If you’re planning on visiting Palolem beach Goa for the first time, there’s naturally a few questions you will have before you book that plane ticket.
What is The Currency?
The currency in Palolem beach Goa, and all over India, is Indian Rupees. This currency comes in both notes and coins and a total amount of 10,000 rupees ($170 USD) can be pulled out of an atm at any time. Many of the atm’s only offer 1000 rupee notes, which can be difficult in many towns as vendors will refuse to accept these large notes. Try going into an actual bank to get lower amounts or even try at the hotel you’re staying at.
Do I need a visa before I leave home?
Yes – Most countries do as of mid 2014 In February 2014 the Indian Government approved the introduction of Visa on Arrival for 180 countries. The visas will be single entry and valid for a 30 day period. They have stated it may take until October 2014 to have the necessary infrastructure to begin this scheme. This may be an optimistic prediction. Until this is implemented you will need to apply for a visa prior to leaving your home country.
Check with the Indian embassy or consulate in your home country to find out the necessary details.
The following countries already have a visa on arrival scheme for arriving in India:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
What is the weather like in Palolem Beach Goa?
Goa weather is a hot, humid, tropical climate. Temperatures are fairly constant sitting between 20-33 degrees Celsius (68-92 fahrenheit) all year round, however in the month of May these temps can get even higher.
In Goa it’s the humidity you need to look out for. The humidity can turn a pleasant day into a hot sticky, yucky, mess. Lucky you have the beach near by to frequently cool off – and trust us, you need it! From June – September the monsoon hits which offers some much needed relief from the heat of May but most of the hotels/resorts will be closed during monsoon.
Where should I stay? Palolem Beach Huts
Palolem beach is a great place to stay for all budgets. You can still find some super cheap bungalow options or, if you’re wanting things a little more fancy, they have that as well. Regardless of budget the number 1 thing to remember is – All Prices are Negotiable! This is especially so in low season. If you’re pretty good at haggling you may score a great deal even in the high season. We spent a bit of time walking up and down the beach checking out the rooms so here’s a few of our favourites: Budget
- Samara Restaurant and Bungalows (We got a beach front place – pictured – for 900 rupees a night. They don’t have a website, but they are located 100 meters south of the main beach road entry point)
- The Nest
- Royal Touch Beach hut and Bungalows
There are plenty of hotels / hostels along the beach and its no doubt a tout will approach you offering you “the best deal” its up to you if you want to follow them or walk the beach and see for yourself. High season can mean you won’t necessarily get an ocean facing room – so if this is what you are after we recommend booking in advance (but you won’t get as great a deal this way).
What is there to do at Palolem Beach?
Palolem beach is all about drinking, eating and swimming. But there are a few other local options that you can check out.
Boat Rides / Dolphin Spotting
There are plenty of touts on the beach who will offer you boat rides and dolphin spotting. Firstly make sure you book at a time that the dolphins will be around – otherwise you’re bound to be disappointed. Early morning before 9am is recommended as the best time for spotting.
The ride takes around 1-2 hours and costs aprox 800 rupees (aprox $16) per hour (May 2014). If you’re trying to keep costs down, try and get a group together. As always remember to barter and barter hard. Ask around the day before you take a trip and see what other people have been paying, so you don’t get ripped off. Don’t feel bad to walk away from a tout if you feel the price is unreasonable – there are plenty more boats drivers to haggle with.
Hire a moped and explore
This is a great way to see the different beaches and towns in the area. Bikes should cost around 200 – 300 rupees ($4-$6) for one day hire (for longer periods negotiate a discount) and fuel is extra at about 70 rupees a litre. (Prices May 2014). One litre of fuel lasted about 40 KMs for us. As always, barter hard and be very careful of any possible scams. Take photos of the moped and any pre-existing scratches and dents. Organise a definite return time so they don’t try to charge you extra.
Also be weary of police (either real of fake) trying to pull you over and fine you for not wearing a helmet (always wear a helmet – seriously people!) or driving without an international drivers license. These are often ways of getting some bribe money in their pockets. If you get caught out, 100 rupees is the typical bribe price.
Hire a Kayak and explore the sea
Palolem beach is in a cove so the water does tend to be quiet smooth (after you get passed the waves crashing on the beach – these can be doozies). Hire a Kayak early in the morning and do some relaxing kayaking along the beautiful beach line. Kayaks are usually around 300 rupees per hour including life jackets – remember to barter.
Where can I find Internet / Wifi?
To be honest the internet sucks – bad! This is a place to just leave the electronics behind and unplug for a few days – the stress of trying to get a good connection is not worth the frustration. A small number of bars offer wifi to paying guests and a few of the higher end hotels have it for guests. But it is in no way fast, or reliable.
The Wifi at Samara restaurant is bearable, when it’s working. We did find a few Internet cafes where you can usually use a computer for 20-50 rupees an hour. We have heard stories of these being a little dodgy and you should never look up personal information or do any banking on these computers.
Where/ What to Eat?
There are actually some really great food options to be had in Palolem beach. We took great pleasure trying as many different restaurants as we could. A must try is the local Goan cuisine which is quite different to most Indian food found in other states. With its Portuguese influences Goan food is certainly a tasty surprise for visitors. For a comprehensive list of our favourite Goan dishes check out our dedicated article (Coming Soon).
If your wondering what restaurants to check out, here’s a few of our favourites:
- The Beach House (at Palolem Beach Resort – 2nd place on the right as you arrive at the beach from the main road) offered the best Goan cuisine on the beach. We went back almost every day for lunch so we could try everything on the Goan menu. Some favourites to try is the Prawn Vindaloo and the Chicken Xacuti. The garlic naan bread here is pretty awesome as well! (Main course 200 rupees ish)
- Ourem 88 was so great we had to go back again! The restaurant is run by an English couple who source out some great local produce and create some incredible dishes. The menu is almost entirely Western in food choices but there is so many awesome dishes on the menu you have to go back again and again to try everything you want. (find them on google maps). (Main Course 350-500 rupees)
- Magic Italy. Get your Italian fix at the best rated pizza place in Palolem. It’s worth trying the local Goan sausage pizza.
- Little red stand in the beach car park (The one in the corner closest to Palolem beach resort). This is where we went for breakfast almost everyday. For 20 rupees you could get a fresh cooked single omelette in a bun. There is also the option of a double omelette in bun, chow mein, vada pav and samosas. All are fresh, tasty and cheap for the budget street food lover.
Note: We were in Goa during the off season and many popular restaurants had already closed for the summer. There are plenty of other awesome restaurant options that sadly we weren’t able to try – please let us know in the comments if there’s any that you’ve visited.
What’s the Nightlife Like?
When we were there in May 2014 things were pretty quite and relaxed. Many bars along the beach front were offering 2 for 1 deals on cocktails and a large Kingfisher beer was about 80-100 rupees. In the high season the beach can turn into a bit of a party zone with some places pounding out tunes late into the night – in fact the bar Cocktail Dreams is a 24 hour bar.
If the bars aren’t really your scene, it is also possible to pick up a few drinks from the local liquor store (Halfway up beach road) to enjoy on the beach or on your personal bungalow balcony. We recommend trying the local dark rum Old Monk – this rum is cheap (100 rupees for 500ml) and extremely tasty. For those who are a bit more adventurous try the cashew or coconut fenny mixed with Limca (traditional lemonade). But be warned, this stuff is strong and is certainly not for the faint hearted – hangovers will be especially nasty!
Is there any Shopping?
Yes there is quite a bit of shopping to be done around the back streets of Palolem beach. If you’re after some harem pants, hippie tops or board shorts then you’ll be in heaven. For everyone else it all seems to be store after store selling the exact same crap. You honestly can’t walk anywhere without hearing every single store owner say “hello, you look in my shop?” – it gets a bit annoying after a while. As always, remember to barter and barter hard! What ever they ask for, offer them a quarter of the price – never pay more than half the asking price.
Is it Safe?
Palolem beach is a safe place to travel and walk around both day and night. However it is very dark along the beach. Women travelling solo should show a level caution walking anywhere at night. Mostly watch out for taxi and boat scams and you should be fine. Remember when walking along the beach at night it can be difficult to see, discarded bottles and other trash could be lying around, so wear shoes and carry a flashlight.
Of course, There is no guarantee of safety anywhere in the world. So having proper travel insurance, rather than a crappy policy that is just designed for package tours, is essential.
Can I drink the Water?
Nope! All water in India is off limits for drinking. Make sure you buy mineral water from reputable looking stores. There is a tendency in India for locals to refill used water bottles from the tap and then resell them. If you don’t want a nasty dose of gastro, check the seal and condition of the bottle. Here’s a few tips for buying bottled mineral water.
- Only buy from your hotel or reputable stores (this hotel rule is generally true in Goa as they are used to an international clientele – this may not be the case in other states)
- Make sure the bottle looks new and untampered with
- Make sure the bottle is sealed. Sadly this doesn’t always mean the water is clean as they have found a way around this. The main point is to never drink water from a bottle that is not properly sealed – listen for that click noise when you break the seal!
- Check out the bottle to make sure it doesn’t look like an old reused bottle
- Carry water purifying tablets with you and use them
- If it tastes weird – Don’t Drink It!
- Crush your bottle after use, this will make it harder for the bottle to be reused.
People assume they get sick from the food. Although it is possible, properly cooked food is less likely to give you belly issues than the water. So, a bad bottle, ice made from tap water or a salad washed under the tap are all high risk items. Be vigilant. Ask restaurants how they make their ice.
Is there anything that we missed out? Leave us a message in the comments below.