Are you planning a trip to Mumbai? For me, it’s the busiest and craziest city in the world. Mumbai is home to India’s biggest film industry, Bollywood. But it is more than that. It’s also the cultural, fashion and financial capital of India.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times both for work and as a tourist with Sukh and the kids. I wrote about my special relationship with the city that keeps drawing me back. You will find some great insight in to the city that never sleeps in that post.
I’ve now come up with a list of 11 things you should know before you visit Mumbai. So if you are planning a visit, hopefully you will find my tips helpful.
1. THE PEOPLE
The people of Mumbai are known as Mumbaikars. They are a beautiful blend of different religions and communities. I find the people as endearing as the city itself. They are friendly and will do their best to help you with directions.
Even if they don’t know the answer to something, they will go out of their way to ask others on your behalf. What I like most about them is that they are hard-working. It doesn’t matter what job they do, whether they’re hotel staff or a flower seller on the street, they are not afraid to graft.
2. YOU CAN BUY ANYTHING
Whatever you fancy buying, Mumbai has it all. From designer stores to markets, from household goods to beautiful Indian outfits, from souvenirs to art. You will find huge malls with designer wear and international western brands in South Mumbai. There are also amazing boutiques where you can buy the latest lehengas and sarees. Bandra market has the best souvenirs and nik-naks.
You can also buy any sort of food imaginable. There are western fast food chains everywhere – KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks. Just be aware that a lot of restaurants do not serve beef and pork, as Mumbai has a large population of Hindus and Muslims. Lamb and chicken are the main meats you can get and be adventurous, try the Indian specialities in the fast food joints.
3. MONSOON SEASON
The city of Mumbai experiences three seasons in general; summer, winter and the monsoon. Monsoon season falls between June and September and you should avoid visiting during this time if you can. The temperature might be bearable but it is terribly humid, with thunderstorms and windy conditions.
If there is persistent heavy rain, the roads can become waterlogged resulting in travel delays across the city. Tourists to visit all-year round but in my experience, it’s best to visit between November and February. It is still hot – with temperatures reaching the high 20s and early 30s – but I think it’s manageable heat.
There is traffic at all times of the day. It is busy with a capital B. There is no such thing as a rush hour in Mumbai because every hour is rush hour. It can take up to an hour, if not more, to even get to the nearest town. The city has a population of nearly 25 million so it’s bound to impact on the city’s roads. There’s been a growth in the number of people who now own vehicles too.
Imagine all of these cars, scooters, buses and auto-rickshaws on the streets. I know the traffic situation can become really frustrating, whether you’re a tourist or reside in Mumbai and there has been much debate on how to control the problem. However, every time I visit I embrace the situation. I am prepared for the fact that I can’t reach anywhere within half an hour and as long as I plan my journey and timings, I am able to enjoy my trip. Be prepared in the same way. Always allow at least an hour to get from A to B.
This brings me nicely on to rickshaws, which are the three-wheeler black-and-yellow vehicles, also known as autos. This is the main way to travel in Mumbai because it’s easy to find a rickshaw and flag it down and it’s a cheap mode of transport because it runs on a meter. Trains might be better for longer distance travel in the city but they get really overcrowded. Personally I’ve never been on a local train in Mumbai and I prefer to travel by rickshaw. Buses aren’t very comfortable and I find they’re not as safe.
I know people question the safety of rickshaws with their lack of doors and the way they zip through the crazy traffic but that’s always a risk I am willing to take because as a woman travelling in Mumbai, I feel safe when I’m in the back of a rickshaw, which I am not sharing with others. I know my personal valuables are safe and that I will get from A to B without worrying about other passengers. One extra tip here is to ensure the drivers put the meter down. The majority are very friendly and trustworthy but just be ready to tell the driver if they try to pull a fast one.
I think Mumbai is one of the safest places in India for women. It’s quite common for a woman to finish work late and to travel home alone. It’s also quite normal for a female tourist to travel around the city by herself. Just as with any other place in the world, keep your wits about you and prioritise your safety at night time especially.
I would advise to stay away from really cheap hotels and stay in busy areas. I stayed in the city alone last year at the end of a work trip and I made sure I was careful about where I went and at what time but I didn’t once feel unsafe or scared.
Haggling just means bargaining or bartering. Personally I think this is one of the most fun things about visiting India. It can be quite daunting at first if you’re used to paying a fixed price for everything, but sellers in Mumbai expect you to talk down the price. In fact they look forward to it as they know locals are aware of the prices of things and won’t indulge them in this to and fro as much as a tourist will. After a while you will get used to it and can estimate what something is worth and what you’re prepared to pay.
When they offer you a price, immediately ask them for a discount. Then you can present a counter offer which is significantly lower than what you’re prepared to pay. Usually they then reduce their price and so on. But as long as they’re not charging a ridiculous price, I usually just hand over the price, if I find it reasonable. I don’t ever haggle over small amounts. After all, it’s worth so much more to them than to me.
Always drink bottled mineral water. Tap water can make you ill. Sometimes restaurants will offer you filtered or treated water. It’s still the better option to go for a bottle. I also advise you to avoid ice in drinks. I know that’s hard if you fancy a nice cold drink but I’d rather have something out of the fridge than add ice to it. You should also check the seal of any bottles or cans you drink out of.
When in restaurants, ask the waiter to open the seal in front of you. Make sure you’re always carrying a bottle of water with you when you’re out and about. It can get very hot in Mumbai, so you want to keep yourself hydrated.
9. STREET FOOD
Street food is everywhere in Mumbai. You can get anything and everything from full-on meals to snacks. I’ve always tried street food in Mumbai but only from select restaurants which have stands outside. I always avoid items with a water base like chutneys and meats are a no-no. You have no idea how long it’s been sitting out for. A good way of telling whether a place is hygienic and safe to eat at is if there is a long line of locals/Mumbaikars.
If you opt for fruit, make sure you wash it with clean, bottled water first. When you ask for a fresh juice, make sure it’s prepared in front of you. It’s important to be aware of these safety measures but street food in India is delicious. Don’t be afraid to try it. You will love the delicious flavours better street-side than in any restaurant.
10. NO-SELFIE ZONES
After a spate of deaths in Mumbai, ‘no-selfie zones’ were imposed. Everyone wants a good picture for their Instagram feed or travel memories, but there are 16 zones in the city where it’s too risky to click a photo.
Before you decide to frame your shot and click away, be sure that it’s safe to do so. Look out for signage and if you see there’s a ban in place, don’t ignore it. It’s there for a reason.
When you think of Mumbai, you think of Bollywood. It’s India’s biggest and most glamorous film industry. But be aware that it’s not a single place you go and find celebrity upon celebrity. So many tourists have been left disappointed because they expected to visit one part of town where there was a bustle of activity. Stars live across the city – both in North and South Mumbai.
You can easily find the homes of superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan in Bandra, as there will always be crowds outside. But a lot of the younger, newer stars live in apartment blocks. Film studios are also dotted around the city and you can’t get in without permission. However, all is not lost. If you really want to spot a celebrity, pop in to one of the bigger hotel lobbies like the Taj in Bandra or The Marriott in Juhu. You may just spot a celebrity or two if you’re lucky. Some film studios now do tours but it’s worth checking what you get before you buy.So there you have it – 11 things you should know before you visit Mumbai. I hope you found these tips handy and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please drop them below or feel free to contact me on my socials.
Have you read my last post yet on ways to build a good relationship with your teen? If not, click here.
I’ve always thought Mumbai would be way to hectic for me as a person. I’m not sure I could deal with the traffic and rickshaws to be honest.
It is hectic, no doubt about that. But it really is an amazing experience – and once you’ve gotten over the initial culture shock, you just get lost in the vibrancy of the city x
Now I want to add Mumbai to the list of places I want to visit.
For sure! Do it – you will love the vibrancy, the food and the people x
This is a really interesting read, I love hearing about different cultures and facts X
Thanks Sam. Yes it’s an experience to say the least. The people are so friendly and the food so delicious it draws me back x
Mumbai does sound like an amazing place to visit – thank you for sharing this list and thank you for sharing it with #TriumphantTales.
Thanks Jaki. It’s a wonderful city in a beautiful country x
Mumbai looks fascinating! Hope to visit India someday. #GlobalBlogging
Put it on your travel bucket list. You will not regret it. It’s an experience of a lifetime x
This is a fantastic post! I HAVE to go!! Brilliant photos too!
Thank you! Put it on your travel bucket list. You will not regret it x
Great post, Mumbai sounds like an amazing place to visit with such a rich culture. I’m a big foodie so love the sound of the street food stalls. Really interesting to hear about the imposed no-selfie zones too! Thank you for sharing ?
It is a vibrant city and I really hope you get to visit. The food is delicious and worth the trip alone x
Such great information! So many people forget to check for things like monsoon season before they travel and they end up ruining their trips. I’d love to visit Mumbai one day.
Yes checking the season you travel to a foreign country is a must. I hope you do visit one day x
What a fun post to read. My family and I have talked about visiting India. I’ve watched a ton of Bollywood movies but we’ve not gone yet. We will definitely go to India now. Thank you for your post Raheela
Oh you would love it, Raheela. Whether or not you see a celeb, there is so much to do there, it’s amazing. Do check out my other Mumbai posts for some tips x
the traffic reminds me of Southern California. People are always so surprised how the beach was only 10miles away yet it took an hour to get there. However, traffic does die down here at certain hours and on weekends. Mumbai sounds fun though and especially for shopping and food if you don’t get to see a celeb. Thanks for linking up with #OMHGWW and hope to see you next week.
Thanks Alice. Yes it’s such a vibrant city. I love California too x
It looks like such a wonderful place to visit, full of culture and life! #DreamTeam
Thanks Heather. It’s a fun city to visit x
Great reminder about tap water and ice. I picked up a bad tum in Turkey from repeated Baileys with ice! Love the idea of a no-selfie zone, can’t believe how dangerous some people are! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
Thanks Laura. Yes the no-selfie zones are so important to remember – and people need to be safer especially in foreign countries. Photos are great but not at the cost of your safety x
I’ve always wanted to visit India but its always struck me as being too busy for me. It always looks so vibrant. Great list of advice, thanks for sharing and linking up #twinklytuesday
Thanks Kate. The joy of India is it’s what you make it. The cities are busy yes, but then you have gorgeous desert in Rajasthan, stunning greenery in Kerala and beaches in Goa. There is so much variety so you could just pick your favourite kind of holiday x
Hi Rosie, Mumbai isn’t a place I have ever thought to visit, but my parents have and said it’s a wonderful and alive place. My Dad was there in his navy years many years ago and said how much it has changed (well we are talking almost a lifetime by the time he went back). These tips sound as if they would be invaluable to anyone visiting, and I do like the selfie restricted areas, it’s not something I’ve heard of before, but so sensible considering the risks people take to get ‘that’ photo.
Thank you for popping by and sharing at #keepingitreal.
Thanks Debbie. Yes the no selfie zones really struck a chord with me. Lovely that your Dad has experienced Mumbai. It’s definitely vibrant x
Such an interesting read. Thanks for sharing with #pocolo
Thanks Morgan x
I’m sooooo bad at haggling, it just makes me feel so uncomfortable! Thanks for linking up with #stayclassymama
It’s difficult when you first start out. But it’s quite fun when you get the hang of it. And they’re so accustomed to it – they enjoy it too x