The mobile internet in Goa has greatly improved and you are unlikely to be far from a shop selling 3/4G dongles and prepaid SIM cards. You may not get the best broadband speed in Goa, but we had little trouble running an internet based business on a 3G dongle. We also regularly used video conferencing and watched some BBC TV via a slow proxy.
WHAT YOU NEED AS AN INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLER TO GET CONNECTED
Getting a prepaid SIM and dongle in India is a slightly more bureaucratic than in the West. Experiences differ according to providers and their agents, but with some preparation all should be fine. Here what you may need
- A photocopy of your passport.
- A photocopy of your visa. (many shops have photocopying machines and will charge around Rs.5 for making you a copy – if they have electricity)
- A Passport sized photograph.
- Proof;of where you are staying in India. (Our shop accepted our landlords mobile number, but try to get a note from who is providing your accommodation or the front-desk).
- Proof of residency in your home country. (i.e. a utility bill or some other official document with your address)
- Your original passport for reference.
More recently the Indian Government restricted providers to selling packages with SIM connectivity for longer than 3 months. Expect to pay around RS. 3,000 – 4,000 (£35 – £50) for a dongle and some pre-charged credit. (Update as 20/12/2013 this does not seem to have been enforced. We have 6 months on our package. However, the Government have taken charge of activating data cards and you need to wait 3 days from purchase to be able to make that phone call to get started.)
Top Tip: Use a shop or agent close to you. Although it should only take 10-20 minutes to get you connected, your continued service depends on the agent submitting your details.
Another Tip: Pack a long USB cable for laptop use. You usually get a short one with your dongle, but having a long one allowed us to find the best spot in our apartment (well actually we dangled it over our balcony).
Scam Alert: We were sold a “special deal” where we would supposedly get automatic monthly top-ups. No such package existed and we were charged for credit that never came. If possible, it is worth checking in advance the online rates for your planned provider as shops will show out of date tariffs – if it suits them. Here’s the data packages for our provider Reliance.
WHO IS THE BEST INTERNET PROVIDER FOR GOA?
You are probably best to ask locally and base your choice on the experience of others using internet where you are staying:
Reliance – was our choice as they were the only provider (in 2012) who did not charge roaming when traveling to other Indian states. Additionally other dongle users and shops in Benaulim South Goa told us they were the most reliable. We had some connection issues when we stayed in another guesthouse there, but the beach was a reliable spot. It appeared to perform well when we toured in North and South Goa. (Update our experience using Reliance in January 2014 in South Goa has been incredibly frustrating. Mostly unusable and their customer service repeated say it will be “definitely” be fixed in so many hours and it never is. Interestingly they also claim to have no return policy. Our internet shop as stop selling Reliance because of complaints
Tata DoCoMo (Tata Proton). We used a Tata proton back in 2008 when connection speeds were generally 2G and it was reliable. Judging by the amount of advertising in Goa and the fairly positive comments on internet forums it is a contender. Update 15/03 2016 testing again in 2015 it was very poor for 3G, although it was being used by local beach shacks for their customers).
Airtel – is the most popular network in India. We used them in Mumbai and it gave us the best dongle speeds we have experienced (around 4-5 MB per second). However, it never connected for more than a second or two in Goa (North or South). We were not happy with their customer service or that they sold us a Mumbai SIM that (should it have worked) would carry a heavy roaming charge where we planned to use it. On reflection, maybe we should have taken notice of the extremely irate customer in their shop when we were buying!.
Vodafone is the second most popular provider in India and and in 2011 the rolled out 3G to Goa,
but we can not comment on their service. Update 15/03 2016. We now use Vodafone which for our area (Benaulim Beach) has the fastest speed (approximately 5-6 mbps). It’s much faster and more reliable than BSNL (the Indian Government owned Broadband). It is the most expensive for data too. I have seen other recent reports from travellers across Goa finding this to be the best service.
One extra tip is that you can buy a dongle from Idea which unlike other provider is not locked can be used to host other SIM cards. This is what we did to try out different services.