Fly into Mumbai for a stopover and your plane will land at BOM, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. BOM doesn't rank among the top twenty-five busiest airports in the world but it is the second busiest in India. Its twin runways cater for almost a thousand flights daily and its two terminals handle over forty-five million passengers per year.
Bom is located approximately ten kilometers outside of Mumbai center. While there are currently no metro lines operating between the airport and the city, there are various forms of transport you can use to get into Mumbai on your layover. Taxi cabs are the most commonly used and are quick and relatively economical especially when you're counting the minutes. Auto rickshaws are also popular and while they are a fun way to get around expect journey times to be quite a lot slower so they're not the best when you only have a short layover in Mumbai.
6 hour layover in Mumbai
You'll be pushed for time when you only have a short Mumbai stopover of around six hours. After passing through immigration you may have about two to three hours free which is not enough to risk getting stuck in Mumbai traffic. Stash your baggage in an airport luggage storage facility until you need to check-in for your Mumbai connection and head for the Jaya He Adani New Museum in Terminal 2. There are some fascinating and very extensive collections of artifacts there but wear comfortable shoes as they're spread out over three and a half kilometers.
If you are desperate to get out of the airport there is a commuter bus route running from BOM to Vile Parle East, a commercial and residential area of Mumbai, with departures from outside of the International Terminal. It's ideal when you want to do some shopping on a short stopover.
There is a transit hotel located in Terminal 2 where you can go to rest during your layover. It's comparative price-wise with a VIP lounge so worth taking a room for the privacy and extra facilities, even if only for a couple of hours, plus there's an onsite spa for relaxation treatments.
8 hour layover in Mumbai
It's easy to get totally lost in Mumbai so when you only have an eight-hour layover the best way to see some of the top sights is on a private tour. The big advantage of a private tour is your driver-guide will pick you up and drop you back at the airport. Plan on spending about five hours in the city which is time enough to visit the impressive Gateway of India, the iconic Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, the spurting Flora Fountain, and the waterfall at the Manas Mandir Jain temple.
- Skip eating at the airport when you have a nighttime Mumbai layover and go on a Mumbai street food tour. You'll get to see some interesting parts of the city and try lots of the local food.
- There are short boat rides operating from the Gateway of India which go around Mahim Bay and give you great views of Mumbai from the water.
10 hour layover in Mumbai
One of the most amazing things you can do on a short Mumbai stopover is to visit the Elephanta Caves. It will take up a major portion of your layover but is worth it to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Drop your bags at a Mumbai luggage storage facility before you head off - the Elephanta Caves are on Elephanta Island which is a short ferry ride away in Mumbai harbor. Once you disembark you can go exploring the caves which contain huge sculptures related to Shiva and Hindu mythology.
- Boats to Elephanta Island leave from the Gateway of India and take approximately an hour.
- Forget Hollywood when you're in India and go to Bollywood instead. India is renowned for the production of epic movies and Mumbai is the production center of some of the best. On a visit to Bollywood, you'll get to explore the studio installation, see an original set used in a movie production, and watch a short film about movie-making as well as be treated to a colorful live dance performance.
12 hour layover in Mumbai
The heat in Mumbai can be stifling but there's one place where you can get away from it on your layover, for a while at least, and that's Snow World. Snow World is a year-round indoor snow park where you can go skiing, sledding, ice skating or just chill out under a snowfall. The park is located in Phoenix Market City in Kurla which is roughly a twenty-minute cab ride from the airport. You won't need any winter gear as jackets, gloves, and shoes are provided as is any of the equipment you'll need to participate in the activities.
- The Mahakali Caves are an impressive set of caverns containing Buddhist monasteries around a twenty-minute taxi ride from the airport.
- Ask your taxi driver to wait while you have a look around the Mahakali caves then take you on to the equally impressive Jogeshwari caves which are nearby.
24 hour layover in Mumbai
With an overnight layover in Mumbai you'll have plenty of time to explore the city's famous landmarks in depth. Go it alone with a virtual guide – there are several apps downloadable from the internet – Per or join a tour led by a professional guide who will give you the low down on history, architecture, and culture. An unusual, but popular spot in the city to tour is the Dharavi Slum where a maze of streets winds through the settlement of makeshift homes and workshops. It's a serious eye-opener in how the other half live and not in the nicest of ways.
- If the Taj Mahal is on your must-see list you can get there and back during a long layover though it can take about eighteen hours all told so includes being on the road all day and queueing when you get there.
- Make your Mumbai layover more memorable by taking a sunset yacht cruise out of Mumbai Harbor and across Mahina Bay.
- India is all about spice so to learn more about the many different ones available by getting up before dawn and heading for the spice markets. Go alone or preferably with a local guide who will tell you which one is which and what they're used for.