Cities at a glance

MN Guides: Mumbai, home to movies and money

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Movies stars, mafia dons, stock markets, the world’s largest slum Dharavi and also the world’s first billion dollar personal home- Antilla, corporate tycoons, cheap beer bars, Michelin Star restaurants, history, beaches, mad traffic, Mumbai is the original maximum city.

Why should I visit Mumbai? Like Delhi in the North, Mumbai is the big cultural, educational and business hub for Southern and Western India. Its known for its fast pace of life and as the city that never sleeps. If there us anywhere in India, where one can easily hail a cab at 2 am in the morning, it is in Mumbai. From time immemorial, Mumbai’s ports have made it the hub of business. This has meant several cr-mumbairulers, including the Mughals, Portuguese and British. All have left their mark on Mumbai’s culture and history in the form of culinary influences, traditions and many monuments like the Gateway of India and the Flora fountain. Old Mumbai’s gothic architecture is reason alone to visit. These influences have also meant that the average Mumbaikar is tolerant, aware and eager to get ahead. Come to Mumbai if you are interested in seeing how Indian movies are made, feel the pulse of Indian stock markets and business, see some quality theatre and see how India is changing and off course some quality partying.

What should I know about Mumbai? Mumbai is considered the financial and entertainment heart of India and is among the most cosmopolitan of Indian cities. It is also the most populous with about 20 million residents. The city was originally a bunch of seven islands inhabited by the Koli or fisherman tribe in 1st century BC and earlier. After successive Hindu dynasties, the Portuguese came in control of the island in mid 1500s and then the British in the mid 1600s till the eventual freedom of India in 1947. The seven islands too were connected with land reclamation projects in the 19th century and form modern day Mumbai.

India-outline-map-mumbai200Where is it? Mumbai is in Maharashtra State in central western India. The city itself lies on the Arabian Sea (19 North and 73 East) that forms India’s natural Western coastal boundary. The city is also the entry point for the western ghats or the Sahydri mountain range that runs all along India’s Western coast till its tip in the Indian Ocean.

What languages should I know? Most people in Mumbai, including the people on the street, cab drivers, hotel operators, shopping staff can speak and understand English. Hindi too is widely spoken along with Marathi, the State’s mother tongue.

What is the best time to visit? Unlike Northern states like Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan, Mumbai enjoys an unvarying coastal climate through the year broadly ranging between 18-32 degree celcius. The Monsoons or rains (June to September) are pretty heavy often causing major parts of the city to get water logged. Post monsoon months between October and March are pleasant with winter (December to February) needing an extra layer like a sweatshirt or stole for those who feel the cold acutely. Summers in April and May are hot and humid.

Getting in and out of the city

Two Mumbai icons: Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel

Mumbai is one of the biggest cities in India and can be easily travelled to from both within and outside the country. If you are coming from abroad, you will mostly arrive in the country (and Mumbai) by plane. Almost all major airlines like American Airlines, United, Singapore Airlines and Emirates among others fly to Mumbai. The city is also well connected by trains and road. Off late, some cruise ships too have started arriving and departing from South Mumbai’s Gateway port.

Important to note for flyers Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport is the main airport in the city. Both national and domestic flights land here on a shared runway. But the entry and exit points for domestic and international flights are different. For international flights, the entrance and exit lies in the Andheri East side while for taking domestic flights, you must go the Santacruz side airport (Next to Sahara Hotel). The distance between these entry points is not easily doable by foot so make sure you ask your ride to get you to the right entrance.

Also check your flight ticket for terminals. Terminal 1 A, B & C lie on the domestic side whole Terminal 2 is the international terminal.

How is the international airport?

The good: Most International tourists visiting Mumbai from abroad land at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Andheri East. There is a new T2 wing that has been constructed as recently as January 2014 at a whopping expense of about $2.5 billion. The architecture and the interiors of the four storey airport have been built to impress and reflect Indian style and ethos. The X-shaped terminal boasts of a three-kilometre-long art walk with a white peacock theme called ‘Jaya He’. The airport also boasts of features like free in internet workstations, cell phone charging booths, power outlets for laptops, comfortable seating, cleaning services and clean toilets. There are many options for F&B and eventually the airport will have 21000 sq ft dedicated to retail for more flyer conveniences.

The bad: Transfers between international and domestic flights are not easy.

The newly opened T2 international traffic terminal at Mumbai's Chatrapati Shivaji International Aiport.
The newly opened T2 traffic terminal at Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport

The newly opened T2 international traffic terminal at Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Aiport.
The newly opened T2 traffic terminal at Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
A number of security check points make the process very slow. If you are not flying in with Jet Airways or Air India, you will have to get out of the terminal building and take a taxi to the domestic entrance. Other airline do not yet have counters in the international area while the security restrictions do not allow you to transfer without checking in luggage. Most also report inefficient ground handling services, largely due to a shortage of manpower. The same also means that business class and premium travellers may not yet receive the same service standard as they are used to in other airports. The airport experience though should get better as the airport’s teething troubles cease.

Domestic Airport: Among the oldest continuous functioning airports in India, they are nothing much to write home about. Clearly built during times when the air traffic was much less, the airport was never expected to handle so many visitors. The result everyone is jammed together. This also means that at peak hours the airport gets very crowded and lanes move slowly for everything from checking in baggage to security checks. There is also almost no shopping and not many eating options. In off peak times, the airport is functional but nothing great to write home about.

Arriving: At T2 , the arrivals come to Level 2 that includes arrivals corridor, duty free stores, customs and immigration counters, baggage reclaim area, and arrivals forecourt.

Lines can be long, though this is much better than previously. Only 11 nations have visa on arrival in India, rest need prior visas. Baggage collection is after immigration. There is a lost baggage counter, in case baggage is missing.

  • For passengers needing assistance, there are facilities, just let your airline know.
  • You wont get hand luggage trolleys when you arrive.
  • Your bag may be security checked, especially as Indian customs is under orders to check gold smuggling.
  • There are information desks (don’t have high hopes of them), money exchange counters, state and private cab counters. No porters though. If arriving at night, beware of anyone trying to over helpful, and do not give your luggage to anyone till you are sure of their credentials.
  • To leave the airport, the most common way is to use private cabs.

To depart: There is a dedicated expressway that takes you to the international airport. But given Mumbai’s chaotic traffic its best to keep a 30-40 minute margin for your estimated travel time to both airports. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to the airports from Colaba, the Southern tip of Mumbai .

Where should I stay?

The iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel is more than a century old
The iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel at Colaba is more than a century old

Mumbai has a number of branded hotels, from luxury to budget, from most big international chains such as Accor, Starwood, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, Marriott, Best Western etc. It also has luxury and mid range hotels from leading Indian hotel chains such as Taj, Oberoi, ITC, Leela etc. The branded hotels are largely concentrated in the extreme south Fort and Colaba area with a few business hotels located in central Mumbai at the upcoming Bandra Kurla business district. The Andheri East area in the North next to the International Airport too has a number of such hotels.

There are also a large number of unbranded hotels / inns/ guest houses that are smaller but could offer a decent standard of service. These are mostly in the Bandra/Khar and Andheri areas.There are also some that one needs to be wary of. Check hotel listings sites to get an idea beforehand.

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Classic black & yellow Mumbai taxi

Getting around the city: Mumbai is the only city in India where one can find metered cabs with ease.The black yellow cabs, often an old Ambassador or a Maruti Suzuki make are easy to spot. The other options are taking three wheeled autos that are cheaper than taxis. They too run on a meter but there rates are lower than that of taxis. These taxis may or may not have air conditioning. One can also call in cabs on the phone or book on the internet at demand from a number of taxi service like Meru Cabs, Mega Cabs and Ola Cabs.

In Mumbai, the traffic rules dictate that autos can only run till the suburbs. For most purposes, this means that one has to take a taxi if he means to go to trendy South Mumbai areas like Worli, Colaba and Fort beyond Bandra in central mumbai. The other option is to take local trains. The stations for these can be easily found across the city.

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The newly launched Mumbai metro

How good are the trains? Locals trains are a way for life for local Mumbaikars. They often prove to be faster than going by perennially choked roads. The ticket can be obtained easily or one can opt for a weekly or monthly pass if they are likely to stay in the city longer. On the split side, these can be terribly crowded, specially during peak office hours.

Top 5 things to do in the city

Visit the historic Colaba area for the Gateway of India, Flora Fountain and museum. After pick some silver trinkets, shoes and trendy clothes in Colaba market

 A visit to the Taj Palace hotel, built just across the Gateway of India. After marveling at the decor and architecture, a coffee/drink at the Taj Palace hotel overlooking the Arabia sea is a must

A ride along the Marine Drive, especially in the evenings

Pub hopping in Bandra, enjoying lively bars excellent food at local joints like Lucky Biryani and Soul Curry.

A walk along the Juhu beach enjoying local street food. Do have the bhelpuri a Mumbai favourite and vada pav. After, go to the sea facing patois of the various hotels lining the beach for some R&R

Queen's necklace or the Marine Drive. The best sea side evening stroll in the city. Photo by LonelyPlanet
Queen’s necklace or the Marine Drive. The best sea side evening stroll in the city. Photo by Lonely Planet

What should I see if get extra time?

A visit to Film city or the many Mumbai film studios to see a film shoot.

Check out Parsi funeral centres and catch a local play at the Prithvi studios.

What religion to people follow? People are mostly Hindus but one can also spot a large number of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews

What should I eat? You can find almost all cuisines in Mumbai. The seafood is awesome with a number of local specialties. Must try is also the staple Mumbai snack Vada Pav and Bhelpuri. If you crave more, have a Pav Bhaji, essentially a spicy vegetable curry type dish served with pav, the local bread

vada pav
Vada Pav, the quintessential Mumbai snack

What should I buy?: Silver jewellery and other curious at Colaba, street fashion at fashion street and Bandra linking road. There are many malls selling branded goods from the likes of Burberry, Zara, Steve Madden and Mango. Many luxury boutiques work out of the hotels in the posh South Mumbai districts.

Where should I party? Mumbai is full of party options. The Bandra area is the undisputed party locality. It has options across budget. For a noisy pub full of atmosphere check out old joints like Titos, shake a leg at old timer and Hawaiin Shack or just relax and enjoy the music at bars like Banana Bar or The Pint Room. Off late, old converted mill compounds in the Worli area too have come up as hip destinations. Here you can find live music places like Blue Frog or the internationally well known Hard Rock Cafe and mega clubs like Shiro. Next to Bandra is the Juhu area that has a number of individual clubs next to the sea.

Can I see the latest film here? Yes!. Multiplexes dot the city and so do individual theatres. English movies are mostly played at multiplexes run by the likes of PVR Cinemas and Big Cinemas.

What should I be wary of? As with any city, avoid getting drunk with strangers and keep your money safe. Try not carrying too much cash on you at a time. Mumbai is relatively safe for women but do not take rides with people you do not know. Avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless clothes when visiting a religious place.

Emergency contacts?

Police Control Room 100

Police Control Room Helpline 22620111, 22151855

Medical, Police and

Fire ☎ 101

Fire emergency number (Mumbai) 3085991

mumbai juhu beach
An evening at Juhu beach

Fire emergency number (Thane) 5331600

Fire emergency number (Vashi) 7660101

Child Line Facility ☎ 1098

Traffic Helpline 25181717

Traffic Control Room Helpline 24937747, 24937755

For accidents on Mumbai-Pune Expressway 9822498224

Ambulance services 1298

Municial ambulance 3077324

Ambulance – Andheri (W) 6255264/3599, 6243675

Ambulance – Dadar 4229531, 4229556

Ambulance – Thane 5331552

Ambulance – Borivli 9819116599, 9820552493

Women’s helplines 22828862, 26140403

Senior citizens’ helpline 613811111

Railway Emergency 23004000

Airport Police Helpline 28225709

Missing Persons Bureau 22621547

BMC Disaster Management Cell 22694725

Medical facilities: The city has a full range of medical facilities, from major hospitals offering specialty treatment to local neighbourhood physicians. Major hospitals include Lilavati Hospital (Bandra), Hinduja Hospital (Mahim), Breach Candy hospital (Breach Candy), Jaslok Hospital (Peddar Road) and the Hirnanadani Hospital (Powai). There are also several Fortis group hospitals across locations in Mumbai,

How do I call Mumbai from outside? The country code for India is +91 and the city code for Mumbai is 022. To call a landline in Mumbai from within India, call 022-xxxx xxxx. To call a landline in Hyderabad from outside India, call 91-22-xxxx xxxx or 91-xx-xxxx xxxx for a mobile number.

You can easily get a prepaid mobile local number with a calling rate of 1 paise/second for a local/national call. You will need a photo ID proof and a photograph. Mumbai has services from the following companies – Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Com, Tata Indicom, Aircel, Telenor, Tata Docomo, Virgin Mobile, MTS

How can I access the internet? The easiest would be to access it on your phone. The local number you take offers data services too – check the prices. In any case, they are a fraction of the international roaming charge.

The city also has internet cafes almost everywhere that charge nominally – up to a dollar an hour usually, though top end hotels can be more expensive. For laptop, get a data plan from a service provider – usually the same as cellphone. There are limited free wi-fi areas.

Where can I change money? Money changers are available all over – especially in tourist areas and major markets. The airport has them too, though the rates are not as good.

There are many small forex shops that will offer better rates, even if they do not give a receipt.

Dollars are most easily accepted. Euros, British Pounds, and UAE Dirhams are also accepted widely. Count your money after the transaction.

Which are the main media? There are a number of nationally seen English and Hindi news and entertainment television channels that are available at hotels. Some of these are NDTV, CNN IBN, Times Now and CNBC. For English news globally, the most common channels are BBC and CNN. Sometimes al Jazeera, Russia Today, France 24 etc are also available. Top hotels will have channels in French, German, Spanish. Of course many channels are available in local and other Indian languages. There are many news and entertainment channels in Marathi and other Indian languages.

The most popular daily newspaper is Times of India followed by DNA both in English. Indian Express, Hindustan Times and Hindu are also commonly available. For local business news Economic Times is the leading paper followed by Business Standard and Mint.

The top Marathi language newspapers are Maharashtra Times, Navakaal, Lokmat and Loksatta.

Restricted movement days? Travelling around Mumbai during the week leading to the Ganesh Visarjan festival in September can be quite difficult, specially at night when many people take out processions.

What is nearby? Mumbai is the gateway to southern India, specially and obviously more so for the Western coastal cities of Goa and Kerala.

By road you can visit Pune, a major city is near by and so are small trips to Khandala (specially during rains when a numebr of seasonal waterfalls form) and Matheran (Shivaji’s forts and jungle treks). Nashik is an upcoming wine region.

Overnight buses can take you up to Goa, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru and an overnight train to Kerala.

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