Mumbai, which many still mistakenly call Bombay, is both ancient and modern, fabulously rich and depressingly poor. Mumbai has around 15 million inhabitants and at times it feels like everyone is trying to get your attention at the same time.
Mumbai can be extremely low visitor friendly some months. For example, avoid the monsoon months, which last from June to September. Then the whole city is more or less flooded. If you are still traveling during this period, it may be a comfort that you might bring along Ganesh Charturthi, one of the biggest festivals in Mumbai. This festival is held in August and September. The best period to visit Mumbai is probably the period after the monsoon, ie October to April. Then the temperature is reasonable and the humidity is easy to handle.
Just like the food, Mumbai is not very easy to digest for first time visitors to India. Only particularly interested people choose to be here more than a few days before heading to another place in India. The weather can be erratic and the city is not particularly child friendly. But still, as you learn to relax, adjust to the pace and take people for what they are, you will discover new and interesting facets of this huge, humming metropolis. And you get guaranteed travel memories that you want to carry with you for the rest of your life.
Get to know Mumbai
Mumbai is located on the west coast of India, on seven islands originally inhabited by the fishing community of Koli. They still live in the poor neighborhoods along the coast. Throughout history, the area has been under both Arab, Portuguese and British rule before India finally gained autonomy in 1947. Many still call the city Bombay, but since 1995 the official name has been Mumbai.
If you have not been to poor countries in the past, it is easy to be disturbed by the sight of families with young children sitting close together on the sidewalks, and with nowhere else to go. You will also constantly come across desperate beggars, dirty kids who are desperately trying to sell you books or sunglasses, drug dealers whispering “hashish!” and store owners who literally drag you into their booths. None of this is easy to cope with for a fresh Indian farmer. But such is the daily life of India, and Mumbai actually has a higher standard of living than most other Indian cities.
Mumbai’s good economy is due to the city being India’s business and entertainment center. The city is home to India’s extremely productive film industry, best known as Bollywood, which makes around 900 films each year.
It is not particularly easy to orientate in Mumbai, but keep in mind that the city is triangular and narrows the farther south you come. The three suburban train lines are most convenient to use at longer distances, while the local buses are easy to use at shorter distances.
Colaba – tourists’ favorite
Mumbai is a huge city and as a tourist you will hardly have the time or interest to visit all parts of the city. The top two-thirds of the city are mainly residential, forest areas, airports and industry. We can start from the southernmost district of Colaba, which is also the district most suited to tourists. This is the tip of the Mumbai Triangle, with boardwalks on both sides and the magnificent Gateway of India at the port on the east. Within walking distance there are also several other attractions. The main street Causeway has shops, street vendors and hotels close by, and several of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars, such as Leopold and Café Mondegar, are located here.
Nariman Point Business District
Just northwest of Colaba is Nariman Point, Mumbai’s premier business district. Here you will find the headquarters of several of India’s largest companies. Just above is Marine Drive, also known as the Queens Necklace. This is a three kilometer long boulevard facing the Arabian Sea, with a long boardwalk which is great for an evening stroll, where you can watch the sun sink into the sea.
At the end of Marine Drive is Malabar Hill, a 50-meter hilltop where you will find the Walkeshwar Temple, a legendary site in Mumbai’s history. It was a lookout post guarding Arab pirates, but was destroyed during the Portuguese occupation in the 17th century. The temple was rebuilt in 1715. Here are also Mumbai’s hanging gardens, see Attractions in Mumbai. Housing prices per. square meters in this area is also among the highest in the world.
To the northeast of Colaba lies Fort, named after the fortifications that the British built around Bombay Castle. This area is the financial district of Mumbai. Here you will find the stock exchange, Reserve Bank of India and Victoria Terminus.
Further north in town you will find Bandra, a residential district that is home to most of the city’s Catholics, which explains the presence of Mount Mary’s Basilica. Here you will also find Linking Road shopping street. Bandra has recently gained a reputation for being Mumbai’s restaurant district.
Finally, we mention the fashionable Juhu, where many of Mumbai’s Bollywood stars live. Here are also several luxury hotels that are strategically located on Juhu Beach, Mumbai’s most famous sandy beach. During the daytime there are surprisingly few people here, but it is filled up on weekends, and many come here in the evening to watch the sunset in a romantic and idyllic setting. Please note that although the beaches can be beautiful, they are quite polluted due to the location. In other words, Mumbai is not the place you travel to swim and sunbathe.
Facts about Mumbai
Mumbai was formerly called Bombay and is officially the largest city in India. Mumbai is also the capital of the state of Maharashtra.
|Population||about 18 million|
|Official languages||Hindi, English, Urdu, Punjabi and 14 other languages|
|Religion||75% Hindu, 15% Muslim|
|Time Difference||India is 4.5 hours ahead of Norway, during summertime 3.5 hours|
|Currency||Indian rupee. 100 rupees is about 15 Norwegian kroner. Credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and AmEx are accepted in most major locations such as hotels and restaurants. There are plenty of ATMs available.|
|Tips||If the tips are not included 10% is ok, but normally you will round up the amount. In taxi and rickshaw there is no need to give tips. Price is agreed here in advance.|
|Embassy||The Norwegian Embassy in India is located in the capital New Delhi. Address 50c Shantipath, Chanakyapura. Tel: +91 1126 873532. Mumbai has a Norwegian consulate by phone +91 22284 2042/2098|
|Tourist||123 Maharshi Karve Road|
|Emergency||Police 100, Fire 101, Ambulance 102|
|Electricity||220 volts, but some places with three-pin connectors. Adapters are normally available in stores|
|Holidays and Holidays||January 26 (Republic Day) and August 15 (Independence Day), in addition to countless local holidays|
|Visa||Norwegian citizens need a visa before entering India. Contact the Indian Embassy at Nils Juels gate 30 in Oslo (tel. 22 55 22 29) at least one week before departure. As of July 2007, the price is NOK 400 for a one-time visa + a passport photo|
|Vaccinations||No vaccines are required, but it is recommended to vaccinate against polio, typhoid fever, Japanese meningitis, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A and TB|
|Water||Do not drink from the tap|
|Nearest major cities||Surat, Pune, Nashik|
|Safety||Violence is very rare, robbery can happen, pickpockets and scams very common. Pay extra attention to your valuables in crowds.|