It’s important to realise what your own embassy can and can’t do to help you if you get into trouble. Generally it won’t be much help if the trouble you’re in is your own fault. Your embassy will not be sympathetic if you end up in jail after committing a crime locally, even if such actions are legal in your own country.

Drugs

Drugs of various types are still readily available in Goa, but drug laws in India are among the toughest in the world; possession of even a relatively small amount of charas or hashish (10g or so) can lead to a minimum 10 years in jail and a ₹100,000 fine. Fort Aguada jail houses a number of prisoners, including Westerners, who are serving drug-related sentences. Be aware that you may be held in jail (without the possibility of bail) on drug-related charges before going to trial. These pre-trial stays can be lengthy.

Dealing with the Police

Police corruption can be a problem in Goa, with drug use among travellers giving some poorly paid police officers opportunities for extortion, but the local Goan government has worked hard at stamping out this practice in recent years.

Probably the best way to deal with police extortion, should it happen to you, is through polite, respectful persuasion. If that fails, attempt to bargain down the ‘fine’ before paying up, and try to establish the identity (or at least a good mental image) of the police officer.

In practical terms, the most contact the average traveller is likely to have with the law will be on the road. You may be unlucky enough to be flagged down for not wearing a helmet on certain parts of the NH66, or checked for papers by an opportunistic police officer who is hoping to extract a ‘fine’. If this happens, keep your cool and you may be able to negotiate the fine down to zero.

Smoking & Spitting

On 1 January 2000, a law came into force in Goa banning smoking, spitting and the chewing of tobacco in all public places. It was a welcome move, but has proven impossible to enforce except in government buildings and places such as railway stations, where transgressors face a ₹1000 fine. Smoking is banned in many, but not all, restaurants; open-air beach shacks are okay with (cigarette) smoking.