Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Mumbai City, India

Trips to Mumbai: A Complete Guide

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Mumbai, officially named Bombay until 1995 , is the financial capital of India and the home of India's Bollywood film industry. Also called India's "Maximum City," Mumbai is known for its extreme standards of living, fast-paced lifestyle, and the making (or breaking) of dreams. It's a cosmopolitan and increasingly westernized city that's an important base for industry and foreign trade.

Mumbai's interesting history saw it controlled by the Portuguese for 125 years until, incredibly, it was given to the British as part of a wedding dowry. Catherine Braganza (the Princess of Portugal) married Charles II (the King of England) in 1662, and the city was included as a dowry gift. At the time, it was group of seven islands. The British firstly developed Mumbai as a port, before embarking on extensive urban construction works in the early 1800s. After India obtained Independence in 1947 and the British departed, a population boom followed, brought about by the lure of wealth and opportunities unavailable elsewhere in the country.

Find out what to know before you go in this Mumbai travel guide.

Planning Your Trip to Mumbai

  • Best Time to Visit: Mumbai has a tropical climate. It experiences hot, humid weather during April and May, with temperatures around 86 degrees F (30 degrees Celsius). The onset of the southwest monsoon begins in early June and rain is experienced until October. The weather remains humid, but the temperature drops to around 80-86 degrees F (26-30 degrees C) during the day. Following the monsoon, the weather gradually becomes cooler and drier until winter sets in, in late November. Winters in Mumbai are pleasant, with top temperatures of 77-82 degrees F (25-28 degrees C) during the day, although nights can be a little chilly.
  • Language: Marathi, Hindi, and English.
  • Currency: Indian rupee.
  • Getting Around in Mumbai: App-based cabs such as Uber and Ola are the most convenient way of getting around. Taxis also operate in south Mumbai. You'll only find auto rickshaws in the suburbs, as these noisy little creations aren't allowed to travel any further south than Bandra. Mumbai also has a local rail network with three lines—Western, Central, and Harbour—which extend outwards from Churchgate in the city center. The air-conditioned Metro train network currently operates one line from east to west, from Ghatkopar to Versova, in the suburbs. The local train offers a relatively fast way to travel, but it gets suffocating during rush hours. Riding the Mumbai local train is a must-do experience in the city, though. Bus services operate in Mumbai but they can be slow and unreliable, not to mention hot and uncomfortable.
  • Travel Tip: Try to visit Mumbai during the annual Ganesh festival, particularly on the last day when all the idols are immersed, for an unforgettable experience.

Things to Do in Mumbai

Unlike some other Indian cities, Mumbai isn't known for its historical monuments. However, its gothic colonial-era buildings and art deco architecture are just as interesting. In fact, Mumbai has the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world, after Miami. Many of them can be found along Marine Drive. Beyond the impressive architecture, Mumbai has a thriving nightlife scene and plenty of attractions to keep visitors entertained for weeks.

To get acquainted with the city, consider taking one or more of these informative Mumbai tours. Or, explore these cool Mumbai neighborhoods or take a boat out into the harbor.

Shopaholics shouldn't miss these markets in Mumbai and best places to buy handicrafts in Mumbai.

For even more inspiration, read our full guides to the best things to do in Mumbai and the best architecture.

CST Railway Station, Mumbai.
Gavin Hellier / robertharding/Getty Images

What to Eat and Drink

Mumbai has some distinctive street foods such as vada pav (a spicy deep fried ball of mashed potato in a bun) and pav bhaji (spicy mashed vegetables served with a bun). Head to the snack stalls on Girgaon Chowpatty to sample them at sunset. Being a coastal city, Mumbai has some cool bars with amazing views too. Or, if beer is your thing, head one of the top tap rooms and brewpubs in the city or popular hangout bars in Mumbai with cheap beer.

Learn more with our full guide to the best restaurants in Mumbai.

Where to Stay in Mumbai

Most tourists stay in south Mumbai's Colaba or Fort districts. Unfortunately, Mumbai is an expensive city and the price of accommodations can be shocking for what you get (or, rather, don't get). If you're on a tight budget, there are still some decent options for you. Also recommended are the top Mumbai budget hotels below $150 and best 5-star hotels in Mumbai.

Getting There

Mumbai is located on the west coast of India in the state of Maharajah. Mumbai's airport is one of the main entry points into India. It was substantially upgraded in 2014, including the addition of a new integrated Terminal 2 for international flights. Terminal 2 is located in Andheri East while the domestic terminal is in Santa Cruz, 19 miles (30 kilometers) and 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the city center respectively. The terminals share a runway though. Travel time to the city center is around an hour and a half. However, it's much shorter early in the morning or late at night when traffic is lighter.

Culture and Customs of Mumbai

The Mumbai metro area has a population of more than 20 million people, making it one of India's largest cities. A majority of the residents are migrants from other states, who have come in search of employment.

Despite its overcrowding and other problems, Mumbai remains one of the safest cities in India, especially for women. Normal standards of care should, however, be taken, especially after dark.

Mumbai traffic, on the other hand, is horrendous. Roads are extremely congested, horns continually blare, and people overtake from both sides at whim. You should be particularly careful when crossing the road, and don't attempt to drive yourself. Avoid traveling on the local trains during rush hours, as there have been instances of people getting crushed or falling out of trains.

Be careful of pickpockets in tourist areas, such as the Colaba Causeway Market. Begging is also a problem in tourist areas and at traffic lights.

As always in India, it's important not to drink the water in Mumbai. Instead, buy readily available and inexpensive bottled water to keep healthy.

Article Sources
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  1. Slate. "How Bombay became Mumbai". July 12, 2006