Last updated on November 3rd, 2018.
Mumbai local is one of my favorite experiences in the city (I can see Mumbaikars rolling their eyes now). Nevertheless, I’m not talking as a tourist. I lived in Mumbai and I love riding locals. It is a place where you find the spirit of the city because these trains transport around 8 million people a day!
You can find people in flip-flops hanging out from the doorway of the train and watching the city of dreams, you can hear businessmen planning the upcoming meetings on phone, the artists most probably going to Fort area for a creative event, musicians, sellers hopping on and off on every stop, dhaba wallas – who deliver lunches around the city; kids, senior people, women, men, transgender (ok, about it later).
If you want to experience India in a miniature – Mumbai local is one of the best places. It shows a diverse and populated country where people co-exist together despite all the differences.
I lived at the harbor line which is one of the most scenic train routes of the city (I’m biased, though Vashi-Mankurd stretch <3). In this post, I won’t tell you how to “survive” Mumbai locals, but how to make most of this experience according to your travel preferences. I will focus on the following questions:
- Types of Mumbai local trains
- Mumbai local train routes
- Mumbai local app
- How to buy tickets for Mumbai local?
- How to ride a Mumbai local?
- Rush hours in Mumbai local and the best time to ride
- Is it safe to ride locals?
- Where to travel on Mumbai Local?
Types of Mumbai local trains and compartments
The trains have usually 9 or 12 coaches depending on the line. Despite the limit capacity of 1700 passengers per train, around 4500 people fit there during rush hours with somewhere 500 people in each coach. Uhmm, who needs personal space anyway? Each train contains several compartments. Let’s look briefly through each of them:
- First Class – there are two first-class general coaches in each train as a rule. They look exactly the same as the second class ones, just less crowded in rush hours as the tickets here are 10 times more expensive. E.g. A one-way ticket might cost you up to 145 INR.
- Second Class – the most common car on the train. If you get a cheap ticket (10-15 INR), this is a coach you need to board.
- Ladies’ Compartment – there are a few women cars (both first and second class) that come for the same price as general coach tickets. You can locate these compartments at some platforms by women’s sign at the top of the station or by the group of ladies waiting for the train. Men, you are strictly not allowed here, so don’t even try. It’s a punishable act.
- Cancer patients and differently-abled – There is a separate coach allocated for differently-abled people and cancer patients to protect them from often a stressful experience during peak hours.
While it is true that trains are overcrowded during certain hours, the doors of the cars don’t close, and this results in many passengers half hanging outside the train.
Mumbai local train routes
There are three lines creating the local train network of the city: Western Line managed by Western Railways (WR), Central line handled by Central Railways (CR), and Harbor line (HR) which also connects with Trans Harbor, but let’s not complicate. These lines interconnect and form over 400 km network across the city. There are around 2300 train services daily.
The Western line station terminus is Churchgate, while the central and harbor lines terminate at Chhatrapathi Shivaji station. Both of the stations are in south Mumbai.
Mumbai local app
M-Indicator – the first and most important introduction to Mumbai local. This app has all the information about the train schedule, from which platform the train starts, fares, interchanges, news about delays or cancelations. It is available on iOS and Android.
I highly recommend downloading this app before arriving in Mumbai and taking some time to understand it. Once you figure out this app, it will make your experience in the city much easier.
Read also: 8 train apps that help to travel in India
How to buy tickets in Mumbai local?
The ticket counters are usually situated near the entrance of each station. The lines can be quite long and usually split in two near each window – for first class and second class tickets. The first class people can purchase tickets without waiting in a general line and they don’t really form a big queue as such.
People do buy tickets despite they are very rarely checked at the stations. This is one of the things I love about Mumbaikars – they try to do things right and follow the rules. The second class ticket will cost you 10-15 INR, while the first class will vary from 120 to 150 INR.
Tip: to fasten the purchasing procedure you need to provide to the ticket seller three details: your destination, single/return ticket, class (if you are handing a big note).
Alternatively, you can purchase a Smart Card and buy tickets from the vending machines at the stations. This method recently has become quite popular, so it will still involve the queue.
Pro tip: to avoid repetitive queues, buy return tickets if you know you will be coming back to the same place within 24 hours.
Tourist tip: If you are in Mumbai just for a few days as a tourist, there is a special Mumbai Local Tourist Pass for one, two or five days in the ticket counters. This way you can travel on all the lines during the validity dates of the card.
How to ride a Mumbai local?
Finding the right platform and train is quite a journey. See in the M-indicator app from which platform your train starts. Once you reach that platform look at the electronic tabloid. The first two letters signify the final destination of the train (e.g. Panvel (PN), Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Churchgate (C), Kurla (K), etc.).
Once you are on the right platform, find where your coach (first-class, second class, senior, etc.) will stop before the train. The train hardly stops for 10 seconds at each station. You can look at the indicators or ask local people.
If you travel during more crowded times of the day and you are a well-mannered person, try to get in the front part of the queue. There is no system that people firstly descend from the train and then new passengers board it so the whole process often results in a fighting mess. If you are in the front part of the queue, people will take care to push you in together with the crowd.
Once your stop gets close, approach to the door of the car, otherwise you won’t be able to get off at rush hours, other times you can relax a bit more. You can also remember the station coming prior to your stop as they are usually announced in the train.
Don’t stay in the very front near the door as people start jumping off the train when it’s still moving, yet don’t get lost at the end of the queue as there will be people jumping inside the train before everyone descends.
Ask other passengers from which side comes the exit as there are doors on both sides of the train. And if you wanted to understand how to optimize your decisions, you just need 4-5 Mumbai local boarding and deboarding sessions.
The last two abstracts are about busy stations and popular travel hours. There are times of the day when you can easily find a seat in the train (more about it in next heading).
Once you are at the platform search for the exit you need. Taking a wrong exit at big stations like Dadar will be your biggest regret of the day.
Best hours to ride Mumbai local
If you would like to have a balanced experience of a big city, try to commute from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. from Monday to Friday. During this time, most of the people are in their offices or have already reached their homes, so you will most probably get a seat even if you don’t start from a popular/crowded station.
You definitely want to avoid rush hours of the day and Sundays! The rule of thumb is not going to South Mumbai (be it Churchgate, CST or neighboring areas) early morning, because there are many offices where people work. Avoid also going in the evenings to North Mumbai (Borivali) and Navi Mumbai (Panvel, Thane directions) when all the people come back home from the office.
Mega block and rush hours in Mumbai local?
“This is SPARTAAAAAA” – now you are tuned to the right mood. Rush hours are those pictures you might have seen online when a few hundreds of people hang out from the doors of the train. They normally occur in the mornings (from 7 a.m. to 09.30 a.m.) when people go to the office and in the evenings from 5 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. when people come back home from the office.
The mega block occurs on Sundays usually from 10.30 a.m. till 4 p.m. The trains start running seldom from 9 a.m. to 10.30 and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Since I was living in Navi Mumbai and Sundays were the days when I could go out somewhere, hanging out from the stuffed train became a habit. If you are a very sensitive person, please avoid these times of the day. They are challenging even for Mumbai localites or Mumbaikars.
Pro tip on getting a spot in Mumbai local: If you know that you should take the train, whatever happens, try boarding it one-two stations before the popular stops (e.g. Kurla, Vashi, Dadar, etc.). On popular stations, a significant crowd descends from the train, as well as another crowd boards in. During this process, you can capitalize on the situation and find a good spot for you if you are already in the train.
How to get a seat in Mumbai local?
Despite the benches in the train are planned for three people, during rush hours it is an untold rule to adjust and accommodate the 4th person. You can always reserve a seat in a local way. You will see people are asking the ones sitting on the seat about their final/deboarding stop.
Usually, there are many people getting off on interchanging stations like Kurla, Dadar, Vadala Road, etc. You can reserve a seat by standing near the person who will get off at the next big station. Outside of the rush hours, you can mostly get the seats at non-popular stations.
Is it safe to ride locals?
Not always, but it highly depends on your habits and choices. The doors of the train always remain open. Whether to take a breath of sea air or hanging outside because of no space, people get into accidents.
Every year, almost 2000 people are killed on the rails and even many more get injured. Many of these happen because people are crossing/walking along the tracks or fall out of the crowded trains. It puts things into a different perspective if you think about 8milion daily commuters. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to keep yourself safe on Mumbai local:
- Places near the doors are the richest in oxygen (:D), yet you want to stay away from them during rush hours. There are cases when people accidentally fall out because of rush and pushing.
- Whenever possible avoid Kurla and Dadar stops. These stations are not for faint-hearted and you need to be ready to fight your way through the crowd even if that means hanging from the train to the next station.
- Keep your valuables and backpacks in front of you or close to your chest. Pick-pocketing does happen.
- Leave earlier or stay till late to avoid rush hours.
Where to travel in Mumbai local?
Mumbai local is very well connected to many touristic spots of the city. Other than obvious spots, you can spot Dabbawallas (lunch delivery people), especially around Churchgate area at noon. This lunch delivery system has been researched internationally since it’s very organized and precise. Other than that, below are a few local attractions and nearby stations:
- Bandra – a famous happening neighborhood of west Mumbai. Station: Bandra, WR.
- Chowpatty Beach (it’s a famous spot for evening hang-outs), Marine Drive(signature spot of Mumbai). Station: Charni Road, WR
- Malabar Hill and Raj Bhavan. Station: Grant Road, WR
- Haji Ali Mosque; Dhobi Ghat( one of the biggest laundry systems). Station: Mahalaxmi, WR.
- Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Station: Borivalli, WR.
- India Gate and Taj Hotel. Station: CST, CR.
- Kala Ghoda – a famous artistic neighborhood of Mumbai. Station: CST, CR.
- Collaba – famous shopping and nightlife neighborhood. Station: CST, CR
These are just a few famous spots to give you an idea, but there are many more interesting places to explore in Mumbai.
- Most trains run from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. but I strongly recommend not to count on the last train.
- Ask local people whenever you are not sure about directions. Everyone knows how confusing the first days might be and people are usually very helpful.
- Mumbai locals are very budget-friendly if you travel in second class coaches. You can cross the whole city for 15 INR. There are no ACs and design is quite simple, but after Delhi metro I felt that local was saving me a good 500-600 INR per month despite daily travels.
- Locals will work out certain muscles for you, especially if you travel during rush hours. It takes a bit of stamina to hang out from the train and maintain the balance during the movement at 50-70 km/h.
- There are transgender people, dressed in sarees, entering coaches at times and asking for money especially in wealthy neighborhoods of South Mumbai. Despite local superstitions, there are no valid reasons to support begging.
- Since January 2018, there were new air-conditioned trains introduced on the western line. They look modern and comfy, but they are more expensive than first-class in local. If you are a regular traveler, this train will burn a hole in your pocket.
Mumbai local is a lifeline of the city! If you master using it, there will be the whole another part of the city opening to you. Hope you found this guide useful! If you have any other tips or you think there are people who might benefit from this, share this post 🙂 Happy traveling!