We are trying to make our life a little more comfortable for the beginning of our trip, so we decided to book a guesthouse in Goa for our first week. Naturally, this was the engineer’s task, since I’m in charge of um.. like a lot of other things. Like, really. (Seriously, he’s the doer in this duo, so most of these practical things are his responsibility.)
Anyway, after some searching online, he found a small, nice looking hotel in Arambol, Goa. It’s got some nice reviews on TripAdvisor and we just wanted to book it. (Yes, there will be a review on it later.) However, there wasn’t any cool booking system on their website, and the hotel couldn’t be found on any online booking sites. This is actually quite common for small guesthouses in Goa. Typically, you just walk in and ask if there is any room. This time, me being a princess and the engineer being in a serious need of a vacation without any hassle, we decided to opt for having a room waiting for us when we arrive.
The enginerd, aka the detective, was able to find their email address. After asking the price and availability for our preferred days, they sent us email and asked half of the price as deposit. They don’t have any fancy credit card processors so they asked us to pay with Western Union and gave us their name. Now, this is where it got funny. We here in Northern Europe are not very familiar with paying with such a service. Yeah, the two of us sometimes use Paypal or other online payment services, but there is usually no need to use any money transfer service here. The idea in our head was that it means going to our nearby Western Union branch and giving them some cash, which they would then somehow send forward, the money magically appearing in Goa in a day or two. Trust us, we were quite surprised when we first learned there even is such a thing in our small home town…
Actually it is quite different from what we thought. You can go to www.westernunion.com and do everything online. First we of course checked that they don’t ask for huge processing fees, and found out they take 3 euros for credit card to cash deliver and give you an okayish exchange rate. Sounds reasonable, considering the hotel we’re about to book wasn’t very expensive to begin with, so even with the added charges still really super cheap.
So, this is how it goes: First you’ll have to register as a user, basically you just give them your name, email address and phone number. You don’t have to prove your identity if you don’t send over 1000 euros. After registration you just fill the receiver’s name and country. Then insert the amount to be send and select payment method, credit card or bank transfer. For some reason credit card payment didn’t work for us and we had to use online banking which was for somehow 1.90 euros more expensive. After that it went through nicely. We got our ten digit tracking code which the receiver needs to get the money.
We sent mail to the guest house with that number and also our own info. Everything seemed to go smoothly, but then after 10 minutes we got an email. Our transaction was on hold and we were to call a local toll free number. We called the call center, where this very Russian sounding (no, we’re not in Russia) lady answered. They asked for the tracking code (in a very thick Russian accent. Like, really, we’re not in Russia. Why?) After that she said that our transaction has to be verified and asked the engineer to wait for 3 minutes on the phone. Couple of minutes later she told that everything is sorted out and the receiver could pick up the money. Quite an unnecessarily big trouble for paying for a hotel room, but first time for everything…
Although far more complicated than paying with credit card, the service was fast enough. Just one day later, the engineer received an email from Western Union saying that the money had been picked up, and soon after that the hotel sent us a confirmation of booking the room.
Now we hopefully have a hotel room waiting for us in Goa. Yeah, yeah, we know, it’s really super fancy and uncool to book anything in advance there. But forgive us, we’ll need some luxury for the first month of our journey, after that it’ll be more about building a new life abroad, trying to figure out what we want and how can we afford it. It’s going to be so cool!! (We are also mentally prepared for the option of things going wrong, not having a room, and OMG being forced to actually talk to people to find accommodation 😉 .)
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Hi guys! We use Western Union quite a bit & the pay online function is pretty cool, although where we live it is subject to limits before you have to go down to the office and get verified (you can send up to a lifetime total of EUR 1,100 before this happens I think). WU is good when there’s no other real way to get the person some cash (and you can do it online). Paypal and bank account transfers are blocked between countries sometimes, think Western and far Eastern Europe, and WU gets the job done fast with an OK fee.
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Good points! I think we’re just too used to having a great online banking system. Also, most often the hotels we book have some sort of booking system online, where you can you pay either with your credit card or online bank account. This was just really new to us, but now I think we’ve tried pretty much every existing method to pay for accommodation (except for doing dishes or other more questionable ways 😉 ).