Embarking on a journey to exotic destinations is a dream shared by many, and the choice of destination often hinges on factors such as culture, scenery, and cost. In recent years, the Indian state of Goa has emerged as a popular travel destination, renowned for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and lively nightlife. However, prospective travelers often find themselves pondering a crucial question: is a trip to Goa more expensive than exploring other Southeast Asian gems like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam?
An investment banker who has visited three different destinations revealed that Goa incurred nearly double the expenses compared to his vacations in Vietnam and Thailand. Despite spending a considerable amount on a family vacation in Goa, he expressed dissatisfaction, citing higher hotel costs and inferior service. The traveler paid around ₹30,000 for Novotel Goa resorts, which were not beachfront, while contrasting experiences in Phuket and Vietnam were more favorable. In Phuket, the traveler paid ₹9,000 for a beachfront hotel with a private pool and larger rooms, and in Vietnam, ₹6,000 for the highly regarded Movenpick Camranh resort.
A search on online travel aggregator sites echoed similar findings. A well-rated 3-star hotel in Goa could cost ₹4,000-6,000 per night, even though it may not be sea-facing. In comparison, equivalent properties in Phuket or Pattaya (Thailand) were available at half the price, and a sea-view Airbnb in Pattaya by the beach could be booked for ₹5,000 a night. Coastal city Da Nang in Vietnam offered sea-view hotels starting at ₹3,500 per night, while beach properties in Goa exceeded ₹10,000 per night.
One of the significant revelations in Sri Lanka is the availability of beautiful yet incredibly affordable accommodations. A small bed and breakfast in Mirissa, priced at $24 a night (approximately 1500 INR), offers amenities like white linen, clean bathrooms, air conditioning, and complimentary breakfast. This exceptional value for money stands in stark contrast to Goa, where travelers often find themselves compromising on the quality of accommodations despite paying a premium. The affordability of hotels in Sri Lanka allows travelers to enjoy a comfortable stay without breaking the bank.
Exploring the cities in Sri Lanka is not only economical but also efficient. Similar to Goa, travelers can rent self-driven bikes or cars at affordable rates, typically ranging from ₹500-1,800 per day. Additionally, most cities in Sri Lanka provide cheap public transport options, costing between ₹50-200 per day. This stands in contrast to Goa, where hiring a cab or a self-driven vehicle often remains the primary option for city transportation, presenting a potentially higher cost.
The escalating hotel tariffs have significantly impacted trips to Goa, attributed to factors like revenge travel post the Covid pandemic, soaring real estate prices, and Goa's emergence as a prominent wedding destination over the past 2-3 years. The surge in tourist numbers, as mentioned by the state tourism and IT minister in December 2023, has also led to increased costs for food and bike/car rentals.
A Mumbai-based traveler, who frequently visits Vietnam and Thailand for work, emphasized the affordability of luxury in these countries compared to the exorbitant hotel prices in Goa. He highlighted that a luxury 5-star hotel in Goa could range from ₹35,000 to ₹75,000 per night, while a similar hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, could be booked for a significantly lower ₹6,000 per night. The ease of visa-free entry to Thailand for Indians further sweetened the deal, though Vietnam required a visa fee of approximately ₹4,500 per person, with the option to apply for an e-visa on the government website processed within 10 days.
What is more cost-effective? Besides the expenses related to hotel accommodations, flights constitute a significant portion of most travel budgets. In this regard, Goa emerges as a more economical option due to its domestic status. For example, a round trip from Delhi to Goa for the last week of January costs approximately ₹13,000 per person. In contrast, a similar trip to Vietnam during the same period requires an outlay of about ₹21,000, representing a roughly 50% higher expense. Thailand proves to be more expensive, with a round trip costing around ₹28,000. It's worth noting that these prices pertain to direct flights from Delhi and may be lower for connecting flights to international destinations.
The gap in airfare is reportedly narrowing, particularly as direct connectivity to Vietnam has improved in recent years, including from some tier-II cities like Ahmedabad. Nevertheless, reaching Goa remains a more budget-friendly option with multiple transportation choices. Trains from various parts of the country, costing nearly half of airfares, provide an alternative. While this comes with a trade-off of longer travel times, especially from north Indian cities, where the journey can take up to 48 hours one-way, overnight buses operate from major cities such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore.
For a fair comparison, Mint has analyzed flight prices for all three destinations. The additional cost of flying to Vietnam or Thailand, however, can potentially be offset through savings on accommodation and meals.
Regarding food expenses, it is highlighted that both Vietnam and Thailand offer extremely affordable options, unlike Goa, which lacks a robust street food culture, resulting in a narrower choice of food. Two sit-down meals in Goa may cost around ₹1,500 per day, leaving limited room for budget adjustments. Conversely, the Southeast Asian countries provide abundant street food choices at very reasonable rates, allowing one to manage all three daily meals for under ₹1,000 by combining street food and restaurant dining. For seafood enthusiasts, Vietnam is particularly recommended.
The combined difference in hotel and meal costs can potentially compensate for the additional 50-100% expenditure on flights to those destinations.
Another significant distinction lies in transportation. While Goa is a small state, Vietnam and Thailand are entire countries, necessitating inter-city travel. This may involve additional flight costs, such as from Bangkok to Krabi or Phuket in Thailand or from Hanoi to Da Nang in Vietnam, adding ₹7,000-10,000 to the overall budget. Although buses or overnight trains offer cheaper alternatives in both countries, the extended travel times of 14-20 hours may not be suitable for those on a one-week holiday.
However, local commuting within cities is reasonably priced in Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand. Similar to Goa, self-driven bikes or cars can be rented for ₹500-1,800 per day. Additionally, most Thai cities offer affordable public transport options ranging from ₹50-200 per day. In contrast, Goa primarily relies on hiring cabs or self-driven vehicles for city transportation.
Ultimately, well-planned trips to Vietnam, Sri Lanka or Thailand can be equally or even less expensive than Goa. Savings can be achieved through dining in local eateries and opting for overnight trains for intercity travel, when feasible. When it comes to local commuting, choosing a scooter or car rental over cabs is recommended. Despite potential higher transportation costs in Vietnam and Thailand, these destinations are viewed as better experiences compared to Goa.
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