The infamous Mumbai local train has the ability to make people shudder merely on the mention of its name. However, if you want to travel from one end of the city to the other (north/south), there's no faster way to go. From a tourist perspective, riding the Mumbai local also gives a unique glimpse into daily life in Mumbai. The local rail network is the lifeline for many commuters in Mumbai—it transports an astonishing eight million commuters per day!
Unfortunately, everything you've heard (and seen) about the Mumbai local is probably true! Trains can be extremely overcrowded, the doors never close and constantly have passengers hanging out of them, and people occasionally even travel sitting on the roof.
However, if you're feeling adventurous, don't miss taking an unforgettable trip on the Mumbai local. Find out how to ride the Mumbai local train in this guide.
The Mumbai local has three lines—Western, Central, and Harbour. Each extends for more than 100 kilometers or 62 miles.
- The Western Line runs from Churchgate in south Mumbai to the city's outer north. It's regarded as the superior line because it goes through the better areas, has frequent services, and is the most reliable. However, it stops at many stations and can take quite a while to get anywhere.
- The Central Line runs from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (previously called Victoria Terminus) in south Mumbai to the city's outer northeast and southeast. It has fewer stops but is more crowded.
- The Harbor Line runs from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to Mumbai's eastern dock area, Navi Mumbai, and Panvel. It requires upgrading and is generally avoidable.
Where to Go
If you're traveling on the Mumbai local as a tourist, Mahalaxmi and Bandra on the Western Line are two good destinations. Choose Mahalaxmi due to the astonishing dhobi ghat that's situated there (plus it's close to Haji Ali, another popular attraction in Mumbai), and Bandra because it's one of the hippest and happening suburbs in Mumbai with fabulous bargain shopping and nightlife. If you're heading to the airport, Andheri is the closest station (and you can take the new Mumbai Metro train from there).
Types of Trains
Mumbai local trains are Fast (with few stops) or Slow (stopping at all or most stations). Each can be identified by "F" or "S" on the monitors at railway stations. Fast trains will stop at the stations listed in red on this Mumbai local train map.
The trains have either 12 or 15 carriages, with 12 carriages being standard.
Fast trains, and trains with 15 carriages, currently only run on the Western and Central lines.
Regular daily air-conditioned train services, denoted as "AC", recently started operating on the Western Line (the Churchgate-Virar route). Special revamped Uttam carriages, with extra security and comfort features, have also been added to some trains on this route.
When and How to Travel
If you don't want to get caught in the chaos that the Mumbai local is known for, only travel during the day from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. to avoid the morning and evening rush hours. If you're at Churchgate station at around 11.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., you'll get to see Mumbai's renowned dabbawalas in action. Sundays are also relatively quiet and are good days to travel on the Western Line (the Central Line still draws the crowds). However, if you want a maximum experience in the "Maximum City" of Mumbai, rush hours are when all the excitement occurs. It's really not for the faint of heart though!
The minimum fare for a single trip is 5 rupees. It's 50 rupees in first class, and 65 rupees in air-conditioned.
There are ticket counters at the main entrance of each railway station. However, the lines are usually serpentine and slow moving. Alternatively, you can purchase a Smart Card, which will enable you to buy tickets from Automatic Ticket Vending Machines at the stations.
Point-to-point tickets, from one destination to another, and can be purchased at the originating station. Special Mumbai Local Train Tourist passes are available for one, three, and five days. They offer unlimited travel on all lines of the Mumbai local train network.
Locating the Train
Finding out which train will depart from which platform can be confusing. Trains are usually identified by their final destination. For southbound trains, ask for trains going to CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) or Churchgate. Usually, the first letter or two of the final destination will be displayed on the overhead monitors, and alongside it either "F" or "S". For example, a train listed as "V F", will be a fast train terminating at Virar on the Western Line.
In addition, as a general rule, northbound trains will stop on Platform 1 and southbound trains on Platform 2.
Mumbai local trains have separate carriages for women (known as ladies' compartments) and senior citizens aged 60 and above, as well as for passengers with cancer and disabilities. There are also first-class carriages but they aren't any more luxurious than the other carriages. The higher price of tickets merely keeps the majority of travelers out, therefore providing more space and order.
The provision of ladies' compartments aims to improve safety and security for women. If you want to travel in one, look for the places where women are congregated together on the platform. The carriages will be positioned there when the train arrives and can be identified by the "For Ladies Only" sign written on them. Riding in one doesn't guarantee a more pleasant experience though. The women are known to behave savagely, especially when fighting over seats. You're likely to find the men in the general compartments to be more placid and courteous.
Getting On and Off the Train
Forget your manners when getting on and off the Mumbai local! There are no such niceties as waiting for passengers to disembark before boarding, so it becomes a mad scramble to get on and off the train, as all doors are jammed with people trying to do both at the same time. It's a real case of survival of the fittest, and every man (or woman) for themselves! Prepare to push, or be pushed, especially when getting on. As your stop approaches, move closer to the door to get off, and then let the crowd propel you forward.
- Keep away from the door, because people sometimes accidentally get pushed out.
- To avoid getting knocked down, keep out of the way of people in a hurry to catch a train.
- Put valuables in your bag and hold it close to your chest, because pick-pocketing is common.
- Don't catch a northbound train heading to Virar (on the Western Line) during peak hours. It's just too crowded and aggressive.