Beginner's Travel Guide for Mumbai
by Susanne Junghans
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Alright, alright, alright. You’ve made it, you are in Mumbai!
Now, even if you’ve been to other parts of this country Mumbai can still be a bit overwhelming your first time around. But don’t you worry, this guide is here to help you navigate this beautiful goliath of over 18 million people.
Mumbai is a rapidly expanding city, growing in size and numbers every day. So it’s good to know where you are in relation to the other parts of the city and get a general idea of its structure.
Unlike other cities, Mumbai stretches from south to north with a clear divide at the famous landmark, the sea link bridge.
Town is the oldest part of Mumbai which includes all southern neighborhoods from Colaba, Fort, and Kamathipura to Lower Parel, Worli, and Dadar. It is the financial part of the city and features most of the colonial architecture and cultural spots like museums, galleries, and theatres.
Bandra is the first big neighborhood you enter when you cross the sea link bridge going north. This is the hip and cool part of the city where all the Bollywood stars live.
Going further up north you will find Juhu and Versova, which are a little less crowded than Bandra but not any less fun. Because of their westernmost location, they each feature their own beach, although I wouldn’t recommend walking the shoreline with your bare feet.
Andheri, Kandivali, and Navi Mumbai are other parts of the city which I won’t get into, because they are newly formed and don’t offer as much to see and experience for first-time visitors.
Guide to get a sim-card
Whether you are going to be in Mumbai for a week or an entire month (and especially, if you’re traveling the country) you will need to get an Indian phone number. It’s a bit more complicated than in other countries, but trust me it’s worth the 10 minutes extra.
It doesn’t really matter which provider you go to, Vodafone, Airtel or else, just make sure you take your passport for identification with you. Once you’re there you’ll want to get the 28-days-package which shouldn’t cost more than 400 Rupees (5,68 USD) which will give you 200 free texts, free call and an insane amount of data which is good because google maps is going to be your new best friend.
How to travel around Mumbai
Uber, Uber, Uber. You already got it on your phone, super easy, super cheap. But in October 2018 Uber driver started striking regularly because of the low wages and it has ensued in true chaos since a lot of people have come to rely on this service. Try it nonetheless and inform yourself about the current status of events (by simply asking at the reception of your hotel).
Just like Uber but for Mumbai only and with just the same current problems. You can download it in the App store and compare fees.
Rikshaw is the Tuk Tuk in Mumbai and if you’re staying anywhere but Town (meaning, north of the sea link or Dadar) then you are in luck. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get around compared to the above-mentioned options. It’s a local mini taxi that will take you anywhere you want (except Town) as long as you know the way (didn’t I mention you’ll be needing google maps?).
How to get around in a Riksha
- Open google maps and type in the address (or building or landmark) of your destination.
- Get a rickshaw by standing by the road and waving one down.
- Tell the driver the name of the neighborhood you’re going to (e.g. Versova, Juhu, etc. but not Town). If he nods, get in. If not, then he’s not going that way and you’ll have to repeat Step 2.
- Language lesson! You guide him using these words:
Sidha/Aghe (pronounced: sid-ha/ ag-he): Straight
Aghese right/ Aghese left (pronounced: ag-hese): Next right / Next left
ALWAYS make sure the meter is on. It starts at 18 Rupees during the day and 20 Rupees during the night, always. Don’t get fooled by a driver telling you his meter is broken or his set price is 150 Rupees or 300 Rupees. Just walk a few steps and wave another rikshaw down.
Mumbai is currently building and expanding its public transportation system which is the absolute cheapest and fastest way to move between boroughs. A train ride can take you from Bandra to the southernmost part of Town in as little as 45 minutes (much less than two hours in an Uber during rush hour).
Food Guide for first time Mumbai Visitors
Mumbai is a haven for street food lovers (and foodies in general), but if it’s your first time in India you’ll want to take it easy to avoid a Delhi Belly. The following restaurants are safe and delicious options to start your culinary tour.
Located in the heart of Bandra this is the place to go if you want to safely try street foods like Pani Puri, Ragda Patti, and Bhel Puri. It also has a big assortment of Indian sweets that will satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.
Good Luck Restaurant
Good Luck Restaurant is a cafe in Bandra (close to Punjab’s Sweethouse) which serves the famous and deliciously sweet Indian tea.
Naturals Ice Cream
Do you wanna try really good ice cream with unusual flavors like jackfruit, sapodilla or custard apple? You’ll find a Naturals Ice Cream Shop in every borough from Town to Bandra, and Andheri.
Britannia & Co.
This heritage restaurant established in 1923 in Fort will have you reminisce about a colonial Mumbai while feasting on the best Parsi dishes in the entire city. If you’re lucky, the over 90-year-old owner will be there and he’ll be happy to tell you about it’s long-standing and even royal history.
Located by Juhu Beach it is a restaurant which will serve you a massive vegetarian thali made up of different types of dal, masalas, and sweets.
If you do crave salad and healthy juices but are afraid of getting sick, go to Bombay Salad in Bandra. Its big variety is high in quality and absolutely delicious!
That’s it! You’ve survived your first day in Mumbai without getting lost or taking a personal tour of its bathrooms. It will take a bit of time to adjust to the city and the contrasts but once you’ve got a grip on the things mentioned in here, you will be walking the streets like any other Mumbaikar.