The infamous Mumbai local train, formally called the Mumbai Suburban Railway, 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 passengers per day!
Not only is the Mumbai local one of the busiest commuter rail systems in the world, it's also known to be one of the deadliest. 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 on the rooftop (yes, they do get electrocuted). What's more, passengers sometimes fall out of the trains, get trampled, and get run over.
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 Suburban Railway is part of the oldest railway network in India -- also said to be the oldest in Asia. It was established by the British East India Company. The first train started running between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) in Mumbai and Thane in 1853. This was followed by trains between Churchgate and Virar in 1867.
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. Borivali is convenient for visiting Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and it's a long train ride to the other side of the city. If you're heading to the international 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", operate on the Western Line (the Churchgate-Virar route). Special revamped Uttam carriages, with extra security and comfort features, have also been added to one train on this route with about 10 services a day. It runs as a normal train.
Hours of Operation
- The first train departs Churchgate at 4.15 a.m. Trains operate until around 1 a.m.
- It's recommended that you only travel during the day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to avoid the morning and evening rush hours.
- If you really want a maximum experience in the "Maximum City" of Mumbai, try observing rush hours from the safety of the platform. Traveling during this time is quite dangerous and not for the faint-of-heart!
- 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 relatively quiet, and are good days to ride the Western Line (the Central Line still draws the crowds).
Types of Tickets and Passes
- First Class and Second Class tickets are available. Apart from padded seats, First Class carriages aren't any more luxurious than the other carriages. The higher price of tickets (about 10 times more than Second Class) merely keeps the majority of passengers out, therefore providing more space and order.
- The minimum fare for a single "point to point" trip is 5 rupees. It's 50 rupees in First Class, and 65 rupees in Air-Conditioned Class.
- A Mumbai Local Tourist Pass is available for one day (75 rupees in Second Class/275 rupees in First Class), three days (115 rupees in Second Class/445 rupees in First Class), or five days (135 in Second Class/510 rupees in First Class). The passes provide unlimited travel on all lines of the Mumbai local train network.
- Commuters mostly use a Monthly Pass or Season Pass.
How to Pay
- Ticket counters at the main entrance of each railway station accept cash. However, the lines are usually serpentine and slow moving.
- Purchasing a rechargeable Smart Card will enable you to get tickets from Automatic Ticket Vending Machines at the stations and avoid the lines.
- It's also possible to buy tickets online via the UTS Mobile Ticketing app but this is too difficult to set up if you're not an Indian resident.
How to Find Your Train
Locating the platform that your train will depart from can be confusing. Trains are commonly identified by their final destination. For southbound trains, ask for trains going to CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) or Churchgate. 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" (in the image above), will be a fast train terminating at Virar on the Western Line.
In addition, northbound trains will usually stop on Platform 1 and southbound trains on Platform 2.
Train Seating Arrangements
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. The other carriages are referred to as "general compartments".
The ladies' compartments aim 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.
If you're traveling First Class, look for a carriage with red and yellow stripes.
Getting On and Off the Train
Forget your manners when riding 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.
Other Travel Tips
- Download the m-Indicator app for quick access to timetables and routes.
- When traveling, keep away from the train 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.
- Do not take a northbound train heading to Virar (on the Western Line) during rush hours. It's just too crowded and aggressive.