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With greater supply than demand for rooms in Mumbai over the last few years, and the emergence of numerous five-star properties in the suburbs, rooms in downtown Mumbai can often be booked at good rates. Don't always go by a hotel's published tariff; ask about seasonal or daily discounts and cruise the Internet for bargains. It's not uncommon to find ridiculously cheap deals for rooms in hotels like the Taj President, available even during the popular winter season. That said, budget travelers should be prepared to spend more on lodging in Mumbai than in any other city on the subcontinent; standards at the low end can be difficult to stomach, so you're better off forking out a little more for a decent place to stay.

Marine Drive is a great option if you want a prime view of the Arabian Sea, but it's pricey. With a variety of options to suit every budget (top choice obviously being the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower), Colaba-Fort is where most tourists end up, but these days there's as much fun (although not as many historic attractions) to be had in areas like Worli, Bandra and Juhu, all of which offer great shopping, dining and nightlife options. If you are literally overnighting and have no desire to spend time in Mumbai, a number of options are located close to the international airport, but there are very few bargains here. A good compromise is Juhu, which has cheaper choices and a great nighttime atmosphere, and is only a 30-minute drive from the airport.

Marine Drive

Within walking distance of the city's commercial center, Marine Drive is a great place to base yourself, not least for the sea views and sense of space these provide -- offering a relief from the hustling, bustling streets that lie east. Expect to pay for the privilege, however, since prices for real estate along this famed strip are as breathtaking as the views.

Inexpensive -- If your budget can't stretch, check out Sea Green Hotel (tel. 022/6633-6525 or 022/2282-2294; www.seagreenhotel.com) at 145 Marine Dr. Together with the adjoining Sea Green South Hotel (www.seagreensouth.com), this is the best (if not the only) budget option on Marine Drive, where relatively large guest rooms with French doors (and flaking paint) open onto balconies overlooking Back Bay. It has a slightly seedy air, and furnishings are way out of date (some would say awful), but the attached shower-toilets are large and clean, and each room comes with TV, metal wardrobe, vinyl-covered desk and table, and a small fridge; and there's Wi-Fi, too (Rs 100/hr.; Rs 700/day). Aside from a small lounge in the lobby, there are no other facilities, making this a bare-basics, functional budget hotel, where you'll be investing as little as Rs 3,600 (inclusive of taxes and a 10% service charge, but no breakfast) for an air-conditioned double. Tip: Try to book room 504, one of the few rooms with a glassed-in shower; it even has a sideways sea view from the balcony.

Colaba

Generally considered the city's tourist hub, this enclave at the far southern end of the city enjoys the city's densest concentration of sights, hotels, and restaurants; Colaba and Fort are ideal if you like to step out of your hotel and walk around as opposed to jumping into a chauffeur-driven vehicle and being whisked off to your next port of call. While some of the city's premiere hotels -- such as the Taj Mahal Palace and the excellent-value Ascot -- are here, this area is also known for having a large number of budget dives and while this is more or less true, it's clear that most of these places have put effort into smartening up in recent years, so it's increasingly possible to find a relatively good deal (at least by Mumbai standards) without roughing it too much.

Inexpensive -- If you can't get a room at Suba Palace, and you really want to be in Colaba, you may want to consider one more incredibly cheap, decent option worth noting is Bentley's Hotel (17 Oliver Rd., Colaba; tel. 022/2284-1474 or -1733; www.bentleyshotel.com; bentleyshotel@hotmail.com), which has old, threadbare accommodations with enough character and antique furniture to make them livable. You can get a room with wooden floors, a balcony, air-conditioning, and an attached bathroom for Rs 2,360; be warned that at least several days' advance reservation might be necessary.

Churchgate

Technically incorporating the southern portion of Marine Drive, Churchgate is a narrow stretch of prime real estate stretching between the vast Oval and Cross maidans (parklands) and Back Bay. Found here are several cricket stadia, including world famous Wankhede, and the southernmost terminal of the Western Railway, Churchgate station.

Moderate -- Just a few minutes' drive from both Colaba and Marine Drive is West End Hotel (45 New Marine Lines, next to Bombay Hospital; tel. 022/2203-9121; www.westendhotelmumbai.com; Rs 4,300 double), a good midrange option with a retro '70s ambience that's entirely unironic (in fact, the hotel is much older than you'd think). Most of the rooms (which are large and spotlessly clean) have renovated bathrooms, and it's the old-fashioned furniture and decor that makes this such a quaint, charming place to stay. It doesn't hurt, either, that the staff can be so very obliging. If you don't mind the sometimes hectic daytime noise drifting up from bustling New Marine Lines, ask for a room at the front -- these have balconies from where you survey the scene before venturing out to explore the city.

Less successful when it comes to service standards and ambience is the neat, clean and highly functional (if soulless) Astoria Hotel (4 Jamshedji Tata Rd., Churchgate; tel. 022/6654-1234), which unfortunately suffers from a misguided superiority complex. Sure, the lobby has the smooth look of a modern business hotel, but the bedrooms don't really evoke the same sense of recent refurbishment. They have everything you need, but are very ordinary and, given their price (Rs 4,000-Rs 6,000 double), look a bit tacked together, with tiny, boxy bathrooms.

Central Mumbai: Worli, Bandra & Juhu

Mumbai's upscale seaside suburbs don't have a tourist center, but they are studded with new restaurants, bars, endless shopping, and a vibrant nightlife, sans Colaba's seedy edge. Worli is just a short drive from Colaba and Nariman Point and features some of the less-touted attractions, including Mahalaxmi Racecourse, the Nehru Centre (with the city's planetarium), Worli fishing village, the dhobi ghat, and a long stretch of seafront, known as the Worli Sea Face. Worli is now connected to Bandra by a 4 1/2km (2 3/4-mile) setu (sea bridge) that will hopefully cut down commuting time considerably as soon as people know how to use it efficiently. The sea link means that the heavily touristed downtown area is now much closer to both vibrant Bandra and the adjacent "beach holiday" suburb of Juhu; the latter attracts a predominantly local, moneyed crowd, and as such affords in many ways a genuine introduction to Mumbai as a leisure destination rather than an overblown business capital. Juhu's relative proximity to the airport (it's a 30-min. drive) makes it the ideal stopover if you have no strong desire to engage with the historical side of the city, or if you need to recover from jet lag before moving on. Most of Bollywood's film stars live and hang out in this part of Mumbai, so it's definitely where you should stay if you have an interest in bumping into them (and it really does happen) or simply want to spend time in trendy bars and restaurants. The best accommodations -- the slick and vibey Four Seasons in Worli, the superbly-positioned Taj Lands End in Bandra, and to a lesser extent, the JW Marriott in Juhu -- are reviewed below, along with a handful of more affordable options, all in Juhu.

Moderate -- For more midrange options, try the newly expanded Hotel Sea Princess (Juhu Tara Rd.; tel. 022/2661-1111 or 020/2646-9500; www.seaprincess.com), where you should request a sea-facing deluxe luxury room (book online for the best rates); they've been recently overhauled, but the views through the bay windows (although you may need to first move the armchairs out the way) are still the prime attraction. Also recommended (and on Juhu beach) is Citizen Hotel (tel. 022/6693-2525; www.citizenhotelmumbai.com), which has small rooms (with tiled floors and fresh, if over-the-top, decor) and closet-size bathrooms, but the deluxe sea-facing units (Rs 8,500 double) have great views from large windows overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Inexpensive -- Without suggesting a major lifestyle change, an excellent choice for bargain-hunters is Juhu's ISKCON Ashram (Hare Krishna Land, Juhu; tel. 022/2620-6860; www.iskconmumbai.com; guesthouse.mumbai@pamho.net), which has simple, clean rooms in the guesthouse attached to the very popular Hare Krishna temple. It's definitely the cheap (Rs 2,995 for an air-conditioned double, including tax) and cheerful (rooms are spacious, clean, and have balconies) nonhotel alternative for visitors open to a bit of a cultural experience (although you won't be asked to join the Krisna Consciousness movement, you can watch the crowds thronging to the temple), and you have the added incentive of laying claim to the fabulous vegetarian meals served at the adjoining restaurant, Govinda's.

Near the Airports

The reasons for staying here are obvious, but it seems a pity to hole up in these cocoons when The Taj Mahal Palace, Four Seasons, and Oberoi beckon from the south.

Moderate -- The best value in the vicinity of the airports is offered by the slick, no-nonsense Hotel Suba Galaxy (N.S. Phadke Rd., off Western Express Highway, Andheri [E], Mumbai 400 069; tel. 022/2682-1188; www.hotelsubagalaxy.com; Rs 5,500 double including tax and breakfast), which offers a trouble-free stay in well-maintained rooms at a much better rate than you'll find at the large luxury places (although if you score a very good deal at either of the Hyatts, definitely stay there). Rooms are modern and stripped back, but have everything you'll need for a comfortable overnight stay -- you'll need to ask if you want a large bed, though, as most rooms are singles and twins.

Note: If you only need a room for daytime use between flights, this hotel also has a special "Day" rate of Rs 3,500 for rooms used between 9am and 6pm only.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.