Accessible Travel

There are few provisions for travellers with disabilities in Goa outside of the most top-end hotels, and thus the mobility-impaired traveller will face a number of challenges. Few older buildings have wheelchair access; toilets have certainly not been designed to accommodate wheelchairs; and footpaths are often riddled with potholes and crevices. If your mobility is restricted you will need an able-bodied companion to accompany you, and you’d be well-advised to hire a private vehicle with a driver. For more advice, contact one of the following organisations:

  • Accessible Journeys (www.disabilitytravel.com)
  • Disability Rights Association of Goa
  • Disability Rights UK (www.disabilityrightsuk.org)
  • Enable Holidays (www.enableholidays.com)
  • Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org)

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

Bargaining is certainly possible – and expected – at Goa's tourist markets, where the first price offered is usually inflated. Some gentle bargaining at local markets is also fine, but most shops work on a fixed-price basis.

Dangers & Annoyances

Despite stories of violent crime, drug-related misdeeds and police corruption (some of them internationally high-profile and involving tourists) Goa remains essentially a safe destination for travellers. So long as you adhere to a few basic and common-sense safety precautions, you should stay safe and secure in Goa.

  • Avoid walking along unlit back lanes or beaches areas alone at night.
  • Always agree on the price of a taxi or autorickshaw beforehand.
  • Beware of undertow when swimming.
  • Don't leave valuables in your room.
  • Wear a helmet if riding a motorbike.
  • Steer well clear of drugs.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (https://smartraveller.gov.au)
  • British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories)
  • US State Department (https://travel.state.gov)

Electricity

  • There are two sizes of electricity socket in Goa: one large, one small (the small is more common).
  • European round-pin plugs will loosely go into the smaller sockets.
  • Universal adaptors are widely available at electrical shops in Goa.
  • Electricity in Goa can be unpredictable and power cuts are frequent.

Embassies & Consulates

Most foreign diplomatic missions are based in Delhi, but there are various consulates in other Indian cities.

Emergency & Important Numbers

From outside India, dial the international access code (00), India’s country code (91), then the number you want, minus the initial ‘0’.

Country code 91
Police 100
Fire 101
Ambulance 102
General emergencies 108

Entry & Exit Formalities

Unless you're on a charter flight, getting to Goa requires flying in to one of India's major international gateways – Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi or Delhi – and taking a connecting flight or overland transport from there. The most popular entry point is Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.

Once in India, you can enter Goa with no border restrictions.

Customs Regulations

  • Duty-free allowance is 2L of wine or spirits and 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars, or 250g of tobacco) per person.
  • Foreign currency totalling more than US$10,000 must be declared.
  • Antiques more than 100 years old are not permitted to be exported from India without an export clearance certificate. See the Central Board of Excise and Customs website (www.cbec.gov.in) for more information.

Visas

Almost everyone, except nationals of Nepal and Bhutan, needs a visa before arriving in India. Note that your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay, and have two blank pages.

e-Visa (ETA)

Citizens of most countries, including Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, United Kingdom, USA and most European nationalities, are currently able to apply online for a 60-day double-entry e-Visa, or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), for arrival at 26 airports, including Goa, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Trivandrum.

You need to apply online at www.indianvisaonline.gov.in a minimum/maximum four/120 days before you are due to travel. The fee varies by country (for most countries it's US$80 but for UK, USA and Russia it's $US100), and you have to upload a photograph (headshot – you can do this yourself with a smartphone camera) as well as a scanned copy of your passport. Follow online instructions carefully as your fee won't be refunded if the application is rejected for any reason. The e-Visa is valid from the date of arrival and cannot be extended.

Other Visa Types

If you want to stay longer than 60 days (up to six months), or are not covered by the e-Visa scheme, you must get a visa before arriving in India. Visas are available at Indian missions worldwide, though in many countries applications are processed by a separate private company. In some countries, including the UK, you must apply in person at the designated office as well as filing an application online.

Most people are issued with a standard six-month tourist visa, which for most nationalities permits multiple entry. Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India. Student and business visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details).

Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously. Currently you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 5.08cm by 5.08cm (2in by 2in; larger than regular passport photos). An onward travel ticket is a requirement for some visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance).

For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi or Goa within 14 days of arriving in India; enquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa.

Visa Extensions

Officially, you can only get another six-month tourist visa by leaving the country and coming back in on a new visa, and many long-term travellers head off on a quick ‘visa run’ to Sri Lanka, Nepal or home, to replenish their tourist visa. Business and employment visas can be extended in Goa, but not tourist visas.

Visa Registration

People travelling on tourist visas are not required to register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO); the form that you fill out each time you check into a hotel, beach hut or guesthouse takes the place of this. Only foreigners with visas valid for longer than 180 days are officially required to register, as are nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan. For more information, see the Bureau of Immigration website at http://boi.gov.in.

Etiquette

  • Cover up Cover shoulders and legs in churches and cathedrals.
  • Sunbathing Don't sunbathe nude or topless – it’s illegal and unwelcome in Goa.
  • Footwear Remove shoes before entering local Goan homes.
  • Dress Don't wear bikinis or skimpy attire outside beach resorts; it's not considered appropriate.
  • Photographs Ask before snapping photos of people, sacred sites or ceremonies.
  • Eating The right hand is for eating and shaking hands, the left is the 'toilet' hand.

Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance to cover theft, loss and medical problems (as well as air evacuation) is strongly recommended.

  • Some policies exclude potentially dangerous activities such as scuba diving, motorcycling, paragliding and even trekking: read the fine print.
  • If you plan to hire a motorcycle in India, make sure the rental policy includes at least third-party insurance.
  • Check in advance whether your insurance policy will pay doctors and hospitals directly or reimburse you later.
  • It’s crucial to get a police report in India as soon as possible if you’ve had anything stolen; insurance companies may refuse to reimburse you without one.
  • Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Internet cafes are virtually nonexistent in Goa.
  • Free wi-fi is common in cafes, beach shacks and accommodation; ask before booking.
  • USB dongles (modems) for 4G internet connections direct to your laptop are available at mobile-phone shops.
  • If you have a smart phone with a local SIM and data plan, you can use this as a personal hotspot modem with your laptop computer or tablet.

LGBT Travellers

In September 2018, India's Supreme Court finally ruled consensual homosexuality legal, overturning a 2013 decision to criminalise such activity and ending almost two decades of court action to repeal section 377 of the Indian penal code.

In 2014, there was a ruling that gave legal recognition of a third gender in India, a step towards increased acceptance of the large yet marginalised transgender (hijra) population.

Goa’s liberal reputation draws gay men, and there’s a discreet scene, mainly around the Calangute/Baga and Candolim area, however, public displays of affection are frowned upon for both homosexual and heterosexual couples.

Publications & Websites

Indja Pink (www.indjapink.co.in) India’s first ‘gay travel boutique’ founded by a well-known Indian fashion designer.

Queer Ink (www.queer-ink.com) Online bookstore specialising in gay- and lesbian-interest books from the subcontinent.

Media

  • Newspapers & Magazines Goa has four English-language dailies: the Herald (www.oheraldo.in), the Navhind Times (www.navhindtimes.in), The Goan (http://englishnews.thegoan.net) and the local version of the Times of India (www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com). Local magazines include Viva Goa (www.vivagoamagazine.com) and Goa Streets (www.goastreets.com).
  • Radio All India Radio (AIR; www.airpanaji.gov.in) transmits local and international news. There are several private FM broadcasters and music stations.
  • TV The government TV broadcaster is Doordarshan. Satellite TV, which has BBC World, CNN, Star World and Star Movies, MTV, VH1 and HBO, is widely available at hotels.

Money

International ATMs are available in towns and at beach resorts. Credit cards are accepted at travel agents, in most midrange hotels and all top-end places, and an increasing range of restaurants.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1₹51
CanadaC$1₹53
Euro zone€1₹80
Japan¥100₹65
New ZealandNZ$1₹48
UKUK£1₹90
USUS$1₹70

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

ATMs

  • There are many 24-hour ATMs in Goa, particularly in Panaji, Margao and Mapusa, but also in villages and smaller beach resorts such as Agonda, Palolem and Arambol.
  • ATMs linked to Axis Bank, Citibank, HDFC, HSBC, ICICI and State Bank of India usually recognise foreign cards (Cirrus and Maestro). Other banks may accept major cards (Visa, MasterCard etc).
  • Check with your home bank about foreign ATM charges. You'll often be charged for transactions at both ends (usually ₹200 at the ATM you're using), so it pays to withdraw as much cash as possible, rather than making lots of small withdrawals.
  • ATMs dispense mostly ₹500 or even ₹2000 notes, which can be difficult to change for small purchases. Most banks have a limit of ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 per transaction.
  • Some 'remote' beach or inland destinations still require a trek to find an ATM, so you’ll need to bring cash along with you.

Cash

  • It pays to carry some US dollars, pounds sterling or euros tucked away for emergencies or for times when you can’t find an ATM.
  • The best exchange rates are usually at Thomas Cook and the State Bank of India, while next best are private money changers. Hotels offer the least attractive rates.

Currency

The Indian rupee (₹) is divided into 100 paise (p), but only 50 paise coins are legal tender and these are rarely seen. Coins come in denominations of ₹1, ₹2, ₹5 and ₹10 (the 1s and 2s look almost identical); notes come in ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, ₹500 and ₹2000.

Demonetisation

On 8 November 2016 the Indian government made a shock announcement that the existing ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes (86% of the currency in circulation) were to be withdrawn, a controversial measure to address the problems of black money, forgery and tax evasion. The notes have been replaced by a new, grey ₹500 bill, with the Red Fort on one side and Mahatma Gandhi on the other and a pink-hued ₹2000 note.

Credit Cards

  • Credit cards are accepted in many hotels and guesthouses, most travel agencies, higher-end stores and an increasing number of tourist restaurants and even beach shacks.
  • MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards.

Encashment Certificates

  • With every exchange transaction you are supposed to be provided with an encashment certificate, which can be useful if you want to change excess rupees back to hard currency, buy a tourist-quota train ticket or if you need to show a tax clearance certificate.
  • ATM receipts serve the same purpose, so hold on to them.

International Transfers

International money transfers can be arranged through Thomas Cook or Western Union; both have branches in Panaji and some of the larger towns in Goa. Western Union transfers can also frequently be made at post offices.

Tipping

There’s no official policy on tipping in India, though it’s always appreciated, especially in holiday-friendly Goa: 10% of a bill is acceptable.

  • Hotels In five-star international hotels, tipping hotel porters and maids is the norm (at least ₹50).
  • Waiters Low-paid hospitality staff, including waiters and bar staff, expect a tip from tourists more so than elsewhere in India, even at beach shacks.
  • Taxis Taxi drivers don’t need to be tipped for short trips, but if you’ve hired the driver for the day, adding 10% is fair.
  • Baksheesh This is a form of tipping in India, generally defined as a small gratuity paid to someone in order to have a little extra service delivered, or to pay someone off for turning a blind eye (authorities, guards etc).

Travellers Cheques

  • Travellers cheques are becoming harder and harder to change as credit cards become more widely accepted. They are often more hassle than they're worth.
  • All major brands are accepted, but some banks only accept cheques from American Express (Amex) and Thomas Cook.Euros, pounds sterling and US dollars are the safest currencies, especially in smaller towns.Keep a record of the cheques’ serial numbers separate from your cheques, along with the proof-of-purchase slips, encashment certificates and photocopied passport details. If you lose your cheques, contact the Amex or Thomas Cook office in Delhi.
  • To replace lost travellers cheques, you need the proof-of-purchase slip and the numbers of the missing cheques (some places require a photocopy of the police report and a passport photo). If you don’t have the numbers of your missing cheques, the issuing company (eg Amex) will contact the place where you bought them.

Opening Hours

Outside high season (November to March) many tourist-oriented shops, restaurants and services may be closed completely. Some businesses may close for an hour or two in the afternoon or have reduced services during the low season (May to September). Hours provided are for high season.

Banks 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday, to noon Saturday

Restaurants & Cafes 8am to 11pm

Bars noon to midnight

Clubs 10pm to 5am

Shops 10am to 6pm

Post

The Indian postal service (www.indiapost.gov.in), though massive, is generally pretty good. Letters sent from Goa and Mumbai almost invariably reach their destination.

It costs ₹12 to send a small postcard anywhere in the world from India, and ₹50 for a large postcard or a standard letter (up to 20g).

Sending Parcels Overseas

  • An airmail package (unregistered) costs ₹400 to ₹850 (up to 250g) and ₹50 to ₹150 per each additional 250g (up to a maximum of 2000g; charges change for higher weight).
  • Parcel post has a maximum of 20kg to 30kg.
  • Air/sea/SAL (sea and air) takes one to three weeks/two to four months/one month. Express mail service (EMS; delivery within three days) costs around 30% more than regular airmail.
  • All parcels must be packed in white linen and wax sealed – agents outside the post office usually offer this service.
  • Customs declaration forms, available from the post office, must be stitched or pasted to the parcel.
  • No duty is payable by the recipient for gifts under the value of ₹1000.
  • Carry a permanent marker to write on the parcel any information requested by the desk.
  • You can send printed matter via surface mail 'Bulk Bag' for ₹350 (maximum 5kg, plus ₹100 for each additional kilogram). The parcel must have an opening for a customs check.

Public Holidays

In addition to the public holidays listed below, a number of festivals and events are celebrated throughout the region at various times of year.

Republic Day 26 January

Good Friday (Easter) March/April

Buddha Jayanti April/May

May Day 1 May

Independence Day 15 August

Gandhi Jayanti 2 October

Guru Nanak Jayanti November

Feast of St Francis Xavier 3 December

Goa Liberation Day 19 December

Christmas 25 December

Smoking

Smoking is banned in many, but not all, restaurants and in government buildings and places such as railway stations, where transgressors face a ₹1000 fine; open-air beach shacks are still generally okay with (cigarette) smoking.

Taxes & Refunds

In 2017 the Indian government introduced a controversial Goods & Services Tax (GST) to replace a slew of other state and federal taxes. The GST is confusing as there are four main rates of taxation – 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%. For travellers this will mainly be noticed with accommodation, where rooms over ₹1000 are taxed at between 12% and 28%.

Restaurants add only the 5% tax rate to bills. Alcohol is outside the GST scheme but still attracts a VAT of between 12% and 15%.

At the time of writing the government was working on a scheme to allow tourists to get GST refunds at airports.

Telephone

  • Local and long-distance telephone calls can be made from private call offices (labelled PCO/ISD/STD).
  • The area code for everywhere within the state of Goa is 0832, which you need to dial when calling from outside the state or from a mobile phone.
  • To make an international call, you need to dial 00 (international access code from India), plus the country code (of the country you are calling), the area code and local number.
  • To make a call to Goa from outside the country, dial the international access code plus 91 (international country code for India), then 832 (Goa’s area code omitting the initial 0) and then the local number.

Mobile Phones

Local SIM cards can be used on most smart phones, or phones can be set to (expensive) roaming.

Local Networks

Any unlocked GSM phone will work fine in Goa and most parts of India but expensive international roaming charges (for making and receiving calls) mean a better option is to buy a local SIM card and connect to a local carrier. Data charges are cheap, so you can use an internet-based service such as Skype, WhatsApp or Messenger to make international calls.

  • Popular and reliable prepaid carriers in Goa include Airtel and Vodafone, though you'll also find !dea and BSNL.
  • To buy a SIM card go to any shop or travel agent advertising your preferred carrier (they're everywhere) and look at the prepaid call and data plans on offer.
  • Foreigners need two passport photos, photocopies of passport identity and visa pages and preferably a copy of a drivers licence or similar with your home address (the phone shop can sometimes do the photocopies for you).
  • You must also supply a residential address, which can be the address of your hotel or a local friend. Usually the phone company will call your hotel (notify reception in advance) any time up to 24 hours after your application to verify that you are staying there.
  • At some outlets and on certain plans tourists can bypass the paperwork and activation period but the validation is usually limited to 30 days.
  • Prepaid mobile-phone kits (SIM card and phone number, plus an allocation of calls) are available from about ₹200, while internet data plans at around ₹300 offer a whopping 1.5GB per day. Once activated, you can easily top up talk-time and data at any store advertising your carrier.
  • Local (India-wide) call costs from Goa are less than ₹1 a minute, and international calls are less than ₹10 a minute.

Time

India is 5½ hours ahead of GMT/UTC, 4½ hours behind Australia (EST) and 10½ hours ahead of the USA (EST). It is officially known as IST – Indian Standard Time, although many Indians prefer to think it stands for Indian Stretchable Time. There's no daylight saving time.

Toilets

Public toilets exist in Panaji and at some popular beach entrances (usually with a ₹1 or ₹2 fee) but they're not common. Toilet paper is even more rare. Restaurants, cafes and hotels in Goa almost always have sit-down flush toilets.

Tourist Information

Goa Tourism Development Corporation, usually called Goa Tourism these days, is the state government tourism body and it's a surprisingly progressive government organisation, acting more like a commercial business with numerous hotels and operating a host of tours and even a taxi smartphone app.

Travel With Children

Goa is the most family-friendly state in India. What could be better than taking the kids to the beach every day? Goa excels as a holiday destination on many fronts: its short travel distances, wide range of foods, reliable climate, and range of activities for kids…even away from the beach.

Best Regions for Kids

Goa's beaches are all a little different in character and some are more family-friendly than others.

  • Palolem

The calm, shallow waters in this crescent bay are the safest for swimming in all of Goa and the beach is clean. You can also hire kayaks, boogie boards and stand-up paddleboards, or go on a sunset boat trip.

  • Patnem

Good paddling on calm days, Patnem has fewer people than Palolem and a more relaxed vibe, as well as Goa's best drop-in kindergartens and a school.

  • Baga & Calangute

Goa's busiest beach strip has lots of bucket-and-spade vendors, water sports and plenty of other children to make friends with.

  • Arambol

There are shallow seas popular with long-stayers, safe swimming in Sweetwater Lake and paragliding from the hilltop.

  • Mandrem & Aswem

Lovely white-sand beaches with few hawkers, sophisticated hut accommodation and a surf shop.

Goa for Kids

Though India’s sensory overload may at first prove overwhelming for younger kids, the colours, scents, sights and sounds of Goa more than compensate by setting young imaginations ablaze. With a little planning and an open mind, travelling with children will open up a whole new world for you too.

Goa's beaches are excellent for playing in the sand with a bucket and spade, and for paddling and water sports, though strong currents make swimming at most beaches risky, even for adults. Beaches are patrolled but children may feel safer swimming at a hotel pool or water park.

At the busiest beaches you'll be surprised by how many kids and families are around – mostly Indian families holidaying from outside Goa. Foreign children, especially fair-haired ones, can be quite a novel attraction. Don't be surprised if groups of people ask to pose for photographs with your child. Generally it's good-natured attention but if it gets too much, offer a polite 'no'.

Away from the beach kids should enjoy boat trips on calm local rivers, trips to spice farms and wildlife sanctuaries, shopping at markets or a day at the movies.

Eating

Feeding even the fussiest children in Goa is possible with standard traveller menus of toast, pancakes, pizzas, porridge, spaghetti and falafel.

Local foods, always with some spice, will appeal to the slightly more adventurous child: the South Indian dosa (a paper-thin lentil-flour pancake), chapatis and plain rice are a good start, while mango or banana lassis (yoghurt drinks) beat milkshakes. Paneer (unfermented cheese), mild dhals (soupy lentil curries), buttered naans (tandoori breads), pilaus (rice dishes) and Tibetan momos (steamed or fried dumplings) are all firm favourites.

Most salads these days are washed in filtered or bottled water, but it pays to check, and avoid ice in drinks and shakes if in doubt.

Health

Throughout Goa, it is almost always easy to track down a doctor at short notice (most hotels will be able to recommend one), and prescriptions are quickly and cheaply filled over the counter at numerous pharmacies.

Heat rash is common – if not inevitable – in Goa’s warmer months, while conjunctivitis spreads like wildfire in October, and impetigo is rather rampant in April. All you can do is treat these things topically, and see a local doctor if you’re concerned. Diarrhoea can be serious in young children; rehydration is essential, and seek medical help if persistent or accompanied by fever.

School & Kindergarten

With lots of long-staying foreigners, Goa has a number of seasonal child-care centres – look for notices locally. The Palolem region, with a large expat community, have recommended schools, as does Anjuna.

What to Pack

Most things you will need can be bought locally, usually for much cheaper prices than you would see at home. Disposable nappies are widely available though the environmentally friendly move may be to switch to cloth nappies; any hotel can arrange laundry for you. Formula is available in Goa in local and Nestlé brands.

  • Essentials Hat, sunscreen and tropical-strength mosquito repellent.
  • First-aid kit Heat-rash cream, plasters, paracetamol etc.
  • Lightweight portacot These are hard to find in Goa.
  • Baby or child carrier Or do as locals do and carry your baby front-side in a sarong. Prams are a pain but a lightweight stroller can be useful for tired toddlers.
  • Electronic distractions For teenage kids, a tablet or smartphone loaded with apps and music can be a godsend and free wi-fi is common in hotels and cafes. Don't forget chargers and plug adaptors.

Beach-Free Highlights

  • Splashdown Water Park Water slides, pools, fountains and waterfalls to entertain everyone from toddlers to adults.
  • Spice Farms Central Goa's commercial spice farms are a surprisingly entertaining family day out: there's a hint of jungle adventure on the spice plantation tours, and a thali lunch is included.
  • Dolphin-spotting Trips Charter an outrigger fishing boat and spot dolphins on a trip from Candolim (or from Coco, Baga or Palolem).
  • Goa Science Centre & Planetarium Most kids will enjoy the planetarium and simple science exhibits on a rainy day.
  • INOX Cinema Panaji's modern cinema shows mainstream Hollywood (as well as Bollywood) films. Check the website.
  • Caculo Mall Timezone arcade, 7D cinema, play centre, bowling alley, fast food and boutique fashion stores.
  • Cooking classes Get the kids involved in a spicy cooking class.

Planning

  • Ask your local doctor or travel clinic about immunisations and anti-malarials.
  • Pack loose-fitting, lightweight clothing (with long sleeves and pants) for evening mosquito protection.
  • Most hotels and guesthouses are child-friendly and will supply a spare mattress or have a family room. Kids will love staying in beach shacks.
  • If you've got fussy eaters, don't fret. Beach shacks and restaurants can prepare non-spicy pizzas, pancakes, toast, eggs or tasty rice and dhal. Supermarkets in Candolim, Panaji and Anjuna stock all sorts of Western foods.
  • There are loads of taxis for day trips around Goa (none have child seats) but families should consider using the women's taxi service.

Volunteering

Many travellers to Goa are keen to give something back to this beautiful, but sometimes vulnerable, state. One great way to do this is to spend part of your stay volunteering: whether it’s a few hours, days or weeks working with stray animals or disadvantaged people, there are some rewarding opportunities.

Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisation that we do not work with directly. Travellers should investigate any volunteering option thoroughly before committing to a project.

Planning

Most of Goa’s volunteering options require a little advance planning, and it pays to be in touch with nonprofit organisations well before you depart home. Check any organisations out thoroughly before you offer your time – the website www.ethicalvolunteering.org has some useful tips. To legally work with a registered charity in India, even as a volunteer, you must technically have an employment visa. Moreover, working with children requires criminal record background checks, so it takes a few months to organise. Minimum placements are usually one month but can be as long as one year.

A number of charity organisations offer volunteer placements, often with accommodation and meals included for a fee, and they can usually organise the necessary paperwork for visas.

Some local animal-related organisations are happy to receive casual visitors to play with the animals or help with walking, cleaning and feeding, but you may need evidence of a recent rabies vaccination – drop in or call ahead.

Getting Involved

There are a number of reputable charities and international organisations offering placements in Goa, but Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly, so it is essential that you do your own thorough research before agreeing to volunteer with any organisation. Volunteering opportunities include animal welfare, schools and women's shelters.

  • El Shaddai This British-founded charity aids impoverished and homeless children throughout Goa, running a number of day and night shelters, an open school and children’s homes throughout the state. Skilled volunteers for a minimum four-week placement can apply through the website subject to police checks and visas. Help with fund-raising activities or donations is also welcomed. For more information, El Shaddai operates an information stall at the Anjuna flea market.
  • Mango Tree Goa This UK-registered organisation helps Goa’s disadvantaged children by providing daycare centres, medical, educational, nutritional and other essential aid. Volunteers can fill a variety of roles, as teachers, childcare assistants and outreach workers, while there are also positions available for qualified doctors and nurses.
  • Goa Animal Welfare Trust Based in South Goa, this trust operates an animal shelter at Curchorem helping sick, stray and injured dogs, cats and even a calf or two. Volunteers are welcome, if only for a few spare hours to walk or play with the dogs. GAWT also operates a shop and information centre in Colva.
  • International Animal Rescue An internationally active charity operating Animal Tracks rescue facility in Assagao. Visitors and volunteers (both short and long term) are always welcome, though rabies vaccination is expected.
  • Animal Rescue Centre About 3km from Palolem this centre takes in sick, injured or stray animals.
  • Bethesda Life Centre This Goan charity supports shelters for disadvantaged women and children, including HIV sufferers. Volunteer placement is available; see the website for details.

Weights & Measures

Although India officially uses the metric system, imperial weights and measures are still sometimes used. You may hear the term lakh (100,000) and crore (10 million) referring to rupees, people or anything else in large numbers.

Women Travellers

Most solo female travellers to Goa experience few problems during a stay in the state, aside from the occasional lewd comment or beachside ogling. With a recent increase in domestic tourism, women travellers may find it uncomfortable trying to sunbathe on popular beaches, with crowds of young men staring and snapping photos with their smart phones.

If you find yourself the target of unwanted attention or advances, raise your voice to embarrass the offender, preferably referring to him as ‘brother’; this association, in general, is enough to rob the culprit of a substantial degree of his passion.

It pays to keep your wits about you and avoid situations that make you more vulnerable, including walking alone at night along unlit stretches of road or beach.

Diminished mental alertness, through use of drugs and alcohol, might make you more of a target and less able to defend yourself, should the worst come to the worst.

In all, it’s best to stay vigilant, though not fearful, throughout your stay.

Women’s Health

  • In most places in Goa, sanitary products (pads, and sometimes tampons) are readily available. Birth control options may be limited, so bring adequate supplies of your own form of contraception.
  • Heat, humidity and antibiotics can contribute to thrush. Treatment is with antifungal creams and pessaries such as Clotrimazole. A practical alternative is a single tablet of Fluconazole (Diflucan). Urinary tract infections can be precipitated by dehydration or long bus journeys without toilet stops; bring suitable antibiotics.
  • Pregnant women should receive specialised advice before travelling. The ideal time to travel is in the second trimester (between 16 and 28 weeks), when the risk of pregnancy-related problems is at its lowest. Ensure that your travel insurance policy covers all pregnancy-related possibilities, including premature labour.
  • Traveller’s diarrhoea in pregnant women can quickly lead to dehydration and result in inadequate blood flow to the placenta. Many drugs used to treat various diarrhoea bugs are not recommended in pregnancy. Azithromycin is considered safe.

Work

To work legally in India, you need a specific work visa which is difficult to procure – one reason you won't see foreigners working in bars and restaurants in Goa. So many Indian citizens from outside Goa are desperate for work that there's no incentive to employ foreigners anyway.