As the second busiest airport in India behind Delhi's Indira Gandhi and the secondary hub of Air India, the airport has historically been very crowded, although modernization projects in recent years such as the construction of the new T2 have made things much easier in recent years.
Two former names of the airport, Santacruz and Sahar, have their basis in the areas of the city the airport rests on. Domestic activity has historically been centered around the terminal at Santacruz (currently T1), while international activity is in the terminal at Sahar village in Andheri (T2).
The airport consists mainly of two terminals (for Domestic & International purposes) - both terminals use the same airspace but are 4 km apart.
Mumbai has excellent connectivity with most of the major cities around the world, including, New York, London, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur to name a few. If you are flying from Europe it is generally cheaper to fly from London, and there are many frequent flights available. All domestic sectors are linked to Mumbai, making it busiest hub in the country.
Many international airlines such as British Airways, Delta, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa & Singapore Airlines fly into Mumbai. Low-cost carriers such as Air Asia also fly to the city.
- T1 - Most domestic flights. Served primarily by IndiGo.
- T2 - International and some domestic flights. Served by Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara, as well as by all foriegn airlines.
The airport is 28 km from downtown; still lies in the heart of the Suburban city. Take a prepaid coupon taxi to minimize hassle. Never pay more than ₹450-₹600 for a prepaid taxi, as they will pounce on the unwary tourist. This amount should get you all the way to the southernmost point of Colaba, the main tourist district. While it is possible to take metered taxis to your eventual destination, it is always a safer bet to take the prepaid taxis, in order to avoid being taken to your destination via a longer route, thus increasing the meter reading! While it is not mandatory to pay extra charges for your luggage, a tip of ₹50-₹100 shall always be appreciated. Be extra careful with the main prepaid counter on the left as you leave the terminal. The ₹100 bill and the ₹500 bill were very similar at one point of time.
Both the bills are still under circulation, and it is advised that you carefully check bill you are paying as well as the change you are receiving.
There are many prepaid taxi offices all in a row as you are exiting the airport, if one offers a very high rate, just walk to the next window and so forth until you find one with a good rate. Go to the taxi office and purchase a coupon to take to the driver. The coupon will have the taxi registration number written on it. Make sure that you get into that very taxi. Do not accept a lift from someone claiming to be a taxi driver as they may charge much higher prices designed to target tourists. The charges will depend on the general area you need to get to and will include all tolls to be paid. Most premium hotels will organize their own cars which is a much better alternative.
While most drivers should not have any problem delivering you to major hotels and intersections, do not assume your driver will be familiar with lesser known hotels etc.. Before departing, make sure you have secured full address of your destination. By taking this extra step, you should avoid any delays.
You can also take a bus/taxi/auto to Vile Parle Station and take a local train from there, although to catch an auto you might have to walk around 200m to the busier intersection of the road. Travel 1st class to avoid hassle. Do not try this during the morning rush. It's a good option in the evening, since it's off-peak direction then.
In any of the above cases, if you do not have a pre-booked vehicle (either by the pre-paid counter or an arrangement with the hotel), please use public transport only on the basis of the meter reading. If a driver insists on agreeing on a fare before boarding the vehicle, please insist on going with the meter.
In order to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, you will need cash rupees. There are prepaid taxi dispatch desks nearby, but they accept only cash, and only rupees.
A common scam locals play on tourists is when your taxi cab pulls up to the airport, a man will get your luggage out of the trunk, put it in a cart, push it for you towards the terminal and along the way will ask you for a ₹500 baggage fee. This is a lie, there is no baggage fee, and you should tell them no thank you and you kindly take the cart and push it yourself.
Paid parking is available at the airport. The charges are ₹60 per four hour block for cars. Longer term parking is available in a "premium" area but it is hideously expensive, costing as high as ₹600 per day.
A free shuttle bus runs between T1 and T2 for those who have a valid ticket. As the terminals are far apart and separated by runways, the bus has to go outside the airport and drop passengers at the departure complex. You will need to re-clear security, so make sure that if you are changing terminals that you have enough time in your layover as the transfer process can take hours. Going from Domestic to International you are taken outside the airport and you will re-enter through International Departures.
Eat and Drink
Cafe Coffee Day has a considerable presence at the airport, being India's alternative to Starbucks before it entered the country.
There are ATM terminals in the international arrival area and many moneychangers near the exit as well.