Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India’s most populous city with 10 million residents. Hundreds of years ago the city consisted of seven islands loosely strung together by swamps. Over time land was reclaimed from the sea to form the metropolis of Mumbai. The Portuguese were the first foreigners to land on the city’s shores and much of their influence can be felt throughout the culture and food today.
Uber is a cheap way to get around but be smart. Ask the driver to start and stop the ride in front of you. Women should take caution; after daylight, only take short trips. Do not use the old, black Fiat cabs as mosquitoes are common and can increase chances of catching of malaria.
While in Mumbai, consider taking time to see another side of the city, not often accessible to or of interest to foreigners. Reality Tours & Travel offers walking tours of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia. Dharavi is home to over one million people living in just two square kilometers, and has a bustling informal economy with an annual turnover estimated at nearly $1 billion. While some may struggle with the ethics of a slum tour (we still do), Reality Tours is owned by non-profit Reality Gives, who employs local Dharavi guides to run the tours.
If it is your first time to India, we highly recommend adding to your reading list Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.
Elco Delicious chaats and pani puri on Hill Road in Bandra. It’s busy but worth the wait. (Also known for its good hygiene.)
Pali Village Cafe Iconic and romantic restaurant in Pali Village near Bandra.
Smoke House Deli This cute, calm cafe in West Bandra is the perfect spot for lunch. Try the veggie burger.
Colaba Social Hip, industrial-style bar near the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba.
Tea Villa Cafe A few different locations and over 30 different types of tea. Food is good too.
Bandstand Promenade Take a walk along the Arabian Sea at sunset.
The Gateway of India Considered Mumbai’s top tourist attraction.
Shopping Both Bandra and Colaba are excellent neighborhoods for shopping. Our favorites:
Anokhi Well-priced, well-made, block-print clothes and fabrics.
FabIndia Several locations throughout the city. Indo-Western clothes, beauty products, food, textiles and homewares. While it is a chain, most products are made from traditional techniques by rural craftsmen and women.
Global Desi Bright dresses with bold prints. A few locations through out the city.
The Shop A sweet spot in Bandra across from the Pali Village Cafe with Indo-western clothes, hand-crafted textiles and homewares.
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel A historic, 5-star hotel across from The Gateway with stunning interiors and exteriors. The hotel was the site of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Bandra is a hip part of town with street art, historic churches and a bit of Portuguese flavor. Great food, shopping and night life.
Grand Residency Bandra A good option for the budget conscious business traveler. Breakfast included and there is a gym.