“Mumbai’s infectious. Once you start living in Mumbai, working in Mumbai, I don’t think you can live anywhere else.” – Yash Croft
Hi, friends. Long time, no blog post.
If you were wondering what I’ve been up to recently, I’ve moved out to Mumbai, India to complete an internship through the AIESEC program (more on this later). I thought that my 15-hour flight from New Jersey would be the peak of my discomfort, but boy, was I wrong. The first few days here have been a bit rocky for me, so I’ve created this guide for those who feel they must see Mumbai for themselves (you’re missing out if you don’t!).
Here are some useful tips on surviving your first few days in Mumbai:
- When crossing the street, hold out your hand and make eye contact with drivers so you can pass.
Crossing the street is a nightmare here in Mumbai.
That’s an understatement. Let me explain.
Traffic lanes are non-existent since the cows keep swerving out of their lanes. Motorcycle drivers tend to fall off their bikes on the highway. Drivers stop for no-one, but if they’re nice, they will slow down just enough to spare you your life. If you’ve decided to cross the street and hesitate, drivers won’t slow down. They don’t care for indecisiveness. You have to take risks if you ever want to make it to your destination.
- Know basic Hindi words.
While English is widely spoken in India, there are still people who are only able to speak Hindi. These people include your maids, rickshaw drivers, and shop owners. You know, people who are kind of crucial to your survival. It doesn’t matter if you sound stupid. It matters that you’re trying. At the very least, know how to say “Thank you” in the language they’re most comfortable in – it goes a long way.
- If you can, bring Indian rupees prior to arriving.
Demonetization seriously reduces your chances of being able to withdraw cash from an ATM. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort to curb black money has created inconvenient lineups that move at a glacial pace. Probably even slower. Be prepared for long wait times and the very likely possibility that by the time you reach the ATM, cash will be unavailable to you. If you get lucky, remember that there’s a limit per withdrawal! Spend your cash wisely!
- Having the right apps installed in your phone beforehand is major key to success survival.
If you’re planning on going to Mumbai, I want you to pick up your phone right now and install the following apps if you don’t have them already:
- WhatsApp: This handy dandy app allows you to send texts and make phone calls to international and local phone numbers using Wi-Fi or roaming data. It’s perfect for keeping in touch with family and friends back home, since you won’t have to pay for international calling and texting fees to your mobile service provider.
- PayTM: Your virtual wallet. It’s very similar to PayPal. Using a debit card, credit card, or cash, you can load your account with whatever amount you choose and use it to pay and accept payments on goods and services. You can pay your bills, book flights, and shop for deals all on the app. Some rickshaw drivers and shop owners will accept PayTM payments so if you’re short on cash, PayTM is a convenient alternative.
- Uber: Ahh, the holy grail of transportation in our modern times. Chances are, you’re familiar with this location-based app and how it works so I won’t waste your time by explaining how it works. All you need to know is that it’s cheaper and safer to take an Uber rather than an auto rickshaw.
- Google Maps: You probably already have this app in your phone, but double check to make sure since Mumbai is a huge city. When running around the city going to various meetings, it’s important to have this running so that you won’t get ripped off by drivers and you can get where you need to be.
- Zomato: This app – perfect for foodies and tourists alike – shows you what restaurants and popular hangout spots are around you.
- Bring travel size tissue packs, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper everywhere you go.
Public restrooms rarely provide paper products, and quickly run out of soap. As a foreigner, your immune system isn’t quite adjusted to the environment so make it a point to be extra sanitary.
For my fellow makeup lovers: You don’t even need to wear highlighter since the sweat on your face will reflect enough light to blind passersby. You can use your tissue pack to blot, too. If you need coverage, don’t use a heavy foundation – the heat will melt it off your face anyway. I would opt for a tinted moisturizer at most.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
Unless you want to die of heatstroke. Even in the winter, Mumbai can reach temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit! Cotton is the way to go.
*For the ladies: Wear full length pants, leggings, or skirts and pair them with sandals or flip flops. You’re going to attract a lot of attention as a foreigner, and you want to avoid unwelcome remarks from men on the street while wandering around. (Truthfully, the stray animals often behave better than the men!)
If you have a rough first few days, that’s okay. It’s normal to be uncomfortable. Generally, the people here are very helpful if you ask politely and stay out of the way. Good luck and try not to die!
Have you ever been to Mumbai? What are your best travel tips for newcomers in the city?