Sunday, October 23, 2016

Planning your Goa trip

Just returned after a wonderful and another memorable experience in Goa. It was a short vacation but nevertheless fell in love with Goa all over again. Initially, I thought of sharing my planned itinerary just like my other blog posts but then, Goa is different. The splendid aura and tranquility simply makes you lose track of time. We’ve spent hours every time, sitting at a beach, living the music and ambience. It’s altogether a different world.

Chapora Fort, Chapora, Goa

In this post, I would be sharing information based on my personal experiences that you can use to plan your Goa trip. Reading this would give you some useful pointers that should help in planning your vacation better.

When to go

November to January is the tourist season. During this time, the place is flocked by foreigners and locals alike. A good number of beach cafes and shacks are setup, and Goa is all lively and busy during this time of the year.
With lush greenery and romantic weather, monsoon is also a good time to visit Goa. During June-October, it’s less crowded and hotel bookings are available at off-season rates.
During February to June, the climate in Goa is hot and not very favorable.

Where to stay

With many amazing beaches and plethora of options, it becomes a little difficult to decide that perfect location for your stay. However, you can always plan based on your preferences and/or occasion.

North Goa is where all the party scene happens with a number of vibrant pubs and cafes. South Goa is relatively calm with more peaceful and beautiful beaches.

For a one week vacation, I would spend 3 days in South Goa and 4 days in North Goa. If the duration is smaller, I would choose the location based on whether I am more into partying (North Goa) or I would want some explicit peaceful time with the entire beach just for myself (South Goa).

South Goa boasts of some grand multi star hotels and resorts with private beaches. The Leela Goa is a wonderful 5-star resort that doesn’t go very heavy on your pocket also. Palolem and Agoda are the two best beaches in South Goa, with a plenty of budget lodging options available.

North Goa again has a couple of good locations. Lately, Baga has become a centre hub with many glitzy shops and pubs. Baga beach hosts some of the nicest beach shacks and cafes. Staying in Baga is like living just next to all the party places. Personally, I prefer Anjuna and Ozran/Vagator, the lesser crowded neighbors of Baga. Here, you can be away from all the hustle and at the same time, not too far from all the action.

For my recent trip, I was looking for a sea facing accommodation near Anjuna or Vagator. Apparently, I didn't find much options and narrowed down my search to the following two - Alcove Resort and Casa Vagator. The resorts are next to each other facing the Ozran beach. I stayed in Alcove Resort which is at an amazing location with a full view of the sea right from your room. Also, the food, ambience and staff are a complete plus. I would recommend this resort; it's totally worth every penny.
View from room at Alcove Resort, Ozran beach

On another trip, I stayed at Orritel Village Square near Vagator. It's a very good budget option that you can consider.

Candolim and Arambol too provides good options with the latter mostly inhabited by foreign crowd.


With no Uber and Ola around, transport in Goa is a little expensive. Although taxis are easily available and the charges are mostly fixed (bargaining doesn’t help much), the fares are much higher compared to other places.

If you are going from South Goa to North Goa or vice versa, you end up shelling out good number of bucks. Same is true for commute from airport. At airport, the prepaid taxi counter is on the right just after you exit. There are fixed rates for drop to different locations, which comes out to be approximately Rs 27 per km for a non-AC cab, and a little higher for an AC cab. Also, you pay an extra 35% as night charges when traveling between 11pm and 5am. I remember the tariff was Rs 1379, for a drop to Vagator which is 52km from airport.
Prepaid Taxi Counter at Goa Airport
For sightseeing in Goa, renting a two-wheeler or a car is the best option that goes easy on your pocket as well. Vehicles are easily available for rent with vendors available in almost every other street. The price for renting a scooter (Activa) for a day is around Rs 300 which generally goes up during the peak season.

Where to party

Tito’s lane in Baga is very popular among the party goers and is alive all night. It has some nice pubs and bars that you can surely give it a try. Also, there are some nice beach shacks that have earned a good name and audience due to their carefree and friendly atmosphere and nice mouthwatering food. St. Anthony’s at Baga, Britto’s at Baga, CafĂ© Liliput in Anjuna and Curlies in Anjuna are some nice places where time just flies like anything.
@ St. Anthony's, Baga beach

Thalasa near Ozran beach and Club Cubana too gets some crazy parties organized that you can surely give it a try.


Goa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in India. Beaches cover almost 83% of the total coastline area of Goa. At places, the golden sand stretches long distances with sea water flowing towards the shore offering pleasant picturesque views. Palolem beach in south and Arambol beach in north Goa away from the hurly-burly crowded places are the two most beautiful beaches in Goa. Arambol beach is at a 20-25-minute drive from Anjuna area and is a must visit during your Goa vacation.
Vagator beach. Pic taken from Chapora fort
I plan to write another post about the Goa beaches.

Other attractions and things to do


If you are staying in north Goa, then you should not give a miss to visit Aguada Fort and Chapora Fort (also populary known as Dil Chahta Hai fort, from the movie).
Fort Aguada is at around 4.5kms from Candolim beach and is a small drive away. Chapora Fort near Vagator beach is around 5kms from Anjuna and resides on a cliff overlooking the Arabian sea. It requires a small trek 5-10 minutes to reach to the fortified walls. There are no monuments left in the fort area but the views are simply breath taking.
@Chapora Fort, Goa

Dudhsagar waterfalls

Dudhsagar waterfalls is a one day trip from Goa. Located at around 90kms from north goa, it takes around 2:30 – 3 hours to reach the waterfall. Dudhsagar is one of the highest waterfalls in india with gallons of water roaring down with utmost commanding force. Visit this place to experience the power of nature. Dudhsagar is covered in several trekking expeditions and is one of the major attractions of Goa.

Goa casinos

There are several casino cruises on Mandovi river near Panjim at a 45-minute drive from Anjuna. Generally the cruise has 3-4 decks with 1 or 2 decks housing casinos. If you don’t want to get into gambling still it’s a good experience with live music, dance performances and a good buffet of food and drinks.

The entry ticket includes buffet and you get some complimentary casino chips that you can try your luck with. The buffet and performances are open till midnight while the casinos remain open whole night. The entry pass is relatively cheaper on weekdays.
One downside is that the return cab fares from casino to wherever you are staying would be quite high. So, if you don’t have your own vehicle, consider planning a pickup in advance

Recommendations - Deltin Jaqk is a new cruise with a good line up of dance and music performances, good food and a splendid ambience.

Water sports

Water sports are available at all major beaches viz Anjuna, Baga and Candolim. The activities are generally clubbed into a package that costs around Rs 1200 per person and includes Parasailing, water scooter ride or Jet-ski, banana ride, bumper ride and a boat ride. No prior reservation is required and can be booked directly at the beach.

Parasailing at Candolim beach


You can find vendors and shops near almost every beach in Goa. There are many shops near Baga where you can purchase things. Anjuna market is also a good place to buy stuff. Bargain well here.

Liquor check

Booze is cheap in Goa because of low duty. For people who want to carry it back outside Goa, there is a permissible limit of 2 bottles per person. For this, there is a pass that the shopkeeper gives that costs you another 10-20 bucks. However, on multiple occasion, I’ve seen people getting harassed by police at state border checks. The fine you are asked to pay defeats the entire purpose of buying cheap liquor in the first place. Personally, I would recommend avoid getting into such a situation.


Your expenditure would obviously depend on your preferences. But a good 4-5 days trip would generally cost you between 10-15k excluding transportation to/from Goa.

Please do comment if some more things can be added, or if you have some interesting information from your travel to Goa.

Happy traveling!

Monday, September 5, 2016

A day tour in Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad

Ramoji Film City day tour is a very good option for a one-day family outing in Hyderabad. Here, you can explore a number of picturesque gardens, artificial caves, bird and butterfly parks, beautiful monuments, buildings and sites that are used during movie shootings, a wide variety of shows that would be enjoyed by one and all and a fairly decent amusement park.
Fundustan, Ramoji Film City

Recently, my parents were in Hyderabad and apart from other city attractions, we visited Ramoji Film City as well. We had picked a public holiday for the tour, and did bus bookings a day before. We started early in the morning with buses scheduled to depart from Gachibowli at 6:40am. The buses however were not on time and we started an hour late from Gachibowli. The place is around 61 kms from Gachibowli and after a pleasant one-and-a-half-hour journey (for most of which I slept), we reached Ramoji at around 9am.

This was our first stop. If you go in your personal vehicles, you would be allowed to take it only till this point. Before getting off the bus, I checked with the driver the time and place where we would get the bus for our journey back.

After purchasing the entry tickets from the ticket window, we went through the security gates. We then boarded a bus on the other side, that took us till Eureka (marked as 7 on the map).
Ramoji information booklet (available at ticket counter)
From here, you can start with a Red Vintage Bus Tour that takes you around the world’s largest film studio (as per Guinness World Records) sprawling over more than 1500 acres. The guide tells you about the movies that have been shot there and you can easily relate if you’ve seen them. Some of the gardens and sites are actually breathtaking and one goes in sheer wonderment over the grandeur and beauty of these locations.
Red Vintage Bus

Sanctuary Garden (with Hawa Mahal in background)

Kripalu Caves

Vaman - Bonsai Garden
The highlight of this tour was the Bird park which has a wide variety of birds from all parts of the world. There were birds that I’ve not seen in the biggest of zoos. Their splendor and beauty simply mesmerizes you. We spent a fairly good amount of time clicking these birds and learning about them.
Bird Park 1
Bird Park 2
After the tour, the Red Vintage Bus drops you at Movie Magic, where a number of performances and shows are lined up. The timings for the shows are mentioned in the information booklet. These happen in different theatres/auditoriums and you can choose from them according to your taste and preference. We went for Lights Camera Action (marked as 10 in map), Filmy Duniya (marked as 3), Spirit of Ramoji (marked as 8), Dadajin Live TV Show (marked as 11) and Fort Frontier Stunt Show (marked as 9) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Movie Magic

Lights Camera Action 
Spirit of Ramoji
Fort Frontier Stunt Show
We had lunch somewhere in the middle of the shows. There are a number of restaurants and food courts and the food was pretty descent.

In the evening, you can spend time in the amusement park and enjoy the rides, some of which are complimentary with your entry ticket.

Amusement Park, Ramoji

A dinosaur model in Fundustan

The reporting time for the journey back is 5:30pm and the buses start at around 6:00pm for Gachibowli.

Some considerations and what not to miss

  • A day tour ticket costs Rs1000 per person for adults and Rs900 for children and includes a guided tour of Ramoji Film City, Ramoji Movie Magic, Entertainment shows at Eureka and complimentary rides in the amusement park.
  • The bus bookings from Gachibowli to Ramoji should be done in advance. It can be done online or booked over phone on Ramoji Help Line number 1800 4250 9999. The buses start from Punjabi Rasoi near Gachibowli flyover and costs you Rs 300 for a to and fro journey.
  • There’s a lot to explore in the guided tour followed by a good number of shows and performances. Make selections depending on your preferences. Information booklet is your friend here. Also, there are good hotel options inside the film city in case you planned to spend more than a day in the film city.
  • For the journey back, the AC buses start from a stop that is located behind Ranger (marked as 18 in the map). Don't forget to take your drivers contact number to coordinate for the pick-up.
  • What not to miss
    • Bird Park
    • Amusement Park
    • Filmy Duniya and Fort Frontier Stunt Show

Edited - I recently went for a day tour a second time. Check out the Vlog.

Happy Travelling!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Road trip to Bidar (from Hyderabad)

Day – 31st July 2016

Bidar, situated in the north eastern part of Karnataka lies close to the Telangana-Karnataka border and is famous for the grand Bidar Fort. The place is around 130 km from Hyderabad and is a very good option for a one-day road trip.
Bidar Fort
It was a cloudy Sunday. We started at 8:00 am in the morning from Gachibowli, Hyderabad. We had hired an Innova cab and used google maps to get the route. There were some renovations happening but overall a good drive. It took us around three and a half hours to reach Bidar which included a 45-minute stop for breakfast. There is a good stretch of greenery along the way that makes the drive even more refreshing.

Directions –

We travelled via Lingampally and then it’s NH65 till Zaheerabad, where you take a right turn on SH14 to Bidar. Once in Bidar, you take a right on the Fateh Darwaza Road towards the Chaubara (clock tower). See below map for help.

There are quite a few places to explore inside the fort, that surely impresses you by its grandeur and scale. Major attractions being the remains of Diwan-i-am and Diwan-i-khaas, Solah Khamba Mosque, Rangin Mahal and Bidar Fort Museum. Authorities mostly keep Rangin Mahal locked to keep it away from the reach of rogues who generally scribble on the walls. You can still ask the guard there to show you around in his presence.

The weather actually added to the beauty of the place. Amidst light drizzles, the remains appeared mystical under the cloudy skies. 

Solah Khamba Mosque

After spending a fairly good amount of time in the fort, we went to see the remains of the Bahmani Tombs. The tombs are situated nearby, in Ashtoor which is just a 10-minute drive from the fort.

Remains of Bahmani Tombs
Remains of Bahmani Tombs
Gurudwara, Bidar was the last stop of our trip. The clock ticked 3:30 pm by the time we reached Gurudwara premises. There are a few dhabas (eating joints) on the street just before the gurudwara entrance. We had a nice lunch at one of the dhabas (Rinku Restaurant, if I recollect the name properly). The food quality and taste exceeded our expectations. I would surely recommend this place.
After devouring our meal, we went to the Gurudwara. The shrine is dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev and is very clean and peaceful. Just being there gave a very calm and soothing feeling. We spent some time in the garden before starting our journey back home.
Park at Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib
Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib

Some Considerations and what to see

  • When to go - Weather plays a major role in making or marring your experience of the fort. It’s definitely not a place to go on a hot sunny day since exploring the fort involves a good amount of walking in the open. Rainy season or winters is an ideal time to go to Bidar.
  • When to start and leave - Start early so that you can explore the fort before the sun is at its strongest in the afternoon. Also, prefer to leave well before dark. We left for Hyderabad at around 5:30 pm and found it a little difficult to drive in the dark with trucks also moving on the road.
  • What to see –

    • Bidar Fort and Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib are the two must visit places.
    • The Bahmani Tombs present some really beautiful architecture however, since the place is un-guarded with no presence from administration, it was flocked by groups of uncouth youth. Certainly not a place to go with family.
    • Narasimha Jharni a popular cave temple is also situated in Bidar. One has to walk through an excavated cave filled with water upto chest level to have a glimpse of the deity. The shrine was closed for renovation during our visit. You can check once prior to going there.

Happy Travelling!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi

Time Period: 1st Week of June
Duration: 5 Days

A quick vacation thought got us landed in Malaysia. That’s pretty much how it got planned. I remember shortlisting the places and Malaysia met all our requirements. It’s a short travel, easy Visa process, great parties and secluded islands.

We flew with Air Asia, which was a comfortable 4hrs flight from Hyderabad, India. We landed in KLIA2 and hired a cab to our hotel in Bukit Bintang. First impression of Kuala lumpur being an amazing skyline and crowded roads with traffic moving by inches.

View from KL Tower

Crystal Fountain @Pavilion
The city's infrastructure is very impressive. One thing that I felt is in abundance is shopping malls. Pavilion situated in Bukit Bintang is a great shopping destination. The place is huge with a good number of retail outlets and food options.

Kuala lumpur nightlife is pretty amazing with some nice places to party. We had a real good time at Skybar which offers a great ambience complemented by lively music. Also, Changkat Bukit Bintang is a paradise for party goers with a good number of restobars and pubs.

Below are the highlights and all that we explored.

Day 1 - KL Tower, Aquaria KLCC and Petronas Twin Towers
The entry tickets can be booked online or bought at the respective places. Generally, hotel travel desks and nearby travel agencies ask you to buy the tickets from them (just to earn some commission)by saying all sorts of things, simply ignore them.

KL Tower (with Petronas Towers in the background)
You get a nice view of city’s skyline from KL Tower. However, I felt it’s not worth the price. KL Tower and Petronas Towers are visible from almost anywhere in the city. Aquaria KLCC however, is a must visit place. You actually get a chilling feeling with sharks swimming just above you.

Aquaria KLCC

Day 2 – Genting Highlands
Next morning, we took an Uber from our hotel to KL Sentral, and bought tickets for Go Genting (bus) and Genting Skyway. Go Genting buses departs every 1 hour and you should prefer booking it online.

Go Genting
There are a good number of food joints in KL Sentral, some of them serving mouth watering local delicacies. We had a nice brunch in KL Sentral, before boarding Go Genting. It was a 1-hour ride and then a 15-minute skyway to Genting Highlands. The place has some good casinos and a few other attractions. You can shop, dine and roam around. All in all, a day well spent.

Genting Skyway
Genting First World Hotel
Day 3 – Langkawi: Eagle Square
Langkawi as expected was a complete contrast to KL with very less vehicles on the road and all the solitude in the world. It was a quick 1-hour flight from KL to Langkawi and then a cab to our hotel, Bella Vista. We later rented a car in the evening. The public transport is next to nil and the cab fares are actually very high. It’s better to rent a car from airport (preferably online, as you can get some good deals) that you can drop at the airport on your return.

View from Bella Vista

Day 4 – Believe 5D Museum, Kilim Geoforest, Black Sand Beach, Night Market
There are two similar art museums in Langkawi. We went to the one in Kuah. If you are a selfie lover and someone who loves to get clicked, then this is a place for you.

Kilim Geoforest was definitely the highlight of our trip and it was a wonderful experience. A guided boat tour in Kilim river with mangrove forests on each side and some amazing views. The day ended with a beautiful sunset at the black sand beach close by.

Black Sand Beach, Langkawi
In the evening, we went to the night market. Night markets in Langkawi are held every day of the week at different fixed locations. It offered some good local sea food and we tried some yummy satays.

Day 5 – Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, China Town Kuala lumpur
We had an island hopping tour planned for the next day. However, due to less time and some technical issues with our boat we only visited Dayan Bunting island. Lake of the Pregnant Maiden on the island is a delightful and refreshing experience. You can take a swim in the lake and do boating.

Lake of Pregnant Maiden

After a 1-hour flight with Malindo Air, we were back in Kuala lumpur at KLIA1. Lack of time and group’s majority favored China Town over Batu Caves. We had a good amount of time for shopping but I would say, China town is only for folks who can bargain well. Haggling is a very common sight. We bought a few stuff at 1/5th of the initial quoted price, so that gives you an idea of how much can be bargained.

China Town, Kuala Lumpur

We had our return flight to Hyderabad, India from KLIA2.

What not to miss
  • KLCC Aquaria
  • Batu Caves
  • Kilim Geoforest Park
  • Lake of Pregnant Maiden

Some considerations
  • Currency exchange – Take a small amount with you. We got the best rates from Once in Malaysia, withdrawing from ATMs is a better choice than taking a large amount with you. Also, Money Exchange at KL Sentral 1st floor offers good rates.
  • Transport from airport (KLIA1 and KLIA2) – There are a good number of options to/from airports. For a group of 3-4 folks, budget cabs can be preferred.
  • Prefer online booking for city attractions (KL Tower, Petronas Towers, KLCC Aquaria). You can get some good deals there.
  • Cabs at odd hours can be really expensive, Uber is your best option there.
  • Considering the lack of public transport in Langkawi and a relatively easy drive with only a few vehicles on the road, you can prefer self-drive.

Happy Travelling!