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The goan fish thali

Over the years, I’ve met many people who haven’t been to Goa yet, even though it’s on their list. Typically, they ask, “Is Goa cheap for food?” My answers are always subjective because travel is about how you personally engage with the experience and the vibe of the place. You might spend thousands and still not have fun, while on the other hand, you could be a backpacker and make the most of your time and resources. In this post, however, I’ll provide a more straightforward perspective on how much you might typically spend on the most common activities in Goa.

The mystery of whether is Goa cheap for Food and Drinks.

The shortest answer is yes. Over the years, the cost of food at restaurants has gone really up. But it depends on where you eat, and what you eat. Why bother with what you eat? Let me tell you a story.

What you see, is NOT what you get, sometimes: 

A few months ago, I visited a popular local restaurant in North Goa and ordered Chonak (Barramundi), a well-loved fish in Goa. When it was served, I immediately noticed that the taste was different; it was actually Mangrove Red Snapper, which has a distinct flavor but can be presented similarly to Chonak. For someone trying it for the first time, it’s hard to tell the difference. However, experienced taste buds can easily discern it. When I confronted the manager, he didn’t admit it, though it was clear he knew the truth. We decided to let it go.

The point I’m making is that the prices of these two fish are significantly different, and you might end up paying more than you should. This practice is quite common in many restaurants in Goa.

Are you eating Goan Fish?

Having lived in Goa since birth, I can vouch for the unique taste of Goan fish. To truly understand Goan fish, you should experience a visit to a Goan market. Many will tell you it’s an experience. Hearing the fish vendors shouting about prices and quality is a unique thrill. Typically, most Goans visit the markets in the morning for the freshest catch.

What many may not know is that Goa also imports a significant amount of fish, which is then sold as local Goan fish. This is often done because the imported fish is cheaper and can be sold at a higher profit. During the monsoon season, when a fishing ban is in place, fresh local catch is scarce, but imported fish from other states still fills the markets. There have been several issues reported regarding the presence of formalin in these imported fish.

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Feni on the rocks

Price of Drinks in Goa

It’s no joke when people say they go to Goa just for drinking. Compared to the rest of India, Goa has the lowest tax rates on liquor.

To summarize, drinks are cheap in Goa, especially if you buy from a government-authorized liquor shop. One such shop I recommend is U.P Traders, Goa. It’s not only an authorized liquor store but also a great place to buy Goan cashew nuts. Goa is famous for its Cashew and Coconut Feni, which are must-buys. Another seasonal cashew liquor, Urrak, has an interesting production process.

A word of caution: much like with Goan cashew nuts, there’s a significant chance that anyone purchasing drinks could be deceived with a substandard imitation. Please be vigilant. I’ve written a detailed post on how to buy authentic Goan cashew nuts here.

So, next time you hear someone asking you, “Is Goa cheap for alcohol” – you know what to say.

Goa is not just about Thali

Everyone talks about Thali. Restaurateurs know this and use it as clickbait. The price of a Thali, which used to be between 80-150 INR, has now skyrocketed to nearly 300-350 INR for a non-vegetarian Thali with premium fish. Yes, there’s been inflation, but still, it’s way beyond the mark.

The Goan Fish thali is Yum!!

Don’t fall into the Thali-bait trap. I’m not saying don’t try it, just be mindful of the price and quality. Lately, many restaurants have been selling a king-sized fish Thali, calling it Maharaja Thali, at three times the price. It’s great for a first-timer, but only if you’re a heavy eater.

I’ll make a separate post about this, but Goa is not just about Thali. Each season in Goa offers different varieties and dishes to try. Goa is a land of spices and also has a great collection of its own sweet delicacies. Do you recognize the name Bebinca? It’s one of the popular dishes in Goa. You should also try many others, including Dodol, Serradura, and more.

 

What about the Tips in Goa?

Goa doesn’t necessarily have a tipping system, but a generous tip would certainly please the server. However, before tipping, check if the restaurant has already charged you a service fee (not the taxes). You can ask them to remove this fee or simply ignore it. If the service fee is included, it usually covers the service, so additional tipping might not be necessary, but that’s up to you. You can always tip more if you wish. Ultimately, tipping is your personal choice.

 

What is the Average food cost per day in Goa?

Predicting the exact cost of a 3-course meal in Goa can be challenging, as it varies based on individual preferences and experiences. However, as a rough estimate, a meal for one person typically falls within the range of 1500-2000 INR (approximately USD 18 – USD 24). Additionally, many Goan restaurants accept Swiggy Dineout or other brand coupons, which can provide further discounts. Keep in mind that some local restaurants in Goa still prefer cash payments over digital methods, so it’s advisable to be prepared.


		
		        

        

By Prajyot Mainkar

💫 Professional problem solver. 👔 Entrepreneur. 🔥 Unapologetic creator. 🥳 Lifelong thinker. Proud food advocate. 🏝️ Travel geek. ☕ Ex-Coffee Addict Fondly known as the Android Man of Goa

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