Mumbai’s local railway is aptly nicknamed the “lifeline of the city.” Mumbai is one of the densest cities in the world and the trains are its saving grace, transporting a staggering 6.9 million people per day. Trains can get so overcrowded during peak hours that it is common to have 14-16 people per square meter. If this sounds intimidating, don’t worry, after reading this guide you will have all the information to conquer the Mumbai local trains.
Overview of Train Lines
Mumbai has 3 major train lines that run north and south and there is a brand new metro line in the northern suburbs as well as a limited monorail line in eastern Mumbai. In this post we are going to focus on the “Western Line” as this contains most of the points of interest for travellers. The Western Line is red in the map below and starts in the South from Churchgate Station.
You’re reading this article so you’re off to a good start. Before you leave your internet sanctuary do a little research on the route. Note down your stop, how many stops you’re travelling, your destination station and the station before your destination. You can use the map above for this planning. If you have a smartphone with internet you can also use the app linked below. But don’t rely on this! Often my handwritten notes beat my friend’s smartphone that is desperately searching for connectivity.
Carefully choose when to go. In general, the peak hours ( 9-10:30am and 6-8pm) should be avoided unless you would like a free body massage, as our guides like to joke. In particular, avoid going South in the morning (when everyone is going to work) and North in the evening (when everyone is headed home).
When you enter the station, search for the ticket windows which are usually indicated by large crowds of people. Below is a picture of the ticket windows at Churchgate station. Technically, each ticket window has two lines: one for second class tickets (to the right) and one for first class tickets (to the left). This means if there is a long line and you feel up to it, you can walk right up to the front, elbow your way in and buy a first class ticket and no one will bat an eye. Seriously.
When you get the ticket attendant’s attention (or to get their attention) clearly say: [destination station] + first/second class + single journey/return and add in a nice head wobble for good measure. A first class ticket will cost between Rs 10 and Rs 50 depending on how far you want to go. Riding first class will help you avoid most of the crowds, so we recommend splurging.
Finding Your Platform
Needless to say, Mumbai train stations were not designed with tourists in mind. The sign boards (if there are any) require a bit of decoding to understand what they mean. Here you go:
If you’re going South then it’s pretty simple, almost all trains end at Churchgate so just look for a “C”. If you’re going north there will be a few different options.
End Stations For Going North On The Western Line
- Borivoli (BO)
- Bhayandar (BY)
- Dahanu Road (DN)
- Goregaon (G)
- Nala Sopara (NS)
- Panvel (PN)
- Vasai Road (BS)
- Virar (V)
Western line stations within Mumbai (fast trains stop at stations in bold)
- Marine Lines
- Charni Road
- Grant Road
- Mumbai Central
- Lower Parel
- Elphinstone Road
- Matunga Road
- Khar Road
- Vile Parle
If you are ever in doubt, just ask someone! Better yet, ask two or more people to make sure you are getting the correct information.
Where to stand on the platform
OK so you’ve made it to the correct platform, now what? Trains are only on the platform for a few seconds so it’s a smart idea to move to the right part of the platform before the train arrives. The platform is colour coded to indicate the various classes and male/female cars and sometimes there is even a sign. First class is denoted by red and either white or yellow stripes. Female cars are green and either white or yellow.
Knowing When To Get Off
Your car might have a train line map above the door that will tell you all of the stations so you can follow along, but there is also a chance that you will get a car with a Marathi only map. Stations are usually announced over the speaker in Marathi/Hindi/English, but that is not always guaranteed.
To keep track of where you are, check the station sign at each station. Here is what they look like:
The English version is always at the bottom. Remember how we wrote down the station before your destination station? This is so you are guaranteed a 3 minute warning before you need to get off.
How To Get Off The Train
If it’s crowded, you will want to be sure to get as close as possible to the door. To do this first ask someone which side the platform will be on. If they don’t speak English, pointing to a door and saying “station?” should do the trick. You can also just observe which side people are queuing up on. Next, make sure you’re actually in the queue! Ask the person standing in front of you “[station name]?” If they say no, move in front of them and repeat the question. If they say yes, you’re in the right spot, just stick right behind them and get off quickly — people will start jumping off (and trying to jump on) before the train has even stopped.
A Couple Extra Tips
- Dadar Station is the busiest station in the city and it is absolute madness at peak hours. Whether that is a reason to avoid it or go experience it is up to you!
- Only buy tickets at the ticket windows and not from people that offer them to you outside.
- The official smart phone application for Mumbai local trains is called M-Indicator, it’s great, provided that you have a reliable data connection.
- If the train is crowded it is a good idea to wear you backpack around the front.
- And finally, hang halfway out the door, look off into the distance and imagine that you’re a Bollywood movie star! (At your own risk, of course)
Some Points of Interest Along The Western Line (Nearest Station)
- Oval Maiden (Churgate)
- Marine Drive (Churchgate, Marine Lines, and Charni Road)
- Chowpatty Beach (Charni Road)
- Malabar Hill (Charni Road or Grant Road)
- Haji Ali (Mahalaxmi)
- Dhobi Ghat (Mahalaxmi)
- Koliwada (Elphinstone)
- Dharavi Tour (Mahim Station)
- Bandra (Bandra Station)
- Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivoli)
That’s it! You’re ready to experience Mumbai by train and get a glimpse into working class life. If you want some extra information and also get a chance to ride the famous red buses, check out our Local Transport Tour.
Have you ever taken a Mumbai Local? Tell us about your experience in the comments.