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Transportation in Mumbai

Relocating to Mumbai can be an incredible adventure for foreigners. Expat life in Mumbai has a truly cosmopolitan flair while retaining the full “Indian experience”. Our InterNations Guide to India’s largest metropolis covers leisure, transportation, housing, and other key topics.
It may take a while to navigate the chaotic traffic in Mumbai.

Public Transportation — The Blood Vessels of Mumbai

Considering the heavy congestion and the poor maintenance of Mumbai’s roads, it is not surprising that public transportation is often considered the best way of getting around the megacity. Mumbai actually has a comparatively good public transportation system. However, with over 80% of the city’s commuters relying on it to get them to work and back every day, it certainly has its downsides as well.

Trains: The Suburban-, Mono-, and Metro Rails

There are three lines on the Mumbai Suburban Railway: the Western Line, the Central Main Line, and the Harbor Line. On all lines, trains — known as “Locals” — run regularly between around 04:00 and 01:00, alternating between slow (S) and fast (F) trains, depending on the number of stations they stop at.

Various websites provide railway maps for Mumbai’s local train services, such as that of the Indian Railways. Every train has separate compartments for women, senior citizens, and passengers with disabilities. There are even trains running along each railway line during peak hours that are exclusively for women — these trains are known as “Ladies Specials”.

Mumbai commuter trains carry several million passengers every day. They can get insanely crowded, with passengers standing in open doors, dangling out of windows, and even traveling on the roof, so sharp elbows and strong nerves are essential.

For expatriates who can afford it, traveling first class is the way to go, as compartments tend to be less cramped. Train tickets can be bought at station counters, but lines are very long. Train timetables and a fare calculator can be found at Mumbai Lifeline. Alternatively, a more convenient online ticketing system was launched by Indian Railways in 2014 — download the UTS mobile app to your phone and buy tickets on the go.

The Mumbai Monorail has completed its first phase, which includes a line connecting Wadala to Chembur in the northeast of the city. Though, with only one line, the monorail offers a limited service, and has recently been subject to safety concerns after a fire destroyed two empty carriages in November 2017. The Mumbai Metro currently has one operational line spanning across the city (Versova­ – Andheri – Ghatkopar).

Whether by Bus or by Taxi, Only the BEST in Mumbai

Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking, BEST for short, operates a fleet of thousands of buses running on compressed natural gas. These busses run on hundreds of routes, serving most parts of the city. You can choose between a single journey ticket, daily pass, or the monthly and quarterly bus-pass schemes. You can register for these on the BEST company website. Several dozen additional bus routes are supplied by Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) and Thane Municipal Transport (TMT).

Most expats, however, choose to travel by taxi. This is by far the most comfortable option, if not always the fastest, due to the sheer volume of traffic on the roads. There are the old black-and-yellow taxis (which are gradually being phased out) and private cabs, i.e. the newer, safer variety with air-conditioning. All modern taxis have meters, though keep in mind that fares for taxis with AC are slightly higher. The current, correct fare tables can be downloaded via a mobile app or from various websites such as TaxiAutoFare.

The notorious auto rickshaws are restricted to suburban areas of Mumbai. They can be pretty handy for quick journeys and are reliable, since they all have meters to calculate the fare.

International and Domestic Flights

Mumbai is well connected to both other parts of India and the world. The city’s main airport, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, is one of South Asia’s busiest air traffic hubs. In 2016–2017 it transferred over 45 million passengers.

The international terminals are sometimes still referred to by the airport’s old name, Sahar. Domestic flights use the Santa Cruz terminals about four kilometers to the west (for this distance there is a free inter-terminal shuttle bus). Terminal 2 at Sahar has recently been refurbished and international as well as domestic flights are already taking off from there. Like most airports in India, there is a user development fee for passengers departing from Mumbai (around 100 INR for domestic flights and 600 INR for international).

To get to and from the airport, you can take a regular, metered taxi or a prepaid taxi. The prepaid taxi has the benefit that you know what you will be paying, won’t have to pay more upon arrival, and you will be sure to get a receipt. Busses from the BEST transit company run between the airport and the city center. Trains do not reach the airport and a taxi or bus has to be taken from the nearby Andheri East station to the airport.

If you are traveling within India, some people prefer trains to flying for long-distance journeys. This is often the less expensive option, and Indian Railways provides a range of trains and carriage classes, meaning ticket prices can vary a lot. Within the state of Maharashtra, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation operates a relatively comfortable and inexpensive inter-city bus service.


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