May 5, 2019
I often think that my first ever trip to Goa, India saved me from falling down a deep dark hole. On the day of the Brexit vote to leave Europe I fell into a deep depression; almost a mourning period.
I felt that I now lived in a right wing country that did not believe in togetherness and multiculturalism. The spirit of the country I lived in felt dark and negative. It was shortly after this that I made my first visit to Goa and my whole mindset changed.
I was reminded that the country where I was born is not the be all and end all of the universe; there is a whole other world out there and if I wanted too I could spend a lot of time in Goa.
My initial strong reaction after the vote of feeling rejected by my country and in turn my rejecting it, has now softened and I have fallen back in love with the UK once again; especially through my embracing the whole Whirl-y-gig thing. The Whirl-y-gig family of like-minded ethereal souls both at the Whirly club and now at the Parlour Party in Harrow has allowed me to find happiness, even though the Brexit chaos stumbles on.
But I have come to realise it is possible to have two homes, one in the UK and one in Goa because many westerners are living that life right now.
I became aware of the phenomena of Goa Long-stayers during my visits there and through conversations at the night market, in bars and clubs and on the beaches. From these conversations I started to realise the possibilities.
You notice these long-stayers in places like Arjuna, Palolem and Arambol on the beach jogging, meditating, carrying groceries or enjoying a beer in the sun. Most rent an apartment for their stay and often pay someone local to be a fixer and a driver.
They have a very good relationship with the locals and have often built up a close friendship with local families; almost becoming part of that family.
In my experience a lot of these long-stayers are ageing hippies or global nomads but there are also some who are more conventional in appearance. Most are retired (but not all) which allows them to spend up to six months of the year in Goa, returning year on year to spend their winters in the sun.
This idea of spending summers in the UK and winters in Goa is very appealing to me, especially as I grow older; but is this way of life the heavenly dream it appears to be, or is there a darker side to being a long-stayer in Goa?
So, I thought I would explore this subject in more depth in this weeks post.
I have found some interesting articles about retiring or living long term in a Goa which I will include in this post. There are also a couple of good Facebook groups: Goa Hippie Tribe GoaHippieTribe and Goa Class of 73 GoaClassof73. that you might wish to visit.
But first of all I have asked a good friend of mine, who spends several months of the year in Goa every winter, to write a guest piece about his experience of being a Goa long-stayer. I will call him simply: Whirly-G.
“Since the classic hippie era from the 1960’s through to the 80’s, Goa has undergone a huge transformation – not all for the better.
The introduction of visa requirements in the 1980’s reduced the number of very long term stayers. The locals soon realised the tourist potential of the place and started encouraging short term package tourists from Europe staying no longer than a month at a time, often less. This was the trigger for the development of the resorts particularly Calangute, Baga and Candolim. Many of these tourists became so attracted that they made repeat visits nearly every year.
The core longer term hippie community spread out, initially northward to Arambol, to Palolem in the south and to Gokarna in Karnataka, then further.
The growth of tourism also encouraged workers and traders to come to Goa from many parts of India, notably from the North East, Kashmir and the Banjara from Karnataka.
By 2000 the locals started to realise that repeat vistors had become less of an earner, as regular visitors became more aware of correct pricing and cheaper ways of living. This led to the tourist sector looking further afield for fresh visitors and Russia was targeted as a source. This started in the influx of Russian package tours and at the same time as the Indian domestic economy started to provide domestic tourists, including the comparative wealthy from Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi – many of whom started to make Goa a place for weekend and holiday breaks.
The European package market started to decline as tour operators started to concentrate marketing on other places in search of better profit margins, and many repeat package tourists moved on for a variety of reasons – those looking for no more than sun, sea and cheap booze found cheaper places elsewhere. Now with economic issues in Russia the Russian Charter market too has started to pass its’ peak – in the 2018/2019 season Russian charter flights were said to be up to 55% down on the previous season, partly due to the collapse of some Russian charter airlines.
Despite this background a larger number of European visitors still come to Goa every year, many staying longer term from two to six months at a time. Many think of the place as their second home and small communities have developed in many locations throughout the coast. Many of these seasonal communities are tucked away from the original areas of Candolim, Calangute, Baga, Anjuna and Vagator. Many base themselves elsewhere while making short trips to the markets and events in the original area. Some use Goa as a base for longer distance travels to Hampi, Kerala and other parts of India.
Many stay in the same village year after year and have close relationships with the locals as well as Europeans who are now resident through marriage or work for charities, education, etc..
Life in these communities can be very social with people meeting up almost every day at regular spots. People come and go throughout the season with a core remaining all season. People from various European Nationalities mix together, often like an extended family. Some encourage friends from back home to come and join them, initially for shorter stays.
The availability of good quality Dentists and Doctors has often encouraged regular visitors to recommend friends back home to come for medical treatment or dentistry. For some of these this leads on to regular winter break visits.”
“The people in these communities come year after year. The community is not fully static as people do disappear for a whole variety of their own reasons, while at the same time there are fresh people who come once and decide to return regularly.
As the season starts to wind down a regular topic of conversation becomes initial ideas for the following year. After many years of being in the same place many question whether they will return the following year. They have done nearly the same year after year and have visited the main attractions enough times. Some want to explore other places and many find the downsides of their regular life in Goa have begun to drain their enthusiasm. Quieter spots are becoming more and more developed, road traffic gets heavier and frustrations emerge over issues that occur. It is very common to hear many people not committing to returning next year, yet year after year a core do return. Despite everything they say their basic attraction to the place remains and once they return home it doesn’t take long to re-kindle the desire to return.”
Thanks so much to Whirly-G
This article is about retirees in Goa:
RETIREES IN GOA
Sugandha S, lives in Goa, India
“My husband and I moved to Goa 4 years back. We are digital nomads working on retiring early in India. We blog about it on Saving Habit – Financial Independence & Early Retirement (F.I.R.E) in India .
Without doubt Goa is a beautiful state, people are friendly, infrastructure is good, crime rate is low.
But like everything else it has it’s own challenges. If you are okay dealing with them you should give it a test run before moving here permanently.
PROS OF LIVING IN GOA
- We currently live in Urban area, it has all amenities you expect in tier 1 city in India- supermarket, shopping mall, movie theater/multiplex, good school, restaurants, hospitals, good doctors. However Goa does not give you as many options as a metro city.
- Goa is green, has very less pollution or traffic problems.Overall pace of life is quieter and slow.
- It is also safe compared to other cities in India. Overall Crime is low, but drugs is a big menace in tourist areas, it is also impacting local youth as it is readily available to them. So, that is one issue we see you have to be careful about if you have kid/s of impressionable age.
- People are simple and nice
- Most people speak in English, it comes handy if you do not speak konkani or marathi.
- It has good air connectivity to most of India and the world.
- Has Plenty of beaches, party places, and vibrant environment.
- Offers something for every age- Goa has year around cultural and music events, it hosts international film festival and serendipity art festival and many more such events through out the year.
CONS OF LIVING IN INDIA
- Any kind of domestic help or service like plumbing/electrician, home delivery of groceries etc are not prompt. Because of various reasons it is always been a challenge to get stuff done here in Goa compared to big city where all these services are only phone call away.
- Internet is tricky, some areas get better signal than others. We maintain internet from 4 different vendors at all times. But after JIO things have improved.
- Barring few urban pockets, Goa is still a village so finding like minded people can be tricky.
- Unpredictable infrastructure- roads are good in most part of Goa, electricity is also not a problem but something as basic as garbage collection does not exist in Goa. In urban areas we have garbage collection but villages/suburbs have make shift arrangement which breaks down now and then.
- Also, home delivery for milk, newspaper and stuff does not exist.
- Goa beaches are deteriorating- the water quality is going down.
- Now and then politically fueled propaganda about “outsiders- anyone not originally from Goa” destroying the state comes up in the media. You can also hear locals being concerned about tourists or outsiders who moved to Goa destroying their state.
- Few employment opportunity outside of tourism
- Overall cost of living in Goa is not that cheap anymore. Rents, groceries, fruits & veggies, maids in urban areas are comparable to other cities. If you move away from cities, real estate may be cheap but you do not get all the amenities.”
“Goa boasts of a unique cultural mix of the east and the west, and is the most modern western state compared to others in India. Due to a centuries-long rule by the Portuguese, which is reflected in the area’s architecture and that many Goans became Christians. Thanks, in part to their western exposure, a variety of music is celebrated here, and as such, Goans enjoy life by playing music and dancing on the beach. Many foreign retirees there start their own shacks, pubs and beachside restaurants in a western style. Most of the foreign tourists prefer these places and they get a feel of their homeland in India.
The Goan culture of east meeting the west is very evident in the food styles too. Goan cuisines are a mix of Konkani (the local culture; staple food: fish curry with rice), Brazilian and Portuguese food styles. Goa is the only place is India where sausages ― especially the pork ones ― are famous. Some famous Goan items are Pao com Chouricos (spicy fried Goan sausages with onions, served in a bread roll), Iscas de Galinha (fried chicken liver) and Pork Vindaloo (pork in spicy, masala gravy)
The beautiful places
North Goa is the lively with different activities, shacks, music dance and nightlife, but it’s also crowded with tourists during the peak season. North Goa has a single stretch of four beaches, the Baga, Calangute, Candolim, Sinquerim stretch. If you are looking for the water-sports and activities, Baga beach is the choice. Thee’s also some excellent historic sightseeing, too.
The open-air night clubs are the most popular hubs for party lovers in Goa. All the party animals can be found at one place without any doubt that is Tito’s Café Mambo. It is known as one of the most famous sites for an entertaining night. This club has also been awarded as “Best Nightclub in Goa”. Most importantly, there are several other cabarets where one can enjoy the wonderful night life culture of Goa to the fullest.
Retires look out for quiet and astounding places to spend some quality time , so in that walks along beachside do wonders”
This next article is an interview which explores why someone chose to stay long-term in Goa:
Living in Goa: Anna on Life in India
“Anna fell in love with Goa from the first day she arrived in the town in January 2013. She left to go explore other lands but Goa eventually drew her back and she is enjoying the culture, spirituality and vibrant life that comes with living in Goa India!
We truly believe there is no better way to learn about a new city, new country or a new culture than living there. Our Living Abroad series is designed to tell stories of living overseas and show people that the world is really not such a scary place. We hope it inspires more people to pack up their bags, travel slow and see what it’s really like to live in a different place. If you’d like to tell your story, there’s more information at the end of Anna’s story.
Here’s what Anna had to say about Goa.
Where do you live?
I’m currently based in the small tropical seaside state of Goa in India.
Where are you originally from and what did you do before?
I’m originally from a small country village in sleepy Suffolk in England. After university I went interrailing around Europe and things were never really the same again. After seeing what a huge, diverse and beautiful world there was out there I couldn’t bear to spend my life chained to a desk in a rainy, cold country like the UK. So I took whatever job I could (I worked in sales for a large energy company – a really soul destroying job) and saved up until I made the leap to travel full time. You can see more about why I decided to travel full time and how I made it happen.
When I left the UK I knew I wanted to go somewhere as culturally different as I could get so I choose India and just fell in love with the country. I first came to Goa in January 2013 and spent a few weeks here before moving on to travel the rest of India, Southeast Asia and then spent a year living and working in Australia. But India left a massive imprint on my heart and I returned and have spent most of the last 2 years being based in Goa and slowly exploring India.
What is it like to live in Goa as an expat/ foreigner?
Life in Goa can be as relaxed or as crazy, as basic or as luxurious as you make it! There is a Goa for everyone it just depends on the lifestyle you want.”
“What does a typical day look like for you?
The life in Goa is very laid back but I usually try to wake up early and start my day with a yoga class under the palm trees. I pick up some groceries on the way home and then have a healthy breakfast and settle down to some work.
Writing blog posts is only a small part of what I do, there’s social media accounts that need updating, emails to answer, comments to respond to, photos to edit. I also work as a freelance writer, social media and digital marketing consultant so I spend a lot of time writing for clients blogs, managing their social media, building websites, chasing payments and pitching for more work.
By late afternoon I’m just dying to get out into the sunshine so I head down to the beach for a swim, meet friends and enjoy a late lunch at a beach shack and watch the sunset.
In the evening I’ll often try to get a few more hours of work in before going out for dinner, watching a movie on my laptop or at the weekends going to the Saturday night market or sometimes raving all night long at a beach party! See more about a day in my life as a travel blogger living in Goa.
Why did you choose Goa?
Since my first visit I was just captivated by the colour, culture and craziness of India – I really feel alive here and there is so much to see, do, experience and learn here that it would take a lifetime to see it all.
However, after 3 years of full time travel and trying to juggle working on the road I really needed a base where I could relax, work, make friends that stick around and build a life for myself and Goa just called to me and felt like home.
Goa is the the most westernized and easy going state in India and it’s pretty cheap to live here, the days are sunny and relaxed and there is plenty going on and a lot of nature and culture to explore.
What do you love about living in Goa?
Goa isn’t the typical place for digital nomads – it’s far from ideal in fact the internet is shocking! But I love it – I love the beaches, the markets, the spirituality, the food, the parties, zipping through the countryside on my motorbike, the captivating blend of Portuguese and Indian culture and the diverse community of hippies and expats that stay here, many for 6 months at a time every single year.
It’s fun, it’s affordable, it’s well connected to the rest of India but is a welcome escape from the chaos of the big cities. Goa is really a special and unique part of the world.
What are the local people like?
Goans are really different from the other Indian people as their culture has been influenced a lot by the Portuguese who ruled for hundreds of years until 1961. Goans have a very relaxed, laid back, fun loving approach to life and are very tolerant of others – this is why Goa became a hippie haven in the 1970s.
Also, English is widely spoken all over India especially in Goa. English (and Russian!) speakers won’t have any problems communicating here.
Anything unique about the local culture?
I love the fusion of the Indian and Portuguese culture and also everyone from all the world comes to Goa so there’s a really interesting multi cultural community of other expats, hippies and long stayers. I love being a place where different cultures mix together so well.
Are there any challenges that you’ve faced?
Goa is easy for those on holiday but working here is a different matter. Some of the infrastructure is lacking, roads are full of potholes, there is no trash collection and I have power cuts daily.
As is the case in the rest of India, here in Goa things often don’t go to plan or work how they are supposed to and the internet is just shocking.
The other challenges I don’t mind so much – it’s all part of the unique charm of India but when you make a living online and the internet is dodgy it’s a real problem.
What work do you do in Goa?
I work as a freelance writer, travel blogger and digital marketing consultant which means that I help companies with their seo, social media and website design. Most of my travel blog now focuses on traveling in India as I’m here so often but the other companies I work for remotely can be from anywhere in the world.
What is the cost of living in Goa?
Goa is a very affordable place to live in compared to most places in the world. You could live here for dirt cheap (under $500 a month) but there are also increasingly luxury accommodations and fancy restaurants that will tempt you to spend more. I broke down my costs of living in Goa here.
What’s the availability of short term accommodation in Goa?
There are many, many accommodation options in Goa from cheap guesthouses and beach huts to luxury hotels. If you’re planning on staying for a few months then you can find a house or apartment to rent.
A basic house would start at about 10,000 INR per month (US$150) and could go up to anything like 60,000 INR (almost US$900) for a large, modern house with a pool.
You won’t find the cheap accommodation online instead you’ll have to come and drive around looking for the ‘house to rent’ signs and asking the locals. I wrote about how to find a cheap house to rent in Goa and I also wrote about and made a little video of my house in Goa.”
“Any other advice/tips for someone who might want to live in Goa?
I get emails from people all the time who have never even been to India but want to sell up, quit their job and move here. My advice is always to come and check it out for a 2 week holiday first before you decide to live here – Goa is not for everyone!
Before you come, check out my huge Insider’s Guide to Goa which really goes into detail about all the best places to go in Goa.
And, finally any advice or encouragement for someone wanting to take the leap and live overseas?
If you don’t go you’ll never know so just try it, if you don’t like it you can always go back – I think that’s better than always wondering ‘what if.’
Anna is a writer, dreamer, digital nomad and travel addict from the UK who left her job in the UK in Dec 2012 to pursue her dreams of a life of travel and adventure. Anna has been on an indefinite journey around Australia, South East Asia and India ever since traveling slow, independently and on a budget and is now based in Goa, India.
Anna travels because she believes that “We travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us” She shares her tips and experiences on her blog Global Gallivanting to inspire others to make travel their lifestyle choice too.”
“What is the food like? (eating out & the quality of supermarkets)
Food in Goa is amazing, fresh, affordable and really diverse. You can get cheap Indian street food, eat in a shack on the beach or dine in a fancy restaurant and every cuisine from all over the world can be found in Goa. I eat out at least once, often twice, a day without breaking the bank.
For grocery shopping you can go to the local market and there are also a couple of expat focused shops where you can buy imported food that you might be missing from home.
Are there good places to work online e.g cafes/coworking spaces in Goa?
Honestly, No! As much as I love Goa it isn’t the ideal place for digital nomads and I struggle finding good working environments here.
There are not really any cafes or coffee shops with WiFi to work from or co working spaces. Most restaurants and beach shacks advertise that they have WiFi but in reality it’s usually just a 3G hotspot with a very weak connection – it hardly ever works and broadband WiFi, when available, is painfully slow and intermittent.
Finding a decent internet connection is the biggest headache – most of the cheaper houses won’t come with WiFi but if you can get a good 3G signal it’s often faster than WiFi anyway.
Do you need a visa? If so how long can you stay in the country for?
Pretty much everyone needs a visa to visit India – the length of time you can get depends on your nationality but most people get the standard 6 month tourist visa. The paperwork is a bit of a hassle to sort out but you can see my guide to getting a visa here. You can also now get an E-visa but it’s only valid for 30 days.
How safe is Goa?
I feel really safe in Goa. My mum also came to visit for her first trip to India and said that she never felt unsafe. I wear what want (I don’t dress conservatively) and I ride around in the middle of the night alone and I’ve never felt unsafe.
Is there a big expat community?
There are a lot of foreigners in Goa. There are many tourists mainly from Britain, Russia, Israel and Europe who come for 2 weeks (as well as a lot of Indian tourists who come at the weekends) but there is also a big community of hippie and long stayers who live in Goa for the season (Oct – April)
Are there any other good places to travel to close by?
There are many different beaches all along the coast of Goa which you can explore and lots of things to do off the beach as well. Goa has an airport that is well connected to the rest of India which offers a lifetime of incredible experiences.
Mumbai (Bombay) is a fascinating metropolis that’s 1 hour flight or overnight train journey away. The magical ruins of Hampi are also well worth seeing and only an overnight bus ride away.”
Check out Anna’s fantastic blog @; www.global-gallivanting.com
This article is about WHY people are retiring to India:
8 reasons why Brits are retiring to India in droves
Warm, affordable and beautiful: three of eight great reasons why Brits are retiring to India en masse.
“After the hippies blazed the trail in the 60s & 70s on the magic bus, that same generation are now heading out to India for their retirement.
Recently re-popularised by the reality TV show of the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there’s a genuine trend among new retirees to fly to warmer climates to escape the British winter.
Here are eight reasons you’ll want to join them.
1. Breath-taking ancient architecture
When there’s spectacular architecture like the Taj Mahal or the Akshardham Temple, it’s easy to see why so many pick India to retire to.
2. Beautiful tropical beaches
Something India doesn’t have a shortage of is stunning beaches. This is Palolem Beach in Goa. The only thing missing is a good book, and maybe a cocktail.
3. Warm climate
Warmer temperatures are kinder on achy joints, so people with conditions like arthritis tend to find hotter countries more comfortable.
However, if you’re not keen on very hot temperatures, you might want to stay clear of northern & western India, where temperatures can reach over 45°c. The hot season is typically April-October.
4. A UK state pension goes a long way
The UK pension can stretch a long way in India. And depending on your circumstances, you could even stretch to hiring help for the house (cook, cleaner etc). It’s certainly more than your pension could afford in the UK.
5. It’s one of the most colourful countries in the world
From spices to material to buildings, there’s just so much colour in India.
They also observe the Holi Festival (a spring festival also known as ‘festival of colours’) where they celebrate by throwing brightly coloured rice flour.
In recent years this has grown in popularity across the globe, with festivals cropping up in major cities like London.
6. A trip down memory lane
For lots of people retiring to India, it’s a nostalgic trip back to their young adult days of the magic bus hippy trails in the 60s and 70s. Or maybe it’s simply something they’d always wanted to do since those hedonistic days.
7. Sense of community
Brits are often looking for a sense of community when heading to India. This is something that can be lacking in modern-day Britain, but is found in abundance here.
8. Excellent healthcare that happens to be cheap
In the big cities, India’s healthcare is as good as the UK, if not better. It’s mostly private, but very cheap compared to UK private treatments.
Things to bear in mind if you are considering retiring to India:
- Your visa will only allow you to stay there for 180 days at a time (about 6 months). Then you’ll need to return to the UK for 2 months to re-apply.
- As a foreigner, you won’t be able to buy property in India, only rent. However, renting is very cheap compared to the UK.”
Now to finish, two articles about the good, the bad and the UGLY:
Retirement in India: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Friday, March 21st, 2014
Author: Cynthia Singh posts: 1 Author’s bio
“With the down turn of the American economy and a big hit to our retirement funds my husband and I decided to outsource our retirement. I began reading everything on the Intranet about the best places to retire. Out of the blue, my India born husband said why not India. I did some reading and said let’s go. English is widely spoken and Hindi is my husband’s first language. It took almost a year before we obtained our visas, OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) for my husband. Once he was able to obtain his OCI I was able to obtain my PIO (Person of Indian Origin), though I am Caucasian, based on our marriage. His is a lifetime visa and it affords him all the rights of Indian citizenship, except the right to vote, mine is good for fifteen years. Once that was done we secured pet passports for our two dogs. That was the most difficult. In the meantime traveling on a tourist visa my husband spent two months in India looking for an uncrowded area and suitable place to rent. His search was going nowhere until he enlisted help from his nephew. They found a three bedroom house in Bhimtal on the lake. The photos he took were beautiful. I spent a lot of time reading Indian expat blogs.
In January 2013 we packed up our dogs, electronics and a few clothes and started our adventure. Living in India is not for the faint of heart. It would have been very difficult without the assistance and knowledge of family. When we arrived to take possession of our rental home we were told it was not ready but would be soon. I wondered what soon meant in Indian time. We were shown another rental, basically an apartment that was dark, musty and dirty. We were looking at a bait and switch. We refused the apartment. After spending three weeks in a hotel room and the house still not ready to rent, we finally found our first rental cottage. In order to find a rental one must ask around. It’s very hard to find anything here with a Google search. The cottage was a two story, two bedroom, one Indian and one Western bathroom, furnished duplex structure located in Bhowali, which is located in the foothills of the Himalayas. The rent was $270.00 USD per month. Next door to our complex was a large multi-story apartment complex. At the time we did not think too much about it. It turned out that this was more of a hotel with people arriving at all hours of the day and night. As soon as a car arrived they honked their horns announcing their arrival. Then came the loud greetings that went on in the parking lot. This happened almost every night, sometimes two and three o’clock in the morning.
Thanks to our cook/housekeeper we found our present two bedroom two Western bathroom flat in Ghorakhal, which is about three miles from our first location. Our rent, $325.00 per month includes water and electricity. From our large balcony we have a breathtaking view of the mountains with Bhimtal Lake in the distance. I love it here. Early in the morning one can hear the temple bells waking up the Gods. In the summer we hear marriage music coming from many locations in the mountains. It is uncrowded and has many places to walk. It is said that the Himalayas are the homes of the Gods. There are temples scattered everywhere. We came very close to buying property here.”
“It is very affordable to live here. We spend about $10.00 per week on groceries. We are vegetarian. Cooking gas runs about $5.00 every 3 months. We have no need of a car. Taxis are available and run around $5.00 to the market and back. This includes an hour wait time and getting your bags carried inside the apartment. If we don’t care to go to the market, we send one of the locals on their motor cycle with a list. The cost is $1.50. A taxi for the day, depending on how far you wish to travel runs around $30.00. A full time cook/ housekeeper will run you $65.00 per month. Our Wi-Fi service runs $25.00 per month. We see our Doctor in the office for $2.00 or a house call will run us $4.00. Good medical care is available and medications are less expensive than at Walmart in the USA. I love the variety of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables that are available to us here. Our state Uttarakhand is a non GMO state. We are able to maintain a much healthier lifestyle here. When we first came, my diabetic husband required insulin and oral medication twice a day. He no longer requires insulin and controls his sugar with ¼ of his oral medication. We both lost 35 pounds without effort.”
Although there are many positives to this dream life, and people return year after year, there is also a downside:
Property clampdown is new cloud on horizon for Britons living Goan dream
“Foreign homeowners without proper sale deeds may lose everything
Maseeh Rahman in Goa
Thu 26 Jun 2008 00.01 BSTFirst published on Thu 26 Jun 2008 00.01 BST
The eerie quiet at Molly Malone’s cannot be explained only by the early arrival of the monsoon in Goa this year. Just a handful of people are huddled at the bar in the sprawling Irish pub on Calangute beach in Goa. The conversation is subdued, tables lie vacant, the staff appear listless, and the music has stopped.
“The world has shifted on its axis,” said a British retiree who wanted to be identified only as Hillary. “There’s a great sadness now. People are bewildered and upset.”
Hillary is typical of those Britons whose commitment to Goa extends beyond its four-month tourist season in winter. During the last decade they have come in significant numbers, bought property, sometimes set up small businesses, and started a new life, entranced by Goa’s beaches and the unique Indo-Latin charm of the coastal villages. Now their tropical idyll is under threat.
Goa has an estimated 3,000 long-term foreign residents. At least a third own apartments and villas but a combination of complicated rules and poor advice has left many foreign homeowners without proper sale deeds. They now face a wide-ranging investigation initiated by the state government and India’s central banking authority into the purchase of property with foreign funds.
“People are dazed, there’s a huge feeling of anger and disappointment,” said Hillary, who retired from her job with a multinational and moved to Goa with her husband three years ago. They invested £30,000 in an apartment, and spent thousands more doing it up. If their purchase is declared illegal, they stand to lose everything. Many British residents are in the same predicament.
“We’re devastated to find that somehow we have gone foul of the rules,” said a retired professional from London who did not want his name published for fear of facing visa problems. In 2005, he purchased a newly built Portuguese-style villa for £80,000. “My wife and I didn’t just land here and buy a house,” he said. “We spoke to advocates, to builders, even to local politicians, and they all said the same – you can buy after you establish local residency.”
The danger signals for foreign property owners first appeared two years ago with the launch of a popular movement against the sale of vast tracts of land to big Indian developers. Goans were incensed by what they saw as the wholesale takeover of their culturally distinct enclave by outsiders. Soon the resentment was directed towards foreigners, especially after it became known that a Russian investor had bought many acres of paddy fields to build a resort.
Tracy, an auxiliary nurse from Devon, and her husband moved to Goa in 2004, and in 2005 they bought a villa from a local developer. “We’re happy here, and we would like to stay if the government lets us,” she said. “Goa is a nice tropical place – the weather is good, the people are friendly, the food is inexpensive, and we’re able to live a nice quiet life. But now there’s all this uncertainty.”
Dayanand Narvekar, Goa’s law minister, acknowledged that foreign buyers were “misguided by some people”, but said that “even under English law ignorance is no excuse”.
“But,” he said, “unlike Russians, who bought agricultural land resulting in a hue and cry, in 99% of cases involving the British these are simple purchases of apartments. I personally feel we should take a sympathetic view and not touch these properties.”
But the panic has forced the British high commission to act. “We have raised the issue both at state and national level,” said a spokesman. “We would be very concerned if there were to be any question of property acquired legally by British citizens being expropriated through the retrospective application of any new legislation.”
Alongside terrorism and crime alerts, the high commission’s website now has a warning about buying property in Goa.
Goa’s British residents also feel that getting or renewing an Indian visa has become much more difficult since the UK government reversed its visa policy towards highly skilled migrants from India two years ago. New Delhi, they believe, is playing tit for tat. “They’ve got us like a puppet on a string,” said Tracy. “My whole life depends on my visa. But if you have a British passport, at best you get a one-year visa. And to get it renewed you’ve to keep flying back to London, and beg on bended knees. Even then they make you feel you’ve done something wrong.”
The British community in Goa is still trying to recover from the shock of the rape and murder of 15-year-old Devon teenager Scarlett Keeling in February.
“I know there’s nastiness and corruption in every society, but this goes beyond that,” said Hillary. “This was evil. And evil strips away every vestige of Goa being a jolly place. When something like that happens you think, what sort of society have I chosen to live in? There’s a definite feeling in the expat community now that Goa has had its day. The golden days are over. Many people feel it’s time to move on.”
Hillary said she knew six English couples running restaurants in Goa who have shut up shop and gone away. Another British couple who had opened a small hotel and restaurant 12 years ago that had grown into a profitable business recently sold their business to a Delhi company and left.
Ever since the hippies stumbled upon Goa in the 60s, the tiny western India coastal state has been a magnet for foreigners. After the hippies came hordes of backpackers, eventually followed by middle-class tourists on cheap charter flights direct from Europe. What attracted them were the pristine beaches dotted with thatched-roof restaurants; the quaint coastal villages marked by green paddy fields and white baroque churches; the inexpensive accommodation and the friendly locals. But the good days may be coming to an end, with Goa’s travel operators warning of a sharp decrease in touriststhis year. A big rise in air fares may be just one of the problems; poor administration has resulted in spoilt beaches, overbuilt villages strewn with plastic rubbish, a polluted water supply, inadequate power, high road fatalities and crime.”