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Moving to India

An ancient country rich in culture and diversity, expats moving to India will find a wealth of places to explore if they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Few places compare in scale to the world’s second most populous country and the sheer size and sensory richness can be overwhelming. There is great pride in diversity here, and local culture is strong – manners and customs in India are often very different from Western norms.

Living costs will be low for expats earning in a foreign currency, but record growth for more than two decades hasn’t stopped India from having one of the world’s widest wealth gaps. Extreme wealth and poverty exist side by side in teeming cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru.

The biggest sector employers in India are textiles and agriculture, but most opportunities for skilled expats come from areas such as IT, financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. Expats living and working in the country shouldn’t struggle to meet their basic needs. The quality of public services like healthcare varies between regions, but expats who can afford it prefer using the private sector.

The biggest challenge expats are likely to face is finding suitable housing. There is a high demand for good quality accommodation, and getting their employer’s help or at least hiring a reputable property agent will make the process much easier.

Still, one major benefit of moving to the subcontinent is that communicating with locals is generally easy. English is widely spoken and is frequently the language of business in India.

Overall, India provides a welcome mixture of high-quality living, adventure and cultural exploration, making it an expat destination with much to offer.

Essential Info for India

Population: Over 1.3 billion

Capital city: New Delhi

Largest city: Mumbai

Neighbouring countries: India shares borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal to the northeast, Pakistan to the west, Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is also bound by a vast coastline, stretching from the Arabian Sea in the southwest, to the Indian Ocean in the south, and finally to the Bay of Bengal to the southeast

Geography: India is a large and geographically diverse country. The northern areas of India are largely defined by the Himalayan mountain range while the Deccan Plateau occupies the southern part of the country. 

Political system: Federal parliamentary republic

Major religion: Hinduism

Main languages: Hindi and English

Money: The official currency is the Indian Rupee (INR), which is divided into 100 paise. It's relatively easy for expats to set up a local bank account and ATMs are easy to find.

Tipping: Standard 5 to 10 percent

Time: GMT +5.5

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Most plugs have two or three round pins.

International dialling code: +91

Emergency contacts: 112

Internet domain: .in

Transport and driving: The standard of public transport in India is very varied, but networks are extensive. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

Weather in India

India's vast terrain makes for a variety of climatic conditions, ranging from snowfall in high mountainous regions to humid tropical coastal regions.

Generally, expats who relocate to India will experience pleasant and warm weather during the months of October to March when it is cool and dry. Depending on the location, however, the weather can be scorchingly hot during the summer months and it’s wise to make sure accommodation has adequate air conditioning.

Delhi Climate Chart


Mumbai Climate Chart
 

Embassy Contacts for India


Indian embassies

  • Indian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 7000

  • Indian High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7836 8484

  • Indian High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 744 3751

  • Indian High Commission, Canberra, Australia: + 61 2 6273 3999

  • Indian High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5392

  • Indian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 497 0843

  • Indian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 6390


Foreign embassies in India

  • United States Embassy, New Delhi: +91 11 2419 8000

  • British High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 2419 2100

  • Canadian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4178 2000

  • Australian High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4139 9900

  • South African High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 2614 9411

  • Irish Embassy, New Delhi: +91 11 4940 3200

  • New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi: +91 11 4688 3170

Public Holidays in India

 

2019

2020

Republic Day

26 January

26 January

Independence Day

15 August

15 August

Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday

2 October

2 October

*India has only three compulsory national holidays, but each state has its own additional holidays reflecting predominant local cultures and religions. To find out more, consult government sources.

Safety in India

Given its immense size and diversity, the general level of safety in India varies. Expats are most likely to come across issues related to petty crime, road safety and sanitation.

There are ongoing issues related to sectarian violence and terrorism, but foreigners are not often directly affected – although there have been occasions when areas known to be frequented by Westerners have been targeted.


Crime in India

Foreigners will rarely be exposed to violent crime in India, but petty crime is rampant. Expats tend to stick out in a crowd and are often easy targets for pickpocketing, overcharging and small-scale scams.

There have also been reports of foreigners being robbed or assaulted while riding in taxis or rickshaws. It’s best to take prepaid taxis and avoid taxis that are already carrying passengers.

Unfortunately, women should be particularly cautious about travelling alone (especially at night) and dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention.

Begging is common on the streets of Indian towns and cities. Expats wanting to make a difference should rather contribute to a reputable charity. If refusing to help is difficult, food is a better donation than money. But giving to one person can result in being mobbed by others hoping to get something too.


Terrorism in India

The threat of terrorism in India remains a concern, especially in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai – terrorists have especially targeted areas that are popular with foreigners before. Security has, however, been stepped up in major cities.

Certain parts of India are frequently plagued with sectarian violence that has little to do with foreigners. The northern state of Jammu and Kashmir is the most notable example. By keeping up to date with the news and following government travel warnings, expats should be able to avoid any problems. 


Protests in India

Protests related to political and socio-economic issues are common in India and often affect service delivery and transport. Violence at such gatherings is not uncommon. Indian security forces are quite used to dealing with these situations and are swift to react. 


Transport safety in India

Road safety is a major concern in India. Reckless taxi and motorcycle drivers account for many accidents, while bus and train accidents are also fairly common. Pickpockets also target passengers on public transport, so expats should keep a close eye on their belongings


Food safety in India

Poor hygiene standards and disease are also concerns for expats in India. To avoid digestive issues, expats should be cautious about consuming food from roadside vendors and avoid drinking tap water, especially in smaller towns and rural areas.

Working in India

Working in India – particularly in Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai – has become increasingly popular as the country has become known as one of the world's leading economies. As the second most populous country in the world, India's market is also one of the largest economies in the world in terms of spending power. 

Foreigners are generally made to feel welcome in the Indian workplace, but making an effort to adapt to local business culture is important – many companies send their expat employees for cross-cultural training in order to smooth the transition.


Job market in India

Despite the fact that Indian universities produce thousands of qualified graduates a year, this supply cannot keep pace with the rapid growth in certain sectors of the country's economy. A relative lack of experienced locals means that many companies employ foreign managers. Younger professionals have prospects too, but there is a lot of competition for jobs in India, so getting one isn’t a given.

India is home to one of the world's fastest growing IT industries and the country is now one of the major exporters of software services. Engineering is another rapidly growing sector – as Indian companies look to expand globally they look for foreigners who are willing to start their careers in India and help the business grow elsewhere. Other major employers for expats moving to India are the manufacturing, banking and tourism industries. Expats with skills and experience in marketing and sales will also find job opportunities as companies look to tap into the potential of the Indian market. 

On the other hand, foreign companies often outsource professional jobs to India due to lower labour costs. This has been controversial in some Western countries, but it does mean that numerous international companies have an Indian presence, creating potential opportunities for senior expats.


Finding a job in India

By far the easiest way of finding a job in India is through one's current employer or personal contacts. This is why networking is so important when it comes to working in India. The majority of expats working in India relocate through an intra-company transfer.

For those without any connection to India, job opportunities can be explored using online job portals. Online resources provide a good overview of the job market and are usually available in English. Companies may also advertise positions on their own websites so it also worth checking individual company sites as well. 

Recruitment agencies may also be able to assist expats in their search for employment. However, it is important to ensure that the recruitment agency is reputable. There are many recruiters in India that charge huge sums of money without any results. It's best to go with recommendations from colleagues within the industry and avoid making any payments upfront.

Doing Business in India

Traders had been doing business in India long before the East India Company emerged on the subcontinent in the early 1600s. Today, multinational corporations flock to the country to augment their business processes and IT services and to search for growth in its burgeoning market. Growth has slowed in recent years, but businesses continue to invest and the Indian economy's future remains bright. But like any emerging market, doing business in India comes with its share of risks and challenges.

India was ranked at 77th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2019. It scored particularly well in the areas of protecting minority investors (7th). It also scored fairly well for ease of getting credit (22nd) and getting electricity (24th).


Fast facts

Business hours

The work week is traditionally from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, but most Indians don't leave the office until their supervisor does.

Business language

English is the main language of business in India.

Dress

Suits are expected at an executive level, while smart-casual business dress is appropriate for mid-level managers. Employees often dress casually.

Gifts

Gifts are appropriate but shouldn't be too expensive. Accept gifts with both hands and don't open them in front of the giver. Invitations to a business partner’s home for dinner are common.

Appropriate greetings

Greet business associates by shaking hands. However, never touch someone, pass money or exchange gifts with the left hand – it's considered unclean. Men should wait for female associates to initiate a greeting, as Indian men generally don't shake hands with women out of respect. If a female colleague doesn't initiate a greeting, a nod of the head will suffice. 

Gender equality

Despite having had both a female prime minister and president, women remain underrepresented in the Indian workplace. However, international businesswomen are generally treated as equals. 


Business culture in India

Personal relationships  

In Indian business, trust is more often established through personal relationships than through legal contracts or a company’s reputation. As a result, establishing a strong business relationship without forming a personal one can be difficult. Sharing information about family, speaking about personal hobbies and interests, and spending time outside the office with Indian associates will build the trust needed to sustain the relationship when business negotiations heat up.

Indirect communication style  

The desire to maintain harmony is a hallmark of communication in India. Locals generally prefer to communicate bad news in an indirect manner, especially when communicating with clients and superiors.

Expats unfamiliar with indirect communication often fail to read between the lines which can cause misunderstandings. People in India rarely express a negative response by directly saying "no". Responses like, "yes, but it will be a bit difficult" or "that may be possible – what do you think?" are more common and should be considered the same as a "no".

Asking open-ended questions about the potential problems of a proposal and actively listening for subtle clues can go a long way in avoiding miscommunication.

Hierarchy  

Most Indian businesses maintain a top-down hierarchy and locals are often very good at negotiating power in business relationships. Status is highly valued in Indian society and people in positions of power are often given greater leeway than the average citizen.

Expats are encouraged to partner with the highest possible level of an organisation and to anticipate delays from both internal and external politics. Expats who can be patient in the face of bureaucracy and respect Indian values will discover that almost nothing is impossible in India.

Adapting versus planning  

As is the case in many emerging markets, business objectives in India are often accomplished by adaptation and improvisation rather than by implementing carefully constructed plans. While some expats may prefer to develop contingencies for every foreseeable scenario, locals often place greater emphasis on reacting well to emerging circumstances.

Expats who localise their products and services, as well as their way of doing business, are often more successful than those who try to rigidly implement pre-formed plans. Cross-cultural consultants can be very useful in bridging the gap.


Dos and don’ts of business in India

  • Do show respect to authority figures and use appropriate titles (Mr or Miss if unsure) to address Indian counterparts 

  • Do be polite and composed at all times to prove sincere objectives

  • Don't be overly aggressive in business negotiations. While Indians are generally tough negotiators, outward displays of aggressiveness will lose their respect.  

  • Don't refuse food or drink offered during business meetings as this may cause offence. When dining with Indians, it is best to assume that they are vegetarian and that they don't drink or smoke unless they indicate otherwise.

Visas for India

Getting a visa for India isn’t too difficult, but the process can take some time. Indian visa rules aren’t always clear and concise, so expats who plan on visiting or moving to India must begin by identifying the visa that’s right for their situation. It is best to start the process as far ahead of time as possible.


Tourist visas for India

Indian tourist visas are for travellers wanting to visit friends or sightsee. They are generally granted for 60 days.

Most foreign nationals will apply for their visa in their home country before they leave – this can either be done at a local application centre or via the online e-Visa system. Nationals of certain countries won't need to apply in advance and can instead obtain a visa on arrival in India. Expats should determine which category they belong to well ahead of time.


Work visas for India

Expats can either apply for an employment visa or business visa to legally work in India – no separate work permit will be needed.

Employment visas

Employment visas are issued to expats wanting to work for an organisation registered in India. Expats are eligible for employment visas if they are relocating to India with a guaranteed offer of employment or via an intra-company transfer. Employment visas for India are usually valid for one year or for the term of the employment contract, though in certain cases they may be granted for two, three or five years. It is possible to renew an employment visa from within India.

Business visas

Business visas are available for expat entrepreneurs or investors who want to conduct business in India. They must be able to prove that they are in good financial standing and that they have expertise in their field of business.

Business visas holders can be in India for up to six months at a time, but sometimes a visa with a longer validity with be issued in order to allow multiple entries over the course of several years. 

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in India

Given its large size, the cost of living in India varies considerably, but many new arrivals are surprised to find that living costs in major cities can be pricey.

The 2018 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Mumbai and New Delhi as 55th and 103rd respectively out of the 209 cities studied. The cost of living in Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata is significantly lower as they were ranked 144th, 170th and 182nd respectively. 

Expats who negotiate a lucrative relocation package in India can often afford luxuries that they wouldn’t be able to at home like domestic services, chauffeurs and having home-cooked lunches delivered to the office.


Cost of housing in India

Accommodation is likely to be an expat's biggest expense in India, with property in New Delhi and Mumbai being particularly expensive. Wherever possible, expats should try to negotiate a housing allowance or complimentary housing into their employment package.


Cost of healthcare in India

Expats moving to India will have access to relatively cheap healthcare services with good standards. They will, however, have to factor in the cost of health insurance if it isn't covered by their employer.


Cost of education in India

It's possible for expat children to attend public schools in India, but their standards aren't in line with what most expat parents would expect. Instead, expat children usually attend international schools. Securing a place at popular international schools in India is difficult, and calling upon contacts or even paying bribes to secure a place isn't unheard of.

Fees vary between schools but fees are routinely high, so it's important to try and negotiate a schooling allowance into employment contracts.


Cost of groceries and eating out in India

Expats who buy local produce will find that everyday groceries are cheap in India. Shopping at vegetable markets allows expats to eat fresh seasonal produce while supporting local vendors. Those who buy imported Western foods will have a considerably higher bill.

The cost of entertainment and eating out in India will vary according to an expat’s personal preferences. It's possible to eat out inexpensively in India, especially if expats are willing to try local cuisines. 


Cost of living in India chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Mumbai in December 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

INR 100,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

INR 50,000

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

INR 45,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

INR 25,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

INR 60

Milk (1 litre)

INR 50

Rice (1kg)

INR 55

Loaf of white bread 

INR 25

Chicken breasts (1kg)

INR 250

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

INR 300

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

INR 250

Coca-Cola (330ml)

INR 30

Cappuccino

INR 140

Bottle of local beer

INR 170

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

INR 1,200

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

INR 1

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

INR 900

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

INR 4,000

Transportation

City centre bus/train fare

INR 20

Taxi (rate per km)

INR 20

Petrol/gasoline per litre

INR 80

Culture Shock in India

With its unmatched diversity and a contrasting character that can both be enthralling and mystifying, expats may encounter some culture shock in India. Its hot and humid climate, muddled traffic blocks and hodgepodge of overexcited hawkers and guides are a lot to handle initially.  

That said, if expats can be patient and give themselves some time to adapt, it’s likely they’ll look at the country in an entirely different light as time passes. India presents immense opportunities to open up socially. Hospitality is encouraged from an early age and expats are often surprised to see the extent to which Indians are helpful and always ready to mingle.

In a nutshell, the country welcomes all with warmth. It just takes some effort and understanding to become comfortable with the attitude and approach of the locals. After all, its vast diversity is one of India’s most attractive qualities.


Bureaucracy in India

Getting things done in India can take a lot longer than it would in the West. Processes often seem inefficient and time-consuming. Expats may find they receive conflicting information depending on who they talk to. It is best to exercise patience and persistence because getting angry won't solve the problem.

Networking and building relationships with locals can help because in most cases having contacts within the right institutions can expedite processes. 


Women in India

Women in India may find that patriarchal attitudes can be all too common. That said, this is far less apparent in larger, more cosmopolitan cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai.

Still, women living in India may find themselves the target of unwanted attention, particularly when visiting crowded places, local markets or smaller towns. In such situations, it's best to dress more conservatively and not show too much skin.


Poverty in India

The wealth gap in India is massive – slums are side-by-side with skyscrapers and mansions. Poverty is a reality in India and expats will be confronted with it almost anywhere they go. 

Expats will get used to being targeted by beggars. The best option is always to ignore them. If one feels compelled to give something, food is always a better option than money. Wherever possible it is better to give to a reputable charity than individuals on the street.

Accommodation in India

Expats can add finding accommodation in India to the already extensive list of adventures they're going to have when they move.

Housing options vary greatly between areas, but expats moving to cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru can expect a smaller selection and more competition than in other locations. Overall, there are a few general points to bear in mind while doing pre-trip research about housing in India.

Unless expats plan on relocating to India for the long-term, most people opt to rent property rather than buying their home.


Types of property in India

Those relocating to India will find that the types of property available to them will depend very much on the location. Most expats will find themselves in one of India's bustling cities where they'll have a choice of a number of accommodation options.

More and more properties are being built in Indian cities to accommodate the ever-growing population. From modern apartment complexes and quaint bungalows to large villas suitable for families, there is usually a home to suit every demographic.

Rental prices in India are on the rise but most expats will find that these are still reasonable compared to those in other destinations.


Finding accommodation in India

The demand for good quality, reasonably priced accommodation outweighs the supply, so renting property in India can be challenging. The good news is that employers often help their expat employees find a place to stay, sometimes lining up a few options for them to choose between.

But many new arrivals aren't so lucky, and if they don't speak Hindi, they'll probably have to hire a local real estate agent. Expats in this position will need to be explicit about their specifications and what their price range is, otherwise they risk wasting their time viewing unsuitable properties.


Renting accommodation in India

Lease agreements in India can be tricky. To side-step tax, landlords often prefer to rent to people informally, with no official lease in place. Expats should never accept such an agreement, as they'd have no proof of residence, which is needed for various administrative processes.

Expats will either be offered a lease agreement of at least 12 months that is covered by rent control laws, or a lease and license agreement of up to 11 months. Lease and license agreements aren't covered by rent control laws, so landlords tend to prefer them. Security deposits in India are usually at least three months' rent, although landlords in big cities will often ask for six or even ten months' worth of rent as a deposit.

Healthcare in India

The quality of healthcare in India varies. Expats shouldn't struggle to find well-qualified English-speaking medical practitioners at private hospitals in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, but facilities in rural areas are limited.

Most people use private healthcare in India, even though many of them can't afford it. Costs escalate quickly, so expats will need to invest in health insurance.


Public healthcare in India

Public hospitals in India often employ well-trained English-speaking doctors. But a lack of equipment, funding and staff cause serious problems in the government sector. In addition, India’s public hospitals are overcrowded. Waiting lists for treatment are long and conditions aren't always hygienic. Public healthcare facilities in rural areas are even more limited.

As a result, locals and expats opt for private care whenever possible.


Private healthcare in India

Private hospitals in India are generally more in line with standards Western expats are used to. They are also preferred by Indian locals, who typically pay for these services out-of-pocket.

Private hospitals can often be used in non-emergencies for most medical needs, including regular check-ups and consultations. While there are many private facilities in cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, expats should research to find out which of their local healthcare providers best suits their needs.


Health insurance in India

All expats moving to India should ensure that they have adequate health insurance coverage. Working expats might have insurance provided by their employer, but it's important to keep in mind that some policies will only cover treatment at certain hospitals. Expats should investigate the terms of their given policy and make sure they understand what it covers. If there are limitations to the cover offered, consider paying extra for a more comprehensive policy.

Some international insurance providers may not be recognised by Indian hospitals, and in these cases expats will have to pay cash out of pocket. If this does happen, keeping all the necessary paperwork is essential if they want to be reimbursed by their insurer.


Pharmacies in India

Pharmacies are easy enough to find in major Indian cities. They're attached to most private medical facilities or in major shopping precincts. Most types of medication will be readily available and the costs are generally low. 

However, those travelling to more rural areas should ensure that they have a supply of any necessary medication because pharmacies may not be as well stocked in such places. 


Health hazards in India

New arrivals in India need to be especially careful when it comes to water and food hygiene – having an upset stomach is a common complaint of newcomers.

Tap water in India is not usually safe, so it's best to use boiled or bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. Ice cubes should be avoided. It's also a good idea to be wary of eating meat at street vendors and restaurants – at the very least, expats should make sure that their meal is hot and properly cooked.

Malaria is present throughout much of the country, so expats should take precautions against mosquito bites by using a repellent and covering up at dusk. Seeking medical advice about prophylaxis before moving to India is advisable.


Emergency services in India

While most private hospitals in India provide ambulance services at an additional fee, calling an ambulance is not always the best way to get to the hospital. Traffic congestion is a major problem in Indian cities and motorists often ignore an ambulance's siren. Private transport is often the fastest way to get to the hospital.

To call an ambulance in the event of an emergency, dial 102.

Education and Schools in India

It comes as no surprise that a strong emphasis on education in India is one of the driving forces behind its emerging economy. Indian schools constantly challenge their students to do better – but expats will find that this doesn't necessarily apply to the suffering public school system.

Private schools are popular in India, with most middle-class families opting to send their children to one. For expat parents, this will most likely take the form of a private international school, but with hundreds to choose from throughout the country, the decision can be a tough one. The curricula, learning environments and teaching philosophies at these institutions vary widely, and expat parents will need to select a school that aligns with their budget and expectations.

Another consideration is the shortage of seats at international schools throughout India. It's best to start the admissions process early and secure a place as early as possible. Often consisting of entrance exams and interviews, the admissions process is extremely competitive and waiting lists at popular schools can be extremely long. 


Public schools in India

Public schools in India are unlikely to meet most expats' standards. Class sizes exceed international norms, facilities may be mediocre at best, and administrative and budgetary issues are extremely common. In addition, while some public schools in India teach in English, many don't, which creates a language barrier that expat children struggle to overcome.


Private schools in India

Indian private schools have a good reputation but the emphasis on results and rote learning can be challenging for expat students.

Students are incredibly competitive and are pushed to perform by their families, and society in general. International students are often unaccustomed to this pressure and, as a result, many feel frustrated and insecure. That said, many students rise to the occasion and benefit greatly from learning in a multicultural environment.

Local private schools are also a great option for expats who plan on remaining in India in the long-term and who want their children to have a more integrated experience with the opportunity to mix with local children while receiving a high standard of education. 


International schools in India

International schools are ideal for expats who want their children to continue with their home-country curriculum. They also maintain their home country's primary teaching language and tend to employ familiar methods of instruction.

American and British international schools are well-represented across India and a number of schools representing other countries have opened in larger cities.

Expats should note, however, that international schools are among the most expensive. So if hired to work in India on a lucrative employment package, expats should ensure that a sizeable allowance is included to accommodate for school fees. 

Transport and Driving in India

Getting around in India can be an adventure and a challenge. In such a vast country, finding the best ways to travel will be important for expats looking to make the most of their time.

From modern metro systems in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata to old-fashioned rickshaws, transport in India is extremely varied and the selection can be overwhelming.

Expats who want to interact with the locals will enjoy using public transport, while those who want to get across the country fast can take advantage of affordable domestic flights.


Public transport in India

Using public transport in India is often challenging at first. It can be crowded, uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous at times. But patient expats will see that using buses and trains in India is cost-effective, allows them the chance to see more of the country and gives them insight into local everyday life.

Buses

Buses in India are often the cheapest way to get around. While most people prefer trains for long-distance journeys, the country's colourful buses offer quite a saving and are sometimes the only way to reach some of the country's more isolated areas. Major cities are also served by a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) which offers a speedier way of getting around locally.

Those who do decide to travel by bus should be aware that the roads are dangerous and accidents are a constant risk. Furthermore, luggage is usually stored on the roof of long-distance buses, so expats should make sure their bags are locked and secured. To minimise the effect of bumps and potholes, it's best to get a seat in the middle of the bus.

Trains

One of the best ways to see the country is travelling by train. The train network in India is extensive, prices are reasonable and they're a more comfortable choice for travelling long distances.

There are many different options. It's possible to hire a private sleeper compartment on some services and, where available, travelling in an air-conditioned compartment is worth the extra expense.

Train travel can become difficult during major festival periods, so it's a good idea to book tickets in advance. Tickets can either be booked at ticketing agents or bought at stations.

Metro

These modern underground train networks can be found in a number of cities, with more being continually constructed all over the country. Travelling by metro is a fast and efficient way to travel around these cities and allows commuters to avoid traffic congestion.


Rickshaws in India

Auto rickshaws are three-wheeled vehicles that can be found in most Indian towns and cities. They are generally cheaper than taxis, but while most of them have meters, drivers rarely use them. Passengers should therefore negotiate with the driver and agree on a fare before they start their journey.

Cycle rickshaws are three-wheeled bicycles with a support bench for passengers at the back and a canopy for shelter. They're more common in smaller towns than cities and aren't the most efficient mode of transport, but they certainly provide a novel way to get around.


Taxis in India

Taxis are easy to find in large cities throughout India. They can usually be hailed from the roadside, found at taxi stands or called in advance. Some cities do not allow taxis to be hailed on the street, however – this includes Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad. Taxis in India are required to have a meter and expats should make sure it's working at the start of their journey. Ride-hailing services like Uber and local equivalents are also available.

Share taxis are similar to normal taxis but carry several passengers who are travelling in the same direction. Fares are charged according to the number of passengers and the distance they're travelling. Aside from being cheap, they're a good option during city rush hours because they limit waiting time.


Driving in India

Some foreign driving licences will allow expats to drive in India for a set period, but it isn't for the faint-hearted. Unless they're used to navigating chaotic streets with erratic drivers, expats should think twice before getting behind the steering wheel.

Road standards in India vary. National highways are well maintained in certain areas, but city roads are usually narrow, potholed and poorly signposted. The Indian government has taken steps to improve road standards but the biggest challenge for expats will be dealing with local drivers who don't pay much attention to road rules.

Expats who want to use a car in India should consider hiring a local driver, which removes the stress of finding one's own way around and dealing with the chaos of Indian streets.


Domestic flights in India

Expats who need to get between major destinations quickly will find that flying is the fastest option. Numerous domestic airlines operate in India and flight prices are competitive.

One thing to note is that new airlines are known to pop up from time to time offering great deals, but end up shutting down quite quickly – getting a refund can be a major hassle. It may be best to use established airlines like Air India, GoAir, IndiGo, Jet Airways or SpiceJet.

To get the best prices on domestic flights in India, expats should book as far in advance as possible.

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 services are available and service standards are generally good.


Internet in India

Internet speeds in India generally lag behind other large economies. Nevertheless, broadband usage is steadily growing and even though a relatively small percentage of the population has access to high speeds and fixed lines, this still translates to millions of people. There are numerous companies and services to choose from, expats shouldn't have too much of a problem finding something that suits them. Costs vary between companies and depend on the package, but they generally increase with download speeds and the amount of data being used.

When out and about in big cities, expats will frequently come across free WiFi hotspots. However, internet speeds can be slow. Another option is internet cafes, of which there are many to choose from.


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 form and submit certain documents, including proof of identification and residence. Once that's done, the line will be activated in a few days.


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.

The largest operators in India include Airtel, Vodafone-Idea, Jio, and BSNL. Payment plans can either be pre-paid or post-paid, but navigating the different available packages can be challenging. If at all unsure, locals can often give good recommendations.


Postal service in India

India Post is the national postal service and is generally reliable. 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. 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. 


English media 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 in the south and The Hindustan Times has a large readership in the north. 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.

Shipping and Removals in India

Expats interested in shipping household goods to India will find an abundance of service providers offering both piecemeal delivery and complete relocation packages from anywhere in the world. Expats will generally have the choice of using sea freight, air freight, or both. The cost of shipping is determined by volume and method of delivery of the goods, as well as how far they will need to be transported.

Sea freight will, in most cases, prove to be more cost effective, especially if moving a large volume of goods. Air freight is delivered much quicker but costs are also higher. As a general rule, it’s best to divide shipments; send the essentials ahead of time via air freight, and the goods that are not immediate necessities via sea freight.

That said, expats should consider that inexpensive furniture options abound in India, and many accommodation options come either fully or partially furnished. As a result, it may not even be necessary to ship furniture at all.


Shipping duty-free to India

Expats planning on becoming formal residents of India can import their used personal and household goods duty-free. There are some exceptions to this rule, though, so it’s best that expats consult the Indian government’s baggage rules before finalising their shipment. 

Most expat relocation packages offer an allowance for air and sea freight, and it's best to take full advantage of any air freight allowance for essentials needed right away. 


Hiring an international removal company

The process of cross-continental relocation is best handled by international removal companies familiar with Indian transport and customs rules. These companies come to will survey everything that needs to be shipped and make a quote based on the size of the shipment. It's worthwhile to get a number of quotes for comparison before deciding which company to go with.

On the day of the move, the company will pack everything, take inventory, do basic disassembling of furniture, and deal with all customs formalities. Expect quotes to include delivery and unpacking services, as well as removal of debris, and basic reassembling of furniture at the destination point.

Expats should take out shipping insurance with a company not involved in the removal, as to ensure adequate protection and coverage of their goods. 


Shipping pets to India

The rules for shipping pets to India vary according to country of origin, but a vet's certificate and proof of certain vaccinations are standard requirements. Pets will also need to have a microchip implanted. As animal import regulations can be complex, it's best to consult with a pet relocation company.

Expat blogs in India

Few resources can build a better picture of life in India than the expat blogs maintained by already established foreigners. Whether these writers are recounting great challenges, relaying roll-on-the-floor funny encounters, delivering crucial advice and important tips or reaching out to those around them, their insight affords others a unique and personal glimpse into their new community.


Recommended expat blogs in India

Madam, let me tell you one thing

An ongoing discussion on the joys of Indian English and the gentle confusion that can cause to the speakers of Standard English. Posts on travels through Indian English and India from Bangalore.

Nationality: Irish

Expat Blog in India - Madam, Let Me Tell You One Thing

BombayJules

Julia is a British expat living in Mumbai who enjoys sharing her experiences of coping with the drastic change in culture, food and weather in her colourful blog. She shares some great insights about what to eat, where to shop, and her opinions about life in India.

Nationality: British

BombayJules - An expat blog in India

Maximumcitymadam

This insightful blog by Lindsey, a British expat in India, follows her life as a trailing spouse and mother in the bustling city of Mumbai. Certainly an entertaining read!

Nationality: British

Maximumcitymadam - An expat blog in India

Relocation Companies in India

Relocation businesses offer companies and individuals a full suite of services including pre-departure orientation, neighbourhood orientation, home-finding services, lease negotiation and utilities hook-ups, as well as school selection, visits and registration assistance. Removals companies, on the other hand, offer a more limited range of services that tend to focus on the transportation of goods.

Writer Relocations 

A global leader in relocation, Writer Relocations is committed to providing customised services and impeccable care to ensure that each step of the relocation process goes smoothly. The company has a history of helping over 25,000 clients move to India and beyond. Writer strives to meet the dynamic needs of the global community of expats.

Website: www.writercorporation.com

Santa_Fe_Relocation.jpg

Santa Fe Relocation

Santa Fe Relocation offers a full spectrum of relocation services for both corporate relocations and personal move customers. They are a global firm that can manage your move to India. Their services include home search, school search, moving services and pet relocation. 

Website: www.santaferelo.com

Team Relocations

Team Relocations offers fully integrated global relocation and international shipping services on a global, national and regional basis. Team counts many of the world’s leading corporations and government agencies as clients as well as assisting smaller companies with all they require during their employee relocation process.

Website: www.teamrelocations.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

► See more worldwide relocation companies.

Articles about India

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for settling into expat life in a new country, but here are a few helpful articles and personal stories that may help make living in India a little easier.


What to expect when moving to Delhi 

Not sure what to expect of life in India? Read this advice on moving to Delhi from an expat and cross-cultural expert.


Starting a business in India

Looking to open a company? Learn more about how to go about starting a business in India.


Choosing an international school in India

In an exclusive interview with Expat Arrivals, Harjyot shares some of her insights about the schooling system in India and offers advice to expat parents planning a move to India with children.


Having a baby in India

There is something unknown and uncharted about having a child, and giving birth as an expat in a foreign country could be a bit more daunting. One of the biggest challenges for new foreign arrivals in India would be to understand the options available to them in terms of having a baby.

Banking, Money and Taxes in India

Banks in India have somewhat of a reputation for cumbersome bureaucracy, but most of them provide convenient services once expats get through the red tape. Paying taxes can also be challenging but is much easier with the help of a local specialist.

Another thing expats will have to get used to is the Indian numbering system, where 100,000 is called one lakh and 100 lakhs is one crore or ten million. Globally, commas are put after every three digits when dealing with large numbers. In India, a comma is placed after every two digits past the 100,000 mark (1,00,000). This can be confusing, especially when dealing with financial statements.


Money in India

The official currency in India is the Rupee, abbreviated as INR or Rs, and it's controlled by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise, but paise coins are hardly in circulation anymore. So, while items can cost 50 paise in theory, the amount paid will be rounded up to one rupee – expats shouldn't be alarmed when they don't get change. In fact, getting change is often difficult, so keeping a stock of smaller denominations is wise. 

  • Notes: 1 INR, 5 INR, 10 INR, 20 INR, 50 INR, 100 INR, 200 INR, 500 INR and 2,000 INR

  • Coins: 1 INR, 2 INR, 5 INR and 10 INR


Banking in India

The Indian banking sector is robust and offers numerous services in public, private and international banks. ATMs and bank branches are easily accessible in major cities and towns, credit cards are widely accepted and most banks offer internet banking services. But it's still advisable to carry cash when travelling away from cities.

Opening a bank account

Most banks offer a non-resident (NRO) savings or current account for expats who earn an income in India. Features vary between banks but account holders will at least be provided with debit or credit cards as well as internet and phone banking.

Most NRO accounts will require expats to maintain an average quarterly balance. While the amount may differ depending on the bank, failure to maintain the balance will result in a penalty fee.

To open a bank account, expats will generally need to provide proof of identity, proof of address and copies of their passport and visa. Many expats have their company open an account for them, which is often with an international bank. 


Taxes in India

Expats who live in India for 182 days or more in a year are considered to be tax residents and will have to pay tax on their local income. Personal income tax in India is progressive up to 30 percent, with an additional cess of three percent.

All individual taxpayers have to file an individual tax return and are assessed separately. Some companies file their employees' returns for them, but expats can also do this for themselves online. Given that tax in India is relatively complicated, expats who aren't especially tax-savvy may want to enlist the help of an accountant.

Expat Experiences in India

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in India and would like to share your story.


Gabriel is an Australian expat living in New Delhi. He moved to India in 2007 and took a brave step and set up his own business. Learn more about how Gabriel is making the most of his life in the country by embracing the local culture by reading his interview about his expat experience in India.

Deborah is a British expat living in Bangalore, India with her husband and young daughter. She relocated to India as a 'trailing spouse' when her husband landed a new job in Bangalore. In her interview with Expat Arrivals she provides some fantastic insights into culture shock and life as an expat in Bangalore. Check out her interview about expat life in India

Adria Bannock is a British expat living in Chennai, India. She is a photographer who loves the liveliness and chaos that Chennai has to offer. To find out more about Adria's experiences as a trailing spouse in Chennai check out her interview with Expat Arrivals about life in India.

Lisa Marks is an American expat living in India. Lisa is no stranger to expat life, having previously had homes in the UK and Thailand. To find out more about Lisa's experiences of being a trailing spouse read her interview with Expat Arrivals about her time in India.

BombayJules is a British expat living in India. She moved to Mumbai with her husband when he was transferred there for work. She has made the most of her time in Mumbai as a “trailing spouse” (a term she is not too fond of) by volunteering, writing for an expat magazine, travelling, and experiencing all that India has to offer. Read more about her expat life in India.

Bombay Jules - an expat living in India

Doris Delassard is a French expat who has been living in Delhi for the past nine years, and thinks India is a wonderful place to be. She works as a relocation specialist and is a partner in MD Relocation and Consultancy. Read more about her expat life in Delhi.

Doris pf MD Relocation - A French expat in India

Mathilde Souffront is a French expat living in Mumbai. She first came to India as a manager of a French boutique hotel and is now a relocation specialist and partner in MD Relocation and Consultancy. Read more about her expat life in Mumbai.

Mathilde of MD Relocation - A French expat in India

Rakhee is an Australian expat of Indian origin. She moved to India for a life change, and after nine months backpacking around the country, decided to settle in Mumbai. She enjoys the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai, which brings a new adventure every day. Read about her expat experience in India.

Rakhee - An Australian expat living in India

Linsey Gordon is a British expat who moved to India as the "trailing spouse" when her husband got a job in Mumbai. Three years later, despite the cultural adjustments, life has been an adventure and she does not regret the move. Read about her expat experience in Mumbai.

Gordon family in India

Pruma is an Indian national who has lived in the States for many years and recently decided to return to India. Now living between Hyderabad and Bangalore with her husband and young son, she shares some of her of expat experiences of repatriating to India after being away for so long. 

Pruma - An Indian national returning to India

Theo Scheffler is a 35-year-old born in Cape Town, South Africa, now living in Hyderabad, India. He is currently the Chief Actuary at Shriram Life Insurance. Theo has been married for more than 12 years and has a 9-month-old daughter. Read in detail about his expat experiences in India.

Piet Viljoen is a 52 year-young Mining Engineer who manages projects for Joy Mining Machinery (India). He ended up in India in October 2008 and loves the difference he makes there. "In South Africa I was too old and too white, here I am honoured because I am so experienced." Read about his take on expat life in India.


Ellen Weeren moved from Northern Virginia to Delhi, India a year ago and has since made Delhi her home, along with her husband and 3 children. They reside on her husband's employment visa which was arranged by his company. Read about her expat life in Delhi here.

Lloyd Lauland moved from Houston, Texas to New Delhi, India almost 2 years ago with his wife and 16 year old son after being awarded a company promotion. In his opinion the inconveniences of living in a 3rd world country are outweighed by the city's "rich history, wonderful people and high quality of life". Learn more about his expat experience in New Delhi, India.

Despite Jennifer Kumar’s cross-cultural expertise, she’s still finding life as an American living in India challenging, and in some cases, quite unforgiving. In her interview with ExpatArrivals.com, she provides a telling window into expat life in Kochi (state of Kerala).

JenniferK - an American expat living in India

Kathi is from the USA but has been living in Ahmedabad, India for the last 3 years. She and her husband relocated to India and started their own business. Her Expat Arrivals interview about her experience in India gives a good idea of what to expect.

Naomi Hattaway lives in Delhi, India and actively blogs about her experiences there. She has found the transition to life in India to be a challenging but hugely rewarding experience. Read about her unique perspective on expat life in Delhi.

Annie Andrews is an Environmental Scientist who left a life lived 20 years in Darwin, Australia for a cricket inspired relocation to Pune, India. Her husband is a state cricket coach, her boys are enjoying the country's competition, and she finds herself an unlikely "cricket widow", which leaves plenty of time for expat activities like volunteering and travelling. Read her insights to expat life in India here.

Katia Novet is a writer and translator from France and Haiti, now living in Hyderabad, India. She has written the well-received children's book Amadi's Snowman, "the story of a Nigerian boy, a book, and the opening of worlds." Read all about Katia's take on expat life in India and particularly the local educational system.

Marina Marangos is a Greek Cypriot by origin, born and raised on the island. Her professional background is law but she enjoys writing and travelling even more. Luck or circumstance have taken her to London, Kenya, Liverpool, Geneva and now to New Delhi in India which will be her new home for the next few years. Read about Marina's expat experience of expat experience life in India here.

Alex de Goederen has turned a love affair with India's exoticism and rich opportunity into a career by moving to Delhi and opening a real estate consultancy with a partner. He now acts as a guide to expats moving to Delhi and bewildered by the lack of any correlation between price, quality and area. Read more in his interview about his expat experience in India.