24 hours in Mumbai
Written by David Abram Illustration by Patrick Hruby
Famed for its millionaires, movie stars, and maze-like settlements, Mumbai is a city of extremes. Its inhabitants come from every Indian region and walk of life, but live crammed together on a narrow peninsula of reclaimed land curling into the Arabian Sea.
A pulsating, fast-paced masala mix of more than 20 million people, the great metropolis started life as a colonial outpost in the 17th century. This changed dramatically when the American Civil War cut off cotton supplies to Europe in the 1860s, which conferred on the port an international prominence it has revelled in ever since. The intense buzz can seem intimidating at first, but embrace the chaos and you’re in for a treat: you'll learn more about modern India in 24hrs than a month flitting between the tourist honeypots. Fear not, the ride offers a wealth of spicy, relaxing pit-stops along the way.
The train network in Mumbai is officially the most overloaded on the planet. Avoid at all costs during rush hours.
Mumbai’s red-and-cream-painted city buses are grubby and hot, and follow indecipherable routes. You’re always better off in a cab.
Excursion boats depart hourly from the Gateway of India for Elephanta Island. They come in two classes: ‘ordinary’ (read: ‘congested’); and ‘deluxe’ (marginally less so).
Mumbai’s red-and-yellow taxis are ubiquitous and cheap, and most drivers happily use their meters. The blue-painted ones are pricier, air-conditioned ‘Cool Cabs’.