Gay Mumbai · City Guide
Planning to visit Mumbai? Then our gay Mumbai city guide is for you.
One of the world’s great megacities, Mumbai is India’s largest, with an estimated total population of 21 million and counting, and the nation’s commercial capital. The city is the centre of India’s rich modern culture, with the Bollywood, fashion and tourism industries all being based in this hectic and exciting metropolis.
A city of superlatives and contrasts, home to Bollywood and the largest slum population of India, this port and beach city has been a stimulating and rewarding destination for many generations of travelers. From backpackers to luxury tourists, there is something here tom pique the interests of any traveler. Home to some of the planet’s most beautiful colonial architecture, Mumbai is also a melting pot of architectural styles and uses, wander down any given backstreet and you may stumble across a hidden Bazar, or just as likely, a hipster cafe.
Being LGBT+ is still widely considered a taboo in Mumbai but whilst gay people here face unique challenges there is also a small and concentrated gay scene. Comprising of only a few established venues, the gay community in the city is tight knit and welcoming.
Gay rights in Mumbai
LGBT+ rights in India are not as advanced as those in many other countries and LGBT+ individuals here face challenges and legal barriers not faced by cisgender and heterosexual people. Until 2018, homosexual activity was illegal in India, a law that was established by the colonisers of the British Empire. Recent polls suggest that despite increasing support of movements to advance the rights of LGBT+ citizens, over half of the general population disagree with same-sex relationships.
Transgender people in India have been able to change their legal gender since 2019, however, this is only possible after the individual has undergone and completed gender confirmation surgery. There is a respected and histroical third gender, which has been considered valid and sacred in Indian culture for centuries. Same-sex marriage is still illegal in the country and same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt children.
Known as the gay capital of India, Mumbai has a long history of gay activism and has the most developed gay scene of anywhere in the region. India’s rapid economic development aside though, Indian culture remains very conservative, and while there is a Mumbai scene, it is small and not truly reflective as yet of this vast, dynamic and most creative of Indian cities.
The Mumbai scene is focused around a few established gay-friendly venues. There used to be a nightclub called Voodoo n the South Mumbai district of Colaba, that hosted Saturday gay night, but the club was shut down by the authorities.
Mumbai gay groups arrange regular parties and social events, and these are promoted locally. Salvation Star hosts a monthly dance party that is popular with the LGBT community.
The Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is becoming well-established as an annual highlight event for the LGBT community after its launch in 2010. Queer Azaadi Mumbai organises various gay-focused activities events including the Mumbai Pride.
The ideal location to stay in Mumbai is dependent on what you want to do with your time in the city. For those keen to explore the top tourist sights and attractions, as well as many of the most important cultural locations, the hotels in South Mumbai around Churchgate and Fort offer an ideal base to explore all the nearby historical wonders. The Taj Mahal Palace is located opposite the Gateway of India and offers stunning 5-star accommodation in the heart of this bustling city. With unparalleled views of the ocean and elegant and luxurious design, the hotel is the perfect stay for gay travelers looking to explore all that Mumbai has to offer. All of the rooms are fully air-conditioned and are comfortably and opulently furnished.
Waterstones Hotel is located close only a 5-minute drive from the airport and provides gay travelers with boutique and stylish rooms from which to explore all that the city has to offer. This trendy boutique hotel boasts an impressive pool, well-equipped gym and a locally popular bar.
For our list of recommended hotels in a great location for exploring the sights and the gay scene of Mumbai, visit the Gay Mumbai Hotels page.
Getting to Mumbai
Mumbai is a major global hub city, with many international direct flights from both national and budget airlines from all around the world. Terminal 1 is for domestic flights and Terminal 2 for international.
Be prepared for long lines for security checks, even when you are in transit. The airport facilities are good now and getting better, with a new international terminal.
Taxis are the standard transport option to get you from the airport to city centre – buy a prepaid coupon (around Rs 450-600) from one of the taxi offices located near the exit of the terminal. Be sure to match the right taxi to the coupon which will have the taxi registration number on it.
Getting around Mumbai
Mumbai has an extensive public transport system of trains and buses which cover the wider metropolitan area of the city, which is well used by the vast numbers of commuting city workers.
Auto-rickshaw and Tuktuk
Tourists usually stick to auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks) for local trips in the suburbs, and taxis for longer rides across town. Tuktuks can easily seat four people, but be careful because these small machines pick up incredible speed.
Black and yellow metered taxis can be hailed and picked up from numerous sports around the city. Taxis are reliable and usually affordable. However, allow plenty of time if you are traveling north to south – the long and narrow island location of the city centre and the sheer volume of traffic makes for horrendous congestion at times. Modern private taxis can be booked through your hotel concierge if needed.
Metro and rail
Construction of the new Mumbai Metro system is underway and 11km of Line 1 is now open. The city’s overground rail systems are usually less used by travelers as they can get very hot and very crowded and tend to miss the main tourist areas and major sights.
Things to See & Do
Mumbai is filled with temples, monuments, and sites oozing history and culture, some of the best things to do include:
- Explore the ancient Gateway of India
- Visit the massive The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
- Shop and barter at Chor Bazaar
- Sample the best of Bollywood
- Tour the Iskcon Temple
- Be immersed in history at the Haji Ali Dargah
- Wander the streets of affluent Juhu
- Take the ferry to the Elephant Caves
When to Visit
An annual gay Pride event first started in Mumbai in 2008 and has been held every year since, in February. It remains a controversial event however and is more of a political statement than a mass celebration.
An alternative time to visit Mumbai is late August/early September for the Hindu Festival of Ganesh – the elephant-headed deity most identified with by gay Indians.
Tourist visas are required for all visitors and usually issued for six months – starting from the date of issue, not the date of entry. Note that the six-month visa allows a maximum stay of 90 days per visit.
Check for details with your local Indian Embassy or consulate as visa rules vary according to your nationality.
The rupee is the Indian currency. ATM’s are widely available throughout the city. Debit and credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, major restaurants and stores.
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