Mumbai City Guide
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India's largest metropolis where the rich and poor live side by side. Located on India's west coast, Mumbai's overcrowded populous and chaotic lifestyle can be quite a shock to the system of any unseasoned traveller.
The "City of Dreams" and birthplace of Bollywood is where the local fashionable, hip and wealthy play alongside the nation's poorest. Mumbai is a vibrant maze-like cultural melting pot of mosques, temples, ancient bazaars, old colonial buildings and skyscrapers that rub shoulders with Asia's largest slum. More than just its financial, commercial and entertainment capital, Mumbai is considered India’s LA.
Things to Do
Once you've landed in Mumbai the best thing you can do is throw yourself into the deep end with a tour of local bazaars. These markets are bursting at the seams with tiny shops where haggling is the norm. Hop from market to market exploring a range of colours and heat at the Lalbagh spice market. Shop for knock off brands, fabrics and gadgets at the Fashion Street Market. Chor Bazaar, which literally translates to Thief Market, was once the spot to pick up stolen goods while today it’s the place to buy trinkets and antiques. Whether you choose to visit one bazaar or all of them, it’s a shopaholic's paradise or a claustrophobic’s nightmare.
When one thinks of a slum, images of communities living in dire straits, hardship and misery spring to mind. However, a visit to the Dharavi Slums will soon lay this stereotype to rest. Sure the slums are overwhelming, housing is densely populated with whole families sleeping in one room, but they are far from suffering. Considered the heart and foundation of Mumbai, the Dharavi locals are a hard-working community busy recycling and working in self-sustained factories. Prepare for an eye-opening tour that will inspire and educate rather than shock you to your core.
As soon as you emerge from the slums of Mumbai you can dive head first into the glitz and glamour of India’s Bollywood. Walk behind the scenes of a Bollywood movie with an organised tour. Here you can watch a film being shot, check out a museum, and if you're lucky, even meet and greet a big-shot Bollywood actor in their makeup room! But if you’re not all that fussed about the making’s of a Bollywood movie, you can skip all the drama and head to a local cinema to catch a movie screening.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
Formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, this is the biggest museum Mumbai has to offer. From the outside, you will uncover a lot about the country's colourful history with its architectural features paying homage to its Islamic, Hindu and British influences. While its dome-shaped exterior is impressive, walk inside and explore ancient Indian history from Hindu and Buddhist sculptures to weaponry and Indian miniature paintings. All in all, the museum can offer some much-needed respite from the buzz and chaos of city life.
Nothing beats a good Indian meal and there's no place to enjoy a thali than in India itself. Mumbai is every food lover's heaven, with authentic tastes and smells wafting all around. Local specialities include a plate of Bhelpuri (a savoury puffed rice dish, topped with a tamarind sauce), a few Vada Pav's (seasoned potato patties), Pani Puri (filled crisp balls dunked in tamarind water), and a plate of Channa Bhatura. These mouth-watering delicacies alone will make you want to book your flight and accommodation now.
Mumbai traffic can be a nightmare so getting around by car might take some getting used to. While rickshaws have been banned in the city centre, there are black and yellow metred taxis available. Other options include crowded buses, or even the Metro and Railway networks where ladies-only carriages are available.
When to Go
Travel from October to March to experience pleasant weather in Mumbai. This is also the time to avoid the monsoon season from June to September. When visiting a city like Mumbai it's worth taking festivals into account. Diwali (Festival of Lights) and Holi are two festivals you should keep on your radar when planning when to travel to Mumbai.
One of the biggest health and safety threats in India is the blistering sun. Take precautions to avoid sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration. Pickpockets and scam artists are another nuisances in the city. It would pay you to be street smart by not travelling alone or showing the locals that you have money and valuables.
A day in Mumbai may feel like a week in another city, so be sure to get plenty of rest on your trip. Take a look at our listing of accommodation in the area and find a place that will give you all the comfort you will need.