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Why you MUST Go on a Dharavi Slum Tour in Mumbai

By January 15, 2013

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Dharavi slum, Mumbai.
Dharavi slum, Mumbai.
Getty Images.

Voyeuristic poverty tourism? Gawking at the misery of the underprivileged?  If this is your idea of a Dharavi slum tour, then you're severely mistaken. Tours to Dharavi in Mumbai, the largest slum in Asia, have grown in popularity in recent years -- but for a very good reason. These tours dispel any notions that people may have of Dharavi being a place of misery, and are actually very inspiring.

As Be the Local Tours and Travel (a tour company comprised of local Dharavi residents, who offer slum tours) state on their website:

"If visitors are expecting extreme poverty and despair based on movie depictions, they will be disappointed. In fact this tour actively breaks stereotypical depictions of slums."

A friend of mine, a foreigner who lives in Mumbai, went on one of their Dharavi slum tours on the weekend. She had this to say about her experience:

"Dharavi is no different than any other part of Mumbai when it comes to dirt, muck, drug addiction, prostitution, domestic violence and mafia. But it is different when it comes to self-sustainable factories, scarcity mindset, safety and hospitality of the people. Namely, Dharavi has more of it in comparison to the other parts of Mumbai. If there was no Dharavi, Mumbai would be floating in garbage.

As a foreigner in Dharavi, I did not meet people who wanted to fleece me or who were judging my white skin. I met people who shared their chai with me during their work break. Dharavi is not about slums, it is not about Slumdog Millionaire, it is about perfectly functioning eco-friendly enterprises. It is not about poorism, it is about spreading the awareness and fighting the negative image Dharavi has.

And the question for Mumbai residents is not "Why would you go there?", but the exclamation is "You have to see this!". Hats off to Dharavi people and to the student-run tours. Go for it."

She also told me that she feels Dharavi is negatively labeled, especially amongst Indians, and that's the reason why it took her three years to do the Dharavi visit herself.  Her Indian husband was very much against going to Dharavi as a "tourist" but it was a positive revelation for him too.

You can find out more information about the Dharavi tour on the Be the Local website. It's highly recommended. Do go!

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January 15, 2013 at 3:42 am
(1) Rakhee Ghelani says:

This is very interesting. I must admit, I have been against going on the Dharavi Tour for the reasons you have mentioned. Perhaps I need to go on it now!

January 15, 2013 at 5:40 am
(2) goindia says:

Yes, you really do! I promise you, it won’t be like what you expect. :-) Plus, the tour company mentioned in the article is owned and run by Dharavi residents — and they give Dharavi students an opportunity to be a guide and earn some extra money. Very worthwhile.

February 9, 2013 at 5:29 am
(3) rocky says:

i am guide in mumbai ( dharavi ) n i like this job of guiding and make people to explore the area which i know, explore the nature and culture and traditions related to respective regions

also myself being graduate engineer by qualification from production field, and in to profession of software quality assurance apart from my tourism passion.

Also I am knowledgeable about views, ideas and logic mind of people working in

Different sectors and their choices and requirements related to Tours.

It always interesting for me to meet different people from different culture.

I like to understand their views and opinion on various aspects of life, nature

and i respect each individual opinion.

contact details

May 18, 2013 at 2:30 am
(4) JC says:

I am wondering if any photographs are allowed to be taken. I have seen that most sites say no photos are allowed, however it would be a more meaningful and memorable experience if I could take photos and have also seen that some people have photos. Do I just have to tip the guide a little more? Thanks

May 18, 2013 at 7:40 am
(5) goindia says:

They’re pretty strict about no photos unfortunately. When I went on the tour recently, I was allowed to take a few photos of some of the things they were making there (after the guide got permission), but that’s all. You can try asking and see what the guide says.

March 20, 2014 at 6:32 am
(6) Slumgods says:

Thank you goindia for spreading positive image of Dharavi. Slumgods Tours and Travel is a Dharavi based tour operator, specialized on Slum and City Tours in Mumbai, founded and run by three friends.

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