6 months here in Goa are coming to an end; wow – the time was really flying! The season is ending also, many shops and restaurants shut down already, while the temperatures are rising every day. The coming monsoon is showing its hot side.
Everyone is waiting for the rain to fall. Time for a wrap-up, as done previously before the departure from Bali.
As this was the first time in Goa (and India) for me, I could only rely on what other people described on forums and by word of mouth:
A good resource, which helped me a lot to research Goa and India is for instance the forum over at Indiamike.
Still nothing can prepare you 100% for the culture shock that is India. The impressions of the first 14 days I wrote down here.
If you are looking for a cheap place to stay on holiday there, you can check here for a Hotel in Goa.
Now, after 6 months and without any further ado; the Best, the Good, the Ugly of Goa:
Although it may sound like nothing special or too obvious, the best thing about Goa (or India that is) for me was simply the easy Visa Process. Apply once and you can stay for up to 6 months without any other bureaucracy, hassles or payments.
Living and traveling the last couple of years around Asia, I don’t remember anymore, how much time I spent already at Immigration offices, doing Visa Runs, paying agents or friendly helpers, waiting for your tea money to make their day.
Also I went through 3 passports in the just 6 years living in Asia, due to all the stickers, stamps and visa notices in it – no joke!
When living in Thailand for 8 months; I visited the neighboring countries Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia or flying into Singapore or even Vietnam – all in the sake of renewing your Visa every month. While you will always explore something new in those countries and that wasn’t too unpleasant – the whole idea of being forced to move yourself *right now* to a different country – and be it only for a few hours – is something sooooo uncool.
Living in Bali on a tourist Visa (not the VOA, Visa on Arrival, which will make you to leave the country every 30 days), you are even forced to visit the Immigration Office around 20 times in just 6 months, not counting the countless hours wasted, money spent for forms, copies, passport pictures and all the hassles having to do with bureaucrats who simply enjoy showing you who is in power. But hey!
So I can really appreciate friendly Visa Rules when I see them.
Applying for the straight-forward and cheap Visa for India in Singapore was already a breeze, as even this is outsourced to a travel agent (famous Mustafa Travel in Serangoon Road) – India is simply all about Outsourcing. After 3 days you will simply have a new sticker in your passport -that’s all you will need for the next 6 months. On top of that, you can renew the Visa in most of the surrounding countries of India. In this regard India is exceptionally liberal as well, unlike some other countries, which force you to renew your Visa in the country of your permanent residence.
Still, plenty of Europeans manage to complain a lot about Indian Visa, they wish for a 5 or even 10-year-multiple entry Visa for India.
Okay – that would be really nice – but it’s simply not realistic!
You can’t compare the Schengen treaty for Europeans in Europe with Visa Regulations of other countries around the world and especially Asia. Just think about it how rigid Asians are treated applying for a Schengen Visa and you will see that Double Standards have its limits.
Many things are good about Goa, so where shall I start? The Food must be somewhere on the top here. If you love Indian food – this is the place to come! Good value for money, great quality and legions of restaurants to choose from. Just make sure you come during the season (October to April) to avoid limited choice which occurs towards the end of the season, just before the beginning of the monsoon. Not convinced food-wise? Check out these 7 examples of delicious Indian Food or check out these fabulous Must-Try-Restaurants.
Just watch out for the tainted beer, want to know more? Read on here.
Besides food, the Costs of Living is very affordable and one of the great things in Goa. You have all the modern amenities of a holiday destination and to a certain extend also the infrastructure. All that for very low costs to live long-term. Just imagine – a newspaper costs you Rs 3, a bottle of beer Rs 20 (less than half a Dollar), a meal around Rs 60-120 (2-3 Dollar) and housing is also very affordable. The value for money is generally outstanding. Check out the detailed spreadsheet with 70 day-2-day items here.
Did I talk about Medical Services yet? Another valuable thing you want to consider, when planning a longer trip to Goa. Dental Work, cheap OTC Over-The-Counter Medicine, Health Checkups and even Surgery can be had for a fraction of the prices in Europe or even other parts of Asia. Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical products costs here usually around 15-20% of the prices in Europe, the US or elsewhere.
Hospital and Clinics are basically very well equipped, with modern technology and the medical staff is up to the task.
Just shop around various hospitals to get a feeling for a market prices and choose which you liked best. Besides buying plenty of cheap OTC Over-The-Counter Medicine here, myself – I had positive personal experiences with Dental Work, Dermatology and Hepatitis Vaccination done here in Goa.
Medical Tourism is more than a buzzword. You can benefit from it, getting better treatment and saving more money than back in your home country. Here are some more details why you should definitely consider Medical Tourism in Goa.
The Flora and Fauna in Goa is also breath-taking. Just drive around with your rented bike every day – you will surely discover something new. Endless beaches, long creeks in fractal shapes, jungles and hill slope make for a pleasant drive.
Bird Watchers love to come to Goa for the many different bird species. You will notice Kingfisher birds with bright blue feathers flapping among Water Buffaloes, Wild Boars, Snakes, even Crocodiles can still be found in some water holes.
Where there is light, there is shadow. Goa has plenty of it also.
I don’t even want to talk about all that garbage in the streets, the heaps of filth and abysmal hygiene in public places. You can’t change people’s behavior in the short run. That’s something you simply have to and learn to cope with over time, just make sure you keep your own house tidy and avoid catching all the germs. A good stamina, some vitamin pills and regular swims in the ocean besides multi-daily showers will prevent you from the worst.
Being bombarded with constant SMS advertising on your cell phone (including daily automated calls), at your Cable TV Shows (for every 5 minute film you get 10 minutes Ads with increased sound volume) is probably meanwhile universal. The lack of fast, affordable and – above all – reliable internet access will surely be only a matter of a few more months or maybe some years. After all, the 3G auctions are just over and the first networks are going online while I write.
But the most annoying thing in Goa is – hold yourself –
the Behavior of Goan Males.
I don’t know, what’s wrong with guys here, be it the (unofficial) segregation of the sexes in India (you will mainly see 90% men and maybe only 10% women during your stay here), the sheer amount of people and therefore the difficulty to stand out or what else.
You won’t see many smiles in Goa anymore. Coming from SE Asia, this is even more apparent. I sometimes thought I’m back during rush hour in a train in an industry town in Germany. Nobody smiles, only frowning faces abound. You will be stared down many times.
Yes, they say it’s the bad economy, the long working hours, the unfriendliness of tourists and what else. I can’t accept that. You want business – you do something for it. It seems here they simply want Money for Nothing and Chicks for free. Other Expats confirmed that to me, that over the last couple of years, Goa seems to be in a decline in that regard.
Goan Males here appear simply rude, impolite, grumpy, show aggressive behavior, spit everywhere they go, will rip you off any chance they get. They show a coldness and complete disrespect to other human beings, be it in traffic on the roads, as your waiter in a restaurant or else.
You are a mere business opportunity for them. And those are not stereotypes!
Let me explain and give you some examples to make that a bit more transparent:
- Go into any restaurant, rarely you will receive even a greeting from the staff, no “Hi!”, “How are you?” or whatever. The staff will stare at you with a grumpy look, checking you out and maybe you will have the menu thrown at your table in an abrupt manner. There will be no “Thank you” for paying, mainly no repeating of orders (still it will be your fault, if they bring out something else than ordered), constant attempts to cheat you with the amount on the bill and so on. I found the *most friendly* restaurant staff in Goa came from *Nepal* and they were season workers, having to leave when the season ends.
- Another example: you slowly establish a business relation with someone, like buying your groceries or household items always at the same store. You are slowly being recognized and even sometimes greeted (after several weeks). Over time you think everything should be fair and okay. But no – even after months of bringing them your business you suddenly will be cheated on, somehow prices increased or you still will be given the wrong change. When you complain, you are looked at in disbelief, screamed at or even kicked out of the shop.
- When I agreed with my landlord on the monthly rent, items included and money exchanged, hands shook – a few weeks later he still tried to charge me for the Cable TV, extra electricity costs or whatever and it was a constant fight with him. If I hadn’t paid in advance already (to get a better deal) I would’ve moved out right away. Son of a b*tch!
Even children of normal families see tourists merely as a walking ATM. Example: you stop at an old Goan house admiring it’s splendid architecture; suddenly a child of 6 to 8 years living in it jumps out, holding out its hand and asking for 20 Rupees. Why? Because you look at their house! If you don’t give anything it will frown, even scream at you to take off. A child! What attitude is that? My parents would have punished me for disrespecting a stranger like that. This happened more than once, with a parent or an older relative standing closeby, so it’s no coincidence.
Regarding the complete disrespect of the human factor: crime is exploding in Goa. This place is rip-off central (3 out of 5 times you will get the wrong or no change for bills paid), assault, rape, murders – you name it, the newspapers are increasingly full with it – to be fair not only foreigners are affected. Did you know that around 600 girls under the age of 16 disappear every year in Goa? These cases are said to be acts of crime, the local or foreign mafia kidnapping local girls and forcing them into labor or prostitution. Crime against tourists is usually covered up at first. Murders are systematically marked as drownings in the sea, suicides or drug overdoses. Rape is usually blamed on the victim, it is not uncommon that local women, who want to report a rape are raped again at the police station by an officer.
Racism/Double-Standards are abound. In traffic; locals park wherever they want, chat in the middle of the road, take-over wherever/whenever, if you as a tourist do that: prepare to be punished with ‘Horn’ attacks, scolded at, cut off, even spit at! There is a complete disrespect for other people on the road; at night, people drive with their car’s high beam full light all the time, blinding all oncoming traffic. Alternatively they show no light at all in pitch black dark.
This behavior mainly is for me the main reason, why Goa seems to be a holiday paradise in decline.
The economic situation surely does its part, but you won’t gain additional tourists or better the economic climate by ignoring basic service rules, ripping the lower tourist numbers off with double pricing them or trying to cheat them at any given situation. The cheating tops any other country I’ve ever been in during my travels.
The decline of Goa is not my invention. It seems apparent to other people also, who travel here already for many years. I met some who visit Goa every year for the last 16 years or so and even those confirm the above examples. There are plenty of discussions of long-term Expats in forums, on where to move next, if this behavior in the tourism industry continues.
I hope the above complaints didn’t sound too negative. Reading it again, it’s quite a rant – but I stand to everything I wrote above. It won’t prevent me from visiting India again another time. Maybe I simply have to visit more remote areas, far away from mass tourism.
Hopefully the ugly shadows of Goa will improve over time also, with the improving economic situation. If you travel to Goa, just be aware that there is probably a high chance of getting annoyed at some point of time.
Also take my writing with a grain of salt. If you get annoyed in India – do yoga or take some massages to relax – or write a travel blog to let out your frustrations.
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