*This article was first published on Umoja.in blog.
For most people traveling from different parts of India to Mumbai, the two biggest attractions are spotting a Bollywood celebrity and experiencing the vast sea face for the first time. Thankfully there are many locations in the city to do both and being in a wheelchair does not limit your options. Here are my suggestions on things to do in Mumbai, with a special focus on giving you the best experience of the seaside, on your wheelchair.
The Arabian sea surrounding the southern end of Mumbai is my favorite aspect of the city. I just love to sit and gaze at the wide sea. Watching the waves come and go is mesmerizing and if you are able to maintain your focus then it is the best meditation exercise you could ever do 🙂
I’m really excited to share my list of top 4 places by the sea in Mumbai, where you can go in your wheelchair.
Gateway of India
The Gateway of India is over 90 years old and was built during the British era. In those days the structure was the first point of entry for travelers entering the city via the sea. It is a huge arc-shaped structure, 85 feet tall, situated near Colaba area and overlooks the Arabian Sea. I can confidently say that it is one of the most photographed monuments in Mumbai.
When you look beyond the Gateway of India, you will spot local ferries that take tourists for a ride into the sea and to the nearby Elephanta caves. You will also see a line of private yachts parked in the bay. None of these are accessible.
However, the view of this gigantic architectural monument in the backdrop of the sea with a combination of white seagulls and pigeons flying around is breathtaking. Just sit and observe. You will surely experience peace amidst the Mumbai crowd and chaos.
Accessibility: Colaba is extremely crowded and you will come across heavy traffic when getting out of your car near the Gateway of India. There is always a team of traffic police around to manage the rush. They will also guide you to the only ramp that will take you from the road to the footpath adjacent to the gateway campus. The ramp is hidden behind the barricades and difficult to spot by yourself.
Visitors are not required to purchase any tickets. However, they do have to go through a security checkpoint. Since the wheelchair cannot go through the metal scanner, we can bypass this queue and go around it to reach the Gateway of India. The entire campus is lined with tiles made of black stone. This makes it easy for a wheelchair user to move around.
I will always list Gateway of India as the #1 place to visit when planning a holiday for wheelchair users in Mumbai.
As the name suggests, Marine Drive is a long stretch of road along the sea, starting from Nariman point and ending at Malabar Hill. It is also known as the Queen’s necklace because the street lights make the road look like a string of shiny stones and create an illusion of a necklace. I prefer visiting this place during the daytime because then you can look into the horizon and marvel at the vastness of the sea. Late-night is also a good time to come here and listen to the waves crashing non-stop against the walls.
The best way to enjoy Marine Drive is to just drive along. However, getting down at the promenade towards the beginning of Marine Drive, at Nariman point end, will also be a good experience. This promenade is a narrow platform that goes into the sea for a small distance. It is a good place to view the Queen’s necklace.
Accessibility: The entire stretch is hundred percent accessible. There are small ramps at equal distance to go from the adjacent road to the walking area at Marine Drive. You can park your car and get down near these ramps. There is a longer ramp near the Nariman point promenade.
My first time was was early morning and I was using my active wheelchair. I thoroughly enjoyed propelling on the smooth route, matching steps with joggers. The second time was in the evening and I was on my motorized chair. The ramps really made it a breeze to move around.
It’s beach time now! As soon as you cross Marine Drive, you will reach Girgaum. This area is home to one of the most popular beach areas in Mumbai- Girgaum Chowpatty. This place will give you an amazing combination of beach and mouthwatering street food from the city.
Girgaum Chowpatty is popular amongst the locals so you will always find a crowd here. (On second thoughts, I don’t think there is any place in Mumbai which is not crowded)
Although it is a beach, nobody really dives into the sea for a swim at Girgaum Chowpatty. The water is not so clean. You will mostly see people walking or sitting around. And if they are not doing any of these, they will most likely be eating to their hearts’ content at one of the food stalls.
Accessibility: A footpath separates the beach from the road where you will get down. The ramp at the entrance of Girgaum Chowpatty makes it easy for a wheelchair to come through. Your immediate view will be of the sandy beach that starts from the edge of the footpath and blends into the sea. Now here is the dampener, you will not be able to go right up to the water in a wheelchair because there is no accessible pathway.
However, the endless line of food stalls will more than make up for this. Paani puri, sev puri, pav bhaaji, pulav, ragada patis, kulfi, ice gola, falooda and every street food that you can think of is available at the chowpatty. Although covered in sand, the path leading to the food stalls area is hard ground. You can comfortably go there in a wheelchair.
Bandra Worli Sea Link
When you are going around the city, whether the sea link comes on your route or not, it is worth taking a diversion for this 9 minutes ride over the sea. It is a superb example of modern architecture and you will be left in awe thinking about how on earth is it possible to construct this sea link (aka bridge) with its foundation in the seabed.
What I like most about this short journey is the feeling of being in the middle of the sea, you will see a vast expanse of it on both sides. It’s like sailing smoothly over the sea.
Accessibility: Only four wheelers are allowed on the sea link. You cannot stop the car or get out in between to enjoy the view. It is best enjoyed while you are seated inside your car and driving through. You can hire taxi services such as Ezy Mov or Mobicab which provide customized vans to make your wheelchair accessible travel in Mumbai a joy ride.
After reaching Worli you will be greeted with the Worli sea face. It is easily accessible in a wheelchair and also a good place to hang around. Look out for the ramp next to the road before getting down from the car.
Optional – Bandra Fort
I will not call this as a must-visit place. But if you haven’t had the time to go to any of the above sea gazing places and happen to be in Bandra then you can give the Bandra Fort a visit. It was built by the Portuguese, over 377 years ago, to support to their naval fleet. Today it is a popular destination for local festivals and movie shoots. It is open from 6:00 AM to 7:30 PM.
Accessibility: The only place where a wheelchair user can go is the sea-facing promenade. From here you will also get a good view of the Bandra-Worli sea link and take pictures.
The campus has a beautiful step garden and of course the remains of the Bandra Fort, but both of these have steps and are not accessible. The only saving grace when traveling to this place is the drive around the bandstand and superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s residence Mannat. SRK might not be standing on his balcony to wave at you, but you will definitely see a crowd of people stationed outside his home hoping for a glimpse.
Mumbai is not one of the most wheelchair-friendly cities in India. Many of the heritage structures are inaccessible. Traveling on the streets in a wheelchair is a strict no-no because of the overwhelming traffic. Public transport, such as buses, taxis and local trains, are also not accessible. Still, don’t let go of your dream of an accessible holiday in the city. I hope you find my list of things to do in Mumbai useful.
Do share your feedback in the comments section below.
I’d love to hear about your travel stories too.