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A little preparation for the Mumbai Local goes a long way

Quick Notes

  • Riding the Mumbai Local during rush hour is a unique cultural experience.

  • If you plan to ride the train a lot, get a Special Mumbai Local Train Tourist pass.

  • Don’t be afraid to push if you have to (you will get pushed).

The local train in Mumbai is the busiest commuter network globally, with eight million commuters each day. For riders, that means things can get pretty tight. It’s famous for being hectic, over-crowded, and overwhelming. However, it still beats the Mumbai traffic by a longshot in terms of travel time from one side of the city to the other.

If you’re a tourist, riding the local train a must-have experience to truly understand Mumbai local culture — there is nothing else like it in the world. Besides being ridiculously packed, passengers are likely to be found hanging out of train doors (that never close!) or even sitting on the roof.

You certainly won’t want to miss this unforgettable experience if you find yourself in Mumbai. To make your ride a bit more seamless, here are some handy tips.

Learn the lines

The Mumbai local train has three main lines that run for over 100 kilometers or about 62 miles. They don’t necessarily all run from terminus to terminus, though, and some have sub-lines and offshoots.
The Western line is considered the poshest of the three; it goes through better neighborhoods, has more frequent and reliable service, and also boasts certain routes with air-conditioned trains. The Westen Line runs from Dahanu Road to Churchgate railway station in south Mumbai.
The Central line doesn’t have as many stops as the Western line, but it is notably more crowded. It runs between Kalyan Junction and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST) in south Mumbai.
The Harbour Line is also known for being crowded and a bit janky. This line branches in two on the north end, running between either Andheri/Goregaon or Panvel and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST) in the south. Note that it has the same southern terminus as the Central line.
Then there are the three sub-lines. The Trans-Harbour line connects the middle of the Harbour line to some stations on the Central line. The Vasai Road-Roha line connects the northern end of the Western line with the Central line. The Nerul-Uran line off-shoots to the south from the Harbour line.

Train types and sub-routes

Within each Mumbai local train line, there are Fast and Slow trains. The Fast trains are identified with an “F” on their monitors and make fewer stops. The Slow trains are identified with an “S” on their monitors and stop at every station. On a Mumbai local train map, stations listed in red indicate where the Fast train will stop.

Certain times of day will mean you inevitably end up as one of many sardines crammed onto the train.

Getting to the right platform and on the right train can be tricky because of the Fast and Slow train options. Check monitors to make sure you’re getting on the one you want. The first couple of letters of the final destination will be displayed along with either “F” or “S.” One example would be a Fast train ending at Borivali on the Western line whose corresponding monitor would read “BO F.”

How to buy tickets

There are two ways to buy tickets. You can buy individual tickets at the ticket counter at any main railway entrance. This is the slower option; a better method would be to buy a Smart Card instead. You’ll be able to find these machines at any station.

You can either buy your tickets or fare for your Smart Card on a trip-by-trip basis, or you can get one of the Special Mumbai Local Train Tourist passes for one, three, or five days. If you plan on riding a lot, the tourist pass is a good option. It allows unlimited travel on all three train lines for the purchased duration.

Choose when to ride wisely 

Certain times of day will mean you inevitably end up as one of many sardines crammed onto the train. The chaotic rush hours on the Mumbai local are before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. If you’re looking for the excitement and experience of this craziness, which is recommended at least once, go for it. Stick to riding between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you want to avoid that situation and have a more comfortable trip. Sunday is a relatively quiet day to travel by Mumbai local, as well.

Where to sit on the train

Women have a separate car on the train for safety reasons; you’ll probably be a bit less cramped there, too. Disabled passengers and those with cancer are also permitted on women’s cars. Pay a bit extra for your ticket, and you’ll get to ride in the first-class carriages. The higher price means there are fewer people, so you’ll likely have more space.

Train safety

People in a rush will run right over you if you’re in their way.

Keep your valuables held to your body and zipped shut if possible to avoid theft. Pay attention to others around you to avoid getting knocked over. People in a rush will run right over you if you’re in their way. If you’re not about to exit the train, it’s best to stay away from the door if you don’t want to risk accidentally getting pushed out. Also, if possible, do not ride any north-bound train with a Virar destination during rush hours if you’re not ready for some serious aggressiveness and overcrowding.

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