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Visit Dharavi, take in the street art and see why it is heart of small-scale industry in Mumbai!
Known to many as ‘one of the largest slums in Asia’, we prefer to think of Dharavi as Mumbai’s beating heart. It houses about one million of Mumbai’s inhabitants and its industries have an annual turnover of approximately US$ 665 million.
Through our educational walking tours, visitors experience a wide range of these business activities: recycling, pottery-making, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, poppadom-making and many more.
We’ll also visit the residential areas and get a glimpse of street art in Dharavi. People from all over India have come to live in Dharavi, making it a microcosm of India. This diversity is apparent in the murals, temples, mosques, churches and pagodas that stand side by side.
Our three community centres that are funded through the profits from the tours are also located in the residential area. We will visit one of them and you will learn about the programs that our NGO, Reality Gives, offers the community.
Our 3 hour introduction to Dharavi aims to give visitors a much more nuanced understanding of life and work in Mumbai slums. You can also add a lunch with a local family after the morning tour. Not only will you get additional insight into Dharavi, but you’ll provide a local family with some extra income!
Have extra space in your suitcase? We are proud members of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. If you save just a few kilos of space in your suitcase for the projects supported by Reality Gives, you’ll make a priceless impact in the lives of our local children and families. Please click here to see what supplies are needed for our project/projects.
Metal and plastic comes from all over the world to Dharavi to be recycled. See the entire recycling process from sorting to the finished plastic pellets.
The tin hutments that house so many human lives stretch on as far as you can see. You will never forget this view!
Our Community Centre, supported by funds from the tour, provides education in English, computers and life skills to the teenagers and young adults of Dharavi. Other activities such as sports, dancing, and yoga are also hosted at our community centres.
Two tons of food is produced every day in Dharavi and a large part of that is popaddoms, the essential appetizer or side dish of many Indian meals. They are typically made by women in Dharavi in the residential areas.
The Kumbbharwada neighborhood is more than 150 years old and is the oldest part of Dharavi. Artisans create various types of earthen pots that are shipped all over India.
This is your chance to explore the amazing works of street art hidden in an area of Dharavi. Moreover, this is the only part of the tour where you are allowed to take photos. Learn how street art has an impact on the local community, enhancing their sense of pride and empowerment.
Churchgate Station or Mahim Station
For a Colaba start, see our Dharavi Tour (Car Transfer).
There are four entrances to Churchgate Station, including two subways. The first photo shows the station as you approach from Colaba and where the entrance is. Once inside the station, go to the book stall about 30 metres before the platforms (as shown in the next two photos). Look for the sign saying “Wheeler.” (Photos: One, Two, Three)
We meet at the main entrance and ticket office on the West side of the station (photo 1). To check if you are in the right spot, verify that V-Jai Restaurant and Bakery is opposite and Cafe Coffee Day is diagonally opposite. (Photos: One, Two, Three)
Our Reception Centre in Dharavi which is near the intersection of 60 feet and 90 feet road.
3 hour walking tour
9:15am or 1.45pm from Churchgate Station
10am or 2.30pm from Mahim Station
We focus on the small scale industries in Dharavi, such as recycling, the making of clay pots, embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, papad (poppadom) making and many others, most of which take place in very small spaces.We also pass by the residential areas, where you really get a feel of how the people live and the sense of community that exists in the area.
People from all over India and from all religions live in Dharavi, and you will see this diversity. On the tour you will pass Hindu temples, mosques and churches in the area. When open, we visit the social projects run by our sister organisation and NGO Reality Gives, such as the community centre. It is quite an adventure to pass through the narrow alleys and you will almost certainly lose your sense of direction!.
Although we cannot take responsibility should anything happen, we believe that the places that we visit are very safe. There are a lot of people in Dharavi (one million approximately in an area of 0.7 square miles) and there is a strong police presence in the area. Dharavi is generally full of hard-working, honest people, although for security purposes we ask you not to take valuables with you on the tour.
In the small alleys you have to be careful of low hanging roofs, open drains, and occasionally exposed electric wires. Also, in some of the factories that we visit there are fumes that can be hazardous. Since April 2014 we have been tracking whether our guests felt safe throughout the tour on our post-tour questionnaire; 99.7% of our guests felt completely safe throughout the tour.
With the very high density of population and the limited infrastructure and sanitation facilities, there are areas which are quite dirty and smelly. We ask you to wear covered shoes.
We recommend that you wear covered shoes as some areas can be dirty, especially during the monsoon months from June to mid September. We ask visitors to dress modestly which means no sleeveless shirts, short shorts, or low tops.
We have a strict no camera policy in order to respect the privacy of the local residents. Dharavi has received a lot of attention from the media and the residents are very wary of being exploited. The policy may be considered strict but our relationship with the Dharavi community has been built over a number of years based on mutual respect. We do not wish for even the occasional photo as it could be incorrectly perceived as our starting to permit general photography on our tours. We can, however, send you a link to Dharavi photos which can be downloaded. There is also the opportunity to buy postcards and photos at the end of the tour, proceeds from which go to the community projects in the area.
We don’t sell or ask you to buy any products made by the residents of Dharavi on the tour. We don’t want you to feel obliged to buy anything. If there is anything in particular that you find interesting on the tour, then by all means you can speak to the guide and he can help you buy it. There is also the opportunity to buy postcards and other merchandise at the end of the tour, proceeds from which go to community projects in the area.
There are health hazards highlighted above which children need to be very aware of. Otherwise we see no problem with bringing children of any age on the tour. Indians are very welcoming and receptive to young people.
Yes it is possible to visit Dharavi on your own, and in our opinion it is safe to do so. However you will not know the best places to go, the area is like a maze and you will not gain the same insight as with one of our guides.
Absolutely! Our tour timings were decided with this in mind. Have a look at the timings for the tours and let us know!
The redevelopment plan has been stalled many times and now it looks like the original plan has been scrapped and a new one is being suggested. Due to the value of the land in Dharavi now, some say that redevelopment in some form is inevitable but there are still a lot of issues to be resolved and the developers have still not been announced. It should be possible to visit Dharavi even while the development (which would take several years) takes place.
For the “with car transport” option, the total time is approximately 4.5 hours. This includes transport to Dharavi and back from our office in Colaba, or to and from your hotel. For people staying in Colaba, if you were to catch the train/taxi to Dharavi from Colaba, the transport time would be approximately 50 mins to an hour each way, so the total time to do the Dharavi Tour and the Dharavi Tour with Car Transport is approximately the same.
On the shared version, you will need to meet outside our office in Colaba at the stipulated time. On the private tour with car transport, other visitors will not come on the tour with you and we will come to your hotel or residence to pick you up and drop you back. The tour is more flexible as well to what you want to see. Since we pass by areas of interest between Colaba and Dharavi, to get the most out of the private tour, it is best to start from Colaba, Fort or Marine Drive. For tourists staying in other parts of Mumbai who wish to do the private tour with transport (and hence be picked up from their hotel) we can advise on what will and will not be included in the tour depending on the location of your hotel.
Unfortnately, the slum and sightseeing tour is a private tour only.
The sightseeing tour is a private tour. There isn’t the demand currently to do a shared tour.
The easiest place to meet the guide is at Churchgate station; this is a 15 – 20 minute walk from Colaba.
As you are staying north of Dharavi, it would make the most sense to do the regular Dharavi Tour and meet us directly at Mahim Station.
If you would like car transport then a private tour with car transport would be a good option. This way we could pick you up directly at your hotel. But please note that only the Dharavi part of the trip would be covered (ie. you would not see the red-light area and open-air laundry). There would also be an additional charge to cover the extra distance that our car would have to come. If you wish to do a private tour with car transport and also see the other parts of the tour such as the red-light area and the open-air laundry, then contact us and we will try to arrange something.
If you would still like to do the shared Dharavi Tour with Car Transport, you will need to be at our office at 8.30am. It will take about 80 minutes/80 minutes/60 minutes to reach by taxi so it would be an early start! If you still wish to go, then you might consider making your own way back to your hotel/residence after the Dharavi part of the tour.
Dharavi is situated between Mahim and Sion – two areas at the northern tip of South Mumbai, just before the suburbs commence (Bandra and Kurla). It is sandwiched between the Western and Central Railway lines. It is about 10km south of the International Airport and 18km north of Colaba, the main tourist area.
By train: it is a 15-20 minute walk to Churchgate station and then it takes approximately 45 minutes to buy the ticket and catch a “slow train” to Dharavi (Mahim Junction).
By taxi: By taxi it takes about 50 minutes to an hour (cost approximately Rs 300)
FROM AIRPORT AREA:
By taxi: it takes about 40 minutes in the afternoon, and 50 minutes in the morning. Cost: approximately Rs 500. (note: by auto-rickshaw not possible)
By train: you need to go to Vile Parle or Santa Cruz Station and catch a “slow train” to Mahim Junction. Total time approx 30 mins.
By taxi: it takes about 35 minutes in the afternoon, and 50 minutes in the morning. Cost: approximately Rs 200 (note: by auto-rickshaw not possible)
I has great expectations, because of the o positive comments here. Indeed I was still more impressed by the transformative power of the experience. The visit was really interesting, thanks to the sensitive and thoughtful approach of the company, as well as the quality of the guide. Thanks!!
I joined a small group of foreigners on this most amazing tour, expertly guided by Sabina, a fairly new tour guide who hails from the slum herself. Sabina is very knowledgeable about so many aspects of the slum. She took us to see the plastic recycling businesses that employ and create income for many people. The tour makes you think differently about what a slum is and does and see the ecomic powerhouse that it can be. I marveled at the creativity and industriousness (even on a Sunday). I was glad to hear that Reality Tours allows no picture taking (you can get a QR code at the end and use their pictures) and the proceeds support the work of the Reality NGO, of which you learn a bit towards the end. Highly recommended, even if you are a solo traveler, a woman of a certain age, new to Mumbai and with a bad ankle.The staff, the hotel I stayed in and my taxi driver were all very helpful to get me to the right place at the right time.
We signed up for this slum tour because of the street art, but the best part was the tour of the slums themselves. This same company’s tour without the street art is probably just as good because with the street art included we were really tired. That all said, our tour guide, Simran, was amazing. She was very knowledgeable, welcoming and helpful. We signed up for a group tour but ended up being the only two guests so got a lot of time to ask questions. Taking the train to the location and back was fun too, and a great experience. Highly recommend! Get Simran if you can.
These tours are a great way to help people understand the reality of life for some fellow human beings, while also enabling tourism to make a positive contribution to their community. Our guide was a great example of how the charity can help: he had only started learning English one year ago from the charity, and now has a job conducting these tours in fluent English. He told us a lot about the history, politics, industry and community of Dharavi, and his delivery was extremely clear and professional.
It’s a fine line to organise these tours, weather it becomes voyeurism or something of which the informative, insight creating aspects overweigh, that my change peoples way of thinking and create a sensitivity for the social structure of Dharavi and the fact that our global economic system consumes respurces and people to garant the wealth of a few.
E.g. the no photo policy convinced me.
Our guide Shailesh, was not only very very friendly, but he knew a lot about Dharavi and made sure that all our questions were answered. Thank you very much, Shailesh, for perfectly guiding us through that afternoon.