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The former Portuguese enclave of Goa, midway down Indias southwest coast, has been a holiday destination since colonial times.
Back then, the three Bs “bars, brothels and booze“ were the big attractions. Now its the golden, palm-fringed beaches spread along
the states coastline that attract the tourists, around two million of them each winter. Cheap air travel has spawned a dramatic rise in
the number of domestic visitors in recent years. Yet in spite of the increasing chaos of Goas main resorts, its still possible to find the
odd quiet corner if you are prepared to explore and can avoid the busy Christmas and “New Year Madness" period. If you know
where to go, Goa can still be a wonderful place.

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It was shortly after the end of Portuguese Rule, that the first hippie travellers came to the region on the old overland trail. They found
a way of life little changed in centuries: back then Portuguese was still the language of the well-educated elite, and the coastal
settlements were mere fishing and coconut cultivation villages. Relieved to have found somewhere culturally undemanding to party,
the freaks got stoned, watched the mesmeric sunsets over the Arabian Sea and danced like lunatics on full-moon nights.

Since then, the state has been at pains to shake off its reputation as a druggy drop-out zone, and its beaches have grown in popularity
year on year. Around two dozen stretches of soft white sand indent the regions coast, from spectacular 25km sweeps to secluded
palm-backed coves. The level of development behind them varies a great deal; while some are lined by swanky Western-style resorts,
the most sophisticated structures on others are palm-leaf shacks.

Which beach you opt for largely depends on what sort of holiday you have in mind. Developed resorts such as Calangute and Baga
in the north, and Colva and Benaulim in the south, offer more accommodation than elsewhere. Anjuna, Vagator and Chapora,
where places to stay are generally harder to come by, are the beaches to aim for if you have come to Goa to party. However,
the bulk of budget travellers taking time out from tours of India end up in Palolem, in the far south beyond the reach of the charter
transfer buses though be warned that it too  has become a major resort over the past decade, attracting literally thousands of                
long-stay visitors in peak season. For a quieter scene, you could head for Patnem, just over the headland from Palolem, or Agonda,
further up the coast, where development is limited to a string of hut camps and family guesthouses. The only place where the hippie
scene endures to any significant extent is Arambol, in the far north of the state, where you can dip in to any number of yoga styles
and holistic therapies between spells on the beach.

The best time to come to Goa is during the dry, relatively cool winter months between late November and mid-March. At other times,                
either the sun is too hot for comfort, or the humidity, clouds and rain make life miserable. During peak season, from mid-December
to the end of January, the weather is perfect, with temperatures rarely nudging above 32°C. Finding a room or a house to rent at
that time, however particularly over Christmas and New Year when  tariffs double, or triple can be a real hassle.

Goan Highlights:
Old Goa
Beach shacks Tuck into a fresh kingfish, lobster or tandoori pomfret, washed down with an ice-cold beer.
Night market, Arpora
Flea market, Anjuna Goas famous tourist bazaar
Aswem The hippiest spot on the north Goan coast to swim, fine dine and dance under the stars.


By plane A couple of dozen flights shuttle between Mumbai and Goas Dabolim airport daily, with fares from
as low as Rs1000 (or even less) if you book well in advance with one of the no-frills airlines or as much as
Rs40,000 on New Years Eve. Try SpiceJet, IndiGo, Go Air or JetKonnect

By train Four to five services run daily on the Konkan Railway from Mumbai, the most convenient being the
overnight Mangalore Express (12133), which departs from CST at 10.15pm and arrives in Goa at 8.25am
the following morning. Travelling in the other direction (ie towards Mumbai), the service to go for is the
overnight Konkan Kanya Express (10112), which departs from Margao at 4.45pm (or Karmali, near Old Goa,
11km west of Panjim, at 5.18pm), arriving at Mumbai CST at 5.50am the following day. The other fast train
from Goa to CST is the Mandovi Express (#0104), departing Margao at 8.30am (or Karmali at 8.55am)
and arriving at 9.45pm the same evening. Note that all Konkan Railway trains usually must be booked well
in acvance for a sleeper ticket.

By bus Many night buses run the 500km between Goa and Mumbai. But it is a 14- to 18hr journey to be better
avoided at all costs. Paulo Travels is the top firm running the route, with a range of different services, from
no-frills buses for Rs600 to swisher a/c Volvo coaches with berths costing Rs1600. For tickets, contact their
office just outside the Kadamba Bus Stand, Panjim ( 0832 222 3736, In south Goa, the
firms main outlet is at the Nanutel hotel in Margao ( 0834 272 1516). Information on all departures and fares is                                
available online.

Many foreign visitors travel around Goa in white Maruti van taxis. Fares are not really fixed. Always ask and haggle
BEFORE you go.

A cheaper alternative is to rent either a bicycle (gearless, Indian-made cycles are on offer at some resorts or,
for longer trips, a motorbike. Make sure the lights and brakes are in good shape, and be especially caeful at night.


By plane European charter planes and domestic flights arrive at Dabolim airport code GOI (+91 (0) 832 254 0788),
30-km south of Panjim on the outskirts of Vasco da Gama, Goas second largest city. Pre-paid taxis into town
(45min; Rs700), booked at the office directly opposite the main exit, can be shared by up to four people.

Gokarna in Karnataka Long-distance and local buses work out of Panjims busy Kadamba Bus Stand, 1km east
of the centre.
Tickets can be bought in advance at the Kadamba booking counters at the main bus stand (daily 11am & 5pm).
Trips on private services may be purchased through the many travel agents immediately outside the station.

Destinations Arambol (12 daily; 1hr 45min); Calangute (every 30min; 45min); Gokarna (2 daily; 5hr 30min);
Hampi (2 daily; 10hr); Mapusa (every 15min; 25min); Margao (every 15min; 55min); 
Mumbai (12 daily/nightly; 14–18hr); Pune (7 daily; 12hr).


Finding a room can be a problem during Dussehra (Sept & Oct), Diwali (mid-Nov), the IFFI film festival in late November,                                
and over Christmas and New Year. Get 27 $ DISCOUNT for your stay in Calangute..



Catering for the droves of tourists who come here from other Indian states, as well as fussy, more price-conscious locals,
Panjim is packed with good places to eat. Most are connected to a hotel, but there are also plenty of other
independently run establishments offering quality food for far less than you pay in the coastal resorts. If you are unsure
about which regional cooking style to go for, head for The Fidalgo Food Enclave, in the Hotel Fidalgo on 18th June Rd,
which hosts six different outlets, from Goan to Gujarati.


As for drinks, locally produced wine, spirits and beer are cheaper than anywhere in the country, thanks to lower rates
of tax. The most famous and widespread beer is Kingfisher, which tastes less of glycerine preservative than it does
elsewhere in India, but you will also come across pricier Fosters, brewed in Mumbai and nothing like the original.
Goan port, a sweeter version of its Portuguese namesake, is served chilled in large wine glasses with a slice of lemon.
Local spirits, whiskies, brandies, rums, gins and vodkas come in a variety of brand names for less than Rs50 -150 a shot,
but,at half the price, local speciality feni, made from distilled cashew or from the sap of coconut palms, offers                                    
strong competition. Cashew feni is usually drunk after the first distillation, but you can also find it double-distilled and
flavoured with ginger too.

10km west of Mapusa, is basically an extension of Calangute. The only difference between this far northern end
of  the beach and its more congested centre around Calangute is that the scenery here is marginally more varied and
picturesque. Overlooked by a rocky headland draped in vegetation, a small tidal river flows into the sea at the top of
the village, past a spur of soft white sand where ranks of brightly coloured fishing boats are moored

Barely a couple of kilometres of clifftops and parched grassland separate Anjuna from the southern fringes of VAGATOR.                        
Spread around a tangle of winding back lanes, this is a more chilled, undeveloped resort that appeals, in the main,
to southern European beach bums who come back year after year.

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