Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CMB) is located in Mumbai, India. The airport is quite large given the massive population of Mumbai, which has over 18 million residents, and according to the airport’s official website, they handled over 45 million passengers from 2016-2017.
On my way back from Sri Lanka, just over one month ago, I was laid over in this airport for exactly 24 hours. Given Mumbai’s crazy traffic, the relatively short amount of time I’d have to explore, my exhaustion, and my status as a female solo traveller, I opted not to venture out into the city out of fear that I wouldn’t make it back in time for my flight. Now, you might say that 24 hours in an airport sounds like hell. I would have thought the same thing, but Mumbai’s airport has a lot going on to occupy your time.
Before I dive into all the things I liked about this airport, there is one MAJOR downside to it. Without a local (Indian) phone number, wifi access is limited to just 45 MINUTES per passenger. Yes, without an Indian SIM card, you cannot use the internet for even an hour. And the timing is consecutive, so you can’t use it for five minutes and then check back in an hour later– once you log in, your clock starts ticking. Don’t get me wrong, I can live without the internet. I quite enjoyed being alone to read and people watch. But it was frustrating being in transit and not being able to let my family know where I was or when my flight would be leaving. If it got delayed or cancelled, I’d have no way to let them know. The only exception to this is the airport hotel, which I will get into shortly. So just a heads up, if you find yourself headed to CMB, download your Netflix in advance and use your internet time wisely.
With all that out of the way, there was a lot about this airport that I really liked. My flight got in around 1 o’clock am, and after spending the whole previous day at the beach, I was feeling pretty tired. Luckily, Mumbai Airport has a beautiful hotel right in the terminal. With a boarding pass for a connecting flight, you don’t even need to leave security to get a good night’s sleep and shower in a private room. The hotel is called Niranta and it has a 24-hour check-in without needing to book your room in advance. You can pay for a whole night or just a few hours. It also has a spa, but I don’t have that kind of dough!
I was really grateful to be able to get a room, except for one issue: when I arrived at the front desk, I asked the price of a room in Canadian dollars and was told it would be $120. That was reasonable as the hotel is a higher standard than any Holiday Inn or Best Western, and at that point, I was tired almost to the point of tears. It was worth it to me. When I got back to Canada however, my credit card statement read $240. Double. I’m not saying that isn’t a fair price for the room. It was beautiful, clean, and had all the amenities. I’m saying that I would have crashed on the public seating instead because I didn’t have that kind of budget. I wish I had been told an accurate price.
Nonetheless, I was grateful for a comfortable place to lay my head. The room was spotless and quiet and pitch black so nothing disturbed my sleep. They even had complimentary bottles of water with a very considerate message. The biggest perk of staying in Niranta, however, was the unlimited wifi. If I had known before that I wouldn’t have been able to get on the internet anymore, I would have requested a later check-out. Live and learn I guess.
After checking out of the hotel I got a western-style breakfast (my stomach couldn’t handle any more rice and curry) at the only place I could– Starbucks. Then, having finished all four books I brought on the trip, I stopped by the bookstore and bought a few more for a really good price. I found a comfortable seating area, ordered a fresh orange juice, then I curled up and read for hours.
When I couldn’t sit still any longer, I got up and explored the many shops and museum-like art installations. I bought a beautiful pair of smart, genuine leather slip-on shoes for a great price (probably would have passed if I knew how much I had spent on the hotel!) and headed to my gate. I still had a solid eight hours to go until my flight, but I needed a change of scenery. I grabbed lunch at Café Indiana– which was awesome because Indiana is my middle name!– and then curled up in the comfy seats and watched Netflix and read until my flight. Unlike most major airports, food and drinks weren’t astronomically priced, which I appreciated. Right before boarding, I grabbed a couple snacks and a bottle of water. I was in for a 16-hour flight and looking forward to sleeping through most of it.
Verdict: Mumbai Airport has everything you need for a long layover. Food, entertainment, and comfortable areas to rest. Everything is fairly priced, but be aware of the cost of the hotel. I would recommend this airport for your next flight path. Keep in mind my several hiccups, and you’ll be a happy traveler.
Have you traveled through CMB before? What did you think? What is your favorite airport in the world? Let us know in the comments or tag us on social media (@twowildtides), we love to hear from our readers!