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Goa Travel Guide
This small state, halfway down India's west coast, was a Portuguese colony until 1961. This goes some way to explaining the alternative atmosphere here. Cut off from British India by a wall of mountains and vast alluvial plains, for many years, Goa relied on trade with a declining Portuguese Empire. However, what was lost in terms of British trade, was more than made up for in terms of Portuguese attitude - to this day, Goa retains a distinctly laid-back and relaxed feel.
Goa was discovered by travellers in the late 1960s; many were relieved to have found somewhere away from the mainstream, where holidaying meant simply hanging out, doing some recreational drugs and partying on the beach (particularly during full moon). The state quickly grew a reputation for its hedonism and liberal attitude - not to mention its hot sun, that sets in splendour every evening over the Arabian Sea. In recent years, though it still hosts epic trance music festivals (such as Sunburn), the authorities of Goa have tried to discourage hippies and budget backpackers from swamping the area, angling rather for clientele with fatter wallets - with the nett result that Goa is slowly losing its reputation as India's 'party central'.
Now with a quick rail link to Mumbai and charter flights from the UK, thousands of tourists flock here each winter to relax and enjoy the famous Goan cuisine - which largely consists of fish and seafood, prepared in exotic Indian spices. Many hotels and resorts have popped up over the last few years to cater for this ever-popular destination, but with more than 25 miles (40km) of beautiful sandy beaches, there is still plenty of tranquillity to be found.
A wide variety of transport is available in Goa. Most tourist sights can be accessed by road and there are buses, rental cars, taxis and scooters available for travellers to use. The best (and the most fun) way to get around Goa is to hire a motorcycle/scooter, but be sure to carry the necessary paperwork (licence, registration and insurance) because checks on foreigners are a lucrative source of baksheesh for the Indian police force. Roads and attractions are not well sign-posted, so don't hesitate to ask for directions. Note that accident and fatality rates on Goan roads have been high in the past and exercise caution. Local buses stop at the main beaches. Auto-rickshaws are also a popular transportation option, and are available in town and from the airport, railway station and bus terminus. When taking taxis or rickshaws be sure to negotiate a fare before setting out to avoid being overcharged or having an argument. Goa is generally easy to get around and public transport is not expensive. As most visitors choose to stay near or on the beach front, limited transport is needed on a daily basis because restaurants, shops and attractions tend to be in walking distance.
Indian Tourist Office, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2332 0005 or
Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 7000.
Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7836 8484.
Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 3751/52/53
Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: + 61 (0)2 6273 3999.
Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 342 5392.
Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 496 6792.
Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 6390/1.
United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.
British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 2100.
Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.
Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.
South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2614 9411.
Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2462 6733.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.
Emergencies: 100 (Police); 102/104 (Ambulance).
India is a tolerant society, but visitors should educate themselves about its religious and social customs so as not to cause offence: for example, smoking in public was banned in 2008. When visiting temples visitors will probably be required to remove their footwear and cover their heads. Generally, women should dress more conservatively than (perhaps) they are used to doing at home, both to respect local sensibilities and to avoid unwanted attention. Topless bathing is illegal. Indians do not like to disappoint, and often instead of saying 'no', will come up with something that sounds positive, even if incorrect. Social order and status are very important in Indian culture - remain respectful and obliging with elders. Avoid using your left hand, particularly when eating.
Visa extensions are not possible for tourist visas. Other visas may be eligible for extensions, which are applied for through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Holders of multiple-entry Tourist Visas (visa type code "T"), with a validity ranging from above three months and up to 10 years, are no longer required to leave a gap of at least two months between visits unless they are nationals from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh.
Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required, if arriving in India within six days of leaving or transiting through heavily infected areas. Also note that the following areas of India are restricted, and require that visitors obtain a permit BEFORE entering them: (Protected Areas) parts of the state of Manipur, parts of the state of Mizoram, parts of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, the whole state of Nagaland, the whole State of Sikkim, parts of the state of Uttaranchal, parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, parts of the state of Rajasthan, parts of the state of Himachal Pradesh; (Restricted Areas) the whole of the union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, part of the state of Sikkim. If surface travel is involved, and nationals travel via restricted areas, they require a "pass" issued by either the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (located in each major Indian city), or the Superintendent of Police (located in each Indian district), or the diplomatic representation of India in Bhutan or Nepal.
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.