Getting Around in Mumbai
One of India's busiest, most populated commercial centres, there are various options for getting around in Mumbai. Public transport is often overcrowded and foreigners who can afford it usually prefer private transportation. But driving in this bustling metropolis isn't easy so most expats hire a local driver to navigate its streets.
Public transport in Mumbai
Expats moving to Mumbai will find that there are several modes of transport available when it comes to getting around. From the ultra-modern Mumbai Metro system to the archaic double decker buses, the options for getting around this bustling metropolis will certainly make it an adventure.
The Mumbai Metro came into operation in June 2014. The network is expanding but currently covers the centre of Mumbai well.
Metro services run between 5.30am and 11.30pm depending on which stations one is travelling from and to. Generally there is a train every four minutes during peak hours and every eight minutes on non-peak hours. It is important to note that services are limited on Sundays and public holidays.
Trains in Mumbai are operated by Western Railways and Central Railways. They're the most popular and cost-effective mode of transport for the average Mumbaikar, but they won't meet most expats' standards.
Stations and passenger cars are often poorly maintained, there is usually no air conditioning, and few compartments are reserved for women.
Taking the Mumbai Suburban Railway may be a worthwhile cultural experience, but the crowds and congestion deter most expats from making it a regular means of transport.
Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport, or BEST Undertaking, operates numerous bus services across Mumbai and their two-tiered red buses are a common sight. They're an important part of the city's public transport network, but overcrowding and their vulnerability to traffic jams mean that few expats use them.
Bus networks in Mumbai are quite extensive but not always easy to navigate for new arrivals. Buses are numbered and the final destination is marked on the front in Marathi and on the side in English. The BEST website has a useful journey planning tool that can help one figure out the best route to their destination.
Taxis are the most common form of transport for expats travelling short distances. The more exclusive services run on a meter and are modern, air-conditioned cars with chauffeurs who are knowledgeable about the city. They usually need to be booked over the phone, but expect to wait 30 minutes before one arrives.
The standard yellow and black taxis are a more cost-effective way to get around and are readily available at most street corners. In contrast to privately hired taxis, these cars tend to be shabby and aren't air-conditioned, but they get the job done and are often used by expats. Many drivers don't speak English, so have the destination address written in English and Hindi before catching one.
These drivers do, however, have a reputation for trying to make a quick buck. Rates are calculated by electronic meters, so many don't take the shortest route they can. These services also don't have a proper lost and found department, so checking one's belongings on arrival is a must.
Driving in Mumbai
New arrivals mostly prefer to get around using a private car in Mumbai. These can be hired through various agencies and usually come with a personal driver; employers often hire them for their expat employees.
Prices vary according to vehicle make and model, and the driver's knowledge and proficiency in English. While it is a convenient and comfortable option, traffic means it isn't always the most efficient.
Expats should interview their personal driver in advance to find out about their driving skills and whether they have a valid licence. Most drivers are on duty nine hours a day, with an hourly rate for overtime.
Walking in Mumbai
Walking on Mumbai's narrow footpaths can be quite an experience. Most pedestrians are happy to give lost expats directions, so navigating short distances is rarely a problem – but expats wanting to walk longer distances may want to wear comfortable footwear and have a road map on hand.
Walking around Mumbai is safe for the most part, but expats should still keep their valuables out of sight. Expats will occasionally be asked for money by beggars, but they can be ignored, and muggings are rare.