Mumbai - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Mumbai


Situated on a peninsula halfway up the west coast of India, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is India's economic powerhouse, and home to more millionaires than any other city on the Indian subcontinent. As well as being the country's financial capital, Mumbai is also an important port, handling a third of all international trade; and a base for many of India's largest companies. However, among all this wealth and the Bollywood lifestyle are cases of extreme poverty - with almost half of the 21 million-strong population living in slums.

The Portuguese established this old Hindu city as a colony in 1509. In 1661, it passed to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II, and became a vital trading base for the East India Company and later the Crown. The centre of Imperial Bombay, the city contains a breathtaking array of High Victorian buildings and is reminiscent of a prosperous 19th-century English industrial city. The fascinating range of architectural styles reflects the British passion for the Gothic and demonstrates the wealth, panache and confidence of British Bombay. Prosperity has always been considered more important than religious homogeneity in Mumbai, and this is reflected in the range of places of worship throughout the city - churches and cathedrals sit alongside countless mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples.

Like many Indian cities, the streets of Mumbai are congested with cattle, carts and motor vehicles, and the air is thick with smog and the sound of horns. But despite this, the city has much to offer, and those en route to Goa should take time to discover Mumbai's colourful and fascinating history, as well as its vibrant, energetic and friendly people. At the very worst, your experience of Mumbai will make Goa's beaches seem that much more peaceful.

Information & Facts


The winter months (November to February) are the best time to visit Mumbai, when temperatures range between 74°F (23°C) and 86°F (30°C). The spring and summer months are uncomfortably hot, with high humidity and temperatures often reaching 104°F (40°C). The monsoons arrive in July and August, and you should try to avoid travelling in Mumbai during these months, if possible.

Eating Out

Mumbai is a melting pot of cuisines, both regional and international, and this city is simply bustling with wonderful restaurants. With so many migrants in Mumbai, this city caters to everyone, and travellers can enjoy anything from a modest street-side café meal, to fine-dining and trendy eateries where you can rub shoulders with Mumbai's silverscreen stars. From traditional Tandoori food, kebabs and the delicious and inventive Gujarati cuisine, to Mughlai and the highly popular Punjabi cuisine, Mumbai represents every single kind of Indian fare. Dishes such as butter chicken and chicken tikka masala have been exported to the rest of the world, but are staples on most Indian menus. Indians make wonderful use of vegetables and vegetarians will have no problem finding something to suit them. Seafood from the Konkan coast is also quite famous, and considered to be a local specialty in Mumbai. Try the local street-snack pani puri, also known as gup chup, a round, hollow bowl made from crisp-fried unleavened bread and filled with a mixture of tamarind, chilli, chaat masala, onion and potatoes. Authentic masala chai is a must while visiting Mumbai - this sweet tea, boiled in a mixture of water, milk and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger, might well become one of your abiding memories of India.

Getting Around

The streets of Mumbai are chaotic and difficult to negotiate, but most attractions are fairly central and can be reached on foot. However, visitors generally opt for hiring a car with a driver by the day, which can be arranged at hotel desks. Rates are dependent on the type of vehicle hired. The city's public bus service is government-run, and consists of a fleet of red single and double-decker buses, usually hot and crowded. Suburban electric trains connect to the outlying areas, but are crowded, particularly during rush hour. Auto rickshaws are not allowed to operate in the centre of the city, but are cheaper than taxis and good for short distances. Metered taxis are plentiful all over the town and its surrounds. A very fast (and air-conditioned) hydrofoil service connects central Mumbai to many surrounding suburbs.

Although English is generally used for official and business purposes, Hindi is the official language and is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Urdu is the language common with the Muslim demographic. India has a total of 22 official languages

The currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise (singular paisa). Major currencies can be changed at banks, and authorised bureaux de changes. It is impossible to obtain rupees outside India, but no matter what time you arrive in India there will be an exchange office open at the airport. It is illegal to exchange money through the black market and it is advisable to refuse torn notes, as no one will accept them apart from the National Bank. It is best to change money into small denominations. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted, particularly in tourist orientated establishments. ATMs are not generally available.


Many might not anticipate Mumbai to boast a fabulous nightlife, but this city will not disappoint with its dazzling display of clubs, discos, bars and restaurants all bustling into the early hours. With so many 'Bollywood' stars, millionaires and high-profile social butterflies around, Mumbai has become the pride and joy of India's nightlife, with plenty of chic and trendy spots for travellers to enjoy. Sip on your favourite poison in one of Mumbai's rooftop bars overlooking the Arabian Sea, before heading out to a bouncing nightclub to dance the night away. The lively Colaba Causeway is a great place to start, with plenty of down-to-earth pubs with zero pretence. Head to Churchgate or Juhu if you're looking for somewhere to shake a tail feather; while Bandra is a very chic area, where style is the order of the day and everyone seems to work really hard at looking good. Join locals on the dancefloor and jam to some bhangra and R&B, or for something completely unique, go wild to some Hindi house hits. Being the home of 'Bollywood', visitors to Mumbai should definitely head to a local cinema to take in a movie. Fort and Churchgate areas are the best places to do this - make a night out of it, and you won't be disappointed.


The cosmopolitan city of Mumbai is a shopper's paradise. From everything from haute couture to local markets and dinky shops tucked away in side streets, Mumbai is a fabulous place to spend some time and money.

M Gandhi Road is a great place for all those fashionistas to go searching for designer brands. Known as 'Fashion Street', travellers can buy brand-label clothing and other wares for a fraction of the price that they would in countries like the United States. Department stores such as Shopper's Stop and Globus are also common, while Frazer and Haws in Bandra is worth a visit.

Those with a knack for haggling are in luck! All the markets in Mumbai follow this practice, and markets such as Chor Bazaar, Crawford Market, the silversmith's bazaar and Dharavi are all great places to hone your bargaining skills. The rule of thumb is to start haggling from half the price you'd like to pay, and then go up as far as you're willing to from there. Brass, copper and silver items are great to buy in Mumbai, and other popular souvenirs include carved sandalwood boxes, and wooden Buddha or Hindu deity statuettes.

Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday from 10am till 8pm, but markets and street vendors often open earlier. Taxes can be added on to the cost of goods, depending on the item. Service tax is 5%, while tax-free shopping is usually confined to special stores, usually located in ports and airports. There is no tax refund system in place in Mumbai.


Most of Mumbai's typical tourist sites are situated around the built-up areas of Mumbai's southern peninsula (and most notably, Colaba) - but this cosmopolitan city boasts attractions reflecting Mumbai's rich history, as well.

The colonial buildings that are scattered throughout Mumbai remind travellers of the history not only of the city, but of the country as well. The best examples of this architecture can be seen in the Gateway of India, the CST Terminus, and the Police Headquarters; while the Prince of Wales Museum, founded in the early 20th century to commemorate a visit from George V, is a great resource for learning about India's history.

While you're in the area, check out the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the oldest five-star hotels in India and also a site for the 2008 Mumbai terrrorist attacks. The Elephanta Caves - a very popular tourist excursion - are also located nearby, and the former home of Mahatma Gandhi, the Mani Bhavan Ghandi Museum, is a Gujarati-style house featuring three floors for visitors to explore all things Gandhi.

For great views of Mumbai, visit the terraced Hanging Gardens (now known as the Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens); head to the Marine Drive Chowpatty (beach) for people-watching; and for a really authentic Mumbai shopping experience, look no further than the always-crowded, bright and colourful Crawford Market.

The southernmost peninsula, known as Colaba, is where most travellers gravitate to as it has a good range of hotels and restaurants and two of the city's best landmarks, the Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Gateway to India was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary. The archway is built from honey-coloured basalt in a style derived from Gujarati architecture of the sixteenth century. In the days of the steam liner, the Gateway was for many visitors their first and last sight of India but today it acts purely as a colourful tourist stop, and attracts hawkers, snake charmers, and beggars. The neighbouring Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1902 by JN Tata, after he was allegedly refused entry to one of the city's European hotels on account of being 'a native'. It has since turned into a bit of an institution, and the streets behind it have become a Mecca for travellers, the Colaba Causeway is the main street with a melee of street vendors, shops, stalls and cafes. Unfortunately Colaba was also the site of two of the 2008 Mumbai Attacks and tourists are recommended to remain vigilant when visiting the area. To the north of the causeway, set in beautiful lush gardens, is the fascinating Prince of Wales Museum displaying a collection of ancient and medieval sculpture and Indian decorative arts, nearby the new National Gallery of Modern Art showcases Indian modern art. To the south is the Sassoon Dock, which at dawn becomes an area of intense and pungent activity as fishing boats arrive to unload their catch.

The colourful indoor Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market) is where locals of central Mumbai go shopping for their fruit, vegetables and (for the brave) meat. Rudyard Kipling was born just south of the market in 1865 and an ornate fountain designed by his father, Lockwood Kipling, sits between old fruit boxes at the market's centre. He also designed the frieze depicting Indian peasants in wheat fields which hangs above the main entrance. The animal market at the rear sells everything from poodles to parrots in small cages. North of the market are the narrow lanes of Kalbadevi. This predominantly Muslim area is a seething mass of people and traffic and is the location of several markets selling jewellery, textiles and leather goods. The most famous is the Chor Bazaar, Mumbai's 'thieves' market', which sells 'antiques' and miscellaneous junk - don't place too much faith in authenticity of anything here. This area is also home to the Jama Masjid and the Mumbadevi Temple, which is dedicated to the patron goddess of the island's original Koli inhabitants.

Known as the 'world's largest laundromat', the Dhobi Ghat provides a scene many travellers might have already seen in movies. Every day, thousands of dhobiscollect dirty laundry and descend upon the concrete washing areas, all fitted with their own flogging stones, to wash the garments. To the dhobis themselves, the washing and drying of clothes is a menial task - but to inquisitive tourists, this practise can be a fascinating insight into India's daily life.

Located on Elephanta Island, in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai, the Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an absolute must for visitors to Mumbai. The caves feature Shaivistic(the oldest of the four sects of Hindusm) stone sculptures of Hindu deities important to worshippers of Shiva. Many of the sculptures in the caves were unfortunately defaced by the Portuguese who, in the 17th century, used the sculptures as target practice. A fascinating and deeply rewarding excursion, visitors to Mumbai are strongly urged to make the trip to the Elephanta Caves a non-negotiable part of their travel itineraries.

The magnificent Gothic Victorian buildings in Mumbai's Fort Area highlight the power and wealth of the British Empire at its might, and are reminiscent of many of the great public buildings in London or Glasgow. The Victoria Terminus (known as CST) was opened in 1888, and is one of the world's grandest railway stations, on a par with New York's Grand Central Station or London's St Pancras. Built in the Italian Gothic style, it looks more like a lavishly-decorated cathedral than a railway station: massive arches soar splendidly above the scurrying crowd, and carved into the pillars and buttresses are images of monkeys, peacocks, elephants and lions. The station is topped by a tall dome crowned with a statue representing Progress. The nearby St Thomas' Cathedral was built between 1672 and 1718, standing witness to almost the entire history of the British in Bombay. Its whitewashed interior contains poignant colonial memorials - including one to Henry Robertson Bower, Lieutenant of the Royal Indian Marine, who lost his life returning from the South Pole with Captain Scott. The epicentre of the Fort Area is Horniman Circle, which is surrounded by curved, arcaded terraces. The lush and leafy garden in the centre offers a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

The Haji Ali Dargah is both a mosque and a tomb located in south-western Mumbai, on an islet off the coast of Worli. The dargah(tomb) was built in memory of Muslim preacher Syed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari in 1431, who was inspired to change the course of his life after embarking on the Hajj to Mecca. Haji Ali is only accessible by a 1500-foot (457m) walkway during low tide. The walkway is generally lined with beggars and vendors, and Thursdays and Fridays see thousands of pilgrims flocking to Haji Ali to receive blessings from the dead saint.

The former home of Mahatma Gandhi, the Mani Bhavan Ghandi Museum is a Gujarati-style house featuring three floors for visitors to explore. The museum houses an incredible library, full of Gandhi-related books, periodicals, photographs, posters and even the great man's old charkha(spinning wheel).

Built in the 1920s, Marine Drive runs along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea, from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill. It is Mumbai's most famous thoroughfare, and a favourite spot for watching the sunset. Lined on the landward side by a crescent of crumbling Art Deco buildings, it is lit up memorably at night, prompting travel agents to dub it 'the Queen's Necklace'. At the top end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach, the only beach in the central part of Mumbai. Though not ideal for sunbathing or swimming, it is a popular (though hectic) place to spend an afternoon, surrounded by beach traders, entertainers and beggars. It is the best place to watch the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival (during August/September), when vast models of Lord Ganesha are immersed in the sea.

The exciting Nehru Centre, which even lookslike a UFO, features a world-class planetarium, an art gallery filled with emerging talent, and a pretty interesting culture wing. However, the highlight of the Centre is the (permanent) Discovery of India exhibition, with consists of 14 galleries showcasing every aspect of artistic, intellectual and philosophical attainment in India through the ages. This is a wonderful place to start for those looking to get to grips with the history and identity of India, one of the most mercurial and fascinating countries in the world.

The Prince of Wales Museum, now known as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, was founded in the early 20th century to commemorate the visit of (eventual King of the United Kingdom) George V. The museum houses over 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history, as well as artefacts from other lands. The museum's greatest areas of focus are art, archaeology and natural history. The Indus Valley Civilisation section is particularly impressive.

Titwala is a sacred and ancient town, home to one of the most respected temples of Ganesha. The Siddhivinayaka Temple is also located in Titwala, and is a massively popular temple among devotees, with pilgrims flocking in 'lakhs' (Indian counting unit, equal to 100,000) here on the Hindu holy day of Angarika Chaturthi. A visit to this religious and sacred town is a must for all culture vultures, and especially for anyone looking to develop their interest in Hinduism.

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