Goa and Agra, practical

View from a beach shack

I visited Goa and Agra as an independent traveler in february 2012. Here are some first hand practical things that I encountered in those weeks and the reader might find useful.

South Goa
– I stayed in Majorda at the Alila Diva hotel in januari 2012. Taxi from the airport is 1000 rupees. Hot season but bearable because of the dry air and the wind on the beach.
– There is a free hotel shuttle all day between 7 am and 7 pm that takes you to and from the beach in 10 minutes. Never had to wait long. Though 7 pm is too early to have diner on the beach. That’s a pity. One beach shack here: Alex.
– Walk a mile and there are about six more beach shacks. All offering about the same on plastic chairs and formica tables. Some are without loud music. The quiet public is mostly English and Russian. 80 rupees for a big King Fisher or a small Heineken or Tuborg. I tried three toilets on the beach. They were terrible.
– Via the hotel I rented a scooter. 350 rupees for the day. This is very advisable because this is an independent way to get you somewhere. Takes you anywhere in mostly 40 km/h left driving on shaded roads. Crossing dogs is a thing to watch out for. There was only one liter of petrol in the tank, and there are a few petrol stations in a city like Margao.
– Margao is an typical busy but small Indian city with heavy slow trafic, and a confusing street plan. Confusing even with the help of iPad with GPS. Large scooter parking lots. Long scooter rows at the petrol stations but very fast service. The New Market is a medium large covered bazar with mostly food and household things. Nice for a scenic photograph. The big Holy Spirit church is closed on mondays. I enjoyed a tasty piza at Domino’s.

From Goa to Agra
– Cleartrip.com is the website to look for. It’s the only online travel agent in India who accepts foreign credit cards. From home in Europe I arranged my flight from Goa to Delhi and the train to Agra. Easy. No surprises.
– In Delhi I stayed at the Godwin. A bit noisy, slow wifi, but convenient close to the railway station.
– Just outside the railway station in Agra is a prepaid taxi ticket booth. 150 rupee to the Taj, 550 for a five hour tour with a guide and a driver and 850 for an eight hour tour. No hassle. The guide did his very best to show and tell me what he knows.
– I arrived at the Agra station at 8 am and had a train back at 5 pm. That is a too long time between. Agra is a pretty ugly city with not much to visit beside some monuments. I left the Taj at 11 am, so a train back to Delhi at 12 or 1 pm would have been a better choice.
– See more photo’s of the Taj on my flickr page, click at the photo’s in the right sidebar.

Goa, Panjim
– In Panjim everything is at walking distance. Or take a cab for 100 rupees.
– The Panaji Resident hotel near the old Secretariat has a shaded open terras on the first floor with catering and open for all public. Go left when you enter the hall.
– The Quaterdeck has a terras with a nice view on he river, but not so nice service.
– A driver for a whole day is 800 rupees. I picked one on the street opposite the Resident. Somewhere on the way he kindly asked me to visit a shop with fabrics so that he could receive a lottery coupon. Maybe I’m lucky next time. he said. “You don’t have to buy anything, three minutes is okay.” I did it. No problem. The shop was expensive and pushing.
– Tropical Spice Farm near Ponda. About 40 minutes ride from Panjim. They show you 2 acres out of 50. Very interesting explenation and after that a not-spicy buffet with tasty chicken masala and other things like salads. The buffet is included in the entry price. Drinks are extra, at low prices. Dipika is an nice and entertaining guide to look out for.
– I stayed at the Taj Vivanta. I’ll do it again next time. Good beds and a great choice of breakfast and a large buffet diner for 900 rupees. I especially enjoyed the great deserts.
– A driver for a day is an interesting option when you have a plan. I asked him to show me Portuguese culture and he took me to the bishops palace, the Portuguese colony, the fortresses and prison, and Old Goa with the many churches. Glad I saw this things.
– On our way I did some dolphin watching. 8 people in a pretty stable motor boat one hour for 300 rupee. No Dolphin, no pay. On the ocean we were with about ten boats. And did we see any dolphins? Yes I saw five dolphins for about three seconds. Is it worth it? Well, it’s cheap anyway.
– See my pictures of Goa and the Taj Mahal on flickr, at the right sidebar.

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