Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is regarded by many as India’s commercial and financial capital. There is always something interesting to see and do in Mumbai; from taking in the sites and sampling local delicacies to discovering the region’s Bollywood film scene. So if you have been planning your first trip to this thriving capital city then here are some helpful hints on how to get around which I learned during my week away in Mumbai;
Arrive with cash in hand
Throughout Mumbai you will quickly find that most street vendors, restaurants, cafes and bars will only accept cash. What’s more, ATM machines are less readily available in Mumbai than in other international cities so you can soon find yourself out of pocket. As such, I strongly advise that you arrive in Mumbai with some additional cash in hand. By doing so, you can avoid the inconvenience I experienced when, upon arrival, I could not find any ATM machines within Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport!
Only drink bottled water
If you wish to avoid the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’ then you should only ever drink bottled water whilst in Mumbai. If you always check the seal on water bottles the you can ensure that you are not inadvertently drinking tap water which has been rebottled as ‘purified’ water. For these same reasons you should avoid ordering salads from local restaurants because you cannot be sure that the ingredients have not been washed in tap water.
Keep your belongings within eyesight
One of the most common crimes committed in Mumbai is pick-pocketing and unfortunately tourists are often prime targets. Consequently, I would recommend that you keep all your valuable items out of sight whilst travelling around Mumbai and that you double check whether your most valuable items (in my case it was my beloved bridge camera) are covered by your travel insurance policy’s single item limits. Moreover, if you store your cash, cards and passport in a secure interior pocket, or within a money belt worn underneath your clothing whilst travelling, you can significantly reduce your chances of being targeted by opportunistic thieves.
Finding the best street vendors
One of my favourite aspects of international travel is sampling the local cuisine, and Mumbai boasts some of the best street vendors and markets in all of Asia. However, when sampling these exotic delicacies there are several factors which you must always consider. For instance, it is advised that you avoid meat based dishes if you are going food from a street vendor. If you opt for freshly cooked vegetable dishes then you can rest assured that the process of heating these dishes will have burned off any potential germs which could disagree with you. Furthermore, I discovered that a great way to locate the best street vendors is to eat where the locals gather! Long queues for a particular vendor or cafe is a strong indicator that their food is fresh, delicious and hygienic.
Avoid peak travel hours
Due to the fact that Mumbai is one of the most industrious cities in all of India, its suburban railway system can become extremely congested with commuters during peak travel hours. Therefore, as a rule, I would avoid travelling from north to south from 8am until 10am when most commuters will be going to work. Similarly, I would avoid travelling on the return route between 6pm and 8pm. In my experience, I found it cheaper and far less stressful to buy a Day Bus Pass (simply ask for a ‘chalees cha ticket’ when you board your chosen bus) rather than attempting to tackle Mumbai’s hectic suburban railway system.