This coastal metropolis is India’s Gotham City. Home to more than fifteen million people, Mumbai shows extremes of both debauchery and deprivation. Do not be surprised to find a custom-made Jaguar navigating its way through a street saturated with bicycles, foot-traffic and a variety of animals. The disparity of the city is as striking as it is omnipresent.

Formerly known as Bombay, the city was rechristened with its original moniker of Mumbai, derived from the Hindu goddess Mumba Devi, a few years ago. Mumbai has a lot to offer for the eager traveler. The city is full of ancient temples and places of worship for all religions from Judaism to Zoroastrianism. It boasts of striking colonial era architecture, scenic locales, walkways, parks, as well as a wide assortment of malls, bars and pubs.

But one of the first questions usually asked by anyone travelling to Mumbai is how safe the city really is? The city thrives on chaos; like in all metros in India, Mumbai has a vast migrant population often blamed for the ills of the city. The recent spate of rape cases in the country has once again shifted the spotlight on the safety the city offers to travelers. But contrary to most opinions, Mumbai is one of the safest cities for solo female travelers in India.

Thousands of tourists visit the city each year, on business or for pleasure. There are always certain precautions you need to take when travelling to a foreign country. With Mumbai though, these precautions become a little more specific.

Research the City   India can be a sensory overload to a novice traveler. Much unlike other countries India is diverse, ancient and exists in a precarious balance of traditional values and modern understanding. Knowing as much as you can about the culture, traditions and values espoused by the people of the cities you are visiting will hold you in good stead.

There will be places that you will visit, like the Leopold pub and café, made famous by Gregory David Roberts’ seminal novel on Mumbai, Shantaram, which will feel much the same like any pub back home. But a few hundred meters away you will find yourself in dense lanes, packed with people and wares from wall to wall.

Finding out which area the hotel you will be living in is situated will help you get a better idea of measures you need to take. Check out important numbers like police stations, ambulance services and hospitals close to your place of stay or locations you want to visit.

Understanding the city will take time, coming to terms with the disparity it presents, even more so. Doing your research before you land is the best weapon you have against getting any more culture shocks than necessary.

Play It Safe   India is currently on the cusp of a massive change. Centuries old traditional values exist here alongside modern understanding and the latest technology and often find it hard to maintain a balance. This is not a run-of-the-mill tourist destination; you can’t do here what you will do in, say, Italy.

For example, kissing your wife or companion on the street in Bombay may not only earn you a lot of uncomfortable stares but also a reprimand by the police for indecent behavior in public. Avoid wearing revealing clothes and being overfriendly with unknown men. Your nicety might be interpreted as a come on. Something as simple as walking into a temple with your footwear on, or stepping into a mosque without your head covered can get you into trouble.

Mumbai is the safest city in India for solo female travelers

Project Confidence   Many people travelling to India, specifically to Mumbai, have said that projecting a certain amount of confidence in your dealings with the locals will help avoid you getting taken advantage of. Walk briskly and know exactly where you want to go.

Do not indulge beggars or street urchins; ignoring them, while seeming heartless, is the best way to protect yourself against losing your purse or getting groped. This is one of the most basic tips of travelling to Mumbai. Being polite does not work in this city, it requires a firm hand and a confident demeanor to ensure you are left alone.

Learn the Language   Hindi is the national language of India and is spoken widely in Mumbai. Marathi, on the other hand, is the language that is predominantly spoken by the locals. Getting a handle on some useful local phrases in Hindi and, if you can manage it, in Marathi also, is a good idea.

For example, “chalo” means let’s go, “ruko” means stop and “nahi” means no in Hindi. Understanding and learning these few phrases will not only earn you the respect of the locals but also make your task of navigating through the city much easier.

Plan Your Transportation Carefully   It is never a good idea to be stranded on the streets of a strange city without transportation, especially a strange city in India. Taxis ply through the streets at all hours of the day. The night-time charges though can be steeper than the morning rates, roughly one and a half times more.

Auto-rickshaws, the yellow and green two-stroke wonder of the Indian transport system, are also available at all hours of the day. The thing to take care with autos and taxis is the meter reading; always pay according to the meter regardless of what the driver says. Local trains are one of the biggest means of public transport in the city, followed closely by buses, but are a hotbed for “accidental” touching and theft. There are women special trains and coaches, which you can use for travelling cheaply and safely.

If you are leaving a bar or a restaurant late at night, have someone accompany you to a taxi or an auto-rickshaw. Arriving in the middle of the night can pose more problems; if your flight lands at night make sure you have a pick-up arranged from the hotel you have reserved. Keep your friends and family informed of where you are through the phone or social media. Staying connected will help you ensure that someone is always informed of your whereabouts.

Beware of Pickpockets   Pickpockets are a perpetual nuisance in the crowded streets and public transport systems of this city. Avoid travelling with a lot of cash, and always be careful with your purses and wallets. Keeping your wallet in your front pocket is a good idea. If you have a back pack do not sling it over your back, instead wear it in front where you can see it.

Mumbai is a melting pot of a multitude of cultures, values and modern day thinking. One of the biggest cities in the world it is a much loved tourist destination and has a lot to offer a traveler. But as is the case with traveling to any country, follow the old adage of “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” This will not only ensure you stay safe, but also show you a perspective of the city you may not see otherwise.

  flickr   //   tataimitra   skyevidur

Published in India

India is a wonderful place to visit but is a vast country which cannot be covered in one vacation. The food and the people are so good that you will like to come back to India again and again. The country is incredible....true to its slogan INCREDIBLE INDIA. Now let me present you with 10 important tips that may prove helpful when you visit India.

1   First of all I would like to mention that India as seen by many is not a poor country. You will get all the ameneties provdied that you book in advance and have the capacity to bear the cost. Note: planning trip well in advance will not only provide mental peace but also cut your cost. In India usually everything gets booked compeletely full.
2   Don't rely too much on plastic money, be sure to carry some cash, Indian rupee. Although nowadays most of the reputed outlets accept plastic money, cash is preferred and universally accepted.
3   Carry or purchase drinking water of reputed brands at all times. Check out for the seal of the bottle if you feel the bottle is tempered do get it changed. The brands in India are Kinley, Bisleri, Aquafina, Manikchand, Bagpiper, Neer, Himalaya, etc.
4   Since India is a vast country traveling times vary from place to place. Kindly check on the web for best travelling time and place of interest. Best and true facts are provided with government sites ending in ".gov.in"

Pots for sale in Jaipur, India

5   Beware of the guides, shopkeepers and taxi or tuk-tuk walas. They will pursue you for talking to them. They ususally observe you and follow you. Note: pretending that you are with some Indian or know some local there will always give an edge to you. Best is to book your guide through hotel or government appointed guides directly at the tourist spot.
6   If you are in Rome be a Roman and the saying goes true in India. When in India, do as the Indians do. This is particularly true for single women, who should be dressed modestly in Indian attire if they don't want any unsavory attention. Though the country is liberal, it is best to dress up people admire rather than get stared.
7   In India, kindly take this note that the food served is highly spicy, if you want a moderate taste then you should look for the luxury star property or tell the waiter to arrange for the less spicy food. Even the food giant chains that operate in India served Indianized taste such as paneer burger or paneer wrap at McDonalds.

Pushkar, India

8   If you are a shopaholic, then you must move the market at your own, explore it take notes of economy shops. In India same products are sold at different prices and if you are a foreigner than the tag prices shoot up by more than 50% so its better to try out various shops before starting purchase. This practice will definitely save your pocket.
9   Night life in India can only be found in the metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc or tourist spots like Goa. Elsewhere India doesn't have a strong nightlife culture...yet. If you are partying person hook to these city for parties.
10   Note for giving tips in India. If you want a better and personalized service keep giving tips to room boys, cab drivers, waiters, etc. Tip should be moderate -- a minimal tip from you is still a large tip in their eyes. Enjoy that fact and make the most of it.

  Have any tips to add or questions?

Published in India

Recently discovered the White Owl Brewery in Mumbai, a warehouse-like brewery bistro located in Lower Parel at Indiabulls Center. The White Owl was conceptualized by two young entrepreneurs with fancy business degress from the USA who returned to India to set up the “Owl”. Their commitment to detail is evident by their teaming up with Obataimu Design Studio to engineer a rather unique creative concept. Right from the interior design to the menu, everything is beautifully crafted to suit the tastes of the young professional, bright-eyed entrepreneur and anyone with a free spirit.

At The White Owl, old world objects iconic of Bombay in the 1950's come together in unexpected ways. The space is an amalgamation of industrial elements with basic rudiments like antique smoked-mirror table tops and metal chairs combined with patent leather upholstery, creating a grunge yet chic atmosphere. The attentive staffs seem as though they have walked in from a '50s English movie. The music is modern and lively. As such, it is the remarkably eclectic vibe at The White Owl that sets it apart from the other restaurants and bistros in Mumbai.

White Owl Restaurant, India
White owl Mumbai India
Restaurant , White Owl Restaurant

Firstly, we liked the ambience of this joint. We like the fine combination of bistro and a micro-brewery like this, which was new to Mumbai. Chef Kshama is at the helm of White Owl’s kitchen which has char-grill as the main concept behind their menu. They bake their own breads, make their own dips and would start brewing their own beer, as soon as they get their license.

Here is the menu which was planned:

Restaurant, White owl brewery, India  Mumbai

For starters we had the Assorted Dips with House Lavash, Pesto Chicken Skewer, Beef Paprika and Cottage Cheese Chilli-Verde. The dips (carrot and cumin paste, labneh and hummus) were really good.

White Owl Restarunt, Review Mumbai, India

The Kingfish Chimmichuri was made well where olive pil enhanced the flavour, and the Pesto Chicken Skewer, being one of their signature dishes, was indeed sumptuous dish. The Beef Paprikawas way over-cooked, chewy and could have been better. The cottage cheese was cooked well, but the would have been better with more sauce would have given it better flavour.

White Owl Restaurant, Mumbai India

Next up was the Classic Grilled Chicken Salad which had chicken cuts and filling lettuce, followed by a Cranberry & Chevre salad, which is another one of their signature dishes -- and that was amazing. The combination of cranberry, goat cheese and parsley worked pretty well together and it was the best dish till then. Only one note though, the salad portions could have been slightly more.

Wite Owl Restaurant Mumbai India

We moved on to the main course which started with the Gourmet Potato Gratin which was pretty amazing. The caramelized onions along with blue cheese & chives is brilliant and adds a lot of depth to the dish. This was followed by the Gingerale Chicken & Asparagus which was another interesting concept. We really loved both the concept and the taste of the sauce but the chicken could have been cooked better. It was really dry inside instead of the moist, succulent chicken that we were expecting. The portions of all the mains were pretty good.

Next up was the Pepper-Crusted Rawas which in our mind was the best dish to come out from the kitchen that evening. It was perfect. The fish was cooked to perfection, the sauce was amazing, everything on the dish went well together as well as on its own and hence, we would call it a perfect dish. If you are visiting White Owl and had to try just one dish then this would be it!

Grilled Green Apple & Raisin Pie and Blueberry Cheesecake were the deserts for the day. The pie was really nicely done. The crust was baked to perfection and the green apple and raisin filling went really went with it. It wasn’t too dry or soggy. It was just right. It tasted really good even without the scoop of ice-cream it was served with. The blueberry cheesecake… hmm. Let’s just say that you should skip that and go straight for the pie.

We would say that White Owl is a nice place to chill-out and get a couple of drinks with friends and hop on to some great fish there. The starters could have been better and we recommend waiting for them to get their micro-brewery license. However we would return only to have their Grilled Green Apple & Raisin Pie or the Pepper-Crusted Rawas.

Published in India

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