Some metropolises can be described in one word, despite their size: New York is glamorous, Paris is romantic, London is dignified. But Mumbai, one of the largest cities on the planet, is difficult to qualify. The capital of Maharashtra is a maddening tangle of ancient history and traditions, of modern technology and architecture, of extreme riches and poverty. You are as likely to find luxury brand shops and bustling bazaars, and questionable street food as fine dining. Few people can visit Mumbai for the first time without feeling the weight of it. It takes time to get used to the chaos, but once you do, Mumbai seems like the most enjoyable place on the planet. Here’s a traveler’s guide to Mumbai for those who plan on jumping head first into this amazing city.
Mumbai is huge, with more inhabitants than a small country, and traversing the city can feel like visiting several distinct towns. The oldest part of Mumbai is the south, which encompasses Fort, Colaba, Malabar Hill, Nariman Point, Marine Lines, Tardeo. Here you can find the commercial heart of the city, it’s most popular tourist areas, and many interesting sights. South Central Mumbai is primarily industrial, but it has a few notable attractions, as well as the city’s most famous temple. North Central Mumbai is home to the second largest slum in Asia, Dharavi, and if slum tourism is your thing, even this part of Mumbai has something to offer.
Getting around Mumbai can be an adventure, and not necessarily a pleasant one if you are not prepared. Public transport in Mumbai can be overwhelming, but the network is well organized and it’s much easier to navigate the city than it might seem. Buses are the most popular means of transport for Mumbai’s inhabitants, and they tend to be very crowded most of the time. Taxis are the alternative if you want some space for yourself, and they are cheap and plentiful. Private taxis are more expensive, but more comfortable and air conditioned. Auto-rickshaws can be found in certain parts of the city, and they might not be the height of comfort, but they are part of what makes Mumbai interesting and unique.
There are several ‘traditional’ tourist sights in Mumbai, most of them located in the southern parts of the city. You can take your pick of interesting religious sites (Siddhivinayak temple is the richest in Mumbai, while Haji Ali Dargah mosque is the most visited), reflecting the many religious practiced in the city – you can find temples, mosques, synagogues and pagodas. Some of the largest and most famous museums and galleries in India are located in Mumbai. The street markets and the bazaars alone are a good enough reason to visit Mumbai – Colaba Causeway, Chor Bazaar and Linking Road are world famous.