India’s largest city, Mumbai, is also its most vibrant and interesting. Colourful cultures, bustling businesses and plenty for you to see and do, it’s the perfect place to visit on a world cruise. Formally known as Bombay, the city is both chaotic and cosmopolitan and unlike anywhere you’ve ever visited. If you’re looking to get an authentic look at Indian life, Mumbai is most definitely the place for you.
We spoke to HOP Hostel; situated in the centre of this bustling city, they are experts at offering advice to those who are heading to Mumbai. They told us to: “Marvel at the colonial architecture in South Mumbai, do some people-watching at the Marine Drive Promenade, try some typical local snacks at Chowpatty Beach and visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station at dawn when the light is just perfect for photos! Don't forget to have a cutting chai and a traditional Mumbai Vada Pav too!”
Mumbai is the financial hub of India as well as the home of Bollywood and the sixth most densely populated city in the world. Because of this, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city, rushing around and failing to take in the best of what it has to offer. Take a look at our tips and tricks below to find out everything you need to know about visiting Mumbai.
With an estimated 28,505 people living per km2, it should come as no surprise that the trains running through the centre of Mumbai are affectionately dubbed the lifeline of the city. With the pandemonium of the roads causing heavy congestion, it is likely that you’ll find yourself taking advantage of the reliable public transport system. We asked HOP Hostel what the one thing visitors wish they knew before visiting, and they shared this with us:
“Tourists to the area wished they knew that it can take very long to get from A to B due to traffic. On the map, a distance might just be 6km but depending on the area or the time of the day it could easily take up to 1 hour! If you are okay with crowded places opt for a local train journey to cover longer distances. It's faster and you will feel incredibly adventurous standing at open train door during the ride.”
When trying to soak up as much of the energetic buzz the city has to offer, the suburban, mono and metro rails are the best way to get around. Operating from 4 am to 1 am every day, you can find a host of new locations accessible to you. According to InterNations “Every train has separate compartments for women, senior citizens, and passengers with disabilities” and information about each journey can be found on the local train service’s website.
In addition to trains, buses and taxis can also be found, although, with the unpredictable traffic, you can sometimes be facing long wait times to reach your destination, as HOP Hostel informed us. However, if you’re not in a rush, enjoy the view of the city from the top of a rooftop bus as you navigate the roads. This is one of the best ways to appreciate the day-to-day life of the locals that live in this fascinating city and provides you with a different perspective.
We heard from JB from Will Fly For Food, a travel and food blog about the transport in Mumbai. He informed us that: “If you're flying out of Mumbai, then be sure to know which terminal you're flying out from. I was flying to Delhi, so I assumed I needed to go to the domestic terminal, which is Terminal 1. But only after getting there did I learn that all Jet Airways flights – both domestic and international – were operating out of the International terminal, or Terminal 2! At many airports, this wouldn't be as big of a deal but in Mumbai, T1 and T2 are 5 km apart. Many travellers seem to make this mistake as there are unscrupulous car charters waiting to overcharge you for transfers between terminals. I fell victim to this. Don't let it happen to you. Confirm beforehand which terminal you're flying out from.”
“Mumbai might seem incredibly exhausting and busy at the first impression”, HOP Hostel advises. “However, be open-minded and dare to get off-the-beaten-paths to explore back streets and small alleyways behind the high-rise buildings. You will understand that Mumbai is just a large cluster of many small villages! The contrasts. The city is old and modern, rich and poor, loud and serene, built-up but green, Indian with western influences, exhausting but incredibly charming! So, no day is like the other and it never gets boring!”
Although you may want an authentic experience whilst in Mumbai, escaping from the inner-city madness can come with some great benefits. Not only can you relax at a slower pace, but you can also discover some hidden gems that are truly a must-see whilst in the city. Quiet docks such as the Sassoon docks date back to 1875, or you can cool off in the water at Pandavkada waterfalls on a humid day. Relish in the simplicity of nature at the Maharashtra Nature Park Society, with the botanical gardens providing the perfect backdrop for birdwatching before heading back into the city in the evening. There are so many things to uncover just off the beaten track, so keep your eyes peeled!
“I wish I knew how beautiful the architecture would be”, JB told us. “Had I known, I would have stayed longer just so I could seek out more of the city's most beautiful Art Deco buildings. I was there for a portion of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival as well. It's the city's most celebrated festival. Had I known how big it is in Mumbai, I would have stayed for the entirety of the festival.”
We spoke to JB, who loves the food in Mumbai: “Aside from the architecture, my favourite thing in Mumbai is definitely the food. There's a lot of good food to be had in Mumbai. I suggest having a veggie sandwich which is a quintessential Mumbai street food. For something more special, try the butter garlic crab at Trishna in the artsy Kala Ghoda neighbourhood. The crabs are huge and absolutely delicious!”
There’s nothing better than sitting down to sample some delicious food whilst on a cruise, and in Mumbai, there is a myriad of different dining experiences to be had. Whether you choose to slink into the sumptuous seating in a seductive restaurant such as that at Mabruk or prefer to pick up something on-the-go, such as a vada pav from Ashok Vada Pav, there is something for everyone.