If you are visiting Mumbai, whether you are a backpacker or not, but especially if you are a backpacker, you should stay in the area of Colaba in South Mumbai.
I want to say that Colaba is most famous because of the book Shantaram but I know that Colaba was a main tourist area to visit before Lin- the main character in Shantaram visited, and luckily it still is a popular place to stay in Mumbai today.
Mumbai is a pretty big City although most of the tourist attractions in Mumbai are in South Mumbai which makes Colaba a great place to base yourself whilst staying in Mumbai.
I stayed in Colaba Mumbai for 6 nights and I loved my time there. Mumbai was the first place I stayed on my India trip and I found it to be a great way to ease myself into India life.
Things To Do in Colaba Mumbai!
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA
If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!
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Getting from Bombay Airport to Colaba
The best way to get from Bombay Airport to Colaba is to get an Uber and best of all you don’t need to have internet on your phone in order to do this.
Go outside in arrivals and go up to floor P7 which is signposted as Uber and they’ll be an Uber desk at the top. They’ll ask for your number and order you one on your behalf (it’s ok if you don’t have an India number yet).
Ideally, you’ll be sent an SMS confirmation at the time with the price but I didn’t get mine until hours later, the guy at the desk told me the set price though and then I paid by cash once I arrived like I would with a taxi.
The cost of getting from Mumbai Airport to Colaba at 5:00 am was 500Rs, about £5.50.
Accommodation in Colaba
I stayed at Backpacker Panda Colaba Hostel and I seriously loved it, in fact I was only meant to stay there for 3 days and then switch to another hostel in North Mumbai for 3 days but I loved the hostel and the area so much straight away that I cancelled the other hostel within hours of arriving.
Backpacker Panda Colaba Hostel is by far the best hostel in Colaba, not only because the staff are friendly and helpful, the location is perfect- just off Colaba Causeway and 5 minutes from the Gateway of India and the facilities are good, but because it doesn’t have much competition, it’s one of the only hostels in Colaba.
For the best hotels in Colaba Mumbai, I’d recommend having a look on Booking.com as there is a large range of accommodation and what I like best is the flexible payment terms on Booking.com.
There’s also the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel which is in fact located right in the middle of Colaba next to the Gateway of India, so if you fancy treating yourself, have a look into rates & availability for The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel here.
Why Stay in Colaba?
Colaba has it all, firstly it has that touristy feel and you can tell it’s been used to tourists for a long time. However with that said I didn’t see that many foreigners, most of the people were Indian which may well have meant they were Indian Tourists, and there are still plenty of local people living there and going about their days, it’s by no means a total tourist hub like the likes of Khao San Road in Bangkok.
Colaba is in a prime location and it has the Gateway of India, The Taj Mahal Hotel, Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach all within walking distance (although getting a taxi between these wouldn’t harm). Plus it has Churchgate train station which is a main station that can take you elsewhere in Mumbai.
It has lots of restaurants and there’s plenty of shopping along Colaba Causeway (more on those points below).
Best of all, it’s safe! When I arrived at Backpacker Panda Hostel at 6:00am in the morning and wanted to see the sunrise from the Gateway of India I asked the guy on reception if it was ok for me to go out at this time and he said Colaba is safe all day and night, in fact most people would say that Colaba is the safest place in Mumbai, and I did definitely feel very safe.
I had the odd women and group of children asking for money in the evenings but nothing else and there were very few people begging in the street.
Basically Colaba in Mumbai is a bit of a backpacker and tourist oasis without being too touristy!
In my YouTube video here you can see my first impressions of India and why I loved Colaba so much!
Things to do in Colaba
Colaba is only a small area as it is only one of the seven islands that used to make Mumbai before they were joined together to make a City, therefore that is not that much to do right in the area of Colaba but there are a lot of places to visit, opportunities for Instagram photos and points of interest near Colaba which you could easily dedicate one or two days in Mumbai to seeing depending on how much you want to see:
- Gateway of India
- The Taj Mahal Hotel
- Colaba Market
- Colaba Causeway
Things to do Near Colaba
Just Outside Colaba:
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum
- Jehangir Art Museum
- National Gallery of Modern Art
A bit further North of Colaba:
- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Train Station / VT Station
- Crawford Market
West of Colaba:
- Marine Drive
- Chowpatty Beach
- Malabar Hill
- Hanging Gardens
Now I do not recommend you see all of the above in one day!
This will take 2 days at least and you can split your 2 days between the areas, I’d recommend Central and North of Colaba in one day, and the Western areas of Colaba on another day.
To get from East to West Colaba you can walk but it is quite far and a long quite a few busy roads, getting an Uber or catching a Taxi is a better idea, or go to Churchgate station which is a 20minute walk from Colaba Causeway and then get the train a few stops which will lessen the walking time.
The above places are many of the best places to visit in Mumbai and the main Mumbai tourist attractions, this is why it is a good place to stay.
More of my Must Read India Posts to See the Best of India:
- 24 Places to Visit in India Perfect For Your First Trip to India!
- Mumbai Slum Tour to Dharavi Slum – The Positive and Unique Side of Slum Tourism.
- 10 Delhi Travel Tips to See & Enjoy Delhi as a Tourist!
- All My India City Guides and Travel Tips
More Things to do in Mumbai
As well as the area of Colaba and the area’s close to Colaba there are a lot more things to do in Mumbai and things to see in Mumbai:
- Visit Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai’s largest open air laundromat
- Take a boat to Elephanta Island (although I was recommended by a few locals not to go as it’s very dirty and busy now.)
- Visit Juhu Beach for sunset
- Explore the Bandra Area
- Explore the Fort Area
From my experience in Mumbai going on a guided tour around Mumbai is a great idea and a great way to see the City as it is very big and very busy, these are the tours I would recommend:
Mumbai City Tour
I went out with Arpan from Bombay Walks to see a few Mumbai highlights in a local way. Arpan has just started Bombay Walks and I found it a great way to see some area’s I couldn’t and wouldn’t have seen on my own.
He met me at the hostel and we got a train from Churchgate station to Mahalaxmi to see Dhobi Ghat, this would have been easy to see myself as you see it from the bridge right outside the station but this was my first time taking the train in Mumbai (which is actually really easy to do too) but Arpan was able to explain lots to me which I wouldn’t have known without him. We then got back on the train to Dadar to see the very busy Flower Market, then caught a local bus to Worli Village and Worli Fort before heading back through the City to Colaba.
It was so nice to hear and learn about the City from him. If you would like to go on a City Tour with him, contact him via the Facebook Page.
Dharavi Slum Tour
A Slum Tour in Mumbai is something I had wanted to do for a long time but I wanted to be sure I did a tour that was ethical, responsible and that gives back to the Slum.
Luckily I found out about Dharavi Slum Tour with Reality Tours.
I’m really glad I went on the Slum Tour and would recommend it to you too. You can read about my experience fully in this post: Mumbai Slum Tour to Dharavi Slum – The Positive and Unqiue Side of Slum Tourism.
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
You can see where I went on the City Tour and see my thoughts on the Slum Tour in this YouTube video!
Mumbai Food Tour
A street food tour in Mumbai is a must because there is so much street food available. However if this is your first stop in India, and even if it’s not, in Mumbai you kind of need someone to show you around and explain everything to you as there are so many foods and so many places to eat street food in Mumbai.
You can see all of the delicious food I tasted on my Mumbai Street Food Tour in this YouTube video!
More Mumbai Sightseeing Tours
There are many tours of Mumbai that you can book online, Viator offer a good range here which are ideal if you want to book something in advance, especially if you have limited time in Mumbai.
However, I’d also recommend checking with your accommodation as they’ll probably be able to recommend tours for a better price.
Where to Eat in Colaba, Mumbai
There are a number of popular places to eat along Colaba Causeway and close to Colaba, I found there is a range of touristy places and local restaurants at a really cheap price.
Leopold Cafe – Popular Tourist Restaurant, famous due to the book Shantaram.
Cafe Mondegar – A Popular American / Indian Style Restaurant.
Cafe Universal – Located close to Colaba in Fort. Another popular Tourist Restaurant.
Madras Cafe – Very local Restaurant on Colaba Causeway and very cheap. I really recommend it!
Delhi Darbar – Local Indian Restaurant but more upmarket. Popular with locals.
Britannia – Located in Fort area. A popular Iranian Restaurant in a lovely building.
HELP WITH YOUR INDIA ITINERARY
I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!
Where to Shop in Colaba?
One side of Colaba Causeway also known as Colaba Causeway Market is lined with Indian Stalls selling all sorts of clothes, books and souvenirs. There’s even a crystal stand and the odd fruit and vegetable stand and therefore Colaba Causeway is a popular area to go shopping along.
A tip if you do want to go shopping on Colaba Causeway is that it gets much busier at night. This is probably because of the temperature drops but if you want to avoid the crowds go in the morning. Also along Colaba Causeway are also some branded stores like Nike and The Body Shop.
There’s also Colaba Market located just off Colaba Causeway is another popular place to shop but here you will get more local items and stores.
I hope this helps you plan your stay in Mumbai and in Colaba. I think Colaba is the best place to stay in Mumbai!
For more posts on Mumbai and India see: