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Last Updated On: 12/24/2012

Perhaps you've read Katherine Boo's fascinating new book Behind the Beautiful Forevers on life in a Mumbai slum or the 2003 novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and find it to impossible to resist the siren call of Mumbai any longer.

Soon you're jetting off to the teeming megalopolis of 12.5 million people.

But a city that looks exotic and exciting from a distance of 10,000 miles or through the pages of an acclaimed book can easily seem intimidating, disgusting and confusing at close quarters, not long after you touch down.

Forget foreigners, Mumbai is an 'experience' even to Indians not native to the city. The first time we were in the city, getting on and off the local trains was an ordeal that had other passengers openly laughing at us.


It's not our purpose here to dissuade you from an exciting adventure but provide you with a few tips to make your visit to Mumbai as pleasant as possible:

1. Unless you are of Indian origin and have family in Mumbai, avoid visiting the city during the rainy season. The monsoons start in mid-June and extend up to the middle of September, give or take a few days on either side. When the rains come pouring down, the streets get flooded quickly and life comes to a standstill. Plus, it's going to be hard for you to get your point-and-shoot camera out for the pictures you want to post on your Facebook account for the benefit of friends and family back home.

2. Unless you have sharp elbows and are ready to deploy them, avoid the local trains. Getting in and out of these crowded trains is not for the faint-hearted. It's easy to fall off the train and suffer serious injuries.

Crowded Mumbai Local Train
3. Catch a Bollywood film or, if possible, two. With their song and dance routines, Bollywood movies are nothing like you've ever seen before. Bollywood films still showcase a lone, unarmed hero beating to pulp a dozen well-armed baddies without suffering a single scratch. Most are romances and the good guy always wins the gal in the end. Mumbai is the nerve center of Bollywood and hometown of the leading stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. There are tours that take you past the homes of the famous film stars and even on to the film sets where, if you're lucky, you can watch a film shooting.

4. Avoid street food, however tempting they may look. Indians have hardened digestive systems that can withstand stuff that Westerner tummies can't. Delhi Belly is not something you get by eating unhygienic, street food in Delhi alone. You can easily come down with Delhi Belly in Mumbai and ruin your trip.

5. After the terror attacks of 2008, Mumbai is no longer a safe haven. Be alert when you are moving about in crowded places. Always, keep details of your name, address, phone number and place of stay on you. Keep your passport in the hotel safe.

6. Crimes like theft of belongings, pickpocketing, purse snatching or cheating by vendors are endemic in all Indian cities including Mumbai. The police seldom take these complaints seriously and most of the time you have little chance of recovering your lost or stolen stuff. Vigilance to your surroundings and belongings will save you a lot of anguish.

7. HIV is high among Mumbai's little birds of the night. Avoid one-night stands in the interests of your long-term health. Those 60-seconds of ecstasy can lead to a lifetime of agony.

8. The must visit destinations in Mumbai are

* Siddhivinayak Temple

* Gateway of India

* Flora Fountain

* Mahalaxmi Temple

* Chor Bazar

* Haji Ali Mosque

* Chowpatty and Juhu beaches

* Iskcon Temple

* Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (previously known as Victoria Terminus)

* Mount Mary Church

* Prince of Wales Museum

* Hanging Gardens

* Tower of Silence

* Asiatic Society Library

* Taraporevala Aquarium

Many a famous Bollywood song has filmed on Mumbai's beaches.

9. Khandala and Lonavala are nearby hill resorts that are worth a trip if you want a respite from the crowds. Also, make time to visit Elephanta Caves, an island that's just a short hop by boat from the Gateway of India.

10. To visit Mumbai and return without stepping into Asia's largest slum Dharavi would be to miss out on how millions of Indians live on so little, in tiny spaces and without basic facilities like bathrooms or toilets. For affluent foreigners whose existential dilemma centers around whether to upgrade to the iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy III, a visit to Dharavi will provide a humbling, life-altering experience.