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Where to Live for Expats in India

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2013

Finding the right place to live in India depends on many factors. There are practical considerations such as accommodation prices, the cost of living and availability of local amenities. Then there are emotional criteria, such as the desirability of a place – whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or an active social life.

Most expats live where most of the available work is, that is, in the large cities. The three cities with the most job opportunities for expats are Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Delhi, the capital city (to put it simply), is very prosperous and has the most advanced infrastructure and transport in the country. It is geared towards family living and was voted the city with the highest quality of living in India in 2010. However, accommodation is expensive, and the people have a reputation for being rather unfriendly. Popular expat areas in Delhi include Patel Nagar, Vasant Vihar and the rather expensive Defence Colony.

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is India’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. It is an exhilarating city, containing a kaleidoscopic variety of people and experiences. Once you have learnt to embrace all this, your time in Mumbai will be enriching. Mumbai is also in the world’s top 20 cities for billionaires, and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive city in the country to live in. Prices are not helped by the fact that the city is on an island and land space is scarce. Mumbai is favoured more by entrepreneurs and single professionals rather than families.

Kolkata (originally Calcutta) is somewhat behind the other large cities in terms of development, though it is catching up. It is the most culturally important city in India and has many attractions. Kolakta also has a low crime rate compared to other Indian cities, and the lowest cost of living in a country which already has one of the lowest in the world. Popular residential areas for expats in Kolkata are Salt Lake in the east and Alipore in the south.

Bangalore (or Bengaluru) has undergone dramatic development recently. As a result of this, it still has plenty of low-cost accommodation available to go with the ever-increasing numbers of luxury apartments. Bangalore has a thriving nightlife, with the largest number of pubs in any city in India. It is very advanced in terms of modern amenities, having many excellent international schools for example. East Bangalore is the most popular area with expats; it includes gated communities such as Palm Meadows.

Chennai (or Madras) is another rapidly developing South Indian city. Like Bangalore, Chennai has become an important centre of India’s booming IT industry. In fact, Tidel Park, in south Chennai, is Asia’s largest IT park. Many expats live in this area, from Alwarpet to Besant Nagar on the Bay of Bengal. Also popular is Anna Nagar in the north-west of the city.

As far as whereabouts in a city to live is concerned, commuting can often be in a reverse direction in India. This is because, typically, most of the available accommodation is in the city centre, while most workplaces are in industrial estates in the city outskirts. There is therefore a trade-off between a convenient place for work and for the city’s amenities. It may be worthwhile to take the time to find a place that is close to your workplace, thus avoiding a lengthy commute, but not too far from the city centre.

India’s national grid runs at about 20% below what is required. This means that, wherever you live, you are likely to experience frequent power cuts, though they are more frequent in smaller cities. Voltage stabilisers will help minimise the effects of power cuts.



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