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Explore the narrow streets and alleys on Dharavi and on the way, learn about some of Mumbai’s lesser known history!
The first portion of the tour is by car as way we make our way north from Colaba to Dharavi. On the way you’ll receive some information on the history of Mumbai. As we drive past the historical textile mill area, for example, we’ll learn about this once crucial Mumbai industry and how it helped make the city what it is today. We’ll also discuss some of the city’s ongoing social issues as we pass by areas like the red light area of Kamathipura. This added information will help you better understand the historical and social context of Dharavi. We’ll also stop off at Dhobi Ghat, the largest open air laundry in the world.
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 of Dharavi. People from all over India have come to live in Dharavi, making it a microcosm of India. This diversity is apparent in the temples, mosques, churches and pagodas that stand side by side.
Our community centre that is funded through the profits from the tours is also located in the residential area. We will visit it and you will learn about the programs that our NGO, Reality Gives, offers the community.
Our 2.5 hour introduction to Dharavi aims to give visitors a much more nuanced understanding of life and work in Mumbai slums.
As we travel to Dharavi by car, we’ll stop and see the world’s largest outdoor laundry. We’ll see the dhobiwallahs, or washermen, scrubbing sheets from Mumbai’s largest hospitals and hotels at this busy open air laundry area!
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.
Wander through the narrow lanes and alleys of Dharavi discovering the different communities from all regions and religions of India as well as the many small scale industries like embroidery, bakery, soap factory, leather tanning, poppadom-making
Two tons of food, like khari, pav, chakli and chikki, are produced every day in Dharavi and a large part of that is papad (popaddoms), the essential appetizer or side dish of many Indian meals; they are typically made by women in Dharavi in the residential areas.
Our Community Centre, supported by funds from the tour, provides education in English and computer training to the teenagers and young adults of Dharavi. Other activities such as dancing and yoga are also hosted at our community centres.
The tour takes place in Dharavi, in the centre of Mumbai. As many travellers stay in Colaba, for the shared tours by car, we meet here. For private tours, we will pick you up from your hotel / residence
Outside Leopold Cafe on the side street Nowroji Fardonji Road, off Colaba Causeway (See “A” in Map below)
Your hotel or residence
*Warning: Be wary that there are other tour operators on the street that may claim to be Reality Tours. You will recognise our guide by the light blue button down shirt with our logo on it.
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.
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 request that you do not wear clothes that might offend the residents such as low cut shirts, short shorts/pants etc.
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 at the end of the tour, all profits going to our sister NGO Reality Gives.
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, all profits going to our sister NGO Reality Gives.
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.
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.
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.
Absolutely! Our tour timings were decided with this in mind. Have a look at the timings for the tours and let us know!
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.
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.
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.