If you’re going to visit Goa and have planned to rent a bike or car, keep this in mind: Don’t hire a vehicle with white number plates.

Tourists on a vehicle with a white number plate being pulled over. Pic/Joseph ZuzarteTourists on a vehicle with a white number plate being pulled over. Pic/Joseph Zuzarte

Apart from the tourist taxis and rental self-drive vehicles that have yellow number plates, there are private two-wheelers and four-wheelers with white number plates, which are illegally rented out. Since October, there is a crackdown on those driving around in them.

Once tourists on a vehicle with a white number plate are stopped, attempts to contact the dealer go in vain, and the vehicle is seized.

The current situation has come about because of a moratorium on new rent-a-bike and rent-a-car licences by the Goa government following pressure from the tourist taxi owners’ association.

The problem is directly related to the high fares charged by tourist taxis in Goa, as there is no public transport in Goa after 7 pm. Also, locals prefer to buy and operate tourist taxis which operate without meters, charging ‘fixed fares’.

All kinds of cars, from Maruti Swifts to Mercedes, and even Audis, are used as tourist taxis. The rates vary accordingly, and overcharging is common. Which is where the owners of rental vehicles have stepped in. Over the years, with the rise in tourist arrivals, the number of rental vehicles has swelled, as has the number of tourist taxis, which means more people have bought cars to rent them out.

Ravindra Vengurlekar, vice-president of the influential North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association (NGTTOA), says, “We have been protesting against the illegal renting out of private cars as it is affecting our legal taxi business.” But, Nitesh Chodankar, vice-president of the North Goa Rent-A-Cab Association, said, “We want permits for our private rental cars so that we can earn a livelihood.”