Mumbai (Bombay) Travel Guide: The Best Places to Visit, Eat and Stay

Mumbai Travel Guide

Why you need to visit Mumbai

Welcome to India’s City of Dreams. Mumbai, or Bombay, is India’s answer to Hollywood. Home of the massive Bollywood film industry, Bombay is a city of dreams and also a city of contrasts. A city of rich and poor, inspiration and desperation, modern and traditional, glamour and squalor, old and new. 

For a first time visitor to India, Mumbai can be quite a culture shock but there is so much to love about this crazily captivating, buzzing, inspiring, ambitious, city of dreams. Crowded Mumbai is a beautiful mess, among the grand, crumbling colonial buildings and the slums and shacks there is a real buzz of aspiration and the streets are full of life. 

This is my favourite metropolis in India – a dynamic, frenetic, cosmopolitan city that you must experience and in my guide to Mumbai I’ll show you all the best spots.

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Mumbai travel guide

Mumbai Travel Guide

Daily Budget for Mumbai:  2,500 – 4,000 Indian Rupees per day ( £25 – £40 / US$38 – $60)

Mumbai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India – you can get everything you could want here but it comes as a price as it’s also one of the priciest cities in India – accommodation here costs alot more than in most other parts of India and alcohol taxes are high. But don’t worry, there are plenty of free things to do and I’ll give you some tips for budget accommodation later on in my guide to Mumbai.

Top Things to do in Mumbai

The most iconic sights, colonial architecture and places of interest are in the Colaba district on the Southern tip of Mumbai.

View of Mumbai's iconic Gateway of India

View of Mumbai’s iconic Gateway of India

  • The Fort area of Mumbai has some interesting crumbling colonial architectural to admire but the finest example and a must see is the majestic, gothic, UNESCO listed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known at Victoria Terminus. On weekdays you can witness the amazing Dabbawallahs use the crowded commuter trains to deliver over 200,000 home cooked lunches downtown every day using an ingenious system.
  • Visit Apollo Bunder to see two of Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks – The Gateway of India and the Taj Palace Hotel and enjoy the buzzing, carnival atmosphere around here or escape into the grand Taj Palace Hotel and savour afternoon tea (it’s still pricey but a whole lot cheaper than actually staying there!)
  • From the Gateway of India you can take a boat out to Elephanta Island and marvel at the ancient rock cut cave temples.
  • End the day by joining the masses to try street food on Chowpatty or Juhu Beach, people watch and take in the beautiful big red sunsets and take a evening stroll along Marine Drive also known as the ‘Queens Necklace’
Crowds at sunset enjoying Mumbai's Juhu beach

Crowds at sunset enjoying Mumbai’s Juhu beach

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If you fancy being a movie star then hang around Colaba and you may be asked to make your acting debut in a Bollywood Movie as foreigners are often needed as extras in Mumbai’s huge Bollywood film industry. You should even get paid a small amount!

Head over to Malabar Hill and check out the Hanging Gardens , watch pilgrims bathing in Banganga tank and take in great views over Chowpatty.

If the causeway is dry and the tide is not too high, pay a visit to the island like Haji Ali Mosque and nearby, see laundry done the traditional way at Dhobi Ghat (a good viewing point is from the bridge just outside Mahalaxmi station)

Contrasts of Mumbai - laundry at Dhobi Ghat against a backdrop of a modern highrise

Contrasts of Mumbai – laundry at Dhobi Ghat against a backdrop of a modern highrise

Museums in Mumbai

There are also some decent museums in Mumbai. The biggest and best for art and history is The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly called the Prince of Wales Museum) located in a heritage building

Learn more about the city of Mumbai in the beautiful heritage building of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum or learn more about Gandhi and the Indian independence movements at the free Mani Bhavan Museum. 

If art is more your thing then check out the National gallery of Modern Art and the free Jehangir Art Gallery – pick up some bargains from aspiring artists for sale outside.

Escape the City

If Mumbai gets a bit too much then you can get a breath of fresh air in the largest park in the world located with the city’s limits – the Sanjay Gandhi National Park where you can hike, explore caves, lakes and waterfalls and spot birdlife and animals on a safari.

Or perhaps meditation can help you find your inner peace in the golden Global Vipassana Pagoda which is so big it can hold 8,000 people

The Gateway of India with the iconic Taj Palace Hotel

The Gateway of India with the iconic Taj Palace Hotel

Where to Stay in Mumbai

Most travellers stay in the South on Mumbai in the districts of Fort and Colaba near to where the main sights and CST train station, but the areas around Bandra and Andheri are also trendy, popular and closer to the airport.

Mumbai boasts some of the most expensive accommodation in India so be prepared to re calibrate your budget here and your expectations, unlike the rest of India, accommodation is not great value for money here.

Save: Guesthouses and Backpacker Hostels in Mumbai

There’s limited choice in Mumbai for those on a tight budget, there are new backpacker hostels opening up around India but so far there are not many in Mumbai.

The best backpacker hostel in Mumbai is Backpacker Panda Colaba – it’s the only hostel situated in Colaba near to the majority of Mumbai’s attractions. There’s mixed dorms, female only dorms and private rooms as well as great areas for meeting other travellers. It’s a very safe hostel with friendly staff that will make you feel right at home Click here to book!

See here for more backpacker hostel recommendations in Mumbai

The Travellers Inn in Fort is also a good, clean budget option close to the train station that has dorms, private rooms and a new common area for socialising and is a long running faveourite with backpackers. 

Bentley’s Hotel is a good budget option in central Colaba which also has a bit of heritage character. Hotel Causeway is also a good, clean, more modern, budget option with a good location in central Colaba near Leopold cafe.  The Hotel Windsor  has some dorms and (pricey) private rooms and the Hotel Everest is another affordable option in Colaba.

Splurge: Best Hotels in Mumbai

Mumbai may not have so many great budget options but it does have some fantastic luxury accommodation options and, especially if this is your first stop in India, Mumbai might be a good place to splash out.

The most desirable address in Mumbai is the amazing heritage Taj Palace Hotel situated right on Apollo Bunder facing the iconic Gateway of India. Other luxury options include the opulent Oberoi on Nariman Point or the Four Seasons near Worli which boasts the rooftop bar, Aer with amazing views over Mumbai.

If you don’t mind being a bit further away from Mumbai’s main tourist attractions then try Taj Lands End in trendy Bandra or the JW Marriot on Juhu Beach.

Or for something mid range try Abode Bombay, a pretty, quirky new boutique hotel with a fantastic Colaba location. The Residency Hotela former fire station and now a character filled, historic hotel in Fort, or check out Hotel Godwin which has a lovely roof top garden terrace with views over the Gateway of India and Colaba – just try and get one of the renovated rooms from the fifth floor upwards.

haji ali mosque

The Haji Ali Mosque

Where to Eat and Drink in Mumbai 

Mumbai is filled with classy restaurants, bars and night clubs – check Time Out Mumbai for the latest in what’s hot in Bombay. Traveller’s favourites include busy Leopolds on Colaba Causeway, Cafe Universal in Fort and you must try one of the old Parsi (Iranian) restaurants like Cafe Britannias.

For something a bit swisher try afternoon tea at the iconic Taj Palace Hotel or enjoy a cocktail with a view at Aer Bar at the 4 Seasons Hotel (they have a happy hour where it’s buy one get on free but be careful for that killer Maharashtra alcohol tax) Asilo, on the 38th floor of the luxurious St. Regis hotel (formerly the Palladium hotel) is now Mumbai’s highest bar and you will also get amazing views over Marine Drive at Dome. One of the coolest bars and places for Sunday brunch is Mediterranean themed Olive. 

How to get to Mumbai

Mumbai is well served by international and domestic flights and is a popular port of entry for travellers to India.  The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has a swish new international terminal, however, you will have to clear immigration and collect your baggage and catch a bus to switch between terminals if coming from an international to a domestic flight which is a bit of a hassle.

Mumbai's famous train station - CST

Mumbai’s famous train station – CST

Mumbai has good transport connections by air, rail, bus and road to the rest of India. CST is one of the busiest train stations in the world – there is a foreigners train reservation office where you can go to arrange train tickets for your travels around India.

How to get around Mumbai

Mumbai is an increasingly congested city and the quickest and most efficient way to get between the North and the South of the city is on the busy local trains just be ready to fight you way on during rush hour and I wouldn’t attempt it with your suitcase or bags. If coming from the airport get a pre paid taxi and when using taxis or auto rickshaws always get the driver to use the meter or agree on a price before hand.

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Where Next:

Marvel at the ancient, rock cut caves at Ajantha and Ellora Caves

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