Incredible Mumbai, Incredible India

Mumbai is one of the cities that makes India incredible. When you first visit India, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll touch down in Mumbai and as soon as you step outside the airport, it will make an impression on you.

The bustling metropolis is so full of energy, enthusiasm and eagerness. It constantly feels like something big and exciting is about to happen, like it is growing and evolving into something even more special right in front of you.

Look ahead and you might see cows on the street, dogs on leads, women in saris carrying packages on their heads, modern hipsters heading to university, men resting their heads after a tiring day at work, 20 somethings in modern suits going to their office jobs, luxury cars passing by an auto rickshaw, iPhones, Tiffin delivery men, temples, mosques, churches, hoteliers keen to please rich foreigners and Indians alike, light skin, dark skin, young and old…. There is so much diversity in Mumbai and so many contrasts and that’s exactly why I love it. I’ve been there twice now and just want to keep going back.

Getting there

Getting to Mumbai from the UK is easy. British Airways, Air India and Jet Airways all fly from London Heathrow and flights take approximately 8.5 hours. Flights can be as cheap as about £500 per person up to about £700. Be flexible with your dates and book early to get the best deals.

I have flown by both British Airways and Air India to Mumbai and would reccomend both. The ever reliable British Airways was a great flight but no better than the lesser known Air India. Air India tend to get a bad rap with Indians seemingly the most critical of theirs national carrier, but our experience with them was great. Service was efficient and always with a smile, the food was varied and excellent. We would most definitely fly with them again.

If you aren’t fussed about flying direct, check out flights with Emirates via the UAE. This will usually save you a bit of money with prices usually at about £450 per person.

Where to stay

Picking somewhere to stay in Mumbai is a pretty difficult task. Booking.com has 241 hotels listed for Mumbai and that’s a lot to chose from! Five star hotels will cost anything from about £60 to £160 per night while a basic one star hotel will cost about £20 per night

While we like an adventure, we love luxury and so when in Mumbai, we tend to splash out and stay in a five star hotel. There’s nothing nicer than decadence at the best of times, but when you’ve just touched down in a new country and your adjusting to a different culture and climate, staying at a five star hotel can really help you acclimatise to it.

While some people opt for the famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel, we have our own favourite hotel in Mumbai – the Four Seasons.

Of all the hotels we have stayed in in the world, this has to be the best. The service was impeccable, the rooms were beautiful, the food was tasty and the facilities were second to none. We were treated like royalty from start to finish and we would struggle to consider staying anywhere else in Mumbai on future visits. If you stay there, make sure you visit the AER lounge, the Four Season’s roof top bar, for great views over the city. I’ll blog more about our experience at the Four Seasons at a later date.

Getting around

Mumbai has so many transport options for moving around the city. The train network is extensive and great fun to explore. If you are slightly intimidated by the thought of people hanging out of train doors like in the photos, book a first class ticket. It is only a little more expensive and there always seems to be space. Also, men, remember that trains in Mumbai have ‘women only’ carriages – make sure you aren’t getting into one or you might find yourself meeting some very angry women!

Taxis in Mumbai are also pretty reliable. It is one of the few cities in India where we have always found that drivers are happy to use the meter.

Another option and one which I love, is the Auto Rickshaw. They are cheap to move around in as they are open on all sides, you don’t miss out on any of the smells or sounds of India. This includes the excessive honking of the horn!

Auto rickshaws also have the advantage of being smaller than cars and so can squeeze into gaps that cars just can’t. Be warned though, they can be pretty dusty so if that worries you then you may want to give them a miss.  Edit

Top Five things to do in Mumbai

1/ Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat is amazing. The large open air laundry is where dirty washing from all over Mumbai is brought to be laundered. The Dhobis (laundry men) wash all of the laundry by hand in large concrete troughs and most of them live with their families on site. It really is an amazing site to look at…and isn’t it nice that it isn’t women doing the washing?! 
2/ Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) Train Station

I’m not just suggesting you visit this because I’m a transport geek! It really is a beautiful building. Built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the station is one of the busiest in India.

First of all, take a look at it from the outside- the architecure is amazing. Next head inside and see just how busy it is. It is a brilliant place to do a bit of people watching. I could easily pass a couple of hours in there just watching the world go by.

3/ Have a drink at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

The Harbour Bar at the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, is the ideal place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets of Mumbai. Take a seat by the windows for a view overlooking the Gateway to India, the arch built to commemorate the visit of King George V to India in 1911. The waiters will come to your table to take your order and complementary snacks are also given. If you are feeling peckish, they have some excellent light dishes to chose from as well.  

4/ Visit Dharavi

The largest slum in Asia, Dharavi is a hot bed of business and enterprise. It might seem strange to visit a slum when you are on holiday, but it is fascinating to learn about how the different, very successful, industries work within the slum, as well as see how people live there. Dharavi is huge so on your first trip at least, it is best to have a guided tour. we particularly enjoyed visiting a bakery in the slum (we were given cake!) and also found it fascinating looking round the pottery quarter. We also picked up some hand made Diwali candle holders there as well.

5/ Have a night out in Bandra

Bandra is the happening night life spot in Mumbai. Lots of young Indians in their 20s and 30s come here for dinner and after work drinks or nights out. The Guardian ran a great article a few years ago recommending various bars in Bandra. We checked out Toto’s Garage, a neon-lit bar designed to look like a car garage. It was a fun night out and what we liked most of all was that the bar staff seat you at a table so there’s no standing up all night long like in many places in London!

Handy links

Air India

Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai

Be the Local Dharavi Tours

India Mike forums

Mumbai tourism 

Check out my Pinterest board for Mumbai

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