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Luckily, for many, the task of deciding where to live in the sprawling city of Mumbai is taken care of by their employer. For those going it alone, however, finding accommodation in this metropolis can be daunting and frustrating but also rewarding. As one of the most diverse cities in India, there is an astonishing breadth of areas and suburbs in Mumbai to choose from.
The most important factors in choosing where to live are proximity to work and, for families with children moving to Mumbai, the location of schools. Commuting can be a hassle – traffic is horrendous and not everyone has the gumption to brave the local public transport, at least at first.
Most residential neighbourhoods in the city are upmarket and coastal. While each area offers a little bit of something for everyone, the more affluent areas come with a hefty price tag attached. After all, Mumbai is known for being the city with the highest cost of living in India.
Trendy and popular areas in Mumbai
Mumbai is known as the city of dreams and those privileged enough to afford luxury life here can invest in housing in some of the popular suburbs. That said, the real-estate market may seem difficult to enter for those with a smaller budget, and unfortunately, this highlights Mumbai as a city of contrasts where property is prohibitively expensive for many local residents.
Andheri is one of the largest suburbs in Mumbai and is split into Andheri West and Andheri East. What was once just a sprawling series of residences is now a trendy area with popular restaurants and shopping centres. It also offers easy access to schools, hospitals and banks, and is a safe area for expats to call their home. Some popular and affluent neighbourhoods are nestled in Andheri West, including the luxury residential and commercial zones of Lokhandwala Complex and the charming beachfront Versova.
Andheri’s train station is one of the busiest and most hectic in the city – just try getting on a southbound train during the morning rush. This means trains come fast and often, but the crush of people might be too much for some expats to handle.
Juhu is a small, but fashionable neighbourhood located right beside the Arabian Sea. The area is home to high-end hotels with swanky restaurants and trendy boutiques. Locals flock to Juhu beach on Sunday evenings for a stroll along the waterfront. Residents don’t need to venture far from their bungalow home for cocktails at a popular bar with coastal views.
Touristic and artsy areas in Mumbai
Mumbai is a key entertainment, fashion and design hub, and many creative minds call this city home. Some of the most upscale commercial and residential neighbourhoods where expats can rent offer hints of this creativity and imagination.
Located in the heart of the commercial area of Fort, Kala Ghoda is Mumbai’s arts district. Residents here find themselves among the creatives, having breakfast in chic cafés and admiring the artwork from galleries, including Jehangir Art Gallery, and sidewalk stalls, as well as during the popular Arts Festival annual event.
Located in South Mumbai, Colaba is a truly touristic district that new arrivals to the city shouldn’t miss out on. Visitors staying in the city for a short while may find themselves at one of the luxury hotels, such as the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Buzzing with life and culture, expats can walk along Colaba Causeway and take in the glory of the arch-monument that is the Gateway of India.
Known as the Queen of Suburbs, Bandra is a popular home for expats as well as Bollywood stars. It is widely accepted as one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the city that is as sophisticated as it is trendy. This coastal suburb hosts upscale boutiques as well as creative street art and murals, while some excellent private and international schools are not far off.
One of the most sought-after areas in Bandra is the Pali Hill neighbourhood. Its winding lanes are home to buildings with gates and security. Pali Hill is mostly residential, but shops and restaurants are just a short walk away. Another well-known area is Carter Road – a promenade where all buildings look out onto the Arabian Sea.
Quieter areas in Mumbai
Localities further north and further south of the city centre offer a tranquil break from the chaotic hustle and bustle. Northern neighbourhoods offer fantastic beach access, with South Mumbai as the heart of the historical districts, boasting colonial architecture, tourist landmarks and excellent schools and healthcare facilities. It is also one of the most expensive real-estate markets in the country, and popular areas include Malabar Hill, Cuffe Parade, Breach Candy, Kemps Corner, Mahalaxmi and Cumballa Hill.
If Bandra life is too busy, try heading a little further north to Khar. Khar is split into Khar East, which is less developed, and the popular residential neighbourhood of Khar West. The rent here tends to be slightly cheaper compared with Bandra, and the traffic a little more manageable. Wealthy expats may find themselves living among Bollywood celebrities and top business executives while enjoying the greenery and peace that this area affords.
While Khar offers a break from the bustling city, it remains well connected to amenities. The fashionable Linking Road shopping corridor extends up into the suburb and there are also plenty of sporting facilities.
Further south, Malabar Hill is an affluent neighbourhood that grants an escape from the buzzing cosmopolitan city lifestyle. Hanging Gardens, the terraced gardens with sea views on top of Malabar Hill, give the suburb a feel of greenery and fresh air. Expats could find an apartment or bungalow in this area of South Mumbai and live near some top sightseeing attractions and historical temples.
►The Education and Schools in Mumbai page is essential reading for expats moving to the city with children
►Read more on the types of accommodation in Mumbai
"Research very carefully which area you want to live in. For expats, these usually fall into three camps – Bandra, Powai or Malabar Hill. A lot of people with children tend to live in Powai with its towering new apartment blocks and access to good schools." Our interview with Bombay Jules gives some useful insights into Mumbai's best suburbs for expats.
Photo credits: Colaba by Dean David; Churchgate by Satyajeet Mazumdar; and Mantralaya, South Mumbai by Prerna Rajkumar. All sourced from Unsplash.
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