The Insider’s Guide to Mumbai series is loaded with information to help you visit and explore this expansive and vibrant city like a local. After living as an expat for so many years, I found that to really get to know a city quickly you need to stay outside of the tourist zones and hang out and eat where the locals do. You will never get a fully local experience from just a visit, but this guide series will help you see a bit of the soul that runs deep beneath this eclectic metropolis.
Where to Stay in Mumbai
Mumbai is chock full of hotels, so how do you know which one to choose? The main tourist sites of Mumbai are located in South Mumbai and subsequently this is where most tourists tend to flock. However, our recommendation is to stay in the northern suburbs. You will still have access to western foods, people who speak English and places catering to foreigners (expats more than tourists), but you won’t have the touts chasing you down the street asking you to buy a drum. Trust me, you will get plenty of that when you are in South Mumbai visiting the sites! Here are our top two choices for North Mumbai as well as the tourist center in South Mumbai.
Best bang for the buck (5 star): JW Marriott
If you book well in advance, and sometimes even at the last minute, you can snag great deals on your stay, including options with the delicious breakfast buffet (worth the extra money!). Located well out of the tourist zones of South Mumbai, this is a favorite for longer stay business travelers, but it is also a great spot for families. There is a kids club, kids pool with a slide and plenty of western food options at the restaurants. This is a local hang out for Bollywood celebrities and expats alike. The staff are amazing and will cater to your every need, just ask.
Boutique hotel: Le Sutra Hotel
Le Sutra, formerly Pali Hills Hotel, is set in the middle of Bandra/Khar right above Olive Restaurant, one of the best known Bollywood hangouts. This neighborhood gem is small, but well appointed and will truly give you a feeling of living in Mumbai. You will be minutes away from the Arabic Sea. With cafes, boutique shops and playgrounds for the kids, it’s a cozy neighborhood to get accustomed to Mumbai.
If you just can’t bare staying outside of the tourist zones, head to Colaba in South Mumbai. Even with all of the hassle of touts in this area, these hotels will make you forget the noise and chaos once you enter the door.
Go for the Gold: Taj Mahal Palace & Tower
The Taj is where the rich and famous stay when they come to town. If you can afford a night or more at this hotel so rich in history, opulence and city culture, you will be doing a disservice not to. Ask for a room with a view over the sea. While I don’t usually recommend places right in the middle of the tourist areas, this is an exception. This hotel is a must see. Even if you don’t stay here, hang out in the lobby for a while soaking up their luxurious air conditioning while getting a much needed respite from the touts and the humidity!
Boutique Hotel: Abode Boutique Hotel
In South Mumbai there have always been the two ends of the spectrum – high end luxury chain hotels and small backpacker grottos. Now South Mumbai has its own gorgeous boutique hotel catering to the savvy design oriented traveller. Abode is not far from the Taj, so again centered in the tourist area, but it will provide a luxurious stay at a reasonable price.
Airbnb: Mumbai Listings
If you are looking to stay in Mumbai longer and/or feel more like a local, check out airbnb.com’s Mumbai listings. There are some really great places in Bandra/Juhu as well as down in South Mumbai. The areas we would recommend are: Bandra, Juhu and Santa Cruz in the north and Colaba, Lower Parel and Worli in the south. In our experience, you need to book these quite early to get the best options. Check the listings closely to make sure it has air conditioning (usually only window units or split units on the wall), 24 hour hot water for your showers and if you want, maid service. Also pay attention to other amenities such as beds and kitchen facilities if you are particular about any of these things. Accommodation in India is not always to the same standard as one might be accustomed.
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