Traveling to Mumbai for the first time might be an overwhelming experience. The infinite people rushing in every direction, traffic jams, vehicles honking horns, pedestrians all over the place, the city buses driving through the narrow lanes and people jutting out of the Mumbai local trains, can drive any first timer into a state of anonymity and confusion, and make exploring Mumbai City an even bigger challenge. My experience was no different. The Mumbai Local Rail is the best way to brisk through the chaos, and if used correctly, can make your journey here worth an experience. Here’s a quick survival guide to get you past the chaos, quicker and safer…
Mumbai local is the fastest way to move across the city. But there is always a catch to move through the crowd. Predictability reveals it all, but for the eye that can see through the mundane. Everything has a pattern, and so does the Mumbai Rail. And you can easily move through it, if you understand how to do it.
Stay Updated About the Rail Routes
Essentially, the Mumbai Local has four routes Western, Virar-Dhanu, Central and Harbour Line. The first way out is to know the rail routes in Mumbai and nothing works better than a good mobile app. It must have a rail map, the list of stations en route, the rates and of-course, the sight-seeing places on the way. I came across this app called The M-Indicator. Simple, to-the-point and comprehensive. It has all the elements of a basic rail map that I needed and was easy to use. Once you know the routes, it is easier to explore at your own time, without depending much on asking. you can ask out people too, and it is safer here, than Delhi, as people are too busy to fool you out here. So, chances are, you will head in the right direction, if you seek help in Mumbai.
Know The Rail Types
There are two types of rails running on these routes the Slow Local and the Fast Local. Both the trains run along the same routes but with different speeds. You can choose to explore the city at your own pace with the first one, and if you are in a hurry, which I suggest you mustn’t be, then the fast local is better. The ticket booking varies for a fast or slow and you must ask for a ticket at the ticket-window accordingly.
There is a Timing For Everything
Yes, within the predictable patterns of traffic, there is always a predictable time, when you can travel without much resistance. The crowd orients its timings according to their daily routines and the train timings. Most of the sight-seeing places are closer to CST (Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus) and hence I restrict the study only to the tourist route – the Central Line. The chart below will give you a fair idea about the peak and off-peak timings along this route.
Turns out that the best time to take your train is between 07:00 am and 08:00 am in the morning, or in the afternoon, usually after 01:00 pm, a lull period for the lunch. you can also notice lesser traffic in the First Class between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm during the day, by which time the office crowd settles down for work.
Use The ATVM
The ATVM – Automatic Ticket Vending Machines help you brisk your way through the busy Mumbai traffic, by allowing you to buy a ticket other than the counter. Head for the ATVM and you can also buy tickets for journey in advance, so that you do not have to line up all the time. The ATVM allows both ticket generation as well as a smart card method of generating a ticket. You can buy both one way as well as return tickets from the machine. This reference video will help you to know how you can buy one of those tickets with a smart card.
Go ‘First Class’
I got this suggestion from my elder brother when he directed me how I can work out for the tickets. So, here’s the catch. There is ‘no queue’ for a First Class Ticket. Just walk to the ticket-window and ask for one, and no one in the queue too will resist. The bonus- it is less crowded, most of the time, even during the peak periods. So, no pushing around, no hanging on the doors, and no hassles. Consider taking the fast metro instead of the slow one, as surprisingly, the slow metro is more crowded, as expected otherwise. This might cost you a little more, but it is always worth the luxury.
Buy The Mumbai Local Smart Card
Get smart and get a smart card. You may not travel everyday, but you might also not want to waste your time standing in a queue all the time. So, my suggestion, go for it. It will save you the time from being a queue-stander and instead allow you to use that time to explore the city instead. Connecting with the Mumbai Local is fast and easy and it is only about getting a hang of the crowd. A typical card costs about Rs. 100/- and allows you to buy tickets along all the four routes. You can also recharge your smart card at the ATVM machines on the go, and relax as you travel the city at leisure.
Relax, there are trains every 15 minutes
Missed a local? Do not worry, do not panic as you will find trains after 15-20 minutes along most of the routes. Observe the crowd, and you will understand where to stand if you want to board a First Class Coach. Usually, along the platform, the crowd waiting for the second class coach is large, compared to the crowd waiting for the First Class coach. When you find lesser crowded spaces along the platform, that is the place where the First Class bogies will stop. If you are boarding from a terminus such as CST, there is adequate time for you to board the train, so do not hurry. A train typically stops for 4-5 minutes at the terminals and 1-2 minutes at the stations in between, and if you are boarding with a First Class Ticket, the chances to miss the train are less.