Keeping in Touch in India
Expats shouldn't have much trouble keeping in touch with family and friends while they're in India, especially if they live in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Internet, telephone, mobile phone, and postal service are available and service standards are generally good.
Foreigners can keep abreast of local and international news online and through English-language Indian newspapers.
Internet in India
Internet speeds in India generally lag behind other large economies. The average broadband download speed is around 2.5 Mbps and wireless connections are more common than fixed lines. Most people access the Internet through their mobile phones or USB dongles and only around a tenth use 3G.
Still, broadband usage is steadily growing and even though a small percentage of users have access to high speeds and fixed lines, this still translates to millions of people – so expats shouldn't have too much of a problem finding something that suits them.
Some of the most popular Internet service providers in India include ACT Fibernet, Airtel, BSNL, Hayai Broadband, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Vodafone and You Broadband.
Costs vary between companies and depend on the package, but they generally increase with download speeds and the amount of data being used.
Internet cafés abound – even in smaller towns – but free WiFi hotspots aren't as widespread as expats might be used to, even though there are various initiatives to make it more accessible in major cities.
Landline telephones in India
There are multiple fixed-line providers in India, including the state-run BSNL and MTNL as well as various private companies.
To get a line installed, expats will need to fill out an application at one of their chosen service provider's outlets, although forms can usually also be downloaded online and completed in advance. Applicants will need to give proof of identification and residence, and pay a refundable deposit. Once that's done, the line will be activated in a few days.
The international dialling code for India is +91 and each city has its own additional dialling code: Bangalore - 80; Chennai - 44; Hyderabad - 40; Kolkata - 33; Mumbai - 22; New Delhi - 11.
Phone booths in India
Expats can dial local, international and mobile phones at manned phone booths on most major streets across the country. Phones are either coin-operated or users will have to pay the person at the booth when they're done calling. A meter attached to the phone shows how much the call costs in real time.
Mobile phones in India
Mobile telephones are the most common form of communication in India, offering affordable packages and coverage in remote areas of the country.
Owing to its size, India is divided into various cellular zones that are often called 'circles'. These usually correspond with the different states, but not always. Each circle has its own dialling code and inter-circle calls might carry extra charges.
Expats shouldn't have connectivity problems for the most part, except in areas like Kashmir and parts of northeast India which have major security issues.
The largest operators in India include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, BSNL, TATA DoCoMo and Aircel.
Payment plans can either be pre-paid or post-paid, but navigating the different available packages can be challenging.
Expats should at least look for a provider with good service in their area, but since calls within the same network are often discounted, it may be worth finding out which provider their colleagues belong to.
SMS (text messaging) comes with basic plans, but customers may need to pay extra for MMS (multimedia messaging), international roaming and Internet access.
Mobile phones are highly regulated by the government and expats will need some paperwork before they can get their SIM card, including proof of identity and address, photographs and a copy of their visa.
Companies often take sim cards in their own name as COCP (Company Owned, Company Paid) connections and provide them to their employees.
Postal service in India
India Post is the national postal service and the world's largest. Post boxes are located on most major roads and mail is picked up daily in most cases.
Regular post usually takes two to three days between major cities or neighbouring states, and up to six days to the rest of the country. That said, delays are fairly common from October to January.
At higher prices, expats can send registered post and speed post at their local post office. Private courier companies also offer competitive rates, with same-day delivery in metros and next-day delivery to most towns.
Media and news in India
Indian newspapers are printed in all of its major languages, including English. The Times of India is published nationally. The Hindu is popular down south and The Hindustan Times has large readership in the north. Other popular titles include The Economic Times, DNA, Mid-Day, Indian Express, New Indian Express, Deccan Herald and the Deccan Chronicle. Some of these are only printed in certain locations, but their content can be viewed online.
Some foreign newspapers are available in Indian cities, but they may arrive a day or two later than the date they're released in their home countries.
CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and BBC are broadcast in India, while NDTV and CNN IBN are good local English news channels.
There are also numerous weekly and fortnightly magazines that are great options to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the news and financial markets.