Mumbai Guide: Planning Your Trip

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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

  • Best Time to Visit: Mumbai has a tropical climate. It experiences hot, humid weather during April and May, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). 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 26-30 degrees Celsius (80-86 Fahrenheit) 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 25-28 degrees Celsius (77-82 Fahrenheit) during the day, although nights can be a little chilly.
  • Language: Marathi, Hindi and English.
  • Currency: Indian rupee.
  • Time Zone: UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) +5.5 hours, also known as Indian Standard Time. Mumbai does not have daylight saving time.
  • Getting Around: 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.

Getting There

Mumbai is located in the state of Maharashtra, on the west coast of India. Mumbai's airport is one of the main entry points into India. It has been substantially upgraded in recent years, including the addition of a new integrated Terminal 2 for international flights. Domestic airlines are in the process of relocating to Terminal 2 in a phased manner. Terminal 2 is located in Andheri East while the domestic terminal is in Santa Cruz, 30 kilometers (19 miles) and kilometers 24 (15 miles) 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 less early in the morning or late at night when traffic is lighter.

Things to Do

Unlike some other Indian cities, Mumbai isn't known for its historical monuments. However, its Gothic Colonial buildings and Art Deco architecture are 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.

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.

Depending on how long you're going to be in the city, you may want to follow this itinerary for 48 hours in Mumbai or itinerary for a week in Mumbai. Take a look at these 101 places to visit in Mumbai as well.

If you're feeling in need of relaxation and rejuvenation, book a treatment at one of these luxury day spas in Mumbai.

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. Foodies may wish to take this guided market food walk that explores Maharashtra's local cuisine in depth. It ends at a Maharashtrian specialty cafe.

You can also try these iconic restaurants in Mumbai for everything from experimental to traditional Indian food.

Being a coastal city, Mumbai has some cool bars with amazing views too. Check out these top bars in Mumbai with the best atmosphere. Or, if beer is your thing, head to these top tap rooms and brew pubs in Mumbai or popular hangout bars in Mumbai with cheap beer.

Where to Stay

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.

Culture and Customs

Mumbai has a population of more than 20 million people, making it India's second largest city (rapidly expanding Delhi is now the largest). A majority of the people are migrants from other states, who have come in search of employment. Read more about daily life in Mumbai.

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

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