Goa is one of India’s most popular destinations. During the best years for Goan tourism, an estimated 8.1 million people visit this beachside town.
Goa is a unique destination in India thanks to its beaches, Portuguese colonial influence, and its importance for hippie culture. Goa has many beautiful beaches, such as Colva Beach, Palolem Beach, and Butterfly Beach.
The towns of Goa boast a unique blend of Portuguese and Indian culture, which you can see in the architecture of buildings such as Basilica de Bom Jesus, museums such as Braganza House, and the cuisine.
But while this tropical paradise is rich in culture and history, is Goa safe to visit? We’ll show you below.
Is Goa Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. In most regards, Goa is one of the safer destinations in India for travel. Due to the high rate of tourists and backpackers, petty crimes of opportunity can happen.
But the same is true elsewhere in India. However, female travelers should be aware that there is a higher rate of sexual assault here than elsewhere in India.
Common problems travelers experience in Goa include:
- Bag snatching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
While most crimes that tourists experience in Goa are petty in nature, many tourists, particularly women, have been victims of violent crime. There have even been a few homicides, although those are rare and usually upend the Goa community.
A good place to start researching the safety of Goa is foreign travel advisories. Sometimes, you learn a lot from omission.
In the United States travel advisory for India, the State Department lists states and regions in India that you should avoid due to heightened risks of terrorism and conflict, but Goa is not on the list. Goa is one of the more peaceful states.
It is not close to India’s disputed borders or a place that suffers from regional conflicts. Other countries include Goa in their list of places to pay special attention in India.
For example, the Canadian government advises its female citizens to be careful when traveling to Goa (as well as Delhi) due to the high rates of violence against women. Unfortunately, Goa is not equally safe for all tourists.
Besides being aware of crime, you should be aware of threats to your safety that come from nature in Goa. Many tourists come to Goa to enjoy the beaches and water sports, but make sure that you do so safely.
The sun in Goa can get very hot, so stay in the shade, when possible, apply sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and avoid being out and about in the worst of the heat.
Check on the safety of different beaches before you go, and only swim at beaches where lifeguards are present to be safe from currents. Monsoon season in Goa lasts from June to September, with nearly daily rains.
Some tourists still visit Goa during this time since that is the best season for some water sports, such as whitewater rafting.
However, swimming on the beaches can get dangerous during monsoon season due to the choppy water conditions. Monsoon season is sometimes accompanied by flooding, such as the deadly floods of 2021.
Crime in Goa
One of the primary concerns for most visitors to India is crime, since the crime rate in India is fairly high and tourists are often targeted due to their relative affluence.
Although Goa is safer than other parts of India such as New Delhi, it also has a problem with crime. According to Numbeo’s crime index, Goa scores a 48.55 out of 100, which is a moderate value on the site’s scale.
The crimes respondents were particularly concerned about were drug abuse and corruption and bribery. Other crimes people are concerned about include property crimes such as burglary and petty theft.
Of the crimes local statistics consider to be serious, violent crimes, rape is by far the most common crime. According to data from the first half of 2022, rape made up 34% of total violent crimes in Goa.
The actual statistic is probably much higher due to stigma against victims in the local culture and a low trust in law enforcement’s ability to do anything regarding sexual assault in India.
Although cases of sexual assault and murder of tourists grab the headlines in Goa, the most likely crime you will encounter while you are there is petty theft. The rates of petty theft in Goa, while not as high as elsewhere in India, are still fairly high.
There is a high tourist presence, and crowds of tourists create the perfect opportunity for thieves. According to anecdotal evidence, women are targeted for theft more often than men.
A lot of crime in Goa is driven by illegal drug use, both by tourists and locals.
Local media outlets frequently decry the high rates of drug usage among increasingly young people, and the worrying trend of people turning to narcotics instead of lighter drugs such as cannabis.
There are some positive trends in Goa crime statistics. According to the local police, crime in January 2023 was down by about 50% compared to the same month last year.
Rates of many crimes, from culpable homicide to chain snatching to physical violence, have declined. Although drug-related arrests increased, the police said that just showed that the rates of detection are increasing.
While crime certainly is a problem in Goa, it is less of an issue there than in some other parts of India. You can avoid most bad incidents with a few precautions.
Petty theft is the most common crime people encounter in Goa. It can happen in many forms, including pickpocketing, bag snatching, break-ins, and scams.
The Goa police department publishes a list of safety tips on its website for potential visitors to help prevent theft. Make sure that you hold on to valuables securely as you move around — never put valuables in a rear pocket or in a dangling, unzipped purse.
Always hold onto your valuables and never leave them unattended — for example, many tourists get robbed when they dangle their bags off the back of a chair in a restaurant.
Sometimes, thieves pose as authoritative people to try and rip people off. Always make sure that the person you hand your luggage to is actually a hotel bellhop, not someone posing as one.
Robbers sometimes go to hotel rooms pretending to be hotel workers, so always call the front desk to ask if they sent someone up. Before going to Goa, research your accommodation carefully as hotel room break-ins do happen.
Make sure that the hotel you are staying in has good security reviews and a safe where you can store your valuables. Beach huts are a popular accommodation option, but people frequently get robbed there because the walls and doors are so flimsy it is easy for anyone to enter.
Make sure that you stay in a beach hut with a sturdy door — banana leaf and bamboo huts may look nice, but they are often unsafe. Like any tourist destination, Goa has frequent scams targeted at foreigners.
Make sure that you only take authorized taxis, especially at the airport, to avoid getting ripped off.
Touts, people trying to convince you to go into a certain shop or club, are common, but avoid them as they are often dishonest. Finally, beggars are very common, but keep in mind that street begging is actually illegal in Goa.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is a common problem in Goa, and it often affects foreign visitors. The UK government even includes this when listing regional risks for British citizens traveling to India.
Several foreign tourists, including British citizens, have been raped in Goa over the past few years. There have even been cases of female tourists being murdered after a sexual assault. In 2019, a young Indian woman was stabbed to death in her Goa hotel room.
In 2008, British teenager Scarlett Keeling was raped and murdered while she was on vacation in Goa with her family, and in 2017 Irish-British citizen Danielle McLaughlin was assaulted and murdered in Goa.
The police in Goa are often unresponsive to violence against women, both against local women and foreigners. Families of murder victims report frustration at initial misclassification of suspicious deaths as accidental, long legal processes, and low conviction rates.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if the situation when it comes to violence against women will get much better in Goa — in early 2022, police reported that crimes against women were on the rise.
If you are a woman traveling to Goa, especially a woman traveling alone, there are a few steps you can take to minimize your risk of assault. Be careful when going out to bars or clubs as Goa’s nightlife is famously rowdy.
Keep a close eye on your drinks as drink spiking is how perpetrators take advantage of their victims. It’s worth spending a little extra money for a more secure accommodation.
Beware of men appearing friendly with you — it’s better to come off as cold and rude than to wind up in a bad situation, so never share personal information and respond to advances with a firm no.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Here are a few areas where you should be careful in Goa. Some of the beaches can be dangerous due to strong currents. Be careful during monsoon season on Anjuna Beach and Cavelossim Beach.
Popular Calangute Beach also has strong waves, but you should be more aware of thieves. Be careful on the beaches at night as robberies are common.
Some places in Goa have a higher crime rate, such as Panaji. In party areas such as Vagator, be careful as crime rates increase as thieves want to take advantage of intoxicated tourists.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other safety tips to keep in mind when traveling to Goa:
- Goa may have a reputation as a party area, but laws around substances are actually fairly strict. Just because drugs are easily available does not mean that they are safe, so avoid those substances.
- In Goa, it is illegal to drink outside in public, so don’t open a drink on the beach so you don’t attract unwanted tourist attention.
- Drug abuse rates are unfortunately high. You may see addicts at night, so be careful when walking alone. Although drunk and high driving is illegal, some taxi drivers do it anyway, so leave the car if a driver seems intoxicated.
- Traffic in Goa is dangerous. Although renting a scooter is a popular activity, accidents are frequent. Always wear a helmet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions by previous visitors to Goa:
Is Goa safe at the moment?
At the moment, Goa is safe to visit. The overall crime rate is decreasing, and the COVID-19 measures have eased.
Is it safe for a girl to travel alone in Goa?
Many women travel to Goa alone, but the rate of violence against women is high. If you get to Goa alone, try to make friends with fellow travelers while you are there and only go to the bars in groups.
Is Goa good for tourists?
Goa is very good for tourists. It is a beautiful state and much safer than most other parts of India.
Which part of Goa is safer?
South Goa is safer because it receives less tourists, so there are fewer opportunities for criminals, and the party scene is not as wild. Even North Goa is relatively safe if you are careful.
Why do foreigners visit Goa?
Most foreigners visit Goa due to its reputation for an alternative lifestyle. Goa was a popular destination for hippies and remains a big destination for spiritual tourists, party animals, and ravers.
So, Is Goa Safe to Visit?
Although crime still exists in Goa, for the most part, it is much safer than the rest of India. The only exception is the rate of violence against women, so female tourists should unfortunately be on their guard. Happy travels!