October to March is the best time, as it's generally hot and sunny. The peak season is from mid-December to the end of January, when temperatures are around 32C (90F). You'll need to book well in advance if planning to go over Christmas/New Year (the party season), but beware that accommodation rates usually double. The monsoon season lasts from April to September, when many of the beach shacks and bars are closed. April and May are very hot and humid. Typically June and July have torrential rain. August and September are more pleasant - it's greener, cooler (about 28C/78F) and the rain usually comes in short sharp showers, followed by long spells of sunshine.
There are numerous festivals and holidays, both national and local, Hindu and Christian. The following is a list of the main ones:
Epiphany January 6 - the feast of the Three Kings
Bandeira festival mid January - local patron saint's day
Republic Day January 26 - India's national holiday
Carnival February/March - one of Goa's biggest events lasting 3 days
Shigmotsav February/March - processions
Goa Statehood Day May 30 - many shops closed
Sanjuan June 24 - festival of St John the Baptist
Sangodd June 29 - festival of St Peter, the patron saint of fishermen
Ganesh Chaturthi late June
Independence Day August 15
Janmashtami August - celebrating the birth of Krishna
Dusshhera September/October - a 9-day Hindu festival
Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday October 2
Divali5-day festival of lights
Liberation Day December 17
Christmas December 24/25
NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.
From the UK: try TUI, Air India,British Airways, Emirates, Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian.
From the rest of Europe: with Condor, Esco, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Swiss International Airlines.
By train: Goa is connected with Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Mysore, Pune and Hyderabad. If coming from the south of India/Kerala, there are direct trains from Trivandrum. For timetables and fares visit Indian Rail, or see Seat 61 for a beginner's guide to rail travel in India.
FROM THE AIRPORT: You can get a taxi.
BY TRAIN: Trains run from north to south Goa via Margao. They're faster than buses and useful if you need to get down to Palolem (get off at Chaudi). A line also runs east from Margao to Colem.
BY CAR & DRIVER: If you can afford it and have limited time, we would recommend hiring a car with a driver as the best way to see the country. It's cheaper than hiring a self-drive car, and the drivers usually arrange their own accommodation and food. We'd recommend contacting our Tailormade Tours Operator, who can arrange a car and driver for you.
BY BUS: Travelling by bus is a cheap way to get around, but buses can be very overcrowded and uncomfortable. They link all towns and cities, and you can always pick up a rickshaw at the bus stop for short hops to your hotel.
BY TAXI: There are taxi-cars, with or without air conditioning, and a large number of auto-rickshaws on the roads. Fares are cheap.
MOTORBIKE, MOPED & BICYCLE HIRE: Many people rent motorbikes at one of the beach resorts. Officially, you need an international driver's licence to rent one and you must hire them from a person or organisation registered to do so. This way you can find your own stretch of deserted beach, but do take care on the roads. Bicycles are cheap to rent and widely available.
Passports and visas are required from all visitors. Tourist visas are valid for 3 or 6 months from the date of issue (not the date of entry). They can no longer be issued the same day, so plan ahead!
You need to specify whether you require a single-entry or a multiple-entry visa, but as they cost the same it makes sense to ask for the latter as it offers the most flexibility. The best place to get a visa is in your country of residence from the Indian Embassy or High Commission.
Vaccinations against hepatitis A, typhoid, meningitis, tetanus and polio are recommended. Malaria exists in Goa, though less so than in other parts of India. It's advisable to take precautions against mosquito bites and take anti-malarial medicine. Tuberculosis is still present in India.
Tap water is not safe to drink; always buy bottled water and check the seal is intact. Also, care should be taken when eating as few Western travellers escape without a bout of diarrhoea. Drink plenty water and wear sunscreen and a hat in hot weather.
Goa is generally safe but theft is a growing problem. Don't leave possessions unattended on the beach and keep valuables in the hotel safe.
There have been cases of police harassment, and corruption is rife. Make sure you carry your international driving license as well as insurance and vehicle documents if you hire a motorbike or car.
Beware, possession of even a small amount of cannabis is a criminal offence, punishable by large fines or prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Compared with other regions in India, women travellers receive less hassle in Goa. However, you should dress conservatively and topless bathing is a definite 'no no'. Avoid walking alone after dark.
Tipping or baksheesh is very much an accepted custom and is expected. In up-market restaurants a 10% tip is acceptable, while in cheaper places, round off the bill with small change. Indians don’t normally tip taxi drivers, but a small extra amount over the fare is appreciated. Porters at airports and railway stations often have a fixed rate displayed, but will usually press for more.