DO travel with a local:
Exploring Mumbai with someone local to the city really has its benefits. Their proficiency in Hindi is a real asset whilst bartering with sellers on the street and taxi drivers who normally overcharge tourists, as well as giving fantastic advice on where to go and where not to go. But, be aware that they cannot work miracles and those hiked up admission prices into museums for foreigners are non-negotiable and hardly extortionate when compared to those charged in Europe.
DO sample plenty of Indian Cuisine:
Mumbai has so much to offer in terms of food, from street vendors to well-known and extremely popular, mid-range restaurants, to expensive high-range restaurants. Some recommended places are:
- ? Swati Snacks. It is an extremely popular restaurant for street-style food for the more sensitive stomachs, but be prepared to wait 10 minutes for a table on average, even longer during lunch hours.
- ? Trishna. It is really well known for its seafood and though the spice level is not for the faint-hearted, the quality of food is well-reputed and highly authentic.
Personally, I avoided eating food from street vendors on the famous Mohammad Ali Road to avoid the imminent ‘Delhi Belly.’ So don’t worry if your continental stomach needs a break from the spice and heat, Mumbai has plenty of cuisines to sample. For example: Indigo Deli (continental cuisine), Pali Hill Village Café (Mediterranean cuisine), Royal China (Chinese cuisine), Thai Pavillion (Thai cuisine), and Café Suzette (French cuisine) to name a few.
DON’T arrive with a fixed mindset:
As far as places go Mumbai, or India in general, is a huge step into another culture away from Europe. Here are a few things that will make travels in Mumbai much easier if you take into your stride:
- ? Traffic is inevitable. Unless you travel between 11pm and 6am you will find yourself stuck in a traffic jam somewhere along the way. It is also worth knowing that traffic signals become more like guidelines after 11pm and rules governing road lanes and overtaking are controlled by horn-honking and survival of the fittest.
- ? You will stand out as a tourist. The culture of staring in India is far different than in Europe and especially in the UK, as it is not generally considered rude. So, look forward and keep walking because they will keep staring.
DO visit both north and south Mumbai:
There is a well-known divide between those who live in south Mumbai (or ‘town’ as it’s commonly referred to) and north Mumbai (Bandra); a divide which still exists even after the completion of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link that bridges the gap between the two, reducing the excessively long commutes which previously caused such a divide. Although the locals may not be as keen to venture to the other side of the city, it is definitely worth visiting both; each has its own vibe and crowd. South Mumbai is the more popular tourist destination with the remains of the colonial influence in its architecture and sites such as Gateway, Colaba Causeway, the Taj hotel and Mumbai’s few museums and art galleries. Bandra’s appeal lies in its youthfulness. The crowd that fills the bars, restaurants and cafes in Bandra are made up of international businessmen, young college students and those in their mid-twenties, having just moved to this up-and coming-area of the city. It may not have many sites to see but it’s close to the airports and the youthful, relaxed ambience is well worth crossing the Sea Link for.
DON’T worry if the city becomes overwhelming:
You’re only human, and whilst some of you may be used to the commotion of the city, even those born and bred in Mumbai need a break from the noise and chaos from time to time. Their answer to this problem? Khandala or Alibaug. Khandala, a hill station two to three hours’ drive from Mumbai, is a popular destination for family weekend getaways. The climate is cooler, offering much needed respite from humid heat of the city, and the scenery is beautiful, with many families stopping to take photographs in front of flowing waterfalls and lush green forestry. Alibaug is also a popular destination, but mostly reserved for those lucky enough to own a beach house there. If you are one of the lucky few who know such a person, Alibaug is a wonderful contrast to city life with its long sandy beaches, Portuguese-style houses and blissful peace and quiet only 40 minutes by boat from the main port.
As far as ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s are concerned, these are a few worth keeping to; but Mumbai is such a diverse city that each traveller will have their own experience and find their own wonderful niche to explore. Sticking to these dos and don’ts may just help you find that niche a little easier.
Image credit- Grace Norman