What's the best about Mumbai

Mumbai: Out and about in the mega-metropolis

Finally India! And directly in Mumbai, the mega-metropolis. Nobody really knows how many people live here now. According to a census from 2011, there are at least 12.5 million, and that doesn't even include the surrounding area. The former Bombay is one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world.

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People come to India with all kinds of expectations. Some of those around me will see theirs confirmed in the airport arrivals hall. Power failure. And that in the hall with the baggage carousels.

Mumbai: a travelogue

After the baggage belts are running again, we greet the city with a ride in a taxi. There are said to be almost 60,000 of them in Mumbai. Many of the small black vehicles of the Premier Padmini type are reminiscent of Trabis. In truth, however, they are modeled on the Fiat 1100. If the government has its way, most of them should disappear from the cityscape in the next few years. A new law stipulates that no taxi may be older than 25 years. Premier stopped production of Padmini in 2000, and thousands of vehicles have already passed the age limit.

We get a first taste of Mumbai and its traffic. Red lights do not necessarily mean anything and you can overtake at any time on either side. Basically, the bigger car has right of way.

It is 5 a.m. and still pitch black, but the streets are already busy. We see crowds of people sleeping, cooking, talking to each other on the sidewalks.

Luxury and poverty close together

In the Colaba district we find a room in the Carlton, a simply furnished guesthouse directly opposite the Taj Mahal Hotel. Mumbai is a place of contrasts. From the balcony we look out over the most expensive accommodation in town, a family lives below us on the sidewalk. The children are being washed and breakfast is being prepared. The police security barriers erected in front of the Taj Mahal after the 2008 attacks serve as a clothesline. Next to it: dogs, street vendors, piles of rubbish.

We use the first day to explore the area. Bus travel requires top performance from inexperienced Europeans, and there is not much time to get on and off. If the bus stops properly at all. Women have their own seats, with the men at the back squeezing and pushing becomes an Olympic discipline.
Without a destination or time pressure, the road traffic is a sight to be enjoyed. The tin caravan pushes its way through the city with difficulty: taxis, buses, trucks and cars, with mopeds, ox carts and people pushing a wooden cart in between. Of course everything is overloaded. A deafening, never-ending horn concert forms the framework. The horn is used here to draw attention in traffic to what is happening continuously.

Indian cuisine manages to exceed the already high expectations. Whether thali, samosas or masala dosa, you could only eat here all day.

Meeting point city beach

In the evening we visit Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai's popular city beach. Thousands of Indians come here every afternoon for fun. There are games for young and old, hand-operated carousels, balloon vendors and of course food stalls. While we are photographing the sun setting behind the city, we ourselves repeatedly become a photo subject. Young Indians in particular ask for a common picture.

The best travel credit card for India

The right credit card can save you a lot of money on your travels. Here you can find out which cards you can use to withdraw cash free of charge worldwide and pay in local currency at no additional cost. And who is currently the only provider who reimburses you for the foreign fees at the machine, for example in Thailand or Vietnam.

Here is the credit card comparison

A day on the streets of Mumbai

For the next day we had a taxi driver talk us into a city tour. He was fun, spoke perfect English, and the price was acceptable. We will be picked up immediately after breakfast.

There's much to see. Such a tour is worthwhile just to observe everyday life in Mumbai. We also stop in front of the town hall, the university, in the Reichenviertel and finally in front of a beautiful temple. Then we visit a park - this calm! - and the house in which Ghandi lived for a long time.

During our ride we will witness the Indian version of food on wheels. Around 5,000 dabbawalas deliver around 200,000 lunches produced in private households at lunchtime. A logistical masterpiece.

The same applies to the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai's largest laundry. Everything is still washed by hand here. Clotheslines as far as the eye can see, a fascinating sight.

At the end of the day there is also an explanation of why the talkative taxi driver from the previous day was so taciturn today. After our last stage he asks: “Where did you meet my brother yesterday?” He laughs, we do too.

All tips for your trip to India

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To the India blog

Excursion by ship

The next day there is a trip to the elephant island. There are numerous caves and temples there. A very popular destination with Indians. We're only moderately enthusiastic, the hour-long boat ride overlooking the Mumbai skyline was basically the best part of the tour.

Tips for Mumbai

  1. The small restaurant Laxmi Villas can be found on Nawroji Furdunji Rd in the Colaba district. The food is excellent, especially masala dosa you have to try. But you can't go wrong with the other dishes either.
  2. Since there are three large train stations in Mumbai, you should find out exactly which one you are going to when buying your ticket. In addition, tickets, for example to Goa, are often booked out for days. Some people have had to stay longer in Mumbai or take the bus because of this. Information on rail connections can be found on the Indian Railways website.
  3. Anyone interested in the Dabbawalas' food delivery system: There is an Al Jazeera report here, and an employee was accompanied for one day.
  4. You can now book some Mumbai tours online on platforms like Getyourguide and see the reviews there.
  5. Inexpensive hotel rooms are - which surprised me - rarely to be found in the popular areas of Mumbai. It is best to find out more in advance on platforms such as Agoda or Booking.
  6. Also note my tips for your first trip to India.
  7. Here you will find a detailed report on the best sights in Mumbai.

More photos:

What tips do you have for Mumbai?

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About the author

Stefan has been traveling to the countries of Southeast Asia since 2006 and often spends several months there. In 2013 he founded Fascination Southeast Asia and since then has also written several eBooks and books on the subject (including the insider travel guide “555 Tips for Bangkok”). Between his travels he lives and works in Düsseldorf.

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