Mumbai was my first stop on my around the world journey. The first thing you realize is that it’s an assault on all senses. Smell, taste, sight, touch, and definitely sound (must be ready for the car horns). With a population of around 18.4 million people, it’s fair to say there were quite a few people here. But since I am on a budget or am trying to do some budget friendly things, I wanted to share my favorites that I did and are friendly to your wallet.
Note: I stayed in Mumbai for five days, you could probably do all of this in two or three days at the most, but I knew a friend here so I stayed longer.
The thing that will eat the most out of traveling to sites in Mumbai is the travel time. Mumbai has rickshaws, taxis, and now Uber. Heads up, it is illegal for rickshaws in Mumbai (and state of Maharashtra) to not have a meter, so don’t get in one unless it is on.
If you are sticking to a real tight budget or just want to spend less, the train is the best option. It costs 10 rupees to go from the north central part of Mumbai to the south, aka 15 cents. So this is likely your best choice. But do avoid the morning rush hour and the 5-8 rush hour, unless you want to be packed in like sardines.
If you are staying in Santacruz or Bandra West or other northern neighborhoods, be advised that if you take a taxi or Uber it will take you at least an hour to get to South Mumbai and will range from 200-300 rupees ($3-5). Rickshaw drivers CANNOT go into south Mumbai, so that option is out.
1. Gateway of India – Free
The Gateway of India was the first “touristy” attraction that I saw in Mumbai. The Gateway was built in 1924 overlooking the Mumbai harbor. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. You can visit the Gateway any time of the day. You do have to go through security, but that was very minimal, they wanded me for all of 3 seconds.
As a tourist you will get asked to take photos with you while you are down there. If you are a female, you will get asked even more by men to have a photo taken with them (as if you are their girlfriend) or children will come up to you too. If you are feeling kind you can say yes, but be prepared to have a long line show up all of a sudden so they can take pictures. When you don’t feel like it, either say no or ignore and keep walking.
Also near the Gateway is the famous Taj Mahal Hotel. It is was built in 1903 and is an architectural wonder. They added the Tower as an attachment in 1973. In 2008, the hotel was attacked by a terrorist group and part of the hotel was destroyed along with over 160 people killed. The majesty of the hotel is still worth seeing.
2. Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahaiaya – 500 rupees (~$7.50)
This was an unexpected trip. I happened to meet a fellow tourist at the Gateway who also happened to be eating at the same restaurant as my friend and I the night before. It is just a couple of blocks from the Gateway and a nice reprieve from the heat.
The museum used to be the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India but was renamed in 1998. The museum houses a beautiful front garden with statutes and a small cafe. The pieces in the museum itself vary from Hindu sculptures and idols, to Asian artwork, to English paintings. Many of the pieces were donated by the Tata family that had been accumulated by Sir Ratan and Dorab Tata. The detailed miniature paintings were my favorite part of the museum.
3. Bandra Fort – Free
Bandra Fort (or Castella de Aguada) was built in 1640 by the Portuguese. It was one of many forts built by the Portuguese when they held the Mumbai area. The city has put gardens up and around the fort and you can walk down on the rocks and out to the bay. It is a good lookout point of the city and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (if you can see through the smog) and of the sunset. It has also become a hangout for younger people and a make out spot for the romantic.
You can do this one easily and combine it with other stops in Mumbai. You don’t have to stay here too long.
4. Sunset at Nariman Point – Free
This was actually a pleasant surprise after a VERY long, hot walk. Nariman Point is at the southern tip of the Mumbai peninsula near a prominent business district. There is a boardwalk down Marine Drive that runs a good chunk of the bay. This was the perfect spot after walking in 95 degree heat, the sea air was a great way to cool down and rest our feet.
Before you think this sunset is one those big beautiful ones, it won’t be. Because of the amount of people and trash that is in Mumbai, the smog here is really quite thick. We could barely see the buildings across the bay before the sun set. However, that doesn’t mean the sunset isn’t worth seeing. It is it’s own pretty. Through the smog and heat you can see the entire sun and is a very calm and simplistic sunset. This was my favorite budget thing that I did in the city.
5. Walking Tour – Free or charge through travel agencies
There are multiple walking tours in Mumbai. I personally did not do any, but my hostel was able to set up slum tours and other walking tours through the city. If there is something you really want to see and you would like a play-by-play of what you are seeing, then preset tour is going to be up your alley.
My own walking tour (along with three other travelers) was when we took the train down to south Mumbai with a map of some hotspots and just let our feet take us along. It was a nice way to see different parts of the city at our own pace and change route when we wanted to. An example is we were walking and walked right into a giant field where six games of cricket were going on. Lucas and Darcy tried to explain this game to the two Yankee girls, but it kinda fell flat. If you decide to do a walking tour, be forewarned it will be exceptionally hot most times of the year, so please do hydrate.
We passed multiple types of buildings, shops, seating areas, and more. It was one of those experiences where you actually got to see the real parts of Mumbai and not just the touristy ones.