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10 Things That Foreign Travelers Don’t Like About Mumbai

Mumbai, better known as its earlier avatar Bombay, is India’s financial capital. What this means is that most financing – lending and borrowing – of big companies is done there. Most of the banks are located there. As well as other companies in the financial services sector, such as insurance companies, mutual funds and pension and provident funds. Most of the big companies in India have their Headquarters in Mumbai.

Basically, this is where the big bucks are. This has also led it to be the organized crime capital of India. Where there is big money, there are big thieves. And these shady guys are a threat to everybody, both locals and foreign travelers alike.

When foreign travelers visit Mumbai, the main reason for them to do so is to see the vestiges of its British past. It was the British who connected the earlier 7 islands of Mumbai. They built the railroads and most of the buildings which house the government and many big companies today. The style is mostly Gothic, although on Marine Drive and opposite the High Court you can see typically Art Deco architecture. The climax of this was the Gateway of India. An imposing archway built for the landing of King George V and Queen Mary of Britain to India in 1911. It is built on the south coast of Mumbai, in the Apollo Bunder area, and marks the spot where the Emperor of India would step on to native soil.

While this and other monuments of Mumbai’s past are a pleasant visit, there are other factors that make foreign tourist’s reconsider ever coming to Mumbai again.

Crowd

There are just so many people in Mumbai. Apart from the size of the population, its density is also extremely high. Mumbai is surrounded on three sides by water. The remaining side of land has been urbanized for over a 100 kilometers. The British only managed to develop the southern-most 15-20 kilometers of this narrow stretch before they left in 1947. And that is still where most foreign travelers stay when they come to Mumbai. That is also where most of the work in Mumbai is. So almost the entire population of those 100 kilometers packs into those few kilometers at the city’s southern tip every working day. As they empty each working evening, these barren streets turn into a criminal haven. Drug abuse is common in these desolate lanes at night. It is very common to be intoxicated people at these odd hours.

Unfortunately, most of these people are quite badly educated. They can be quite unruly at times. Mumbai has the second-highest number of rapes of any city in India. Single foreign women are particularly vulnerable.

Cost

Mumbai real estate is the most expensive in India, primarily due to the lack of land, being surrounded on three sides by water. This makes the rents and prices of property in Mumbai very costly. For what it would cost to stay in Mumbai for a few days, you would be able to stay for a week in many other cities. And even for a month in many towns and hill stations in India.

Noise

Due to the bad education of most people in Mumbai, their civic manners are basically absent. The amount of noise that you hear in the city is anything but peaceful. If a traveler is sensitive or disturbed, this could be a major source of stress.

Traffic

With big bucks floating around and limited land, there is a huge density of vehicles to compete with the human density. Drivers in Mumbai do not realize that it is rude to honk unnecessarily or too often. They also do not follow traffic rules or rules of human courtesy, making it very difficult and even dangerous to cross the roads, for example. Hardly any driver will budge or give way to ambulances, fire engines and other emergency vehicles. They only make sure they don’t block the way of the police! As the police know how to set them right!

Safety

The security personnel will be fast asleep when you arrive home at 2 a.m., instead of keeping guard. There is no question of them checking and thus knowing who is entering or leaving their premises.

Also taxis and rickshaws do not have safety belts. It is as if you are agreeing that you will go down with the driver in a great act of communal solitude whenever you ride one, in the event of an accident.

Hygiene

The sanitation in Mumbai leaves a lot to be desired. Not just in the monsoons, when all the filth from the sewers flows back onto the roads. The hygiene in most Indian restaurant kitchens is dreadful. The most common cause for foreign travelers getting sick in India is through food and drink. So always make sure you eat and drink in safe, hygienic conditions. Hot food is preferable, if you are having it freshly cooked. The heat kills many of the germs that could be a cause of disease. Drinking tap water is unsafe in India. Not only is the quality of the water supply in question, the pipes and storage tanks in many facilities have both chemical and biological impurities. You can even see small creepy crawlies in some of the dirty water storage tanks.

Health

There are no General Practitioners (GPs) who will maintain your medical records and are aware of your medical history. Instead you have to visit several different specialists. Again, none of whom keep medical records or are aware of your medical history. This is a great waste of time and money. And can be dangerous to your health and well-being, in the event of a misdiagnosis.

Even during the British Raj, when the British were running the country, many foreigners died in India due to bad health. This included very senior officers as well.

Antiquated English

The English language being taught in the majority of government schools in India is still what was being taught before India’s independence, which is before 1947. Indians taught in these schools still use terms like ‘I will revert’ rather than ‘I will get back to you’. They will use ‘do the needful’ instead of ‘do as you have requested’. This not only annoys, but can sometimes make it outright difficult to know what they are trying to say.

Terms for Renting an Apartment

Rent leases run for 11 months, which is neither here nor there. They should run for a year or half a year or two years. Due to the law in India, landlords do not rent out their properties for a year. The law gives more rights to a tenant who has lived in one place for a year. So the landlords don’t provide them with legal possession for a year.

The deposits on leases are for 11 months too, instead of a month, like in New Delhi. This is an exorbitant amount and makes leasing in Mumbai very unattractive and expensive.

Careless Attitude of Government Servants and Public Utility Workers

Government servants who do not speak English will rudely disconnect the phone if you do not speak in their language, instead of informing you that they do not speak English. They will also take their own time in responding to requests by an applicant to get any sort of work done by them. Usually, even then, they will only really move ahead with doing any sort of work after demanding a bribe. Their ‘effected’ ineffectiveness seems to be a ploy to make the applicant desperate and lose hope in believing that their work can be done honestly.

Public utility workers, such as taxi & rickshaw drivers will while away the whole day sleeping or reading newspapers instead of ferrying passengers. And then they claim to be poor and living in slums! You can lodge a complaint against them online here. Make sure you note down the registration number of their vehicle. Electricity and phone company workers respond to your requests for help days late. They also expect a tip or bribe to do their work. As if their employers do not pay them a wage or salary.

So while visiting Mumbai is historically very significant and relevant, the experience can be a frightful and traumatic one. To preserve your sanity, it helps to know what can possibly go wrong. Be prepared for the above mentioned hazards and then you will be better armed to secure yourself and your sanity.

Some of the more tourist-friendly areas in Mumbai include Colaba and Bandra. Both of these areas have a history of foreign travelers staying here. They better know how to co-exist with those who are not Indian in origin. You can also find many foreign tourists in these areas. Even locals here speak several foreign languages, making for better understanding among all.

Featured Image Credits: Cleavers, CC BY-ND 2.0

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