What’s the first thing you should do in Mumbai? Your first time ever in India?
At 8 A.M. get on the Mumbai Slow Local and ride it all the way to Churchgate. Survive Mumbai local train crowds with these tips. It’s like jumping in a pool- why stick a toe in first? Go for it and be shocked!
Just hope it’s not like taking a bad tequila shot. You don’t sip it first… you go for it… then puke.
What is the Slow Local?
Any Indian movie you’ve seen where it looks like millions of people are hanging off a train, riding the roof, and risking their lives to get to work… are probably shots of the slow local. This train is notorious.
I know Indian people who wish they could take the train in order to avoid traffic, but say it’s just too much stress, too crowded, and they have to wait too long to get through the masses and on the train.
More than EIGHT MILLION people take this train each day.
That is equal to how many people LIVE in New York City.
India obviously is a packed country with over 1.2 Billion people lving here, and 11 million people living in Mumbai. That means that in Mumbai 73% of people take the train to work.
4,500 people fit into a 9 carriage rake, which is well over the 1,700 capacity limit. In each tiny little carriage, over 500 people try to fit.
It’s chaos! It’s the perfect way to throw yourself onto India, like “Hi, I’m here and I want to learn about you!”
Lonely planet says don’t take this train between six and nine in the morning. I say do it! Just don’t die and sue me ;)
Is it safe?
Nope! Not always. Is it fun? Yep! It is only dangerous if you are not being smart. On average 600 people die a year, but sometimes more than 2,000. That’s almost 2 people a day (on a good year). Dead!
Mostly because of falling off the roof, being electrocuted while sitting on the roof, crossing the tracks, or getting pushed off the never closing doors. But, thankfully new law is stopped the roof-riders and saving lives!
The number is still high because of Indians crossing the tracks and being hit. FYI when someone is hit- the train doesn’t stop. In the last ten years 36,000 people have DIED and another 36,000 plus have been injured. In 2008, 17 people died every weekday.
Automatic doors are coming in 2016, so come before then so you can get all risky with your life. Kids make videos on youtube doing stunts on the outside of trains, but sometimes they die. Watch if you’re weird and morbid- but I’m not linking it!
There have been four attacks from 93-2008, with the one in 2008 being the worst. Seven bombs killed over 200 people. They targeted other places in Mumbai as well. This concern is everywhere though, has happened in Europe, and could easily happen anywhere. Being afraid of terrorists is a fairly irrational fear; don’t let it stop you from the train ride of a lifetime.
How do you make it to your destination?
- “BE aggressive! B , E, aggressive!” you have to push. Yes the women are super cute in their saris and dripping in gold, making you feel quite inferior… don’t let this stop you. You are a train riding warrior!
- Keep your arms up, not to elbow, but to save you a little body space.
- Do NOT try to get on the train as it starts to move. You WILL be shoved off. Only get on if you’re in the first wave. Let the people push you on. It’s almost like you’re a rock star crowd surfing. Almost.
- Don’t wait for people to get off like you would at any other train stop. This is each man for themselves. Indians don’t wait. So if you do you won’t get on this train.
- As the others try to get off at the stop, remember that’s not your problem. You need ON the train. You can’t be too nice or you will stand on the platform all day.
- When you need to get off, keep in mind how much those people struggled. This brings us to a hard decision you have to make. You can either move inland on the train, to get away from the fighting that will occur at each stop, but… then when it’s time to get off you’re shit out of luck… or you can stay near the door and hold tight for 30 minutes.
- If you’re a girl you can take the women’s cart. But really it’s not at all better during rush hour. And like I said if you’re going to go for it, go for it!
- You could take first class, but what fun is that? Did I mention tickets are about 7 rupees (that’s about 10 cents) while a cab would be about 8 bucks from airport to Churchgate.
- Travel 11 A.M to 4 P.M and miss rush hour if you are a scardy-pants. But even during rush hour, eventually you get used to it! I rode it about 5 times when I was there, and when I go back I ride it with no problems.
- ADDED PLUS: f you go to Churchgate station at about noon, you’ll see the Dabawallas! Dabawalla basically means “delivery man” This is where over 200,000 hot lunches are delivered to men at work all over Bombay and they NEVER mess up who’s is whos.
- There are not going to be a lot of westerners on this train, especially at rush hour… don’t dress like a skank or you could have problems with men staring or women giving you mean looks as well.
- If you are handicapped or have cancer (yes I’m serious) there is a place special for you to sit.
- As with all transportation in India, take advantage of these safety tips.
All in all, it’s a great experience, not as scary as it sounds, and a MUST-DO in Mumbai! Locals might tell you not to, but as long as you stay focused and follow my tips you should do fine. It’ll be a rush and you’ll want to do it again!
Have you taken a ride on the notorious slow local?
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