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 and all the beauty you’d hope for.
The pungent smells – yeah, both lovely and otherwise those will get you too. It’s a captivating place to visit and absolutely worth going to, but to maximize your trip there are a few things to know before you go about travel to Mumbai, like how to get around, where to eat and where to stay…
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.
Seriously, it’s better to pass time in the stunning international terminal at Mumbai Airport than miss a flight and fork over $1,000s for a new flight.
Mumbai, like most of India offers water which is mostly unsuitable to foreigners.
Most top hotels will filter water and offer carafes or bottled options in your room. With that said, be mindful not to swallow, if at al possible in showers or when brushing teeth. If you slip, you’ll probably be fine, but it’s better no to chance it.
Most smart travelers agree that October – February is the best time to visit Mumbai. The weather in the bustling city is mild, dry and gorgeous, and if you time it right, there are fewer tourists as well.
Beginning in late May and early June, Monsoon season starts in Mumbai, bringing periods of endless rain and extreme weather through to September. Summer, from March to May can be extremely hot in the city as well.
South Mumbai is generally regarded as the most upscale and tourist centric 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 and less western the more central or northern you are. In a way, that can be fun, but if you’re looking to relax after a long flight and before an onward journey, stick to South Mumbai.
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 in Mumbai have become tourist traps, but if you aim for places like Lalbaug Market you’ll have an authentic experience without getting hassled and can get an insight into the true spice trade, and how people selling exactly the same thing can set up shop next door to each other and thrive for generations.
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. Yep, you should never change money at an airport, suggesting it’s a good idea is a travel myth.
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, especially when dining at hotels, which side note, tend to have some of the most preferred Indian restaurants even for locals!
Especially for women, staring is a common issue in India. The more western you look, the more blonde your hair, the more you can expect it. Groups of men are known to stare at women, especially foreigners from Western Cultures. Don’t be too alarmed though, it’s not generally threatening and more just cultural fascination.
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. With that in mind, always try and carry a usable mobile device on you.
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 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.
This applies to all of India, but citizens of most countries are required or suggested to apply for an e-visa in advance of travel.
E-visas for India are roughly $65 per person and take a minimum of 48 hours to process, so be sure to submit your application at least 49 hours before arriving at the airport for your flight to Mumbai, otherwise you likely won’t be let on the plane. You can complete the India visa 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.
Unlike many major cities, the best food is actually found in hotels.Seriously, many wealthy locals dine in hotels rather than elsewhere, so expect decadent Indian food in your hotel too.
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!