Tours

TRAVEL TIPS

Tours

Slum tours. In recent years tours of one of Asia's largest slums, Dharavi, have become something of a cottage industry in Mumbai, especially after the popularity of the 2008 movie Slumdog Millionaire, which was set here. While the idea may seem like voyeurism, many of the companies who conduct the tours do so on a not-for-profit basis, and have explicit no-camera-allowed policies. On such a tour you'll normally meet up with a guide at Churchgate or Mahim Station, and take the train with a group of no more than six other tourists to Dharavi, which is near the Mahim neighborhood. Here you'll see the variety of cottage industries—from jewelry making to recycling to leather working to blacksmithing—that make up an estimated $600 million dollar annual economy. You'll see poverty, but Dharavi is not the kind of place you saw in those early scenes in Slumdog: it has a vibrant, functioning community, with its own post office, schools, temples, mosques, churches, and police force. It is, on balance, an incredibly safe place (and you'll be with a local guide) full of people striving for a better life in Mumbai, willing to live in cramped confines and not knowing where their next meal will come from—or even if there will be a next meal. The best of the tour operators, Reality Tours and Travel, explicitly takes no tips, and makes no profit: they use the fees (Rs. 400 per person) to fund a community center and a kindergarten in the area. Mumbai, Maharashtra. 98/2082–2253; wwww.realitytoursandtravel.com.

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