Mumbai is a city of extra sensory everything. The lights are bright, the colors are vibrant, the food is full of flavor and sunsets offer captivating warmth. The smells – yeah, those will get you too. It’s a captivating place to visit, but to maximize your trip there are a few things to know before you go.

Traffic

Mumbai traffic is epic, even in comparison to New York, Bangkok and many of the worst traffic cities. Rides between the city and the airport can take easily over an hour, even though the distance is just 14 miles from the city’s southernmost tip. Plan accordingly for any flights.

Hygiene

Mumbai, like most of India offers water unsuitable to foreigners. Most top hotels will filter water and offer bottled options, but be very careful not to swallow in showers or when brushing teeth. It’s when you let your guard down that poisoning can happen.

Monsoon

Most smart travelers agree that October – February is the best time to visit. Weather is mild, dry and gorgeous. Beginning in late May and early June, Monsoon season starts, bringing periods of endless rain and extreme weather through to September. Summer, from March to May can be extremely hot as well.

South

South Mumbai is generally regarded as the most upscale area. You’ll find top hotels such as the Oberoi, Taj Mahal Palace and others in the south part of the city, near Nariman Point and Marine Drive. Other locations will be fine, but expect things to be busier the more central or northern you are.

Spice Market

Mumbai is home to many incredible spice markets. You’ll find an amazing insight into the daily cuisines of city dwellers with rich and powerful smells and views to offer an unforgettable experience. Many markets have become tourist traps, but if you aim for places like Lalbaug Market you’ll have an authentic experience without getting hassled.

Money

ATMs are available throughout Mumbai, making it easy to procure Indian Rupees at bank exchange rates, rather than bad rates at currency exchange centers found in airports. A US dollar is roughly 63 rupees. A British Pound is 86 Rupees. Unlike many rural parts of India, Mumbai is expensive even by Western standards. It’s a banking capital, so expect to pay top dollar.

Staring

Especially for women, staring is a common issue in India. Groups of men are known to stare at women, especially foreigners. Always stick to well traveled areas and if possible, stick to groups. Most of the staring is harmless and more curious than anything else – but safety first.

Street Food

Mumbai offers lots of famous street food – but be very careful. If you’re going street, stick to things that don’t involve water or meat. Dishes like Bhel Puri, Chaat and Dhaal are staples of Mumbai and must try’s, perhaps just in a top restaurant instead of a random street stall.

Uber

Uber works in Mumbai. The app is generally very safe and unlike other cities, all drivers are professionals. The taxis will be very basic and offer very little room for luggage, so if you’re traveling heavy – you may need to order multiple rides if more than two people are riding.

Visas

This applies to all of India, but citizens of most countries are required or suggested to apply for an e-visa. E-visas are roughly $65 per person and take a minimum of 48 hours to process. You can complete the process online in about 20 minutes, provided you have a photocopy of your passport and a passport style photo of you with a white background – that’s not your actual passport photo.

Fancy Food

Unlike many major cities, the best food is actually found in hotels. Top hotels are renowned for having the best Indian food as well as international delights – and on weekends, locals flock to hotels for outrageously indulgent meals. So basically, don’t feel bad about eating in the hotel, it’s as good as it gets!

Any other practical tips for first time visitors?