Ten things to do if you’re visiting Mumbai (on a shoestring budget)

Since moving to Mumbai six months ago I’ve been lucky to have a steady stream of friends visit me for weekend getaways or as a stop en transit to other parts of the country. As a result I’ve developed a running list in my head of sights, activities, and events for traveller friends to check out while they are in town. As most of my visitors have come to India on shoestring budgets, eyes for adventure, first-world stomachs, and limited language skills, I’ve compiled a Top 10 List (in no particular order) for people with similar interests and restrictions. Fellow Mumbai residents and travellers: use the “comments” section to add to the list!

1. Elco Market in Bandra: Elco Market offers fantastic authentic Mumbai chaat. Unlike the chaat offered by its street vendor competitors, Elco’s food is made with bottled water. Don’t miss the paani puri or the sev puri. Or the ragda pattice. Or the dahi puri. Or the pav bhaji. (I could keep going…)

2. Colaba Causeway: There’s street shopping everywhere in Mumbai, but I’ve found that most of the knick knacks offered on the Colaba Causeway cater to “Western” tastes. The street vendors are going to try to rip you off (especially if you are wearing harem pants or carrying a big backpack). After a few blocks you’ll notice that most of the stuff they offer is the same, so haggle with a few vendors before you make any decisions. Stay tuned for next
month’s blog post: How to Bargain in India.

3. Wind down from Colaba Causeway: Shopping in India is stressful, and you deserve a break from buying things you don’t need for yourself on your vacation. Wind down at Café Mondegos or Leopold’s for cheap beer and fried snacks. Note: A pitcher is more cost-effective than a glass, so as an economical traveller it is your responsibility to indulge.

4. Walk along the sea: Check out Chowpatty Beach and Juhu Beach. Wander down Marine Drive, Worli Seaface, Carter Road, and Bandstand. Eat a guava with masala and salt, corn on the cob with lemon juice and masala, or peanuts. Welcome to the city that has everything plus a beach. (Does it get better?)

5. Buy some old Bollywood posters at Chor Bazaar: Chor Bazaar near Girgaon is filled with antiques and old posters. Ask for the Bollywood poster store for some seriously awesome 60’s Bollywood posters.

6. Bandra Fort: At the end of Bandstand you’ll find the old Bandra fort with a spectacular view of the Sea Link, a bridge connecting Bandra
and the Western suburbs with Worli and the rest of South Mumbai. Wander through the park and stop at the nearby temple.

7. Check out old Bandra: Mumbai’s Bandra neighborhood has recently reached the point of undeniable gentrification. For better or for worse, this has made strolling through old Bandra neighborhoods much more accessible. Wander through a Goan fishing village behind St. Andrew’s Church. If it is a Sunday afternoon, stop at the Yoga House for a free yoga class and a fresh fruit juice (not free).

8. Go to the mall: It is not a complete Mumbai experience if you don’t observe the super fancy mall culture also. Check out any of Mumbai’s big malls (I’d recommend Phoenix Mills) for some culture shock and air conditioning.

9. Head to the Hanging Gardens near Malabar Hill: Peaceful, beautiful, and a favorite of VS Naipaul and Rohinton Mistry.

10. MY PERSONAL FAVORITE AND THE MOST ESSENTIAL: Ride the Mumbai local train. Ride it to get somewhere, or ride it just for the experience itself. Where else are you going to get so up close and personal with Mumbaikars? Or with anyone, at any point in your life? Where else can you get such unhygienic and such delicious vada pao or samosas? Where else can you buy eccentric trinkets you don’t need, and get input from everyone around you on your purchases? Nowhere else. Enjoy Mumbai.

 

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