One of the joys of travelling around Goa is joining locals on flat-bottomed passengervehicle ferries that cross the state’s many rivers. Ferries have been commuting people across waters for decades, but services are gradually being put out of business by massive bridge-building projects.
Self-drive car hire is not worth the trouble, especially since it’s more expensive than a chauffeur-driven car.
It’s easy, in most destinations, to organise a private car with a driver if you’re planning on taking some long-distance day trips. Prices vary, but you should bank on paying around Rs1500 to Rs2000 for a full day out on the road.
Getting around Goa by scooter or motorcycle is probably the most popular form of transport, both for locals and tourists. If you plan to spend most of your time lying on the beach you may have little use for a motorcycle, but if you’ve the urge to explore even slightly far afield, you’ll soon find it’s a hassle without your own transport. The freedom, therefore, that a motorcycle affords is hard to beat.
An international driving permit is not technically mandatory, but it’s wise to bring one. The first thing a policeman will want to see if he stops you is your licence, and an international permit is incontrovertible. Permits are available from your home automobile association.
Hiring a motorcycle in Goa is easy. Hirers will probably find you, and are more often than not decent guys who are just looking to make a bit of cash on the side. Private bike owners are not technically allowed to rent out a machine. This means that if you are stopped by the police for any reason, your hirer would prefer that you say you have borrowed it from a ‘friend’. Laws on this sort of thing are almost universally ignored in North Goa where anything goes, but police can be more opportunistic in the south. It’s a good idea to keep registration papers in the bike – it gives the police one less argument against you, and if you don’t have a valid licence, or you’re not wearing a helmet on NH17 (the national highway), you’ll need all the help you can get.
If you leave the state, you may need to produce original documents for the vehicle you are driving or riding. If you want to go further afield from Goa, you need to hire from a licensed agency to stay within the law.
Outside of the high season you can get a scooter for as little as Rs100 per day. During high season (December to February) the standard rate is Rs250 to Rs300. If you can get an old Kinetic down to Rs130 or so, you’re doing very well. Expect to pay Rs400 for a 100cc bike and up to Rs600 for an Enfield. Obviously, the longer you hire a bike (and the older it is), the cheaper it becomes.
Make absolutely sure that you agree with the owner about the price. Clarify whether one day is 24 hours, and that you won’t be asked to pay extra for keeping it overnight. You may be asked to pay cash up front (which is fair, given that they’re handing over their motorbike), but get a written receipt of some sort to that effect. Also try to take down the phone number of the owner, or his mechanic, in case something goes wrong with the bike.
It makes sense to check the bike over before you hire it and make a note of any damage or broken parts, so that you’re not blamed for it later. Make sure brakes, lights and the allessential horn are working. You can manage without a petrol gauge but it’s nice when it works. Mirrors are useful, but many older rental bikes are missing them. Take a look at the condition of the tyres to make sure that there’s at least a skerrick of tread on them.
The state-run Kadamba bus company is the main operator of public buses, although there are also private companies running more comfortable buses to Mumbai, Hampi, Bengaluru and several other interstate destinations. Local buses are cheap, services are frequent and they run to just about everywhere, eventually. Express buses run between Panaji and Mapusa, and Panaji and Margao.
Taxis, ranging from black and yellow Ford Ambassadors to white air-conditioned Maruti vans, are widely available for hopping townto- town. A full day’s sightseeing, depending on the distance, is likely to be around Rs1500 to Rs2000. You’ll rarely find a taxi with a functioning meter, so agree on a price before you agree to be a passenger.
Goa is the only state in India where motorcycles are a licensed form of taxi. You can tell the motorcycle taxis (or pilots as they are sometimes called) by the yellow front mudguard. They gather, along with taxis and autorickshaws, at strategic points in towns and beach resorts. They’re fun and they’re fast – no other form of transportation can efficiently navigate through traffic quite so quickly. The downside is that there’s an increased element of danger – motorcycle pilots may be experienced riders but that doesn’t stop them coming off or colliding with other vehicles and you’ve got little or no protection in the event of a crash. As with autorickshaws, negotiate a good rate before jumping on.
An autorickshaw is a yellow-and-black three-wheeled contraption powered by a noisy two-stroke motorcycle engine. It has a canopy, a driver up front and seats for two (though we’ve managed two with four small children) passengers behind. This typically Indian mode of transport is cheaper than a taxi and generally a better option for short trips – count on Rs50 for a very short journey and Rs100 for a slightly longer one. Flag down an autorickshaw and negotiate the fare before you jump in (don’t even try asking the driver to turn on the meter); if he’s charging too much, let him go – there’ll be another along soon.