Hi, welcome to our Yab Yum blog, this is where we try and give you an insight into our business, the ins and outs of running a boutique hotel-cum-beach resort (or is it an eco-resort-cum-yoga retreat?) in Goa, and the (sometimes) resulting soap opera. Of course we also provide some useful information for people travelling to Goa and India in general. We even encourage people to contribute to the blog if they have an interesting insight on anything Yab related. Feel free to just drop us a line.
Future guests often ask me what to do about money while they’re in India. How do I get cash while I’m in India? Should I take cash with me to India? What about travellers’ cheques? Those are probably the top 3 questions people ask.
Firstly, as somebody who travels back and forth to India regularly, here’s what I do: just use an ATM and withdraw from my foreign account. However, like all the methods described here, there is no perfect way and all methods come with some charges or complications.
About making card payments in India – Most modern hotels and restaurants in the big cities will take Visa and Mastercard debit and credit card payments, with charges likely to be between 2 and 5%.
Credit cards are good because you may get some protection in case of fraud. Cards in general are bad because of the automated security they put in place, which means when a payment suddenly goes through in Delhi instead of your home country, the computer says ‘Woah, that’s weird! Block that card now!’. You then spend the next hour trying to call your bank, and if you’re really unlucky you’re also standing there with a waiter brandishing your unpaid bill.
In less modern establishments, markets, small family businesses and so on, you’ll be using cash. In other words, you will need cash in India. Oh, it comes in handy for tipping as well.
Forget ‘paisa’ by the way, the lowest denomination of currency in India, you won’t see them or be expected to pay them, though ‘paisa’ in Hindi does mean ‘money’.
So what’s the best way to get hold of Indian rupees (also interchangeably written as ‘INR’ and ‘Rs’)?
ATMs - These are spreading like a plague in India, as are bank branches. You wouldn’t believe how many different banks there are; I counted almost 200 once!
Indian ATMs are a bit quirky in that they’re often a separate, tiny shopfront with a locked door and a half-asleep guard outside. Approach and he’ll open the door for you if it’s not already occupied. Chances are that you’ll have to put your card in and pull it out a second later – swiping it in effect – and in some machines you even have to leave your card in. Anyway, to a foreigner it can be a bit confusing but you’ll get the hang of it, the guard will probably help you if you get stuck (as will most Indians).
There are 2 catches to using ATMs in India. Firstly, there is often a maximum withdrawal limit of 10,000 rupees (currently just under 100 UK pounds, and just over 120 euros). So if you want more than that, head down the road to another ATM and repeat the process. The second catch is that the Indian bank will give you a crappy exchange rate and your card-issuing bank will undoubtedly charge you a foreign withdrawal fee as well. I paid 5 UK pounds per transaction on my last trip. Banks huh.
Take rupees with you – You can usually get rupees at the airport but the exchange rate will be bad. Not only can it be hard to estimate your spending in advance, but who really wants to carry round a huge wad of notes when they’re on holiday?
Take foreign currency with you – This can actually be a good option. You can go to an Indian bank that deals with foreign exchange (not all do), stand in line, get annoyed and then get their bad exchange rate. Alternatively, you can often exchange at your hotel or with a high-street money-changing office (or just a guy that somebody recommends). The rates in this case vary but often don’t get much worse than the banks’ rates. It’s often the case that foreigners worry about being ripped off in India but with money exchange I wouldn’t get paranoid about it. If you go to somebody that is recommended by your hotel then chances are they will have a reputation to maintain, and ripping off tourists makes everybody lose face. The best currencies are US dollars, UK pounds and Euros. Don’t expect a money changer to want your Swiss francs or Turkish lira!
Travellers’ cheques – Do people still use these? I guess they do but as mentioned above, not all Indian bank branches deal with foreign exchange, and despite being shockingly behind the times, even the ones that do might not change your cheques. My advice is not to bother with this option.
In conclusion, you’re best to use 2 methods to get hold of cash in India: take a couple of cards plus some rupees and/or strong foreign currency.
Personally, I’m a fanatic when it comes to travelling simply (and light), so I’d only take the cards. Yes, with cards you pay ATM charges and processing fees, but when you change money you get hit on the exchange rate; that may seem less tangible but it’s still a charge.
I had a realisation today that we have uploaded lots of pictures of our property and a fair few of our rooms, but very few pictures of our surrounding area – Ashwem & Mandrem in general, Madhlamaj (the bustling village centre, just 5 mins drive away), bustling Arambol (45 mins walk north up the beach) and Morjim (just a little way south, down the beach).
With that in mind, here are some images picked from my personal archives and those of our guests. They give a good sense of what the area is like. You can also check out more on our Pinterest page here: http://www.pinterest.com/yabyumresorts/
Just a heads-up to any guests thinking about travelling to Goa this coming season from overseas; keep an eye on charter flight arrivals as these could be problematic this coming season. For the details check out this article just now in the Times of India
Charter flights to Dabolim airport have been a bugbear of hotels in Goa for quite a while as they mean guests arrive at difficult times such as 3am, 4am and so on. For open-plan beach resorts like Yab Yum this can be a problem as guests coming in at night can disturb others, and if they don’t have a room booked for that actual night (as is often the case) then hanging out in an empty reception in the dark with the mozzies is not much fun for anyone!
So if you’re flying to Goa from the UK, mainland Europe or the Middle-East from October onwards, do try and fly into Mumbai and then take a domestic flight on from there which takes just 1 hours.
SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir, Jet and Air India all fly daily from Mumbai to Goa and travelling this way need not be more expensive than taking a charter flight direct, in fact it tends to work out more or less the same, the only decision you need to make is whether you want to arrive in India at 4am or at a normal time!
For most people, planning a holiday involves compiling ‘the list’ at some point or another. We try and encourage guests to ‘just ask’ if they need to know what to bring or, more generally, just need to know a bit more as to what to expect in Goa.
Here then, just for starters, is our list of essentials for visiting north Goa:
1) Sun cream + linen clothing.
If you don’t cover up you will burn! If you don’t cover up you will be bitten!
2) Mosquito repellent.
Barely necessary in the daytime but use it liberally around sunset. We only bother with Jungle Formula (available everywhere), or local brands like Odomos.
3) A camera (and extra memory card).
You will take more pictures than you anticipate, especially of the sunsets, and especially if you’ve never visited India before.
4) A smile.
Essential. Westerners often feel uncomfortable being stared at. Men staring at women should be ignored, but any other combination should receive a smile in return, you’ll be surprised how it can embellish your holiday.
5) Hindi phrasebook?
Goans largely speak Konkani first, then Hindi, then English. That said, their English is probably better than your phrasebook Hindi, so don’t bother. It’s not like France, for instance, where you should make an effort.
Indian and international guests alike often don’t realize that a beach resort in Goa, in June, July or August, is no place to have a holiday. Don’t believe us? Check out the pictures, we are almost flooded and the sea is as rough as it gets.
We’ve finally come to the end of our closing-down month here in north Goa. The tarpaulins are on and the masses of ‘stuff’ that we use – from kitchen equipment to glitterballs and hammocks – is all packed, wrapped, sealed and in storage to protect it from the coming heat, humidity and, of course, the monsoon rain.
It may or may not be apparent, but we take all the feedback we get on Yab Yum very much to heart. Most of it is hugely positive and helpful, some is simply negative and makes is wince, some is just downright odd!
This season our good feedback has been crazy, with the vast majority of guests simply saying ‘don’t change a thing!’. Another comment we see a lot is ‘don’t get too big!’.
For no other reason than a quick chuckle, here are some of the more leftfield comments we have seen. Read more…
At Yab we’re lucky to have one of the most photogenic beach locations in the whole of Goa; someone even suggested ‘in the world’ but that’s not something I can vouch for.
Our 2 serene acres of boutique, eco resort-cum-beach resort (or whatever you want to call it) has been photographed thousands of times: by ourselves for the website, by guests for memories’ sake and by professionals for fashion shoots. However, we never get bored with seeing new pictures; different people see different things and, with the light constantly changing, no viewpoint stays the same for long. Read more…
This monsoon has been our busiest ever, even though we’re closed!
Our renovations have been continuing apace, hampered by the weather of course, but if we waited for the rains to stop then we’d be left with about 2 weeks to do everything before we open on October 15th!
We have improved so many things for the coming season, some of which are not visible to guests (plumbing, electrics, kitchens and so on) but there are some significant changes that our regular guests will love… Read more…
Here’s my own personal top 5 reasons for visiting North Goa. There’s 1 thing to note here: I don’t really drink or party hard! Lots of people go to central Goa (the busy part, where most big hotels in Goa are situated) for those reasons and good luck to ‘em, but I see Goa as more of a chill-out destination.
So here goes… Read more…