Mumbai is the largest (by population) and the most cosmopolitan city in India, a teeming metropolis, which is home to more than 20 million people. Overcrowded, congested, and polluted are just some of the adjectives that are generally used to describe this vivacious and energetic city, which is often used by tourists as gateway to other destinations in India.
Mumbai is the financial and commercial capital of India. This city, which is situated on a peninsula on the western coast of India, is an economic powerhouse and the capital of the state of Maharashtra. Mumbai hosts some of India’s most important financial institutions like the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of India, along with the corporate headquarters of numerous domestic and multi-national companies. The city is also an important port for international trade and is home to Bollywood, the world famous Indian film industry. However, like many other cities in the developing world, Mumbai is also a city of great contrasts and inequalities and it offers a landscape that features spectacular glittering skyscrapers, which stand cheek to jowl with huge, sprawling slums.
Like many other cities in India, Mumbai’s streets are congested and gridlocked but despite this, the city has much to offer its visitors. If you are planning a trip to India anytime soon, you should decide to spend a few days in this vibrant city, and discover what makes it tick.
Best time to visit Mumbai
Sea-facing Mumbai is blessed with a tropical climate that features year round hot and humid weather. The average daytime temperatures in Mumbai range from 28°C (82°F) to 32°C (89°F) year round. May and October are usually the hottest months of the year, which feature scorching days, when temperatures often top the 40°C (104°F) mark and feature humidity levels of more than 90%.
The city also experiences a monsoon season, which lasts from June to October and features heavy, torrential downpours and much flooding. The winter months from November to February, are considered to be the best months to visit Mumbai for day time temperatures over the city at these times often dip to hover around 25°C (77°F) while nighttime temperatures also fall sharply to register around 14°C (57°F).
Almost all nationalities require a visa to visit India. India only grants visa-exempt access to citizens of its neighboring countries, Nepal and Bhutan. Additionally, India offers a ‘Visa on Arrival’ facility for citizens of 11 countries. Currently citizens of Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar and Indonesia are eligible for a ‘visa on arrival’ in India. However, if your parents or grandparents were born or have lived in present-day Pakistan, you cannot take advantage of this option.
All other visitors have to acquire a tourist visa from the Indian consulate/embassy located in their home country before embarking on a visit to India. Indian visas are issued for various durations and ten year visas for India are usually available in the USA while five year visas for India are often issued in France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Finland, Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Vietnam.
All visas for India are generally multi-entry and offer a six-month entry into India at a time. However, holders of these Indian multiple-entry tourist visas are required to leave a gap of at least two months between visits. If you need to go back to India within this two-month period, you have to obtain special permission from the Indian consulate/mission located in your home country.
The issue of a tourist visa for a visit to India is subject to various conditions and it is advisable to contact your nearest Indian consulate/embassy for more details.
Mumbai is accessed via its busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Airport, the largest and busiest airport in South Asia. The Mumbai airport welcomes a wide array of air carriers from all over the globe. These convenient air links make Mumbai relatively easy to get to. The Mumbai airport is connected by taxis and airport shuttle buses to the city.
Transport within Mumbai is provided by a public transport network that is made up of air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned metered taxis, public buses, commuter trains and auto-rickshaws. The various modes of public transport in Mumbai are very congested and overcrowded, and visitors to the city often choose to hire a private car and driver to get around.
Car rental rates in Mumbai depend on the type of vehicle hired. Rental cars in Mumbai are usually hired out for a period of 8 hours and 80km, after which time extra charges kick in. Several tour operators and hotels can help to arrange a hire car and driver for your stay in Mumbai.
Family-friendly hotels in Mumbai
Mumbai is a big, bustling metropolis, which is a favored business and leisure destination. As a result, the city is equipped with a wide range of accommodation options that seek to cater to all travel budgets and accommodation preferences. Most hotels in Mumbai are also child-friendly, as local Indian tourists usually travel with their kids in tow.
The Novotel Juhu Beach
The Novotel Mumbai is located on Mumbai’s famous Juhu beachfront. The hotel is equipped with facilities like a full-service spa, an outdoor pool and a sauna. Other facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, a coffee shop and a bar/lounge. The hotel also offers wireless Internet access in its public areas and guest rooms for an extra charge. Additional facilities at the hotel include a children’s pool, a fitness facility, and a concierge desk, which can arrange car rentals for your stay in Mumbai.
The 196 well-appointed guest rooms at the Novotel feature several modern-day essentials like 32-inch LCD televisions equipped with premium satellite channels, free movie channels, and DVD players, laptop-compatible safes, minibars, complimentary bottled water and coffee/tea makers.
The Novotel Juhu Beach is especially family-friendly and two children under the age of 16 can stay for free in their parents/grandparent’s room at the hotel. The children staying under this scheme can also avail of a free buffet breakfast with their parents/grandparents. Other facilities for children at the hotel include the availability of kid’s menus and play areas for children of all ages. Families with children can also take advantage of the late check-out facility at the hotel.
The Marriott Executive Apartments
The Marriott Executive Apartments are located within close proximity to the Mumbai International Airport in an area of the city known as Powai. The hotel offers family-friendly, one and two bedroom apartments, which offer lake or mountain views and are equipped with well-defined living, dining and sleeping areas. One child under the age of 10 can stay free at the apartment if no extra bedding is required. Free cots are also provided for children under the age of three.
This apartment hotel offers a plethora of facilities like 2 swimming pools, a jogging track, tennis court, a full-service spa, a fitness center and a beauty salon. The Marriot is also equipped with a concierge desk that can arrange car rentals and city tours. The hotel additionally offers wireless high-speed Internet access in its public areas and guestrooms for an additional fee.
The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel
The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, is one of Mumbai’s most well known landmarks. Built in 1903, the Taj Mahal Hotel is the flagship property of the world-renowned Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces. The hotel was the target of a horrific terror attack in 2007 but is has since then recovered and continues to welcome and serve guests, at its plush premises.
The hotel offers 560 tastefully decorated rooms and suites which are outfitted with premium bedding, classic wood furnishings, and modern amenities like in-room safes, tea/coffee makers, flat-screen TVs and DVD players, Wi-Fi connectivity and more. The hotel additionally features eleven food and beverage outlets, a full-service spa, a shopping arcade and a stunning outdoor pool. Other services at the hotel include a currency exchange facility, a concierge desk, and childcare services.
Family-friendly attractions in Mumbai
Colaba Causeway is located at the southernmost tip of the Mumbai peninsula. The Coloba area of the city is a vibrant enclave, which is home to several restaurants, shops and hotels like the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.
The area also hosts the seafront promenade of Apollo Bunder, which is home to the magnificent Gateway of India, a stone-colored basalt archway, which was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. The gateway marked the original point of arrival for travelers who arrived in Mumbai by sea. Today, ferries and launches depart from the Gateway of India to beach destinations along India’s western coast like Alibaug and Kashid.
The Prince of Wales Museum offers an extensive permanent collection of ancient and medieval sculptures, textiles and Indian decorative art objects made from jade, wood, ivory and metal.
The National Gallery of Modern Art hosts rotating exhibits and offers a highly visible platform of the burgeoning Indian contemporary art scene.
Other attractions in the area, which are worth visiting are the Jehangir Art Gallery, which is located close to the museum and offers rotating exhibits showcasing the artworks of well-known and up-coming Indian artists.
This spectacular mosque, which is one of Mumbai’s most prominent sights, is situated on an islet in the midst of the Arabian Sea off the coast in an area of Mumbai known as Worli.
The mosque was built in 1431 by a wealthy Muslim merchant, to commemorate a Muslim preacher Syed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who is believed to have renounced his world goods before he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The mosque, which contains the tomb (dargah) of the preacher, can only be accessed by a narrow walkway, which has been built in the middle of the sea. The 457 meter (1500 foot) walkway is accessible only at low tide. This walkway also connects the mosque to a Hindu temple called Mahalaxmi located close by.
This whitewashed mosque, which is a fine representation of Islamic architecture, is open to people of all faiths and is visited by 40,000 worshippers every week
The Markets of Mumbai
The busy metropolis of Mumbai is home to numerous crowded bazaars and street markets. However, the city’s central indoor market, the Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market), which is housed in an imposing gothic structure that dates back to the 19th century, is definitely worth a visit. Crawford Market is a wholesale market that hosts numerous vendors who sell a wide variety of goods like fresh produce, poultry, housewares, toys, home décor items, luggage and even pets. The market offers a fantastic insight into the daily life of this pulsating city.
The Crawford Market is surrounded by a maze of streets, which contain several other markets like the Mangaldas Market or the cloth market of Mumbai. The Mangaldas Market is populated by several vendors, who sell fine textiles sourced from all over India and beyond. Jhaveri Bazaar, the main marketplace for jewelers in Mumbai, is also located close to Crawford Market as is the Chor Bazaar (the thieves’ market), a huge flea market which is located on Mutton Street and is a resource for ‘antiques’, various other bric-a-brac and as its name suggests, stolen goods.
Take a sobering but enlightening slum tour
The success of books like Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’ and movies like the award-winning Slumdog Millionaire, have given rise to slum tours in Mumbai. Mumbai has several slums but perhaps its most well known slum in the city is the gargantuan Dharavi slum, which is considered to be the largest slum in Asia. The slum is home to approximately one million people who live in small hutments and homes. However it is not all about filth and squalor in Dharavi, as the slum is also home to nearly 10,000 small businesses like potteries, garment factories, tanneries and recycling companies, which produce goods that are exported all over the world.
Visit ‘the Hamptons of Mumbai’- Alibaug
The beach resort of Alibaug, located across the bay from Mumbai, is often referred to as the ‘Hamptons of Mumbai’ as located here are luxurious, opulent villas that belong to Mumbai’s rich and famous set. Previously, resort facilities in this beach front town were few and if you had to visit you needed to know someone from Mumbai’s tony set, however all that has changed with the opening of the Radisson Resort and Spa Hotel, Alibaug. This hotel is located over sixteen sprawling acres in this seaside community. The resort is not a beachfront property but is very scenic, as it is located on the banks of the Veshvi Lake. The Radisson features a Balinese-style of architecture and the hotel is equipped with well-appointed standard rooms and suites. Common facilities at the hotel include a pool, gym, a spa and two restaurants. Alibuag can be accessed by a three-hour drive or a 35-minute ferry ride from Mumbai.
Take a day trip to Elephanta Island
Elephanta Island is located in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai. The island is home to the Elephanta caves, which have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. These caves are considered to be a ‘must-visit’ attraction on any trip to Mumbai. The seven caves located on the island are dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and feature elaborate stone carvings that depict scenes from Hindu mythology. These caves, which are located at a distance of 10 km (6.21 miles) from the mainland are accessed via a ferry ride from the Gateway of India.
Useful contacts for Mumbai
Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation
Opp. L.I.C. (Yogakshema) Building,
Madame Cama Road,
Tel: +91 22 2204 4040
Fax: +91 22 2202 4521
Ministry of Tourism,
124 Transport Bhawan,
Sansad Marg, New Delhi- 110001
Fax: +91-011 23710518
Emergency numbers for India-
Police – 100
Foreign Embassies in India
United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2419 8000.
British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2687 2161.
Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4178 2000.
Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 4139 9900.
South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2614 9411.
Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2462 6733.
New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 (0)11 2688 3170.