Mumbai For First Time Travellers: Complete Guide

Mumbai

 

I love traveling and exploring the world, one detail at a time. I am a firm believer of the idea that traveling is learning when you explore the details of a destination with someone who understands, knows and lives in the circumstances. While traveling, I always try looking out for locals who can tell me more about the place, verify the authenticity of the food, talk about the history and culture and the reasons behind the lifestyle of the community. The knowledge of these factors makes a destination more than just a scenic backdrop.

The sensitivity that is developed through this knowledge and understanding is helpful in not just making the local community more comfortable with intruders like us in their vicinity but also helps us connect and respect their cultures, as a payback. It is these little things that stay with you long after.

While many of us love to travel and explore, we are all locals to someplace. I am a native of the Indian city of Mumbai which I proudly call home. As a payback to the travel community, I believe it is essential to not just share the experiences and hacks of getting around different cities in the world, but also your own. While my perspective may not be that of a tourist, I can assure you an insight into some of the best activities and experience in my city, Mumbai.

Mumbai

What is today known as Mumbai was earlier called Bombay, a city made of 7 islands that came together over the years. Mumbai is the ‘Financial Capital of India’. This is where all the big businesses happen. Mumbai is also home to some of the biggest workforces in the world- the Indian Film Industry, the News and Media Industry. No wonder, Mumbai is also called ‘The City of Dreams’. Hundreds of people migrate to the city each day to earn a living.

Mumbai, located on the coast of the Arabian Sea is a maximum city with an extremely busy lifestyle and fast pace. Many often say, “If you can survive in Mumbai, you can live in any corner of the world!”

Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. Not even in the middle of the night! There is so much to explore in this city and yet what will surprise you the most is the spirit of the city!

One of the key advantages of exploring Mumbai is striking the balance on your trip to India. Of all Indian cities, Mumbai is the most liberal, accommodating and cosmopolitan of them all. It truly is the amalgamation of cultures, classes, traditions and more.

Also read: Things to know while traveling to Mumbai

Understanding the geography of Mumbai

Mumbai comprises of 7 islands.

The city can be briefly divided into- South Mumbai (Town side), Suburbs (Bandra to Borivali), New Bombay, Thane-Vashi.

One of the most unique aspects of Mumbai is the location of its airport. Unlike most cities in India and abroad, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport is situated in the center of the city, making your commute easier.

How to get around Mumbai?

Getting around Mumbai is very, as the city is very well connected with a range of public transport options. The tricky bit however is getting past the traffic, at all hours.

Local Train: The local trains or the Mumbai Local as it is called is considered as the lifeline of the city with over 7 million passengers commuting around the city every day. The Local Trains in Mumbai are divided into 3 segments- Western Line, Harbour Line, and Central. These 3 segments signify the different routes across the city, covering a majority area.

These trains are a highly reliable option for intracity transport with routes connecting every nook and corner of the city. Some routes also have air-conditioned trains in operation.

The ticket can be purchased at the ticket counter at the entrance of every railway station before each journey. You can also purchase a travel pass with limited validity for regular transfers, depending on your stay.

There is no punching system for the tickets, but you may be asked to produce your ticket by the ticket collectors while on the train or on the railway station, so make sure you keep your ticket safely to avoid a hefty fine.

Buses: Buses have been the common man’s preferred mode of transportation for the longest time. BEST buses cover Mumbai extensively with its widespread bus routes covering every major area in the city. However, you must have too much patience to take these buses, especially for long routes. Thanks to the traffic, it’s extremely time taking. But then again, these are super cheap to commute around the city!

Autos/Taxis: Kaali Peelis are the black and yellow taxis and Autorickshaws in Mumbai. The Kaali Peeli taxes operate all around the city. The Autorickshaws, however, operate only in the suburbs- Borivali to Bandra. After Bandra, you need to switch to a taxi.

Both autos and taxis run by a prefixed electronic meter. These are the private transport options within the public transport domain in Mumbai.

Ola/Uber: Ola/Uber taxi rentals have become increasingly popular in Mumba over the last couple of years. You can now download the app and book your ride which will take you door-to-door.

This is definitely the most comfortable option of all.

Rental Cars: For tourists, rental cars are a good option to drive around the city or to take day-trips from Mumbai. The rentals depend on the company and the fuel prices are fluctuating on a daily basis. You can also get a driver with a car or opt for self-drive options if you have an International Drivers license.

TRAFFIC: Mumbai, in the simplest terms if one of the most trafficked cities in the country (and also in the world). Unlike Dubai, it takes at least 40 minutes to cover 10kms in regular traffic. Keep that in mind at all times and make sure to plan your travels accordingly.

What to eat in Mumbai?

Food is a major high in Mumbai! Especially, street food. Honestly, you’re unlikely to find the kind of Mumbai or Indian food in general, anywhere in the world. Also, the majority of dishes in Mumbai or anywhere in India is likely to vegetarian- which means that it contains no meat, no egg or fish.

Here are some dishes that you absolutely must try:

Cutting Chai: Mumbai is a city of hard-working people. And what keeps them fuelled through a hectic day of work is numerous glasses of ‘Cutting Chai’. Since tea drinking is a repeated activity in the day, Chai (tea) is served in small glasses, usually only filled a little more than half. This Chai has a strong aroma and contains milk and sugar as a part of its making.

Vada Pav: Vada Pav for your best understand is the Indian counterpart of a burger only with spiced potato in the patty instead of beef or any other meat. Served with a range of chutneys, the Vada Pav is the true favorite amongst Mumbaikars. Many binge on two of these as their lunch. At a Vada Pav stall, you will also find Samosa Pav, Bhajiya- fried savories that are really yummy!

If your tolerance to spice is low, be sure to ask for sweet chutney or request the vendor to skip any chutney at all.

Bun Maska: Bun Maska means Bread and Butter, a regular at Parsi cafes and roadside eateries serving tea.

Idli-Dosa: Idli is a form of a savory rice cake. While dosa is similar to crepes. These south Indian staples are best enjoyed with spicy coconut chutneys and sambhar. A range of fillings is available with dosa to make it full of flavor. You can find idli-dosa being sold in restaurants and at street-side stalls. This one is quite a favorite amongst Mumbaikars!

Omelette Pav: Eggs are best enjoyed for breakfast around the world. In Mumbai, eggs can be relished at any hour of the day. Across the city, you will find many stalls serving egg items. Omelette Pav is one of the most common offerings followed by Bhurji Pav (scrambled eggs), Half Fry (Sunny Side Up) and a Paratha. These egg dishes are served by the street, and are portable too!

Pav Bhaji: Another favorite amongst Mumbaikars is the Pav Bhaji. Pav Bhaji is a preparation of mixed vegetables and spices cooked in lots of butter and mashed well before serving. This bhaji is served with buttered pavs (bread) and some chopped onions and lemon. The Pav Bhaji is usually spicy and tangy and likely to please your taste buds if you’re up for the flavor. Pav Bhaji is served at various restaurants across the city but is best savored at the stalls at Juhu/ Girgaon Chowpatty.

The other offerings at these stalls include Tava Pulao, Fried Rice, etc.

Chat: Chat refers to the savory snacks which are combined together to create a burst of flavors in your mouth. Sev Puri, Pani Puri, Bhel Puri are some of the top items at any regular chat stall. While all of these dishes are my personal favorites and the most favorite evening snack for most Mumbaikars, you can choose to have it basis your tolerance for spice and flavors.

Falooda: In case you thought that the food in Mumbai was all about spice, you’re mistaken. Falooda is a cold dessert in Mumbai which is a delectable mix of ice cream, sweetened milk, dry fruits, Tukmaria and vermicelli topped with rose syrup.

What to do in Mumbai?

Sight-seeing

Mumbai has a range of options that are considered favorites amongst most tourists. Most of these options are rather contemporary and significant of the developments in the last 100 years.

Gateway Of India

Taj Mahal Hotel

Elephanta Caves

Dharavi Slums

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangralaya

Jehangir Art Gallery

National Museum of Indian Cinema

Kala Ghoda

Marine Drive

Film City

Bandra Worli Sea Link

Shopping

Chor Bazaar

Dadar Flower Market

Colaba Causeway

Fashion Street

Elco Market

Hindmata, Dadar

Religious Places

Haji Ali Dargah

Shri Siddhivinayak Temple

Babulnath Temple

ISKON Temple

Mount Mary Church

Beaches

Juhu Beach

Girgaon Chowpatty

Gorai Beach

Madh Island

Also Read: Travelling To Mumbai With Family

Pro-Tip: Bollywood Connect

It’s always a good idea to make a Bollywood reference in Mumbai. Some of the popular actors you can refer to are Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit.

You must also consider listening to Bollywood music (just for feels).

Watching a Bollywood Movie in Mumbai is always a good idea as well!

Important Words

Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and English are commonly spoken/ understood in Mumbai by the locals. While many understand and talk in English, it helps to know a few basic words-

Hello- Namaste | Namaskar

Thank You- Dhanyavaad

Help- Madat Havi

Where? – Kaha | Kuthe

How much?- Kitne ka? | Kiti la?

My name is- Majha naav ___ aahe | Mere naam ___ hai

Beware

Much like every city, Mumbai too has its list of cons waiting for every tourist. The best you can do is beware:

  • Getting around Mumbai is extremely easy. You can count on the locals to guide you in the right direction.
  • Locals- pan wallahs, street vendors are more reliable with directions than google maps.
  • Mumbaikars are used to spicy food with lots of chilly in most dishes. While ordering, specify your tolerance level for spices
  • Preplan your trip keeping the traffic situation in mind
  • Monsoons in Mumbai are extreme and are likely to affect the entire city, be prepared (June-September)!
  • You can get a glass of water for free in any restaurant without ordering anything. It’s considered courtesy.
  • Be extremely careful while touring Dharavi – it can be dangerous with the range of activities
  • You can pay by card in most restaurants and cafe, but you need to have cash on you for commuting and street side buys
  • Always bargain before buying
  • Dress appropriately (pants below knees)
  • Don’t worry! Street food is not as unhealthy as it is made to be.

We hope our series of posts on Mumbai helps you explore our city better! If you may have any questions or queries, feel free to comment below or drop a mail at awaradiaries@gmail.com

We’d be happy to help!

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