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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 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 2.5 hour introduction to Dharavi aims to give visitors a much more nuanced understanding of life and work in Mumbai slums.
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.
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.
The tin hutments that house so many human lives stretch on as far as you can see. You will never forget this view!
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.
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.
Outside of our office in Colaba.
Private tours start from your hotel or residence.
Outside Leopold Café in Colaba
Private tours end at your hotel or residence.
8:30am – 1pm or
2pm – 6:30pm
Our office is located on Nowroji Fardonji Road which is the street next to Leopold’s Cafe. You will see our signboard attached to a light pole. Our office is located in the building behind SSS Corner Store. We meet in front of the large, blue SSS Corner Store sign. (Photo: One, Two)
Warning: Be wary that there are other tour operators on the street that may claim to be Reality Tours. You will recognize our guide by the light blue button down shirt with our logo on it.
While the normal Dharavi Tour begins at Churchgate or Mahim, this tour starts at our Colaba office (private version can start from your hotel) and we use an AC car to bring you to Dharavi. But the most important difference is the added information and sights that you get along the way from Colaba to Dharavi. As we pass by different areas of Mumbai you’ll learn about its history and the various social issues the city faces. This will help give you some important context within which to see Dharavi. We’ll also stop and see Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open air laundry.
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.
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.
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 Transfer” 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 Transfer 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 Transfer, 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.
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.
The sightseeing tour is a private tour. There isn’t the demand currently to do a shared tour.
Unfortnately, the slum and sightseeing tour is a private tour only.
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 Transfer 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 transfer 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 Transfer, 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.
Loved the tour and was very informative and enlightening. We understand no not taking of photos but also felt it was a pity as we would have liked to have shared what we saw and experienced as it is very inspirational
Do yourself a favor and go off the tourist sites and see the Dharavi slums with this operator. Not only will you see the human side of this city but how this organization gives back to it.