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Need to Know Facts

Public Holidays

Date 2005 Occasion

January 1

New Year's Day*  

Januray 21

Eid ul Zuha or Adha

January 26

Republic Day**

March 8

Maha Shivaratri*

March 25

Holi

March 25

Good Friday*

April 13

Baisakhi, Vishu/Bahag, Mesadi, Maghi*

April 18

Sri Rama Navami*

April 21

Milad un Nabi or Eid ul Milad (The Prophet's Birthday)

April 22

Mahavir Jayanti*

May 22

Buddha Purnima

August 15

Independence Day**

October 2

Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday**

October 12

Dussehra

November 1

Diwali (Deepavali)

November 3 - 5

Eid ul Fitr*

November 15

Guru Nanak's Birthday*

December 25

Christmas Day*

Festivals and holidays differ in different regions. Hindu and Muslim festivals are scheduled according to the lunar calendar and don’t fall on the same day every Gregorian year.

*Restricted holidays - Given at the discretion of the organization/employer.
**National Holidays

Weekend: Sunday

 

Health & Safety

Health
The quality of health services varies in different parts of Goa. Urban centres, particularly Panaji and Vasco have good hospitals, 24-hour chemists, highly competent doctors and top of the line medical services. Pharmacies are fairly well stocked but do carry prescription drugs. Travellers from yellow fever areas are required to have an inoculation certificate. Prior inoculation for poliomyelitis is recommended.

The entire Indian sub continent has the same health hazards so one line of defence should cover you on all territories. The major risks to your health from the armies of mosquitoes are malaria, encephalitis, kala azar and dengue. Cover your arms and legs; be liberal with the repellent and in problem areas sleep under a mosquito net. Traveller’s diarrhoea is another running problem and year after year traveller after traveller gets the ‘loosies’. Ensure it’s nothing nastier by avoiding green salads, uncooked food, and water that you haven’t sanitised by dropping an iodine pill into. Also carry sunscreen with minimum SPF 20 to escape sunburn.

Slightly more serious is the risk of contacting AIDS, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted diseases. For your sake and the sake of the people you’re visiting, always use a condom. Have safe responsible sex.

Safety
Goa is a safe travel destination. Cases of mugging, theft and worse aren’t completely unheard of but by and large serious crimes against travellers are few and far between.

Basic precautions:

  1. Keep your money and travel documents close to your body (perhaps in a pouch slung around your neck, tucked out of sight under your shirt),
  2. Keep several photocopies of your passport, insurance, travellers’ cheques etc. scattered through your luggage,
  3. Do not use a waist pouch, it may as well be a transparent plastic bag: it’s that fragile and that obvious!
  4. Do not put all your money in one place,
  5. Be extremely alert in the dark. One of the things that protect travellers to India is the vast crowd in any place. The multitudes however, disappear into their homes at night, and you go from having a huge thick safety quilt to a flimsy sheet! Try your best to be in a familiar area when it gets dark. If you are not, at least know how you can get to that area from wherever it is that you happen to be.
  6. Many women travellers wear the long tunic and loose pyjama dress of Indian women called the salwar-kameez and find that it substantially dissuades unwanted male attention.
  7. If you are travelling alone, do not advertise it.

If you lose your passport lodge a First Information Report at the local police station and contact your embassy.

 

Weights and Measures

India uses the metric system where 100cm=1meter; 1000meters=1km, liquids are measured in litres and solids in kilograms.

 

Electricity

220volts/ 50 hertz is the frequency at which electricity is supplied. If your electric razor has flat-pin plug then carry a combination plug that will feed into a round-pin socket: across the sub continent plug point sockets are round rather than flat.

 

Customs & Duties

If you are above 17 years you may import the following in without attracting duty:
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco, a litre of alcoholic drink, 250 ml perfume, gifts up to a value of Rupees 750 (foreign passport holders), gifts up to a value of Rupees 6000 (Indian passport holders) and articles of personal use.

It is illegal to bring in drugs, gold and silver bullion, plants and coins that have gone out of use.

 

Post & Communications

Postal services in India are quite efficient. Letters overseas must be marked "Air Mail" or "Par Avion". It takes a week to 10 days for letters to reach the U.K. and the U.S from Goa. Have letters for you (surname first) addressed to the GPO (General Post Office) in Panaji, Vasco or Margao, ‘Poste Restante’. The post offices hold letters for 30 days, and you’ll have to show them your passport for identification.

Parcels are a bit tedious to send or receive and often when they do finally arrive, they’ve been tampered with. Courier services are widely available in the cities and small towns.

"Cyber cafes" are an increasingly common fixture in Goa's urban landscape, in major cities and even in smaller towns. At a fixed rate that varies from city to city, locality-to-locality, you can check your mail and surf the net. Very often the Internet business is an extension of what used to be a just a "PCO".

In loopy lanes, beneath shady peepul trees, in busy markets........all over Goa, little yellow boards spill out of little kiosks with the cryptic letters "PCO-STD-ISD" (..........huh?) 15 years ago the telecommunications miracle swept India and today, proud bearers of that legacy, ‘Public Call Offices’ bring to the streets the services of ‘Subscribers’ Trunk Dialling’ and ‘International Standard Dialling’. Most offer fax services, and more and more now, Internet facilities too.

Country code for India: 0091. Codes for the metros: Delhi-011, Mumbai-022, Calcutta-033 and Chennai-044. When calling from overseas omit the zero in the city code.

 

Tipping

It is customary to tip at restaurants, but you may tip less if service charges have been included in the bill. At hotels tip the bellhop and the doorman ‘durban’; if the service is particularly good, substantially more to the concierge and housekeeping.

Black and yellow cab drivers do not expect to be tipped. The opposite is true if you have a hired a cab for a long period.
You’ll find some of the most friendly and colourful service at tiny beach shacks. A small tip, even if it is only loose change, will be appreciated tremendously.

 

English Language Media

No matter where you are in India it is never going to be difficult to find an English language newspaper. All the major dailies, and there are many in this country where the fourth estate is startlingly independent and strong, have multiple editions with at least one from every region and one on the net. Goa has a number of local papers published in English and city editions of national dailies are also published here. The major weekly newsmagazines are easily available at kiosks and newsstands all over. Even international fashion glossies have an edition coming out of India now. Some of the local English language newspapers in Goa are Gomantak Times, Nav Hind Times, Tarun Bharat and Goa Now.

Cable TV has reaped a rich harvest. Even small town India has a skyline that blooms with electronic blossoms of dish antennas and these are only going to proliferate further. BBC World Service and CNN beam the latest news; ESPN and Star Sports keep you up to date with how your club is (or is not) thrashing its rivals in UEFA; and Star (elsewhere known as Sky) beams an entire stable of entertainment channels.

The more widely accessible national channel too has some English programmes, and a daily English news segment.
FM in the metros means Music like in the rest of the world. BBC World Service and Voice of America are on the MHz bandwidth but the frequency is variable.

Recommended Reading

  1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  2. Hello Goodnight: A Life of Goa by David Tomory
  3. The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru
  4. Goa and the Blue Mountain: On Six Months of Sick Leave by Richard F Burton, Dane Kennedy
  5. Traveller’s India Companion by Kristen Ellis & Chris Taylor
  6. No Full Stops in India by Mark Tully
  7. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
  8. South India: Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa by Philip Ward
  9. The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Mr. Robin Sharma
  10. The Head in the Tigeress Mouth.

 

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