If you’re planning to visit Mumbai then there’s a few things you should know before you go! On my first trip to Mumbai I found the city to be crazy, crowded and chaotic. I didn’t like it. I’d previously spent a month floating from small town to beach town in Kerala and Karnataka. The lush green landscapes had rolled by peacefully on the train journey from Goa to Mumbai and lulled me into a ridiculously laidback attitude.
This laidback south India attitude resulted in me being completely unprepared for the total assault on my senses that was about to unfold the moment my train pulled into Chhatrapati Shivaji station.
Yes Mumbai’s sweaty and sometimes smelly but give the city a few days to grow on you. You then may grow to at least appreciate how wildly ambitious this ever-growing international hub is.
What you should know before you visit Mumbai
Know that the taxi drive from the airport to the city center or wherever you’re staying will shock the hell out of you. It did me anyway.
Nothing can prepare you for the level of poverty you will see on this ride. On the plus side, you can cancel that pricey spiritual enlightenment course. Who need’s it when you can step out of a $5 cab ride feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything you have in life.
If you visit Mumbai forget the personal part in personal body space
Mumbai is one of the world’s most crowded cities and every last inch of spare space will be snapped up before you even have time to… sneeze!
There’s over 20 million people living in Mumbai and when I say living I don’t mean in houses, many people’s homes are in tarpaulin tents, temples, on or under bridges and in the famous Mumbai slums. So expect to rub shoulders with strangers every second of every day.
Selfie etiquette and the no selfie zones
In #Mumbai taking a selfie can cost you a $10 fine or your life! 19 of the world's 49 selfie deaths have happened in #India #Travel Click To TweetAfter a man drowned while trying to rescue three selfie-taking women who had slipped off some rocks the city government introduced no selfie zones. If you take a selfie in a no selfie zone you could get fined $10.
Admire the taxi art & the taxiwallah’s heart
Everyone jumps into a black and yellow taxi (know as kaali-peeli) at some point when they visit Mumbai but know that you’re also getting a glimpse into the heart of your taxiwallah (driver) at the same time. Most have poetic phrases decorating their taxi’s interior like “Confi-dance” and “When will you come home?”.
The taxi is the taxiwallah’s office equivalent so most will be quite personalized with their thoughts on life and motivations. Then there’s the leopard print seats, mini chandeliers and disco lights.
Carnivore? Expect to chow down on Water Buffalo instead of Beef
Know that when you visit Mumbai the beef on plates is actually buffalo meat. Eating beef will land you in jail for up to five years since a bill to criminalize the slaughter of bulls, cows and calves passed 20 years ago. Read about why beef is banned in most parts of India in my article: Bow Down To The Holy Cow. The “Holy” part should give you a clue 😉
No kissing in public!
Dust off that moral compass of yours (assuming you have one… I think I left mine in Vegas) because the Moral Police are coming! No seriously, there are actual Moral Police in Mumbai who are a mix of vigilante citizens, politicians and police. If you get caught sneaking a kiss in public they may just come and tell you off or arrest you. It’s based on a law from 1951 that outlaws indecent behavior in public.
Look out for a Flamingo
Yes really! Every year thousands of flamingos turn up on the east coast and stay in Mumbai’s wetlands until the monsoons arrive.
Finally before you visit Mumbai it’s really important you know that No, ya = no and Ya, no = yes.
If you visit Mumbai, grab a chai, sit on the curb and witness a bubbling hot pot of dreams being chased, fortunes being made and basic day to day survival being accomplished. Mumbai will leave you exhausted but at the same time awakened and feeling, if you’re anything like me, so very alive and in the moment.
If you’ve got any tips and advice for people visiting Mumbai then feel free to share them in the comments section below.
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Read more: My One Month South India Travel Itinerary
Check out the Jetset Bunny Guide To India including the basics, things to do, eat, stay and plan: India Travel Tips