If you are planning to visit Elephanta Island, you will probably go to Gateway of India to take the ferry. Already when reaching the checking area at the entrance, you will be welcomed by a person who wants to sell you tickets for the ferry. They will show you where to take the ferryboat and sell you a ticket. You can chose between normal and luxus ferries, but I would advise you to chose the normal one, which is cheaper. The 'luxus' version is just another tourist ***, with almost no difference at all, appart from the ferry looking more fancy.
Now comes the scam: The guy tells you that it is better to visit the island 3 hours later, because otherwise it will be too foggy and you won't be able to take nice photographs, and the money you paid for the ferry would be for nothing. Really nice that he warns you... DON'T believe him! He will propose you a guided tour through Mumbai, for exactly 3 hours, for 2800 rps, and promise you 'no extra charges, everything included, even the taxi...' and that you will be back on time to enjoy the island at its best. Just don't believe him, he just wants to sell you a tour! you can actually visit the island whenever you want, as long as there are ferries!
Unique Suggestions: Do the tour by yourself (taking public transports or walking) or at least try to find a serious and professional tourist guide
Fun Alternatives: go to the Island as you planned, and do your tour the next day! As you will need 1 hour to get there, 1-2 hours to visit the island and 1 hour to get back, you'll probably will be too tired to do a lot more on that day! try to sit in the middle of the ferry or you'll get wet! oh, and don't go to the roof, they charge extra 10 rps to get there and you'll probably get sunburned...
There is a guy at the Gateway of India claiming to be a holy man who will try to bless you, i got caught to this trap.... basically he will approach you and try to "bless"you, i kept saying no and a passer by"(who i later realised is probably an accomplice) in perfect English explains the holy man has come from a rural area and is blessing people for free, not seeming to be rude i accepted this and 2 min later he tells me for blessing to work i need to provice Rs. 500!!!
I argued for a while but in the end gave him Rs.50 and said I will call the police and he walked away...
it was quite an experience I must say, I had a laugh about it later but just beware :)
Unique Suggestions: Just ignore all the touts.... its the best way, a polite "no" with the brush of your hand didn't seem to work too well for us..
I went on a private guided tour of Mumbai for 2 hours - I was approached outside gateway of India. The tour was good and the guide very friendly.
But, the last stop was supposedly to see 'Cottage industries'. I walked inside and was immediately in the middle of a hard sell in a shop! They were laying out carpets for me to buy. The guy was a very good salesman, although a tad unethical, by putting so much pressure on to buy. I am OK in these situations and held my own, but still felt a bit uncomfortable (the guy wasnt at all rude or nasty, just putting on sales pressure!). As it happened I needed to buy some gifts anyway so I got some stuff. I haggled down to less than half the marked price, but in retrospect that was probably still too much.
So in summary, if you do get offered a guided tour, ask beforehand if any shops are involved and ask not to go to them.
Unique Suggestions: If you do want to go to to a shop, I would haggle to about 1/3 the original marked price, or just walk out the store if they dont agree.
This little pesky hustler was following us for almost an hour. To him, every great architectural building was Mumbai or Bombay! I don't know whether to pity him or not to, he had no shoes, dirty clothes, smelt bad and had dandruff in his hair. He obviously wanted money and we were his best bet. He's even had a friend following him! I was so tempted to buy them shoes. We came across plenty of children like that in Mumbai, no shoes and desperate for money. Sometimes, it's just best to ignore them although they can be quite fun to talk to. If you do, you can expect them to be around for the next 2 hours. Just don't touch them! LOL!
Although we said we wanted a taxi with A/C, we got one only to realised halfway that the A/C wasn't even blowing cool air at all! At the airport pre-paid taxi booths, you pay for your taxi and meet your driver outside. The difference between an A/C and non A/C is about 100RP I reckon but I get a chance to relive that episode, I would rather have got on a non-A/C and wind the windows down. I was palputating in that ride from the airport to the hotel and it wasn't even funny. A/C taxis are blue while non A/C are black.
If you come to Mumbai without any accomodation sorted, be prepared to be walking around for a bit. I think we practically spent 3 hours looking for an appropriate accomodation in the Colaba area. There are many touts around who spot tourist easily and offer to take them to affordable guesthouses. Well, I have to admit we got sucked into it. Lol...only because i was so tired and the initial place we wanted to stay in was on renovation. Don't even bother asking them about other places you have read about, they will probably say it's closed or fully booked even when its not - it's a classic scam. These touts get a commission out of the owners of guesthouses and they take to you cheap run-down places which you never imagine your belongings being safe. So be extremely cautious, you might as well just have a couple of places you wish to stay in mind and head there right away. Most places allow you to view rooms before you decide.
Unique Suggestions: As I mentioned earlier, we decide to go with one of the touts knowing what he was up to only because the initial place we wanted to stay in was on renovation and it wasn't mentioned on the website!!! Yes, that god-forsaken Shelleys! Although, it may be re-opened now. Anyway, we followed this bloke who took us around like 5 different places which are absolutely run-down and so dodgy although they were clean enough but you never know if someone will come in your room while your out. I was so mad because it was my mate's idea to follow him and I lost my cool and yelled at the poor bloke to stop following and suggesting stupid places to us...Lol!
When at the Gateway we were walking toward the gated garden area in order to take a full view photo of the Gateway when the guards came up and asked if we wanted to come in and take a picture form inside the garden. Of course, we did. So we took a few shots and then we were asked politely for a donation in order to be shown the exit. We gave the guard Rs 100 and he told us no and wanted Rs 100 from all three of us. Of course being tourists in the city didn't argue with him, and just gave him what amounted to $7 USD.
Unique Suggestions: Just politely decline to go into the garden if requested.
Crowded trains and buses are the favorite work areas of pick pocketers in Mumbai, like any other crowded city.
Unique Suggestions: If you have to travel by bus or train, keep your wallet in your front pocket, NEVER your back pocket. I did that when I went down to India and Voila .. the wallet was gone in 5 minutes!
If in Colaba, and a beggar with a child comes askin you for baby food for their kid, don't fall for it !!
They take you to a chemist shop, and get you to buy them the most expensive Baby food can, which they then sell back at the same shop.
Well stations like ChurchGate or VT need to be walked through ; churchgate to get to the other side and VT to get to the outstation platforms ; without a ticket u could get caught and fined upto 10 $
Fun Alternatives: At churchgate there is an underground subway but at Vt ull just have to walk 1/2 a mile around the station unless ur in a cab !!
As you get down from the boat in Elephanta Island you have the chance to take a little train that gets you to the base of the stairs. Don't take it: it's very cheap (6 Rs) but it only goes for 200 metres (2 minutes), you can do that distance in a short walk, and is just a tourist trap...
I made a booking through this internet-based agency to be picked up at the airport of Bombay and taken to a hotel for the first night. It seemed to me quite relaxing not to rush for a taxi at night (1:00 AM) in a strange city. The pick-up was OK, but the 'hotel' they took me too was a rat nest in a 4th floor at the end of a dirty alley. At 2:00 AM I couldn't change, so I spent a dreadful night.
They charged me 45$ for that. Considering a taxi from the airport to Colaba would cost you no more than 300 Rs (7$) and a night in that 'place' couldn't be more then other 300 Rs, think of the price difference!!
Now I know and wouldn't repeat that mistake...
Ok..so you book a ticket on a bus that says it is going to Mumbai,..but then on the outskirts of the city...(or any other city in India) the bus stops and you are told that it is not going where you are staying and that you have to getoff the bus and take a cab the rest of the way...This is utter ***....stand your ground,(unlike me). They must have some kind of understanding with the taxi drivers that they will chuck some unsuspecting and vulnerable traveller off the bus at dawn and get them to pay an outrageous amount to get into the city...I would reccomend that when you book your bus ticket that you make it clear with the travel aganet that the bus IS in fact going to where you want (i.e in my case Colaba)
Unique Suggestions: Swear loudly at the cab driver and tell him that you would rather catch a train or walk..
Tell the cab driver (this is if you have stupidly fallen for the scam and gotten off the bus) that you are a poor backpacker, that it is your last 24hours in India and that you only have 200 rupees left, still have to eat and find somewhere to sleep...then cry.
Fun Alternatives: Catch a train...they are far more comfortable anyway, and you know where they are going.
In some ways you could say the whole of India is a tourist trap. There are higher rates for tourists for National parks, hotel accomodations, air fares etc. You have to be a Resident Indian to get the cheaper rates. The difference at parks can be as high as a factor of 10. Also the tax rate for food and hotel accomodation gets higher as you get better facilities. It is as high as 30% at 5 star hotels.
However prices are still reasonable by North American standards although inflated by local standards.
In Mumbai beware of drivers you hire who will want to take you to their 'favorite carpet/shawl store' where they get a kickback if you buy anything.
There are a lot of bus operators organizing one day tours of mumbai, Mumbai Darshan. unless you want to see all the touristy places in a second, opt out. they take you to too many places in a very short time. not worth it