Mumbai Travel Guide

Mumbai Overview

Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is the most cosmopolitan city in India. It is one of the most vibrant and culturally productive cities in the world. It is home to the largest movie industry in the world, Bollywood, which churns out smashingly popular movies at a dizzying rate. Many Western travelers in Mumbai find themselves recruited onto the sets of Bollywood movies as extras, or even as principles. As of 2009, the city has been named an “Alpha City of the World,” meaning that it is an economic powerhouse and a locus-point of the international economy and the culture industries. The city is full of beautiful people buzzing in and out of gorgeous new restaurants, coffee shops, shops, dance clubs, and bars. It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with a population of 14 million, mostly packed on the end of a fairly small peninsula. The November 2009 Mumbai Attacks did nothing to dull the city’s shine or spirit. 

 
Most of the city was built by the British, who left behind some spectacular examples of colonial architecture, like Victoria Station. It lends the city a cosmopolitan, European feel that is utterly unique in South Asia. 
 
As was made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire, the city is also home to some of the largest and most squalid slums in the world. The contrast between the opulence and extravagance of the culture and the in-you-face squalor of poverty in Mumbai can be dizzying. There are many opportunities to volunteer your time to help slum dwellers access medicine and education.

Things to do in Mumbai

Mumbai over-brims with activities, sights, shops, restaurants, and spirit. Leave yourself at least a few days to explore the city’s offerings.

 
Our top sightseeing recommendation is the Haji Ali shrine in Worli Bay.  This majestic Sufi shrine is built on an island of marble in the middle of the bay, and is accessible via a 500-yard causeway. Visitors who come during high tide are liable to get their feet very wet. Nearby is the extremely popular Maha Laxmi temple, where Hindus pray to the goddess of prosperity. 
 
The highest concentration of sights and notable destinations is in the neighborhood of Colaba, in the southern part of the city. This is where the majestic India Gate stands in front of the massive Taj hotel, one of the targets of the attacks on the city. There is a small memorial to the victims of the attack in the lobby. From India Gate, many boats leave on the hour and half hour to Elephanta Island where profoundly ancient stone carvings of the Elephanta Caves are. 
 
Mumbai boasts many fine museums, including the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (formerly the Victoria and Albert Museum), which has one of the finest collections of architectural and religious artifacts in Bombay. The National Gallery of Modern Art highlights the work of the most famous artists in India. The Mani Bhavan preserves the history and artifacts of Mahatma Gandhi. 
 
For a festive beach atmosphere, don’t miss Chowpatty Beach. It’s always a carnival on the beach, with rides and games and frequent performances. 
 
Bombay Cuisine is among the most delicious in India, and can be enjoyed from the street chaat stands to most posh restaurants in the city. The city’s specialty and staple is Pav-Bhaji, sort of like a vegetarian sloppy-joes. Don’t miss Leopold’s bar, a favorite of the youth culture, a landmark of the Mumbai youth culture with literally storied walls: a target of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks—the stray bullets are still embedded in the walls. 

Hotels in Mumbai

Hotels in Mumbai are the most expensive in India, so if you’re used to tramping around the subcontinent, you may want to stay in the Salvation Army or adjust your budget upward.

 
Budget
Salvation Army Red Shield Hostel—This reliable institution is well located in Colaba, and you’ll meet backpackers and young people from around the world. Always a good option.
Bentley’s Hotel—charming, just charming. 
Hotel Oasis—A modern little hotel near the train station
 
Midrange
Regent Hotel—a feeling of Arabia 
Ascot Hotel—spacious rooms
 
Top End
Taj Mahal Palace and Tower—this famous hotel is truly a Mumbai landmark; it is a proper and distinguished architectural marvel with sweeping arches, staircases and domes, boasting every conceivable luxury and amenity. 
Hilton Towers—More spiffy than the neighboring Oberoi Grand
Marine Plaza— The rooftop swimming pool has a glass bottom that looks down on the foyer five floors below

Mumbai Weather

Mumbai Travel Resources

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