We didn’t really know what to expect with Mumbai, after spending 2 weeks in India. And I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. It was a world away from the busyness of Delhi, and no where near as religious as Varanasi. It felt cosmopolitan and everyone was so friendly, and less pushy for sales.
Where to Stay in Mumbai
Panda Colaba Hostel (down South)
This place is perfectly located for all the ‘top sights’ in Mumbai. A 15 minute walk from the Gateway of India, ferry point for Elephanta Island, the Taj Palace, large local supermarket (Sahakari Bhandar), cinema theatre, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vaastu Sangrahalaya and a McDonalds (come on!).
The hostel is large, very secure and perfect for a few nights stay. The staff are very friendly and the common area terrace is a lovely place to meet new friends and share stories, although it gets hot as only fans are present. We even took advantage of the kitchen, although we had to cook pasta in a microwave, no hob guys! I have to say Kel did a great job!
We couldn’t rate this hostel high enough!
Zostel Mumbai (further North)
We stayed at this hostel originally to be closer to the airport towards the end of our stay in Mumbai, however there wasn’t a great deal up here, in terms of things to do. There are a few lakes, a waterpark (a cab and ferry away) and a road that’s suppose to be dangerous at night with tigers and leopards (according to our driver). That be said the hostel is very clean, fairly modern, comfortable and perfect for a night stay or two. The nearest train station is around a 15 minute tuk tuk away, which will take you down to the South of Mumbai for very cheap, and I’m talking like 9rs!
Top Places to Visit in Mumbai
Gateway of India, Mumbai
This is a very popular monument with crowds gathering at all times of the day. As it was around the corner from our hostel, we visited the Gateway as soon as we arrived in Mumbai, and were immediately asked for selfies by locals, which didn’t phase us – although we were very hungry! One young girl really wanted a photo with Kelly and paid a photographer for a professional photo with her, quite bizarre!
The Gateway itself obviously means a lot to people and is a symbol of Mumbai, but to me is was just another arch. That didn’t stop me taking plenty of photos however, and it didn’t stop people taking photos with us…
The Taj Palace, Mumbai
With rooms at £250 a night (yep we looked) this place was stunning. It reminded me of the Parliament Building in Budapest, with its burgundy dome and roofs. Unfortunately there was scaffolding over the main entrance, however you could still see the large chandeliers and luxuries through the windows of this palace.
You can get a great view of this from the Gateway of India complex and out at sea.
Elephanta Caves (Elephanta Island)
Ferry from Gateway of India to Elephanta Island
We arrived at the Gateway complex early to start our day at Elephanta Island. On arrival, we got approached by a guy who claimed he was part of the Elephanta Tours group and told us all the stuff we had researched online, which was great, it just reassured us. However he then mentioned that we were going at the wrong time of day and we ‘wouldn’t be able to read the signs’ when we were there. He then pulled out a sheet which displayed a tour which would last until midday, the supposed ‘better time’ to visit the caves. We stepped back and looked this up. We then saw a large group of western tourists head towards the ferry. At this point we knew we were just being scammed for a tour, so politely declined and headed towards the ferry.
The ferry cost 200rs each return, and it cost an extra 10rs each to chill on the top deck, which we thought was worth it! Purely as it’s less busy and gives you photo opportunities. The trip each way takes around an hour and was very pleasant.
Elephanta Caves in Mumbai
When you arrive to the island you are greeted by a train that takes you to the end of the pier. We actually beat the train walking, so save your money.
Getting to the entrance of the caves isn’t for the faint-hearted. The steps are steep and there are quite a few of them! As you summit the steps, you are greeted with stalls of ornaments, toys and fabrics all the way to the top on either side. The steps are shaded under tarpaulin which was helpful. If you fancy some royalty, you can hire guys to take you up on a wooden throne.
Entry to the caves cost 600rs each for tourists, which we thought was a little steep in comparison to other sights we’ve visited across India. But I guess you don’t have a choice, it’s the only thing on the island!
The first (main) cave was interesting with it’s carvings dedicated to Lord Shiva, as bats chilled hanging from the ceiling. A lot of the carvings and sculptures had damage to them, and it took us a grand total of 10 minutes to slowly wonder around here.
The second cave had a few carvings but wasn’t anything as special as the first. There were a few further caves, which were just essentially holes in a rock.
In fact the monkeys on the island took the limelight for us, as we witnessed one of them picking up a water bottle and drinking from it in a human like manner. It was quite amusing to us westerners.
As we didn’t feel as if there was anything too special here to see, we took the challenge to find the higher viewpoint (Kelly did need to be convinced), which took a further 20 minutes of uphill walking. On our travels we came across 2 large canons, lots of cow dung and the views weren’t too great because of the dusky air.
All in all a worthy morning trip, but it didn’t quite live up to our expectations.
Hanging Gardens, Mumbai
Unfortunately the gardens didn’t live up to the photos online when we visited. I’m guessing it may have been wrong time of the year, which would probably explain why some areas were cordoned off. It was however a pretty place for a 15 minute stroll where we witnessed countless butterflys, colourful flowers and a giraffe shaped bush.
Kamala Nehru Park, Mumbai
This was a beautiful place for reminiscing and lifted our hopes for the day, after a disappointing visit to The Hanging Gardens. I think this park was predominantly for children, but we loved the large boot, nursery rhymes, hop scotch and views of Mumbai beaches and skyline.
I really got carried away and started making my way to the top of the boot, to be whistled at by a security officer and told I need to be younger than 12 years old. Kelly is definitely better than me at hop scotch too!
Babunath Temple, Mumbai
This temple is well hidden, which was quite nice as it wasn’t busy at all. It was odd to see the temple surrounded by apartments hanging out their washing. However anything is possible in India. We didn’t spend long here as a small ceremony was on, and we didn’t wish to intrude.
Mahalakshmi Mandir Temple, Mumbai
As the oldest temple in Mumbai, there were queues lining the paths to visit this. We were unsure whether to queue or not – well I was, Kelly didn’t want to get involved. However I was determined and spoke to a security officer about being tourists etc. He then pointed towards a ‘VIP’ signed route, which we followed. We then found ourselves going past the queues and seperated into the male and female queue lines for visiting the inside of the temple.
The queues were filled with worshippers desperate to see their gods and bare their gifts, so it did feel a little intrusive, but there wasn’t any real way out of the line. I did feel for Kelly, as it’s her 4 worst nightmares all in one – waiting, crowds, religion and being without me of course! The female queue was a lot slower too, which I knew would only add to her frustration.
The gift baring was a little bizarre. People were literally pushed to the front of the temple where they had a few seconds to pray and leave their gift (which were generally thrown towards the front at the statues and guys collecting them), they were then shoved along to exit in a conveyor belt like fashion.
There were no photo signs around the temple, but this didn’t stop someone grabbing a selfie and another young Indian lad who wanted a photo of my tattoo!
Kelly was 10 minutes behind and her face was a picture! Nothing an ice cream can’t solve.
Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai
To get to this mosque you have a saddening 5 minute walk along the pier out to it. And I say saddening, because the pathway is lined with less fortunate Indians, Mum’s/babies and beggars who are all demanding money. The mosque itself was very busy, although it seemed the majority of visitors come here for a dip in the sea and selfies on the rocks surrounding Haji Ali Dargah.
The mosque doesn’t look greatly maintained, but it is still in use for purpose which is great to see.
Rajabai Clock Tower, Mumbai
We visited this place for a few quick snaps as I don’t believe you are allowed in. Although we did speak to the security guards who were willing to charge us for entry, but it didn’t seem legit as no-one seemed to be inside. The architecture was pretty.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum, Mumbai
We checked out this museum with the intentions of entering, however on arrival we found out that two of the exhibitions were closed and the Mumbai show was not showing, which was annoying. That be said, the place looks stunning from the outside, with its feather like trees…
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Train Station, Mumbai
As far as train stations go, this one is up there in terms of look and size, the place is massive. We just waited patiently for traffic and took photos from a distance. Conveniently we were right by a McDonalds – win, win.
Jumma Masjid, Mumbai
We were actually looking for Crawford Market and stubbled across the busy streets in front of Jumma Masjid. These were predominately filled with toy stores and the usual trade. Only one lane for both cars and people as the roads were aligned with stalls, so we didn’t stay here long. We eventually got around to Crawford Market which was full of fresh produce and spices, unfortunately we were hassled by a little boy trying to sell us a shitty bag for 20p, so it kind of dampened the experience.
Regal Theatre ‘Andhadhun’ Cinema Experience
This was one of our highlights, and a sure recommendation. We paid our 200rs each at the kiosk for cinema tickets, to be asked whether we were sure we wanted to watch a Hindi film – they assumed we had chosen the wrong film. The metal detector security door was pretty pointless at the front, as visitors just barged through. There was only a 10 minute turnaround from the last film, so it was all fast moving.
We picked up our mixed popcorn and bottle of water for 90rs and took our seats in the old theatre. As soon as we sat down, everyone then got up for the Indian national anthem, where they waved the national flag on the screen and everyone sang. Very patriotic, but India is such a proud country. There was also an interval in the middle for popcorn top-ups.
The film itself was actually really good and had a high rating in the current Bollywood charts. It was easy to follow, however there were conversational parts where the audience laughed and we obviously couldn’t understand, in fact there were quite a few of these! It wasn’t until our next hostel in Mumbai where we found out from an Indian couple the gaps of the story.
All in all a fantastic experience to eat up an evening. They even have late 10pm showings.
On exiting the theatre we had our first glimpse of Indian rain, and I insisted to take night time photos of the India Gateway and Taj Palace – Kelly of course wasn’t up for this so ran ahead.
Water Kingdom (Waterpark), Mumbai
As there wasn’t much around our second hostel we decided that a fun day out away from sights was very much needed. So when we got to Zostel at 11am we chucked our bags in, then jumped in an Ola cab up to Borivali Ferry Point and took the 10 minute ferry across the creek to the Water Kingdom waterpark, which cost 50rs return each. Going across the creek you get to see the Gold Pagoda (ok so I lied about sights!). The waterpark itself cost 600rs each, as we found a Freaky Friday deal online.
We did have a problem with Kellys swimwear attire on arrival, and were made to rent swim pants and t-shirt for 200rs, which was worth it for the ‘feel comfortable factor’. Lockers were 150rs each and we had 2 Indian thali’s to eat on site which were so yummy. That was our days spend.
The waterpark was lots of fun. We started off with a wave pool, to some dancing in a rain shelter and then several flumes.
Who doesn’t love a waterpark, right?
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai
After arriving at our 2nd hostel further North in Mumbai I had realised that we had missed seeing the main Dhobi Ghat and the slums. The hostel was offering a day tour, but of course it was twice the price! Also Kelly wasn’t interested in checking these places out, so today I would be a lone traveler. I therefore took a tuk tuk from Zostel Mumbai to Dhobi Ghat which cost 270rs on Ola (45 minute trip). Dhobi Ghat is a 140 year old open-air laundromat and a popular tourist spot. Which surprised me when the Ola driver hadn’t ever heard of the place and had to ring his brother to confirm.
The driver dropped me off towards the ground floor of the Ghat and I just had a wonder, not knowing what really to expect, however I knew what my price of a tour would be (after researching online). Getting to the end of the road a guy appeared and pretty much said ‘come with me’ – he knew I was looking for a tour. I followed him into the Ghat and stopped him to ask for a price. Then I was surrounded by several guys who asked for 500rs for a 30 minute tour inside. I was adamant to get the tour for 100rs, partly because I was spending both mine and Kelly’s money. They countered 200rs and I then did the walking away trick, it was a deal on 100!
Let’s just say the tour didn’t quite last 30 minutes, but it was a great experience all the same. As you go through you see the process of clothes being hand washed in the large concrete baths, huge industrial washing machines/spinners and ironing. My tour guide took me up some crooked ladders and weaving through hundreds of jeans drying out I was taken to a high spot overlooking the Ghat, which was quite the picture. On the visit I was greeted by around 20 workers who were all happy to pose for photos and very welcoming. On exit the guide tried for another 50rs, but I gave him a 100 note and off I went, although I apparently don’t have good luck now.
You also get a great view of the Dhobi Ghat for free right next to the train station. I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
Although not quite to my Mum’s standards, I’m sure this is something she’d be proud of.
Dhavari Slums, Mumbai
When we first arrived we witnessed the Dhavari slums covering the landscape in front of the built up skyline of Mumbai, it is a very dramatic contrast of living. It is known to be one of the worlds largest slums.
Without Kelly, I took the 9rs train journey from Mahalaxmi to Mahim Junction, which was actually really easy to do and quicker than a taxi would have been. I then decided to just wing it and get as close to the slums as possible without paying for a tour (wouldn’t have sat well with Kelly), even though it’s suggested quite dangerous. I took the high walkway over Dhavari Main Road (it felt safe up here) and walked towards the slums. I was accompanied by a group of school children who I played the high five game with (moves hand away when kid tries to high five) and they insisted for photos. They all seemed giggly and happy.
Getting down from the walkway I carried on walking around aimlessly and following tours of westerners when I could. I ended up tagging onto the end of a tour, which took me through an area where they were hand making pottery and clay based items. I then got to the tour base and declined the next tour due to the price.
It was clear that this area was totally different to the cosmopolitan south of Mumbai I was used to. The floors were filled with rubbish, smells were stronger, children played with no clothes and the infrastructure was basic. That be said there was a certain energy and spirit about the place, plus I barely got hassled to buy anything and felt pretty safe. I may have benefited more from a tour, but I was happy with just visiting.
We didn’t get a choice with this one… but I have to say this is probably my favourite airport to date. On entering the airport it felt like the most modern/cleanest place we had been in India so far, which became crowded with well dressed businessman and many tourists.
We excited the airport swiftly from our domestic flight, which is always what you need. The airport is very modern, clean and full of various artworks. It also has a koi fish pond, I mean come on guys! The domestic departing terminal is like a mall with shops, quirky bars and popular restaurants.
Should I Visit Mumbai?
Mumbai is a fascinating place and we found it to be a world apart from the bustling busyness of Delhi. It’s so much calmer and down South there doesn’t seem to be as much poverty as we had grown accustom to. There are many sights to tick off the list and lots of activities in the day and night. We loved Mumbai and would certainly recommend a visit, you do need at least 3-4 days to get a full Mumbai experience.
Here’s a little taster to what we got up to in Mumbai…
Time to enjoy the beaches of Goa 🙂