Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. It is also the country’s major port and commercial capital and it is where life runs at a faster pace than anywhere else in India.
It lies on the west coast of India, and was originally a conglomeration of seven islands on the Konkan coastline. Over time they merged into the island city of Bombay.
The city is quite liberal and is a true melting pot of cultures, as the influx of immigrants from the rest of India never stops. This eclectic metropolis is truly a microcosm of India and all its contrasts. Bollywood, the glamorous center of Hindi film and TV industry lives alongside the country’s largest slum population living in abject poverty.
Mumbai has a humid climate all year round. Nevertheless it can be broken down into three seasons: winter, monsoon and summer. Winter is from November to February and temperatures range from 23 to 30° C. The monsoon season takes place in July and August and is renowned for frequent heavy rains and floods. It is a period best avoided by travelers. Summer is from March to May and can be very hot, seeing temperatures reaching 40° C and high humidity.
January average temperature 23 deg Celsius 0 mm rainfall February average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall March average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall April average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall May average temperature 30 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall June average temperature 29 deg Celsius, 566 mm rainfall July average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 650 mm rainfall August average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 488 mm rainfall September average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 356 mm rainfall October average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 89 mm rainfall November average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 5 mm rainfall December average temperature 25 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall
Bollywood produces a myriad of films, and the most popular time to go to the movies is Friday night, when new films are released. There are many posh new cinemas all over the city but old favorites are still loved, most notably the Metro Cinema and the charmingly Art Deco, Eros Cinema.
Mumbai’s numerous bazaars and markets that dot the city coexist easily with mega shopping malls and international shopping complexes located on Juhu Beach, Marine drive and VT area.
This is the site of the immersion of Ganesh idols at the end of the Ganesh Chathurthi festival. Located at the end of Marine drive, the beach is a holy place where many Hindu rituals are performed.
Juhu Bach, lying on the Arabian Sea, is the most popular beach in Mumbai. It is also the site of many five-star tourist resorts, luxury hotels and fabulous villas, homes to the rich and famous, especially from the world of film.
The Gateway of India is an imposing arch made of yellow basalt erected to commemorate the visit of King George V in 1911. It is a popular tourist attraction and a favorite meeting place for locals.
The Fort Complex
The complex bears witness to the British colonial regime, featuring numerous Gothic Victorian buildings, many of which are reminiscent of London’s and Glasgow’s public buildings. Some of the highlights are:
The Victoria Terminus (CST)
One of the grandest railway stations in the world, it opened in 1888 and was designed in lavish Italian Gothic style.
St Thomas' Cathedral
The cathedral was built in 1718 and combines Neo-Classical and Neo-Gothic styles. The interior has remained largely unchanged since the 18th century. The walls are furnished with memorials to British parishioners.
The Horniman Circle
This is the heart of the Fort area and is surrounded by curved, arcaded terraces. In the center is a lush green park that provides a welcome respite from the bustling city.
Address: Goregaon - the western suburbs
Mumbai is the center of the Indian film industry, which happens to be the largest in the world. It is a treat to see a Bollywood movie at the magnificent Eros Cinema, located next to the Churchgate railway station. It is also possible to tour Film City but special permission would need to obtained, as the studios are otherwise closed to the public. Alternatively, anyone can end up being an extra in one of the Bollywood extravaganzas, a popular tourist activity, in fact.
Chor Bazaar, located in the southern suburbs of the city, is a legendary flea market and is one of India’s largest. The market sells trinkets of every kind, antiques, colonial china, Art Deco clocks, and Bollywood posters, as well as Victorian furniture. It is affectionately known as the Thieves market and, as the saying goes: if you lose something in Mumbai, you can buy it back at the Chor Bazaar.
The Hanging Gardens / Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens
The terraced gardens perched on top of Malabar Hill, offer lovely views of the city and the Arabian Sea, especially at sunset. The gardens were constructed in the early 1880s and cover Bombay's main water reservoir.
The 5 km long promenade, lining the shore of the Arabian Sea, was built in 1920 on reclaimed land. It is Mumbai’s most famous thoroughfare and is fringed with Art Deco buildings. It is a popular place to unwind, take a stroll, go jogging or people watching. It is also a great viewing platform for the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival held in August or September.
Address: Elephanta Island
The caves, located on the Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbor are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an absolute must-see for visitors to the city. They are a series of temples cut from a single rock, dating from the 5th century AD. The complex measures 60,000 square feet and is most famous for the statues of Shiva and Parvati. The most striking is the statue of Trimurti: Shiva in three moods: the Creator, the Destroyer and the Preserver.
Date: August/September (annual) Location: Throughout the streets and on Chowpatty Beach
The festival celebrates the birthday of Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of Wisdom and Prosperity and is Mumbai’s biggest celebration. At the culmination of the celebrations, vast models of Lord Ganesha are immersed into the sea.
Location: Elephanta Island Date: February
The annual festival features a selection of well-known Indian dancers and musicians who perform at the dramatic cave temples.
Date: 15th day of the Hindu calendar month of Kartika (Ashwin) / October or November. Location: nationwide
Diwali is one of the most important festivals on the Hindi calendar and is celebrated all over the nation, with great excitement. On the first of the five days small clay lamps are lit in every home so it is also called the festival of light. Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu and Gujarati New Year and is celebrated with the lighting of lamps and candles, and lots of fireworks
The biannual festival attracts film producers and directors and is a favorite with the locals and tourists alike. The program features short, documentary and animation films. Screenings are held at the Nehru Auditorium.
Location: Malabar Hills, South Mumbai Date: January
The two-day festival features musical performances by famous artists in the picturesque setting of the Malabar Hills.
Kala Ghoda Festival
Location: near Jehangir Art Gallery Date/Time: Every Sunday from November to February
The festival lasts from November to February and takes place every Sunday. During this period the entire region of Kala Ghoda is turned into a pedestrian zone. Artists from the fields of music, dance, art, craft, theatre, and film present a vibrant cultural show.
India is a hierarchical society so you should greet the eldest or most senior person first.
Shaking hands is common, especially in the cities and in more educated circles, where people are used to dealing with the westerners.
Avoid public displays of affection, as these are seen as impolite and rude.
Bargaining is common in shops and on markets.
Indians are very curious about personal things and asking extremely personal questions is not seen as impolite.
Also, Indians are reluctant to say ‘no’, which means, if something is not available they will give you an affirmative answer, but will be deliberately vague about the specific details.
Women are advised to dress conservatively – to show respect and also to avoid the unwanted attention.
Topless bathing is illegal.
Smoking in public was banned in October 2008.
Visitors to the temples should remove their shoes and cover their heads.
Tipping: a tip between 5-10% is common at the sit-down places. If service charge is already included in the bill, you don't need to leave an extra tip.
Gifts: Be careful not to give certain gifts to either Hindus or Muslims. For example, do not give anything made of leather to a Hindu. Similarly, avoid presenting Muslims anything made of pigskin or alcohol. People usually do not open the gifts upon receiving. Wrap gifts in yellow, green or red colors, as these are deemed lucky. Do not give frangipani or white flowers because these are used at funerals. If you are invited to an Indian household, bring sweets or flowers.
Mumbai is quite safe for a city of its size but nevertheless has a high level of petty crime; stealing, pick-pocketing and cheating is omnipresent. The city is also home to the biggest slum in all of Asia.
Be very cautious of your belongings on trains and buses. If you can, avoid using public transport during peak hours as bag snatchers operate in crowded areas such as railway stations, busy roads, and traffic signals.
Street vendors may use ingredients of a poor health standard.
Women are advised against walking around alone during the night and in isolated areas. It is always better to be accompanied by a local.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Police: 100 Fire: 101 Ambulance (accidents only): 102 Ambulance (New Mumbai): 766-9189 24hrs Ambulance Services: 202-4545 Municipal Ambulance: 307-7324/307-2460
US MUMBAI CONSULATE
Address: Lincoln House, 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai, 400026 Phone: +91 22 2363 3611 (24-hour operator) Web: http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov/
The best time to visit Mumbai is during the winter months (November to February) when the heat and humidity abate. Travelers are advised to avoid the monsoon season, from June to September, when Mumbai is engulfed in heavy rain and floods.