, , , ,

Mumbai transportation guide: travel on a budget via public transportation

After spending some time in Mumbai we learned how to effectively navigate the city using several forms of transportation. Some are easy (auto rickshaw/cab) and some require guidance and practice (train/public bus).

If you are looking for more general tips, see 10 tips to survive Mumbai and how much does Mumbai cost?

After reading this guide you will:

  • Understand the basics of Train, Bus, Auto Rickshaw, Monorail, Taxi
  • Understand which form of transportation suits you best
  • Ensure you don’t get ripped off
  • Learn etiquette to mindfully travel in Mumbai
  • Successfully navigate to and from the airport

Public Transport Overview:

Mumbai transportation is crowded so avoid public transport during peak hours. Most people work in south Mumbai so assume in the morning traveling south is slow, and in the evening traveling north is slow. Do your research on what you want to do and try staying near that area (most tourists opt for south Mumbai). We stayed in a NE suburb called Chembur which is more green, slightly less crowded, and close(ish) to the airport. However it takes between 30mins (cab) and 1.5hours (bus) to get to the main tourist areas (Colaba, Chowpathy beach, Churchgate, etc)

 

Train:

Cheap and fast, extremely crowded at peak times, short learning curve.

Mumbai train station
Mumbai train station

Logistics:

  • 10 rupee (15 cents USD) per ticket
  • Cheapest form of travel
  • Faster than bus however the train doesn’t connect all parts of Mumbai so combining train + bus/auto  often works best

Etiquette:

  • Purchase your ticket from the train station, then wait in the station until your train comes
  • Hold on to your ticket in case an official comes to check (apparently they rarely check tourists)
  • Once aboard, quickly find a seat before it’s too late. Peak hours can be insanely packed and you’ll need to physically push to get in
  • Assume some beggars will be asking westerners for money

You will find many Indians hanging out of the open train cars. If this is of interest, I recommend trying it on a less crowded train sometime mid-day when it will not be busy. Be careful as many people die from falling off trains every year.

Example ride:

From Churchgate to Mahim Junction will take 25mins and cost 1o rupee per ticket (16 cents USD).

 

City Bus:

Cheap and widespread,  crowded at peak times, moderate learning curve.

Mumbai public bus
Mumbai public bus

Logistics:

  • 10-20 rupee (20 cents USD) per ride depending on distance
  • Depending on specific bus line – buses come at varying frequencies (every 5 mins – every hour)
  • Bus stops look like metal benches and are found all over the city, usually with an advertisement on the top
  • Identify which buses come to each stop by looking at the sign found on the end cap of the bus stop (one side is in English)
  • Typically 4-7 different buses use each bus stop
  • Ask people at the stop for assistance, usually younger people know English best and will be happy to assist

Etiquette:

  • When you’re waiting for your bus, scan upcoming busses for your specific one – busses stop for only a moment
  • The route # is usually posted on the side of the bus towards the back (but can be anywhere)
  • When you get on the bus, the attendant will come over to you, tell him where you are going – then he will give you the price, you pay, then make sure he gives you a ticket/receipt proving you bought the fair. The transit police will periodically board the bus and ask for all passengers to show their ticket (this happened to us once)
  • The front of the bus has reserved seating  marked with a small picture. Usually the first 3 seats on the left side are reserved for handicapped and elderly people. The first 3 seats on the right side are reserved for women

Example ride:

From Chembur to South Mumbai will cost 20 rupee (30cents USD) and takes between 45mins – 1.5hours depending on traffic.

 

 

Auto rickshaw:

Perfect for short distances – quintessential Indian experience.

Mumbai Auto Rickshaw
Mumbai Auto Rickshaw

Logistics:

  • 19 rupees (30 cents USD) for short distances and MUCH cheaper than cabs
  • Price climbs slowly for distances longer than roughly 1km
  • Drivers usually know their local area quite well and can take you to specific addresses (unlike cab drivers who only know general locations and major landmarks)
  • When traveling longer distances it’s very common to take a bus/train/cab to a main landmark then quick find an auto to your final destination
  • Auto Rickshaws are not allowed in Old Mumbai (Southern tip of Mumbai)

Etiquette:

  • Hail an “auto” on the street as you would a taxi. They are very nimble and can turn on a dime to pick you up
  • Agree upon a destination before getting into the auto and then hop in and hold on. Auto drivers are crazy yet we never felt unsafe
  • Some travelers agree on a price and book out a rickshaw for the entire day – taking them from destination to destination. While this may be easy, I wouldn’t recommend this in Mumbai as it will be expensive and unnecessary as you can easily find a taxi/auto anywhere

Example ride:

2km ride would cost between 19-29 rupees (35 cents USD).

 

Monorail:

Brand new, supposed to be efficient, very crowded initially

Mumbai's new monorail - opened in Feb 2014
Mumbai’s new monorail – opened in Feb 2014

Opened in Feb 2014 (the day we left Mumbai) and I do not have any specific details other than opening day was super crowded.

***If you have specific information, please comment so I can update this post and give you credit.

 

Taxi:

Most expensive and yet most convenient form of transportation.

Mumbai Taxi
Mumbai Taxi

Logistics:

  • Taxis are found all over the city and are the most expensive form of transportation
  • You can find both AC/non-AC. Although they are reasonably priced by western standards limit use if you’re on a budget
  • 19 (30 cents USD) rupees for the first 1.5 km.  — 12.35 Rupees (20 cents USD) for each additional km
  • If you are traveling from north (Chembur) to south Mumbai (Colaba, Churchgate, Chowpathy beach, etc) or vice versa insist the driver takes the freeway/expressway which is a road raised above the city and allows for faster transport

Etiquette:

  • Before getting into the taxi, ensure the driver knows where you want to go and that he will be using his meter
  • Some taxi’s will try to quote you a flat rate and it will always be an inflated price
  • If they will not use their meter, walk away and find a different cab. (We were quoted 350 rupee for a 200 rupee ride)

Example ride:

From Chembur (north east suburb) to Colabo it will cost around 250 rupee ($4 USD) during non-peak hours and take about 35 minutes on the freeway. Similar route will cost 20 rupee (30 cents USD)on the bus and take at an hour normally, or up to 1.5hours during peak times.

 

Getting to and from the Airport

Arriving in Mumbai:

Many accommodations will arrange pick you up from either of Mumbai’s airports if you arrange it ahead of time. Sometimes this service will be free. If not, no problem just get a pre-paid taxi ticket from the counter BEFORE you leave the airport – this should cost less than 600 rupees ($10 USD). Your ticket will identify your taxi/driver who you then find outside the airport before getting into his car.

Leaving Mumbai:

When you’re ready to leave you can hail a taxi or auto rickshaw to drop you at either the International or Domestic airport. Auto’s will be much cheaper but depending on the distance, a taxi may your best option.

 

 
Your turn: Please share your tips so future travelers can successfully navigate the vibrant Mumbai!

About Brandon

Former corporate sales rep turned nomadic entrepreneurial yogi. Street food ninja, avid outdoorsman, craft beer geek, and live music junkie. Co-founder of The Yoga Nomads.

2 thoughts on “Mumbai transportation guide: travel on a budget via public transportation”

  1. Hi Brandon,

    Excellent article indeed. Extremely detailed and just needs some modification in terms of the hike in prices. Also, there are some very interesting startups in the bus space in Mumbai. One of them is Limo (caveat – I work here and I am very passionate about buses). A great website (https://goo.gl/karrLx) to easy check out options. One can also rent an air-conditioned bus for a day to go around in groups. We are helping people get access to a bus and go together as a group. After all, that’s where you meet new people and build your own community.

    Try this out next time.

    Reply

Leave a Comment