[All content and prices updated July 2013]

Why you should add Mumbai to your RTW/Indie trip

  • India is the true indie travel destination, and Mumbai is the perfect introduction to the madness that is India
  • Sitting on the Arabian sea is the home of the Indian film industry
  • Use it as your gateway to India and especially southern India
  • A day's bus ride from Goa
  • Experience one of the fastest developing cities in India
  • Try to arrange your visit during one of the many festivals

Why you should not add to your RTW travel list

  • If you aren't an experienced traveler, Mumbai and India can overwhelm. Hell, even if you are an experienced traveler, India can get the best of you.
  • Compared to the rest of India, Mumbai can be expensive, especially accommodations.
  • If you do add India to your RTW trip itinerary, don't do it first or last. Somewhere in the middle when you are firmly in your travel groove would be ideal.


Indie travel tips for Mumbai

  • Strolling around Mumbai will give you a good feel and introduction to India. Just walk with an air of confidence and get used to saying "No!" or you will be busy fending off shop owners and touts.
  • If you want to get away from the near-constant harassment, take a stroll along Marine Drive along the water.
  • As a white westerner, you may be approached to be an extra in a Bollywood film. This is not a scam, and if you want a nice Indian cultural experience and have a day to waste, say yes.
  • While the beaches and water aren't exactly good for swimming, if you want to hang out with a bunch of local Indians, head to a beach in Northwest Mumbai on a Sunday evening.
  • Don't be afraid to eat at a street stall in Mumbai. You'll get some of the best and cheapest Indian food around. Just make sure you eat at a crowded one with high turnover. Delhi belly exists in Mumbai, too.
  • There's nothing quite like an Indian market, and they pop up on the streets all over the city. Have fun exploring and bargaining for cheap souvenirs to bring home.


Overview

You still may know it as Bombay, but India changed the name to something more Indian, Mumbai, in 1995. You may also know it as Bollywood since the former Bombay is the Hollywood of India in a big way. Every year twice as many movies are made in India as they are in the United States, and the Indian public are at least as obsessed with their own stars as the rest of the world is with Hollywood celebrities. Mumbai is an enormous and densely populated city on the coast and it can be overwhelming if you are new to India.

What to Do

Mumbai is a fascinating city to visit, but it doesn’t have as many checklist attractions as in other parts of India. The Gateway of India arch in the tourist area of Colaba is worth a visit, and from there you can book boat trips to the nearby island to see the famous Elephanta Caves. Western tourist standing near the Gateway arch are often recruited for day work as extras in Bollywood films, so if this interests you do a bit of research you might find your way on screen.

Mumbai is filled with temples, churches, and mosques, but they tend to be spread out. Your hotel can usually arrange a driver/tour guide to take you around to see the sights and especially for groups it can be surprisingly cheap. The traffic in Mumbai is insane so having a chauffeur to the dirty work can be very relaxing. There are many historic movie theaters all over Mumbai and taking in a Bollywood film can be an unforgettable experience. They are usually in Hindi, but are peppered with just enough English words so everyone can follow the plot. And be prepared for 3 hours with an intermission, but it’s a great way to beat the midday heat.

Chowpatty Beach is pleasant enough during the day, but at night the food vendors come out and present you with an exotic festival of the spicy and unusual for very little money. Nearly all laundry in India is done by hand and one amazing sight is the Dobi Ghats, which is the central laundry where from a bridge above you can observe thousands of workers soaking and then beating the dirt out of the clothes.

Getting There

India has an extensive train system so it’s possible to arrive from any other part of the country, but Mumbai is a great place to start your India experience so you’ll want to book your flight into Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (code: BOM). The airport can be frustrating and it’s not close to the tourist centers of town. You can take an inexpensive taxi from the airport and pay a fixed rate from a booth in advance.

Where To Stay

The small area of Colaba in the south is a great neighborhood for foreign tourists. There are many hostels in Mumbai, but just like anywhere else the better ones tend to fill up in advance so plan ahead. Mumbai is also quite a bit more expensive than the rest of India, so prepare for that.