Today’s post is a fun interview with Rachel who blogs over at Hippie in Heels. Rachel has been enjoying expat life in Goa, India and she wanted to share her tips and insights about life in the hippie beach state. She’s recently also written an Insider’s Guide to Goa so you can find even more ideas for your own trip to Goa. Take it away, Rachel!
You’re currently living in India. How did you end up there and why did you choose Goa?
I came to India about a year and a half ago on a solo “I want to find myself” backpacking trip. I never in a million years thought I’d be living in India at any point! Just two weeks before my trip was set to end, I met Ben (my boyfriend now) in Goa. So the clichéd life-changing trip occurred and I’m now living in Goa with him after leaving my career as a travel nurse. I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
What’s expat life like there? What does a regular day look like?
Living in Goa is about as easy as it comes. Days pass slowly. Costs are low so the quality of life is very high. Food and drink options are phenomenal due to how many western hippies moved here in the 70’s-80’s, stayed, and opened restaurants. It’s a hippie beach-goers dream where it seems absolutely no one you meet has a “real job” and everyone is doing exactly what they love, making just enough to get by. Because people are doing what they love, it’s hard to find someone who is unhappy in Goa.
I am a Thai Yoga Masseuse on the side of blogging. Many expats here own bars or cafes, teach yoga, Reiki, massage, sell handicrafts, or are digital nomads. Most days are spent working in front of my computer at the pool/beach/café with my boyfriend (who also works from a computer), then going out to dinner and drinks with friends, shopping, and playing with my dog. Nothing too stressful.
For those of us who only have a few days there, what would you recommend seeing and doing?
I do hope that no one comes to Goa with only a few days because it is so spread out along the coast, and there’s so much lush jungle inland, you need weeks! If it has to be a few days, the best of Goa would include waking up in a beach hut near Vagator or Anjuna Beach then heading into Chapora for a fresh juice at the local hangouts Jai Ganesh Juice where you’re bound to meet a combination of laid-back locals, sneaky dealers, rambunctious cows, and friendly shop owners.
You can waste a little time shopping, but best to get down to the beach and pamper yourself with hair threading, massage, and women coming to you selling jewelry and bright sarongs while you soak up the sun.
For lunches and dinner you should include: Any beach shacks for seafood, Gunpowder in Assagao for Indian, Baba Au Raum in Arpora for pizza and burgers, Villa Blanche in Assagao for fresh salads and breads, Italian Basilico in Anjuna, and for sunset you MUST see it from the best Greek restaurant in India, Thalassa, in Vagator.
If you are here during “season time” which is October through March and peaks in December, then you’ll most likely make it to a Saturday night market. This is one of my favorite places in Arpora: filled with live music, great food, Indian handicrafts, and westerners clothing and jewelry it’s a ‘don’t miss’ in Goa. On Wednesday, there is a flea market in Anjuna, which is beachside/cliffside. It is just a fun with a few restaurants playing live music. The flea market is during the day and will have more Indian than western treasures.
Last but not least, spend your nights partying until sunrise!
Any favourite beaches in Goa you’d like to tell us about? Shh, we’ll keep them secret!
Boringly enough, I usually go to Vagator for convenience. The Vagator beach dogs are now used to my dog, causing less fights. I love Ashwem, which is very popular for young hotties day-drinking. I have written about a private secret beach resort in Goathat at the owner’s request, I don’t say the name. If people are truly curious they can e-mail and ask! His whole branding is keeping it secret! Just shoot me a message.
What are some of your favorite local dishes that you’d recommend trying?
Before I start listing items that you may have had throughout India or even in other countries, know that Goa has a special spin on everything… so you need to try it all again here! I like a breakfast samosa, fish curry rice, grilled seafood, sugar cane juice, fresh poi bread delivered to homes by bicycle daily, and an Indian shawarma.
Goa has it’s own curries, the most popular being: xacuti, cafreal, vindaloo, sorpotel eaten with fermented rice cakes called sannas, and chouris eaten with poi.
The local drink cashew feni can only be found in Goa and will knock your socks off. It’s an Indian moonshine. I like to drink mine at Monkey Bar, behind the police station in Anjuna.
What’s the best place for a fun night out?
For partying it is very much so “what’s on” and that will be the place everyone goes. You can check FB pages, but even easier look at WUG for information.
Goa is famous for psychedelic trance parties so even if you don’t like the music it’s worth checking out. Think twice before you take a sip of water from someone… it might be magic. You’ll like Shiva Valley, Disco Valley, and Hilltop, which was been around 30 years.
For techno/mix clubs, Teso, Chronicle, Katzensuppe, and Bardo in Ashwem/Morjim.
Then there’s Club Paradise, LPK, Sync, and Club Cubana for a packed mainstream place.
This is just a small outline of the party scene. Goa is a party so it’s very difficult to just name-drop a few!
Do you have any other insider tips you’d like to share with us?
If you have a short amount of time avoid Baga, Calangute, and Candolim. They are crowded with huge groups of tourists, prices are double anywhere else, and it’s really not a cool place. The beaches are sleazy. Instead stay on the Vagator, Anjuna, Arpora side.
Rent a bike or car! I have a car here, which makes all the difference because taxis will add up to be much more than a rental. Parties change every hour and you’ll hop around. Also with a car you can drive to see attractions like Old Goa, Fort Aguada, and Spice Plantation. Inland there are waterfalls, hiking, rafting, canyoning and other activities. Driving to Ashwem/Morjim for a day is really nice. There, eat at La Plage and break your budget to stay at the luxurious Amarya Shamiyana.
Ashwem Beach has great boutiques and the markets have great shopping. Tia & Tan sells from Goa, rock royalty Jade Jagger, as well as Doe Designs. I bet a lot of the gorgeous jewels you’ve found on Etsy shockingly come straight from the markets in Goa. Almost all jewelers I buy from sell on Etsy, but I assure you prices are much better in person.
Have fun shopping and getting henna, tattoos, or piercings in Goa (on the street only a dollar… risk was worth it!). Best prices will be at beginning or end of season before a lot of shop keepers move it all up to Manali during monsoon.
Beach huts are great but if you have a large group, look into renting a villa. You can get a FABULOUS 3 BR for 1-2,000 bucks per month, which can be better than beach huts for longer term.
This would be the ideal place for couchsurfing in India. It is one of those places that will be better tenfold if you know someone there. Unlike a small town where you can walk around and guess what’s popular, most of Goa’s special places are hidden and very spread out. Just make sure to be safe and I suggest women stay with either women or expat hosts only because I personally have had issues with male Indian hosts.
How about some tips for solo female travellers considering India?
I have actually written a couple posts about female safety in India as well as solo travel throughout the country. Overall, if you’re smart, there is nothing to worry about. I do sometimes take unnecessary risks, like hitchhiking, so if I made it through anyone can!
If traveling lowest class train take a bike chain for your bag, if traveling in Delhi/Mumbai at night use a taxi not local bus at night if you’re alone, and do not yell at men even when they cut you in line or disrespect you- just leave. If you are “eve-teased” (stared at, bothered, followed) do tell the police. They are now taking it very seriously and it might just be the scare that gets that man to stop his behavior.
When it comes to scams, rudeness, and theft, I actually find that the Thai islands were worse! Rural Indians and young Indian men are curious and may stare, take videos or photos, but instead of being frustrated the most important thing is to decide from day one not to let it bother you.
If you are patient and kind, India will accept you with open arms. You’ll encounter scams like anywhere- in Delhi the police almost scammed me, which left me in angry tears- but the next day you’ll cry happy tears.
India is a rollercoaster of love and hate and it will test you in every way. It’s unlike anywhere I went previously.