Often referred to as “the city of dreams” or “the city that never sleeps,” Mumbai is India’s own New York City, bustling day and night with life. With a mix of cultures and a vibrant economy, Mumbai offers visitors unique sights as well as a taste of the world’s most prolific film industry.
Once a collection of fishing villages, Mumbai has grown to become one of the most populous cities in the world and the financial capital of India. It has the highest GDP among all the cities in southwest and central Asia. It is also the most developed city in India, though one still with many citizens living in slums. The name Mumbai originates from the Hindu goddess “Mumba Devi.” Formerly known as Bombay owing to Portugal’s influence, many residents still refer to the city by its prior name. Mumbai is also known as “the city of seven islands” because in earlier times the city comprised seven separate islands – Isle of Bombay, Colaba, Little Colaba, Mahim, Mazagaon, Parel and Worli. Joined together by a massive land reclamation project, these islands together form today’s bustling metropolis.
A city of islands means an abundance of beaches. Mumbai’s beaches can be categorized into two groups: popular and crowded or serene and secluded. The popular spots – Juhu beach, Chowpatty, Gorai beach, Band Stand, Worli Sea Face and Carter Road- are packed to the hilt throughout the year and best avoided. The quieter locations- Manori beach, Anjuna beach, Rajodi beach, Aksa beach, Silver beach, Marve beach – can be visited all alone and explored. Each of the six has distinctive sand, from Rajodi’s black sand to the white sands of Silver Beach and the rocky sand of Manori. You will get to see a different side of Mumbai on these beaches. If nothing else, you could reserve a room in one of their resorts to get away from the bustling city. In order to get to most of these beaches, you will need to take a ferry from Gorai Creek or Madh Jetty.
Marine Drive is a beach known as “the Queen’s necklace” because it garlands the city like a necklace. Huge crowds from all over flock to the Arabian Sea every day and a walk along the promenade of Marine Drive will give you a view of the diverse culture of the city. This beach that is a study in juxtaposition, crowded yet serene, happening yet peaceful and noisy yet tranquil. Hence, it cannot fall into either of the two categories above and has to have a standing of its own.
Visit the six century old temple of the city’s namesake goddess Mumbadevi Temple, and then explore the Zaveri Bazaar, a maze of gem shops and jewelers. Take a ferry from Gateway of India to explore the Elephanta Caves’ ancient carvings and drawings. Sail on a yacht in the Arabian Sea from the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. Check out the pre-independence era Afghan Church, built by the British in memory of soldiers who died in the first Afghan War. Learn about the history of the common red “BEST” buses at the BEST Museum in Wadala. Have a wish granted by Ganesh at Siddhivinayak Temple, one of the most famous temples of Mumbai. Horse race enthusiasts can place their bets at Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Awe at Mumbai’s economic power and history at the Reserve Bank of India Museum. Or escape the hustle-bustle of the city with a mini-Anapanaclass at the Buddhist Global Vipassana Pagoda.
Linking road –You can tire yourself out walking through this lane and still it never seems to end. Get varieties of slipper, shoes, bags, dresses and many other things.
Fashion Street – Street shopping on the expensive town side of Mumbai with cheap fashion close at hand. This lane has men’s clothes, women’s clothes, aviators, bags and everything else that you need to stay in fashion.
Colaba Causeway ought to be an ideal place for Americans. The lane is full of foreign shoppers. In fact, Indian shoppers have a tough time here because everything is available in the size of foreigners. Thus, an American will find the best fit of clothes and jewellery, especially costume jewelry, here.
Tip – Sellers hike prices upon seeing foreigners. Be wary of them. Nothing costs more than 150 to 200 rupees on these streets.
The name “Bollywood” is a combination of names Bombay and Hollywood, making Mumbai one of the largest film producing centers in the world. Bollywood is one of the economic engines of the city and serves to attract Indians from throughout the subcontinent just as Hollywood has done for decades. A pass or an invitation is required in order to enter popular Bollywood studios.
Theme park Adlabs Imagica celebrates film history with rides based on popular Hollywood and Bollywood films. Rides based on the popular “Mr. India” film and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few of the attractions that make this theme park is a must try.
Hill Stations, towns on mountain tops, are found on the outskirts of Mumbai and are extremely popular, such as Lonavala, Matheran, Alibaug, Ahmednagar, Mahableshwar, Panchgini, andDahanu. Mumbaikars often flock these hill stations for a break. You can reach them via train, bus or flight. All of them are just a few kilometres away from the city.
Mumbai isn’t known as the city that never sleeps for nothing. The city’s clubs are bustling as late as 3am. Young patrons crowd the clubs religiously night after night setting the pace for Mumbai. Most of these clubs hire international DJs. Some of them change themes regularly while some others work on a singular theme every day.
Smaaash is one of the most popular gaming centres in the city. You can play air hockey, simulation cricket and F1, go bowling and play arcade games out here. 21 Fahrenheit Lounge and Ice Qube will make you feel like you’re on the North Pole. Both are ice bars where everything from the seats to vodka glasses is made of ice and you enter dressed like Eskimos. AER features a terrace view of Bombay City from the top of the Four Seasons Hotel in Worli. Aurus is a restaurant that shifts its tables and turns into a dance floor on weekends; it also has a deck that faces Juhu Beach. Dome is a graphic disco, Bonobo has a jungle theme, the Den is reminiscent of South Africa and Beluga is a sports bar with an astounding assortment of international drinks.
Smaaash – Smaash, City Studio, Oasis Complex, next to Kamala Mills Compound, gate No. 4, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Lower Parel, website
21 Fahrenheit Lounge – 28, Meera Apartments, Oshiwara Link Road, Oshiwara, Jogeshwari West
Ice Qube – Meera Tower, Opposite Mega Mall, Lokhandwala (Andheri), Andheri West, website
AER – 34th Floor, Four Seasons Hotel,114, Dr E Moses Marg, Worli, Mumbai, Maharashtra, website
Aurus – Ground Floor, Nichani Kutir, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai
Dome – InterContinental Marine Drive, Marine Dr, Churchgate, Mumbai
Bonobo – 2nd Floor, Kenilworth Mall, Phase 2, Off Linking Road,, Bandra West, Mumbai
The Den – Ground Floor, Prabhat Kunj, 24th Road, Off Linking Road, Khar (W), Mumbai
Beluga – Lobby Level, The LaLiT Mumbai, Sahar, Andheri East, Mumbai, website
Mumbai is most popular for its street food and its cuisine is usually very spicy. However, since it is a coastal city, seafood also quite popular. Having Bhel Puri, Sev Puri or Pani Puri from the streets of Mumbai is the best experience you can have. Vada pav (a spicy vegetarian patty made with potato) from a corner stall is the staple food of this city and you will find a vada pav stall on any and every road. If you’re unsure about hygiene then buy a regular vada pav from the Jumbo King chain located just outside any railway station. These food items are typical to Mumbai and only found in this city. Also, don’t don’t miss out on the food at Mahesh Lunch Home. Other than that, you can visit the following Restaurants:
Marine Plaza – Hotel Marine Plaza, 29, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Mumbai, website. Meal for 2 at 2,500 INR
Apna Dhaba – Marol Pipeline, Andheri Kurla Road, Andheri East, Mumbai. Meal for 2 at 700 INR
Sai Palace – Mahakali Caves Road, Chakala, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, website. Meal for 2 at 900 INR
Mahesh Lunch Home – Kings Apartment, Near Juhu Centaur, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai, MH, website. Meal for 2 at 1,100 INR
Urban Tadka – Korum Mall, Near Cadbury Compound, Shahid Mangal Pandey Rd, Samata Nagar, Thane West, Thane, MH 400606 Meal for 2 at 500 INR
Tip: It is advisable to drink bottled water everywhere. See below for tipping guide.
JW Marriot – JW Marriott Hotel, Juhu Tara Road, website. Rates – 9,500 INR for 2 nights.
Taj Land’s End – Taj Lands End, Band Stand, Bandra (West) Maharashtra, website. Rates – 1,0,000 INR per night
Trident – Marine Drive, Nariman Point Mumbai, Maharashtra, website. Rates – 7,000 INR for 3 nights.
Getting There: Flights arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport. You can get to any of the hotels via taxi or an auto rickshaw. You can randomly hire any of the rickshaws or taxis on the road. Pre-booked cabs are also available from the airport. To avoid getting ripped off, carry a tariff card. If you have a smart phone, download mindicator.
Getting Around – Getting around the city is very easy. The city has a decent transport system. It would be best to carry a route map of both roadways and railways. Traveling can be done at nominal costs. It is best to avoid taxis and autos for they charge exorbitant prices for foreigners. The trains and buses will take you around at the cost of 3INR to 500INR approximately. If you wish to be more comfortable, use AC Buses for travelling around the city. Though, the cost of AC Buses is a little more than double than that of a normal BEST bus.
One could travel from one place to another either by bus or by train. If you wish to travel to very remote places of Mumbai you’ll have to take a ferry. The Western Railways are often known as the lifeline of Mumbai. No matter what the situation is these trains are always working. The trains were known to get back on track within 1 hour after the 7/11 bomb blasts. Such is the efficiency and reliability of Western Railways. If you are looking for decent travelling conditions at very low prices then Railways are your answer. The ticket prices are very low and the trains are clean and hygienic. If you wish to skip the huge ticket lines, then you could just buy coupons or smart cards.
Ticket prices – 5 INR to 30 INR; Coupons – Packs costing 50 INR and 100 INR; Smart Card – 20 INR and up
Language: English, Hindi, Marathi, Guajarati
The locals are well versed in English since English schools are the norm. However, shopkeepers as well as auto and taxi drivers only speak broken English. They are comfortable with languages such as Hindi or Marathi. However, communicating shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Weather: Mumbai has a tropical wet climate. Most of the year it is humid and moderately hot. Monsoon season spans June to September, with the most rain falling in July and August, often non-stop for weeks at a time. January and February are the most pleasant months, before the humidity hits in March.
Currency: The Indian Rupee (INR). ATM machines are widely available. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Very rarely would you find a place where credit cards aren’t accepted. Also, when street shopping, some vendors will accept dollars.
Tipping: In India, tip 5- 10% in restaurants if there is no service charge on the bill. It’s not necessary to tip taxi drivers but you can round up the fare. Hotels sometimes have communal tip boxes, tip porters 20 – 50 INR per bag.
Visas: Americans must have a visa to enter India – visas can only be obtained in advance and are not available on arrival. You can use this service or fill out the official form online.