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.
In January 2015 the Indian government realised that processing hundreds of thousands of visa-on-arrival applications manually at the airport was a bad idea (really? you don’t say) and decided to stop this practice and rename it e-Visa.
Now those travelling to India can apply on the internet as late as 4 days before arrival. As always in India, do not expect this deadline to be adhered to, we would always suggest applying 2 weeks in advance.
Here’s the link for applications: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
The cost of the e-Visa is $60 US, a big improvement on before.
However, it’s worth noting that the e-visa is only valid for 30 days from your first entry. Stupid really, as many people travel from Europe and spend 6 weeks or more in India. Considering India gets a lot of income from tourist receipts – way more, proportionally, than most other countries – you’d think they would try and optimise that rather than the opposite.
Finally, this process has until now been unavailable for UK citizens, but that looks set to change as Brits will be included as of Aug 15th 2015.
We recently wrote the definitive guide on this subject, which was originally published as ‘The best way to get from Mumbai to Goa’ on Tripzuki.com.
In summary, it’s far easier to fly to Goa than to travel there by train or road. Though we do lament that fact – flying, after all, is pretty damaging to the environment – it has to be said that until Indian railway ticketing makes more sense, and until it’s made much easier to buy train tickets online (it’s 2015!!!!), tourists will continue to flock to Goa by plane and not by the far more scenic and experiential train route down the Maharastran coast. Shame.
Click here to read more…
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.
One thing some visitors to India are uncomfortable with is the wildlife: frogs, turtles, birds and squirrels all appear regularly around our grounds.
But should we get rid of them? After all, they were here first and many guests think they add to Yab Yum’s charm. Not only that but the kids love ‘em; and you can’t argue with the kidz. 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…
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/
Most people hate them but our staff are indifferent to them. Why? Because they have learnt what all inhabitants of hot, humid places have learnt: you can’t kill them all! And trying to do so is the quickest path to insanity!!
One of the biggest concerns western travellers to India have is malaria. Like any medical issue you can easily spend a week googling and researching and still be none the wiser. Most people in Goa will tell you that there is no malaria, and it is true to say we’ve never heard of anybody having it in Goa, but then we aren’t doctors.
Our advice: consider the probability of catching malaria and weigh that up against the side-effects and cost of taking tablets. There are all sorts of things you can catch when on holiday and perhaps malaria should be a bit further down the worry list. Read more…
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.