Getting there & away
India has a comprehensive and extensive public bus system, but most state-run vehicles are decrepit and overcrowded. From neighbouring states you’ll find frequent bus services into Goa – it’s just a matter of turning up at the bus station and checking timetables or jumping on the next available bus.
There are also plenty of private bus companies running into Goa from Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru (Bangalore), Mangalore and other interstate cities. These are more expensive, but faster and more comfortable, with reclining seats and options of AC or even ‘sleeper’ class. One of the most popular options for bus travel to and from Goa is Paulo Travels (www.paulotravels.com). Consult its website for the most up-to-date prices and route information.
Buses for Mumbai depart from Panaji and Margao daily.
The Konkan Railway (www.konkanrailway.com), the main train line running through Goa, connects Goa with Mumbai to the north, and with Mangalore to the south. Its main train station in Goa is Madgaon station in Margao, from which there are several useful daily services to Mumbai. Note that services and prices change seasonally, and it’s a good idea to have a thorough look at the Konkan Railway website for the most up-to-date information.
You can also book Konkan Kanya Express (Goa–Mumbai or Mumbai–Goa) tickets online from the Konkan Railway website, subject to a long list of conditions: you can only book between two and seven days in advance of travel, only in three-tier sleeper AC class for a cost of Rs1500 per ticket, and with no date changes permitted.
All other train bookings are best made at Margao’s Madgaon station, at the train reservation office at Panaji’s Kadamba bus stand or at any travel agent selling train tickets (though you’ll probably pay a small commission for the convenience). Make sure you book as far in advance as possible for sleepers, since they fill up quickly.
To get to Goa by air, you may be flying into Mumbai Airport (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport; domestic tel: 02226264000, international tel: 02226813000; www.csia.in) and taking an onward domestic connection.
Otherwise, you will be flying into Goa’s Dabolim Airport (Dabolim International Airport; tel: 0832-540806).
Only a handful of charter companies operate international flights into Dabolim Airport, most from the UK, Germany and Russia. Be aware that in principle, at least, it’s illegal to enter India on a scheduled flight and leave on a charter flight, or vice versa. Chances are, however, this won’t be checked.
Reliable charter flight booking services in the UK or Germany:
Thomson Airlines (www. thomson.co.uk)
Monarch Airlines (holidays.monarch.co.uk)
Condor Airlines (www.condor.com)
Numerous domestic airlines fly daily in and out of Goa, most flights taking off and landing throughout the morning and early afternoon, to a number of Indian destinations.
Of them, Indigo (tel: 1800 1803838 toll free; www.goindigo.in), GoAir (tel: 1800 222111 toll free; www.goair.in) and Spicejet (tel: 1800 1803333 toll free; www.spicejet.com) are the cheapest, and Kingfisher (tel:1800 1800101 toll free; www.flykingfisher.com) and Jet Airways (tel: 1800 225522 toll free; www.jetairways.com) by far the most comfortable.
A return flight from Mumbai to Goa (the direct journey takes around 45 minutes) can cost around US$150, sometimes even less. It’s cheapest and easiest to book online as far in advance of your travel as possible, and any enquiries are best made to the airlines’ toll-free numbers in India.
Dabolim Airport’s arrivals hall is equipped with a money-exchange office, GTDC tourist office, Airtel office for purchasing mobile phone credit, and charter airline offices. There are two prepaid taxi booths (one in the arrivals hall and the other just outside), for heading by taxi elsewhere in the state.