By Simon Brandon
With more than 12m people squeezed into just over 600 square kilometres, Mumbai is one of the world’s most densely populated cities. It is busy and loud, and wears its rich history proudly: it has been under Muslim, Portuguese and British rule, and each has left its mark.
Mumbai is historically multicultural: the metropolis is home to India’s largest slums, yet is one of the world’s richest cities. Home to the Bollywood film industry, Mumbai accounts for 6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, which itself grew 6.6 per cent last year.
According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey, expats in Mumbai are paid a higher average salary than anywhere else in the world: $217,165 against a global average of $99,903.
The age of the train
Mumbai — located in the state of Maharashtra about halfway up India's west coast — is one of the most important nodes in the country’s 173-year old rail network.
The city’s central station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST, was finished in 1888 and is a Unesco World Heritage site. Train travel is a cheap, comfortable way to see the variety of India’s regions, from the tropical jungles of the south (the train from Mumbai to Trivandrum, capital of the southernmost state Kerala, takes 24 hours) to the cooler climes of the Himalayan foothills to the north (the express to Chandigarh, capital of Punjab, takes 28 hours). Plans have even been mooted to connect Mumbai and Dubai by undersea high-speed train.
No language barrier
India is polylingual; its 1.3bn inhabitants speak 22 official languages, according to the country’s constitution.
English is widely spoken in multicultural Mumbai, and expats can get by easily without taking classes in Marathi, the official local language. Learning a few words and phrases in the local tongue is a good idea.
Mumbai is home to plenty of international schools with an international reputation to match.
Dhirubhai Ambani International School came top in the Hindustan Times’ 2017 list of the best schools in Mumbai; the city’s Oberoi International School and Ecole Mondiale World School were also highly rated.
Street food choice
Eating in mid-range restaurants costs a quarter of what it would in London, according to price comparison site Numbeo, but it is Mumbai’s ultra-cheap street food that attracts foodies.
Local delicacies include bhelpuri, a tangy snack made from puffed rice, vegetables and spices, which can be sampled at Bombay Bhel Puri at 70 Juhu Beach. Anand Dosa and Vada Pav Stall at 1 Gulmohar Road is well known for its Bombay (grilled cheese) sandwich.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Sanga Park; Alamy Stock Photo