Welcome to the New York of India—a.k.a. Mumbai! The fast pace of the city hits you in the face every morning, yet still gives you a reason to keep living. Apart from being the financial hub of India, the city will remind you of New York in other ways, like the bridge and happening night life, and the expensive real estate.
Before landing in Mumbai, you should prepare two check lists: inside the town and outside. The city is expensive and people are busy—but somehow you’ll fall in love with the pace, and I can vouch for that because I live there.
If you want to see the real India, board a local train from Church Gate Station at 10 a.m. The Victoria Terminus Station is currently an UNICEF site but you can still visit the place.
Start with Colaba in south Mumbai where the sea peaks through the vintage Taj corner. You’ll love the fun street shopping and the hustle-bustle of the street. Make sure you try the Millionaire Brownie at Theobroma, the Beef Steak at Leopold Cafe, and breakfast at Cafe Mondegar. You’ll need half a day to explore the town. If you choose to stay overnight, you’ll find loads of backpacking hostels and quite a few reasonable hotels as well. You can also sit at Dome in the Intercontinental Hotel and enjoy the marine drive view.
Fort, about 5 minutes away from Colaba, is where I often go to sit and write in peace. There’s a majestic fountain and an area to buy cheap books, and it’s filled with high courts and old British buildings. Grab some coffee at Starbucks, about a minute away from the church. Then, prepare for Bandra!
Take the Sea Link and go straight to Bandra, where you’ll find every local during weekends. Hill Road and Linkin Road are the major hub for street shopping. Pali Hill, the most expensive place in terms of real estate, has a big expat colony, where you can hire service apartments at good rate. Bandra starts glowing after dark, when the streets are filled with an uncountable number of places to explore. The whole feel of the place is very alive.
The other suburbs, like Andheri, Powai, and Juhu, are also growing rapidly—but the main attraction of the city is in the south and in Bandra. Be warned though: Try to avoid street food, for water contamination reasons.
Trains are the local transportation, but avoid the rush times from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. If possible, download the M Indicator app before coming to town. It will give you a detailed chart of trains, buses, and taxis and has local GPS for Mumbai.
If you want to cut the noise and enjoy the outskirts of the city, get your bikinis ready and go tanning in Alibuag, a couple hours away from Mumbai. The quiet beaches of Kashid and a few others are more like a weekend getaway. If you are a hill person, visit the Valley Strawberry Plantation in Mahabaleshwar. The place is beautiful, with hills and valleys holding loads of berries to munch on.
Mumbai is possibly one of the safest Indian tourist locations, especially for single women travelers. The buzz of the city will drive you crazy, but the constancy of the sea will call to you!