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Mumbai (Bombay)

India Gate in Mumbai, by the harbor
"Mumbai" was last updated on Jan 26, 2013
All information below is subject to change

In this article, you'll learn about the pros and cons of this mega city!

It's hard to describe Mumbai. The south part of the city, in Colaba and Apollo Bunder area, is stunning with colonial buildings, majestic hotels and buildings overlooking the ocean. It's renowned for attractions like Elephanta Island, Gateway of India and slum tours.

Colaba is the main tourist area in the city that offers amazing local food and reasonable shopping.

Don't be surprised if you get stopped in the streets and asked to play in a Bollywood movie. All the people I know who have been to Mumbai have been asked to join a Bollywood movie. Me and my friends were also asked while we were walking on Colaba causeway.

The city differs from other cities in India, like Jaipur, Varanasi, Trivandrum and Goa.

If it's your first time in India, the atmosphere may confuse you. You'll be met by a strange smell, loud and annoying noises from car honks, rickshaws, bicycles, locals yelling, nagging or following you. The streets are always packed with millions of people, cows, goats, wherever you go.

And not to mention; the visible poverty.

When you enter Mumbai, you'll see locals with amputated limbs, begging for money at almost every corner. You'll see thousands, if not millions of people, living on the streets.

They live everywhere: Right by the highways, under the bridges or even outside your guesthouse.

Poor people living by the highway in Mumbai, India A building in Mumabi, India A nice building in Mumbai, India
People living, sleeping and eating by the highway Ugly building. Nice building.

In touristy areas, locals will even follow you through several blocks just to sell you something (like an instrument or to grab your ear wax).

I experienced that a poor little girl followed me for 5 blocks so she could get some rupees. I went inside a bookstore to buy a book. She still followed me. When I bought a book, she was still there! She followed me until I took a rickshaw. Then I gave her some rupees, because I couldn't take the stalking anymore.

So, as a backpacker, you will experience this when you're in Mumbai. I'm not telling you this to scare you, but to prepare you as much as possible. I wish that someone told me!

Anyway, people are different. That's why I think you should stop by this city, so you can make up your own opinion about it :-)

Life of Mumbai in India Heavy traffic in Mumbai, India People washing the streets in Mumbai
In one of the slums Traffic Locals washing on the street

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How to get there

Mumbai is the gateway to South India and a good starting point if you want to explore further south like Karnataka (Hampi), Goa, Trivandrum in Kerala and Varkala.

By air: Chhatrapati Shivaji (known as Sahar) is the name of the international airport in Mumbai, located 30-35 km from Colaba area. The domestic terminal is located in Santa Cruz, about 24 km north.

The international and domestic airport connects with multiple destinations abroad and across India. Domestic airlines like Jet Airways and Indigo have flights to and from the city. As of January 2013, Kingfisher Airline has suspended all flights.

Cheap flights to Mumbai:

Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a pre-paid taxi to get downtown. Go to one of the counters in the arrival terminal and book a taxi there. Expect to pay around Rs 400-500 for a pre-paid taxi to Colaba (we paid Rs 350 in 2007 - prices have gone up since then). Luggage charges are additional.

The taxi ride takes about 1 hour or more, it depends on the traffic. Traffic is less early in the morning or late in the evening.

There's no direct train line from the international airport to Colaba. The closest train station is Andheri.

Take the train from Andheri and get off at Churchgate (last stop) and walk to Colaba area. There are a few buses from the airport that will take you to Andheri (15-20 minutes, less than Rs 10) or you can grab a rickshaw which are next to the bus stop.

By train: Train is the main mode of transport in India, and Mumbai is no exception. The city connects with all major cities and towns in south India, and also north India.

Here are some examples: train from Pune (from 3 hours), Goa/Madgaon (from 10,5 hours), Chennai (from 23 hours), Ahmadabad (from 6,5 hours), Udaipur (16 hours), Bangalore (from 21,5 hours), Kochi (from 21 hours).

The closest train station to Colaba is Churchgate, but only for local trains. If you're coming in from for instance; Chennai, you take the train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (IRCTC code: CSTM) and then a secondary transport to Colaba, either by taxi or rickshaw.

Click here for info on train travel in India (opens in a new window)

Map of South Mumbai:

A: Mumbai Central Railway station
B: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)
C: Churchgate
D: Gateway of India, Apollo Bundar
E: Colaba Causeway (tourist area)

View Larger Map

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Why and when did Bombay become Mumbai?

Before visiting India, I've always thought that Bombay was another city in India.

Well, I was wrong. Very wrong.

Bombay became officially Mumbai in 1995 when some Hindu politician won the elections in the state.

After the election, Bombay was renamed after the goddess Mumbadevi. As I've understood it, "Bombay" was a name that they didn't approve because it was "a corrupted English version of Mumbai." And it was a part of a larger movement to strengthen the identity of Marathi in the Maharashtra region.

Important places to know about:

  • Police Emergency Tel: 100
  • Ambulance Tel: 102
  • Fire Tel : 101
  • Prince Aly Khan Hospital on Nesbit Rd.
  • There are banks and ATMs scattered around the city.
  • If you want to send packages, try the Central Telegraph Office Hutatma Chowk or at Mandlik Rd. Otherwise you have a post office in Colaba, or the General Post Office (GPO).
  • If you don't have access to internet at your guesthouses/hotel, head for the internet cafes in the city included Colaba.

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Do you need help with your itinerary for India?

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