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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This sounds like something interesting to try, but I’m not sure I ever could. I’m claustrophobic and rather short and not pushy at all… haha so I’d be one of those people to just stand there all day.
Yeah, I feel ya. Good thing rickshaws are fun too!
Oh my God!!!
It looks though like one of those things you absolutely HAVE to try in your life!! :)
I would try it!!
I’m glad you think so! It’s fun and get’s you where you need to be skipping traffic… which in Bombay means saving you over an hour!
Oooh boy, sign me up for this! It’d make an excellent GoPro type video, too ;-)
You’re so right! I’ll have to do that next time!
Haha sounds amazing! Definitely adding this to the itinerary next time I’m in India. I mean, crowd surfing is awesome so…
For sure! Not only fun but a practical way off getting around Bombay.
Well I am leaving for Mumbai tomorrow. Now I’m thinking about this train ride… thanks!
Enjoy! It’s a rush.
Hello! Good post, but I feel I have to point out that using slut-shaming language (“don’t dress like a skank”) isn’t useful for anyone – simply saying “dress conservatively” would suffice. Having said that, love the blog and keep up the interesting posts!
I’m glad you liked the post! I wouldn’t intentionally use a word that is “slut-shaming”. Skank means sleazy & unpleasant which I don’t think is quite the same thing as say, slut or whore, which I didn’t say. Glad you like the blog though :) & thank you for your comment
Heys! I live in South India and I have come to Mumbai for a job. Yesterday I took the six ‘o’ clock train from CST and it was a mess. I couldn’t push past the crowd. I guess I must follow your tips more closely.
It really can be a mess! keep your elbows up!
This sounds like absolute carnage! Do you get groped much?! That is definitely the worst thing about riding is tightly packed transport- sometimes even in London.
India sucks a$$
I feel that this post is incredibly insensitive to the people who are forced to risk their lives everyday to get to work on this train. To make out that the danger and suffering of their everyday lives is a ‘must-do’ for western tourists is glamourising their hardship and selling it as a tourist attraction. It is similar to promoting tours of the slums, which is voyeuristic. Writing so frivolously of the death rate on these trains is an insult to these people, and an insult to Indian culture for which a pretence of poverty by westerners is unthinkable.
I’m sorry you felt that way. I think sharing the stats is important in explaining the train and what makes it so unique, not just in India but in the world. I have never done a slum tour nor promoted one because I am against exploitation, but riding the train is a convenient and interesting way to see the “chaos of India” everyone who comes here talks about, including me, and in no way is taking local transportation equivalent to tour slum housing. I’ve been in India for 3 years and always take the train while in Bombay for it’s quickness out of choice. I am not writing frivolously & as a promoter of travel to India through my nearly 400 articles on this blog, your last sentence is quite an insult to throw.
I am 28 year old Street Photographer born & bought up in Mumbai, Been traveling in this locals almost everyday. I am Mumbaikar (28years )First of all this post is not insult :) yes only three picture shows mumbai local others are too much :)
few to do and don’t to add if at all you want to travel ;)
– First have fun and keep smiling, trains are crowded and people are in rush during office hours so don’t panic be clam .
– Men in men compartment (females are allowed but you know) and female in female (Men are not allowed)
– Avoid wearing expensive watches or jewelry
– During peak hours, always keep your pack or bag to the front of you. Wallets and cell phones should be secured in the bag or in front pockets.
– Don’t carry big bags (Trains are crowded and people in rush you don’t want to face them)
– Before getting down make sure you know your destination station get of your seat and make way toward the door (There are announcement in Engilsh,hindi and local of coming station)
– There are doors on opposite side of the train confirm with passengers which door you should alight from as the platform comes on either side depending on stations (Local know which side)
– Every local station station will have at least one ticket counter. The ticket fares will be displayed clearly in a big board or television screens near the counters.
– Ticket prices can vary depending on which class you are going to travel in. Second class (cheaper/crowded/more compartments – Avoid ) First Class (lil expensive a Dollar or so/ lil less crowded /less compartment )
Do not try to hang outside the train. Rail signals and tunnel walls can sometimes be very close to the side of a train
Each train have 12-15 compartments
Ladies (Second Class) (2-3)
Ladies (First Class) (2) Travel in this
General First Class (2-3) travel in this
Handicapped and Cancer patients (1)
General Second Class.(7-8)
If possible travel with trusted local. (Hola me but the beer is on you ;) )
Hey guys it ain’t so bad if you are traveling against the stream. Going uptown in the morning when most are trying to get into the city from the suburbs or vice versa in the evening. Sometimes trains are not as crowded as they look. Its cooking inside so people wanna be around the doors. That said, watch your wallet or better still don’t carry one (keep some cash in your front pocket). A once-in-a-lifetime experience worth trying.