India’s population: 1 billion. Greater Mumbai population: over 13 million. Visa needed for British visitors. No special jabs, although malaria tablets are advisable during
the monsoon (June-Sept). £1 = 80 rupees approx. Time difference: GMT +5½ hrs. Most pleasant weather, Oct-Mar, when not too hot - or wet! Unlike Delhi, Mumbai has no metro,
just ride-the-roof-crowded trains to and from the ‘burbs – so it’s mainly a case of (to us) dirt-cheap cabs, plus auto-rickshaws once north of Bandra. Petty crime is no
more prevalent than in any other big Asian city - just keep your wits, and valuables, about you. Brace yourself for a high visual dose of poverty, not least
in the slums and ‘skirts. English is fairly widely spoken. Free wifi is common in more modern cafes. Dodge the holy cows and barking street dogs!
Note: To cut risk of tummy upset, always drink bottled water; avoid ice cubes, salads, peeled-fruit, buffets, street stalls and quiet restaurants; and
try to eat food you can see being freshly cooked. That said, don’t just retreat – as many a timid tourist does – into the nearest Starbucks or Pizza Express!
Bentley's Hotel (17 Oliver Road, off Garden Road, Colaba, Mumbai; T: +91 22 22 84 1474) is a
basic, clean, secure, well-run, great-value affair, in a quiet road yet a mere stone’s throw from the “Gateway of India” and many other major Mumbai sights. Nice breakfast too. You can check out other
hotels at great prices at our partners Booking.com.
As you fly in, it can seem daunting - the 30 miles of sprawling humanity that stretches southwards from the airport right down to the Colaba peninsula – itself home to many
hotels, eateries and well-known sights, and so the natural place to base oneself. The "Colaba Causeway" road is brimming with restaurants, plus bars and clubs, most of
which tend to close by 1am, yielding to late-night cafs.
All in easy walking just north of Colaba district, take in the iconic, imposing Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Hotel, both looking out onto the Harbour,
before strolling up to the Prince of Wales Museum for old Indian artefacts, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) and Jehangir Art Gallery for more contemporary
fare; then ambling further up along the cricket-crazy grassy spine of ‘maidan’ parks to the Fort area, passing the imposing Raj-era buildings like Mumbai University with
its Rajabai Clock Tower, suburban train network hub, Churchgate station, plus the High Court and Horniman Circle, with its Asiatic Society.
Eventually, you will reach the grand General Post Office and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (a.k.a. Victoria Station – incidentally, site of that final mass dance
climax in Slumdog Millionaire), and beyond it, bustling Crawford Market. Barter for cheap clothes on “Fashion Street” market (Mahatma Ganghi Road, at Azad Maidan).
See a local film with the natives here, in the very home of Bollywood, at the lovely Art Deco Regal Cinema, at the top of Colaba Causeway!
On the western side of the peninsula, along the Back Bay, lies the vast sweep of Marine Drive (a.k.a. “Queen’s Necklace”) - from the high-rises of Nariman Point
in the south up to busy Chowpatty Beach in the north – flanked on the landward side by numerous Art Deco mansion blocks, plus stadia and sports grounds. Quite some way yet
further north is another sweeping (this time bridge-spanned) bay, guarded by old Worli Fort to the south and Bandra Fort to the north.
Beach-hugging Art Deco-brimming Bandra West district itself is now a trendy nightlife area, with a more laid-back, diverse, air.
Further afield, Elephanta Island – with its majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site temples carved into basalt rock strata – can be easily reached, about an
hour by frequent boat from one of the wharves around the Gateway of India. Or do a tiger safari - maybe even descending the Kanheri Caves - in the vast
Sanjay Gandhi National Park. If feeling lazy, you can always do a Mumbai City Highlights Tour!
11 hours by train (an eye-opening experience in itself, not least in 3rd Class) from Mumbai, Goa has its own fair hippy-gay quota. With hoards of European package tourists,
plus increasing numbers of the Indian middle-class, the more popular northern beaches have, however, been compared to Benidorm!
TO BOOZE ‘N BOP
Because of the legal restrictions, Mumbai's scene is spread-out and still emerging. There are a few venues offering weekly nights and occasional weekend
evenings, often with a colourful and diverse crowd. The best place to get the latest news on an ever-changing scene - nights and events plus sociable
picnics and Sunday meets is definitely www.gaybombay.org.
Alternatively, gents oft “take airs” on the coastal promenade just south of the Gateway of India or along the north fringe of Azad Maidan, where you will doubtless be
approached by rent nominally offering “massages”; or guys hook up at any number of “public facilities” - not least at the main railways station - or simply when up
close and personal on a rush-hour train! As ever, beware. If really desperate, you can always get a male massage in the
backroom at Handsome Parlour (Gokhale Road North, opposite the big petrol station, a mere 5 minute walk due west from Dadar rail station).