPF. Because, these add to the Goan flavour like nothing else! And of course, you can click this subtly innovative picture like the one on the left if you've bought a couple of these headgears! On a separate note, there's no harm filling your vehicle bootspace some bottled water or a beer can if you fancy!

3. Enjoy the sea colors from the two famous forts - Aguada and Chapora

Enjoy this mesmerizing view from the top of Aquada Fort. You simply can't not get amazed by the beauty and serenity of the blue waters and the sky which merges with it at the horizon. There's no efforts or climbs required. It's that simple! Get awed by the historical significance of the Aguada Fort.

The Chapora Fort on the other hand is not that well managed. It is this Fort which was part of the film Dil Chahta Hai. The image below exactly denotes the route you will need to trek to reach the top. Just a 10 minute trek in fact from where you will get to park your vehicle. Don't expect any special amenities here. If you are lucky, you may find a couple of vendors at the top selling Frooti for three times the MRP. It's the cost of their efforts to reach the top, they say. Well! 
Even if you aren't lucky enough to see the soft drink vendor, you might well enjoy this breath-taking view from the top. Wow! The coconut trees beneath look no larger than the tip of a human finger, and humans are beyond recognition  since they look smaller than the smallest breed of Ants! Spectacular. 

4. Stroll at the happening beaches of North Goa

We must say there's a beach for every taste. Just like this beautiful photo we clicked at the Calangute beach. There are people, lots of beach shacks, music and activities (depending on the season you visit- winters are best!) View the paragliders kissing the sun from a distance or experience the cold waters caressing your feet. The picture below perfectly depicts our exact feelings of that moment. Life is Beautiful! Not just Calangute, the nearby Candolim, Baga and Vagator beaches give a similar feeling.

If you are in the mood of rocky seashores, you may well explore the Anjuna beach where you will find something exactly like the pictures on the right and the one below. But that's not really our taste so we didn't last long here i.e we lasted only as long as it took to munch the masala corn that was sold by a roadside vendor just at the entrance.

 For the ones intolerant to the commercialised beaches of North Goa, don't worry. Spare a day or two for South Goa, where you'll get clearer, silent and pristine beaches devoid of the hustle-bustle and unwanted activities. Make the most of it then by simply relaxing and enjoying nature.

5. Enjoy the Russian Flavour

There is something about Russians which makes them love Goa. And how! You'll find lots and lots of Russians who have almost colonised a few areas like, for example, the Vagator and Arambol area. Get surprised the menus and roadside advertisements written in Russian transcript like in the picture below which we clicked somewhere near Vagator we suppose. We found Russians almost everywhere ranging from the beach beds to the restaurants as well as hotels. And of course, in groups in open jeeps! (Hint: See below!)

And yes, if you do some local enquiry you may well surprise yourself with something like this Russian Fire show on the right. It was quite entertaining to watch them play with fire as we gulped our delicious dinner. (This was at Estrela Do Mar Resort) Full marks to all the three performers and to the resort for arranging this enthralling show.

6. Have a romantic beach side candle light dinner

There's more to the Goa beaches than just strolling around. If you are a couple, then why not experience a delicious dinner with candles gleaming around you while you communicate silently with your partner in the company of red balloons hearing the mystique sound of sea waves and feeling the cool breeze around you. A perfect setting to bring back any lost romance! 

And if you find that too sweet for your taste, why not have a coffee (or beer?) over a sunset like we had at Baga beach. Mind you, the beach shacks provide free Wifi on demand but don't let the internet distract your precious moments with your beloved. And once the coffee is over along with your sweet talks, you can awaken the talented photographer within you to get that perfect sunset photo on a Goan beach! We almost got one but that couple below ruined it for us! Sad! Still a great memory nonetheless.

 7. Go to a Flea market or a Cashew nut Shopping Spree 

The flea markets in Goa are scattered almost everywhere. Don't bother for the good ones or the bad ones. More or less, they are almost all likely to be fishes of the same sea. Get some collectibles at decent prices. We got a few souvenirs like this one small yacht prototype having "Goa" written on it. And yes, if you are in Goa, you simply cannot ignore the cashews. Buy all that you can! All flavours are on sale. Get ready to find numerous shops like the one in the picture below. We bought as much as we could for all of 'em family and friends back home!

 8. Enjoy Watersports

We did a bit of haggling and bargaining to get the best rates at Calangute beach. In the end it was all worth it! We can't have any pictures as obviously, you simply can't carry a phone or camera for watersports unless it is waterproof! Paragliding is a must try! The feeling is out of the world if you haven't tried it ever before. Also, it isn't that risky. And something happened while paragliding midair and midsea which left us spellbound! We saw a school of dolphins swimming and jumping near our boats! The watersport personnel said we were indeed extremely lucky as mostly schools of dolphins are visible only early mornings while it was almost noon then. Another couple on our boat testified that they had been to Dolphin safari early morning but couldn't see any! Lucky us. 

9. Spare a day to visit the Famous Doodh Sagar Falls

Yes, if your schedule permits, do not miss getting as close to nature as it gets at DoodhSagar Falls. Its located around 90 kms from Goa. Reminisce the train tracks beside running waterfalls in Bollywood movies? Yes, that's Doodhsagar Falls. The path leading to the waterfalls are through the jungles and the government arranges vehicles from the ticket counter to the waterfalls for around 2800 bucks for a group of 7. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the base of the waterfalls. If you're lucky you may spot wild animals along the way. The water is very cold but one may soon get adjusted to it! But just be careful with the rocks. Enjoy around 90 minutes till the driver comes to take you back. Plan early in the morning to avoid swimming amongst a crowdful! A bit of climbing requires so people with mobility issues may need some helping hand!

10. The nighlife - Cruise, casinos and carefree beach parties

The beach parties after the sunset will definitely make the party animals go crazy. Need we say more. 

For a truly mesmerizing experience one may book an evening at a cruise along the Mandovi river. They are fun, entertaining and of course, there are casinos too to try your bit of luck! Here's how a typical cruise looks like at night.

 The Deltin Royale in Panaji is one of the better known luxury casinos in Goa. If you have got the bucks then why not try your luck?

 11. A day trip to experience the historic South Goa

South Goa is the historical Goa and it is home to lots of laid back and pristine beaches like Colva, Varca and Bogmalo. If you want to be in the vicinity of sprwaling golden sand beaches of unparralled beauty you'll find it South Goa! The famous Vasco da Gama town named after the Portugese explorer will definitely give you a glimpse of the historical treasure trove with 400 year old heritage monuments of Gothic architecture. And of course you may try the new fad of "silent" parties at the pubs and clubs where it seems like everyone is dancing without music but its actually they are headphone parties! 
If you are adventurous enough you may try kayaking along the backwaters of Vasco da Gama! ...Or perhaps stay at a beach cottage for a peaceful and relaxing experience.

 Or even better, enjoy a scrumptious meal with live music at one of the numerous luxury resorts in South Goa...!

12. Relish the best of sea food at a beach shack or wherever you're comfortable at! 

Look at those delicious prawn curry on the left. Don't get amused by reading the price as "Depends on Size" on the menus.

Indeed there's something for everybody in Goa!

We loved relaxing at these beach beds at Calangute!
We wish you have a great time in Goa, like we had on this awesome Swing! Thanks for reading!

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The Best Travel Apps in India – Guaranteed to make your travel planning pleasant!

We are sure most of us will agree that planning a travel is as exciting as the travel itself. Today we’re going to share some of our most favourite travel apps that always find space in our smartphones. These travel apps definitely make planning our trips pleasant if not anything else!

1.  MakeMyTrip

Makemytrip certainly tops the list of our favourite travel websites. What we like about it the most is that it is the most professional in the business in the Indian scene. Be it the flawless app design, booking ease, impeccable customer care or the amazing discounts, it is truly top-notch.

The good:

·         Cheapest flight prices on most occassions
·         A gamut of credit card and debit card offers
·         True blue discounts on App during the "AppHours" , "Trippy Tuesday" and such other offers
·         Their tour packages are a brilliant reference for the ones trying to design their trip itinerary
·         A quick IRCTC train ticket availability check without having to login to the official website
·         Has tie up with "Payback" rewards mmerchant and these reward points are redeemable as actual discounts in future bookings

The Not-so-good

·         Travel package rates are on the higher side
·         Hotel prices  are many a times higher than, let's say, GoIbibo

2.  Goibibo

For us, GoIbibo is a clear leader for hotel booking. It isn't far behind makemytrip in flight booking too.  We particularly love their wallet offering called GoCash and GoCash+. They guarantee saving a few bucks if used rightly. As of now they don't offer tour packages and we are glad they are just focussing on their strength - Hotels!

The good:

·         Cheapest hotel prices nine out of ten times
·         Wallet GoCash and GoCash+ can be earned by a variety of ways, for e.g. you earn 50 GoCash when a friends books using GoIbibo
·         "GoStays" - GoIbibo certified hotels is a great initiative which facilitates booking cheap, basic and reliable hotels

The Not-so-good:

·        The biggest drawback is that it weirdly compromises your privacy. If someone in our contact books and travels using GoIbibo, we get Rs.50 GoCash. Great! But at the same time it mentions the name of the friend who booked through GoIbibo. This actually sounds ridiculous!
·         The reviews aand ratings are unreliable and hence it is always advisable to check with third parties like TripAdvisor!
·         Refunds are a bit complicated specifically if you’ve used Gocash or Gocash+ during booking. We’ve experienced some deducations in refund. Also, restrictions on use of GoCash mean that you'll have them plenty but would not be able to use them!

3.  TripAdvisor

It is undoubtedly the best reference site for travel going by the sheer number of independent reviews for almost all tourist spots in the whole of the gigantic globe! We aren't a big fan of their travel booking tie-ups though. Albeit we definitely love the guest photos and reviews of hotels, attractions etc.

The Good:

·         Huge database. Huge footfall. Huge number of reviews and photos
·         Their tie up with certain airlines where you get AirMiles for writing reviews. yey!
·         Offline maps in their mobile app are a boon
·         A single point reference for any trip anywhere in the world. Period.

The Not-so-good:

·         We only wish their partner prices were competitive enough like makemytrip or GoIbibo!
·         Their app version consumes huge memory space in phome nd we dont know why!
·         Sometimes too many conflicting reviews for a particular place/hotel makes it difficult to take a decision!

4.  Skyscanner Flight

Although not an Indian site it is a great website for searching cheap international flight prices. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Good:

·         Their feature of "price trends" for a particular flight shows prices over a period of time helping us plan our travel when prices are cheapest
·         View prices in any currency
·         Great filter/flexibility options like filter by flight carrier, filter by number of stops as well as the "My dates are not fixed" option

The Not-so-good:

·         Sometimes prices shown are not available when you actually go ahead to book them.
·         Not much offerings apart from aggregating flight agents from across the globe

5.  Zomato

Travel without great food is incomplete. This site is for the foodies! If one is not sure where to find your next great meal, this app is honestly helpful.

The Good:

·         One can read entire menus of restaurants right from home
·         Expert and user reviews to give us a fair idea of a restaurant
·         Fair ooptions to filter and find the food of our choice and in the vicinity
·         Timings, prices, amenities and payment options are quite helpful in shortlisting that great meal

The Not-so-Good:

·         Off late one needs to sign in to the app to explore its features which is a let down
·         The app only covers metros and bug cities/towns as of now

6.  Redbus

It is perhaps the best bus booking app in India. It definitely makes booking buses butter smooth. We can't particularly point out it's positives and negatives. How about leaving your views in the comments?

7.  Splitwise

Splitwise is an app which might give you a great relief if travelling in groups of friends wherein expenses are shared.
You simply input all the expenses and define how it is to be split. That's it! One, it helps you maintain a nice log of expenses and two, it eases splitting shared expenses..
Some great features include:
·         You can form groups and add your friends via email ids and if they too download the app then they get push notification for each expense entered in the group. Helps a great deal in maintaining transparency.
·         Lots of flexibility like "squaring off" , defining the proportion of split , choosing the number of members in the group relating to a particular expense etc
·         Thanks to Splitwise, we now have a database of all expenses made in most of our previous trips. Makes great memories indeed!

So that sums up most of our travel apps and definitely all our favourites!

Some of our Desi Travel Hacks and more:

·         There are quite a few other apps too that we have found to be reliable enough and do their job well. These include Cleartrip , Yatra , ixigo . But almost always the prices offered at makemytrip and/or GoIbibo win hands down!
·         Many a times during hotel booking payment in advance makes us eligible for great discounts instead of Pay-at-Hotel.
·         To us it never made much sense trying aggregators like trivago. More so because of some discount forms like GoCash and promo codes are not deciphered by these aggregators.
·         Paying by reward based credit cards helps in accumulating good amount of points redeemable later
·         Making individual hotel bookings for each day of your trip cleverly helps in higher effective discount. For e.g. offer says get 20% discount with a cap of Rs.1000. Now if you're booking a hotel costing Rs 5000/day and are booking for 3 consecutive days then a single booking fetches a discount if only Rs.1000 and three separate bookings fetch a discount of Rs.1000x3 which is THREE TIMES HIGHER!! Caution: It is always advisable to confirm with the hotel so that you are not subject to multiple check-ins and check-outs!
·         We always use hotels names mentioned in reputed tour packages as a reference. This way we get to know the better hotels to stay in at a particular place and also can cross-check prices separately from a third website.

That's it folks! If you liked reading our views please feel free to comment/ share/ subscribe. It gives us a smile. Thank you. Cheers!

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