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India is an exotic and incredible destination for British expats, with around 32,000 UK nationals currently living there. The food, diversity, culture and climate are all a world away from the UK and provide a stunning contrast to life as we know it.
However, if you’re considering an international relocation, you’ll want to get an idea about what it’s really like for an expat in India – and what you can expect from the experience.
Here we’ll cover the ins and outs of living in India as a British national and all the pros and cons you need to be aware of.
Table of contents
Why Expats Live in India
If you’re undecided about whether India is the right destination for you, first, let’s recap some of the top reasons British expats choose this country as their home from home.
- Indian cuisine is unique and delicious. While every region and province has local specialities, food is a big part of Indian life. It’s also a cuisine that caters effortlessly to vegetarian diets.
- The culture is massively diverse, with the cities a melting pot of ethnicities and subcultures.
- Geographically India is an incredible place to explore. From visiting the gorgeous beaches of Goa to the clamour of Delhi, the mysterious Ellora and Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, to the ancient city of Varanasi, there is always something new to see.
- There are festivals galore – and they’re all vibrant and colourful. India has over 40 festivals every year, each one a national holiday and reason to celebrate.
- Most Indian locals speak English in business, tourist areas and in the larger cities. There are no less than 22 languages and 1,652 unofficial languages and dialects in Indian culture – although English remains widely spoken.
- Quality of life on a modest budget is strikingly different to that in the UK. From hiring drivers and cleaners, haircuts to transport, India is hugely affordable.
We often think of the chaotic but beautiful city streets or the world-famous Taj Mahal. However, India is so much more than that and is a country of extreme contrasts.
We’ll explore some of the best places to live in India soon, but it’s well worth taking your time to look around. There are many secret gems, such as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which rank among the most beautiful in the world yet are largely undiscovered by tourism.
Visas and Residency for UK Nationals in India
If you’re moving to India long-term or permanently, you’ll need to start with a visa. That requirement applies to any foreign national travelling for over 180 days.
There are several different visa categories, depending on why you are moving and for how long. Your visa needs to be applied for in advance through the Government of India.
These are grants for applicants who have confirmed employment with an Indian business or moving to take on voluntary work. You will need:
- A stamped and signed confirmation letter from the employer, along with copies of the contract, including the salary, post, length of the appointment and any terms.
- To register for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) – this is an income tax code, which you can register for online at NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure.
You also need to register with a Foreigner Regional Registration Office within 14 days of arriving. These offices are found in all the major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Appointments are required to register, and you’ll need to attend an interview. These can be booked online for expats arriving in Delhi.
At that appointment, you will need to provide all of the documentation according to your visa category. You will also need copies of your passport, visa approval and an Rs 100 registration fee (£0.98).
The authority will issue a Certificate of Registration following the interview, which you need to then register for a Residence Permit to be permitted to work in India.
Other visa categories include:
- Business visas – usually restricted to a 180 day stay period. If the business traveller wishes to stay longer, they can register for the FRRO as above and request an extension.
- Student visas – available for students who have a recognised invitation to study at an Indian educational institute.
For Indian citizens looking to get permanent residency in the UK, take a look at the Tier 1 Investor Visa as this may solve some problems.
Best Places to Live in India as an Expat
If you’re moving to India for work, it’s likely your employment base will dictate where you live.
Unlike many European countries, most of the residential accommodation in India’s cities is close to the centre – with offices and workplaces based in industrial zones around the outskirts.
However, if you have options, there are a few destinations that are standout favourites among the expat community:
is famous for its beaches and is a busy tourist destination. There is a blend of laid-back traveller lifestyle, available on a small budget, alongside lavish resorts and upmarket eateries. Expats enjoy the relaxed culture without needing to dress as conservatively as in much of India.
is the top location for the financial sector, and so is often the location of choice for professionals. There are millions of businesses here, with higher costs of living in the prestigious postcodes in Bandra, Powai and Juhu. However, you can find lower-cost accommodation in the city that never sleeps.
on the banks of the Bay of Bengal, couldn’t be more different. It is a calm, peaceful destination with low living costs, although plenty of work opportunities owing to the tourism industry.
is another top expat destination, home to around eight per cent of foreign nationals in India. It is also the country’s silicon valley, with lots of organisations in the IT and tech start-up sectors.
Along with the bustling cities and peaceful coastal retreats, there are great alternatives such as living off the beaten track in Manali, Shimla or McLeod Ganj in the Himalayas.
Still, most British expats will choose Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi, with all of the large cities offering residential accommodation catering to a range of budgets, with schools and transport links throughout the country.
Cost of Living in India
Like many countries, the cost of living in India as an expat depends on where you live, whether you are in employment, and whether your salary originates from the UK or an international employer or a local Indian business.
However, your budget will likely stretch significantly further, with UK consumer prices 184 per cent higher and rental costs a massive 481 per cent cheaper in India.
The below prices show some everyday costs of living with the Indian average compared to the UK.
|Expense||The average cost in India (Rs)||The average cost in India (£)||The average cost in the UK|
|Monthly rent – one-bed city centre apartment||11,747||£115||£747|
|Monthly rent – a three-bed suburban house||16,425||£161||£962|
|Public transport pass per month||700||£6.85||£65|
|Meal out for two||850||£8.31||£50|
|Nursery fees for a month||4,072||£40||£934|
|International school fees per year||121,556||£1,189||£13,303|
|One litre of fuel||80||£0.78||£1.26|
|Bottle of water||15||£0.15||£0.96|
|Loaf of fresh bread||34||£0.33||£0.98|
If you’re earning an Indian salary, you will also make a similarly low wage compared to income averages in the UK. The average salary is around 31,900 Rs per month (about £311).
A lot depends on the work you do – a systems software developer will usually earn around 590,000 Rs per year – approximately £5,750. If you are retiring, continuing to work for an international employer, or running a business from India, your budget will afford a lavish lifestyle at local living costs.
Healthcare in India
If you move permanently to India or apply for indefinite leave to remain, you will be entitled to free public healthcare. However, as with many state healthcare provisions, there can be long waiting times.
There is also a significant disparity between the services available in the cities and more rural areas and the care standards between public and private hospitals.
The costs of private healthcare remain very low when compared to countries such as the US. Private insurance costs around 15,200 Rs (£148) per year for a family of five and around 5,500 Rs (£54) per year per person.
Living In India FAQ’s
India is a cheap country to live in and hence is a popular choice for British nationals. The average living costs, including accommodation, food and water, cost around 15,000 to 20,000 Rs a month (£146 to £195).
Much depends on the location, and long-term rentals will often ask for a 10-month deposit to secure the property. Luxury properties in expensive cities, such as Bangalore, can cost up to 45,000 Rs (£438) a month for a serviced apartment in a prime central location.
They do, particularly in business or in the bigger cities. Around 10 per cent of the Indian population speaks English, so you can usually get by in tourist destinations or workplaces.
That said, it does pay to learn at least some Hindi, which is spoken by around 44 per cent of the population. This can change regionally given the volume of official and unofficial national languages, though, with approximately eight per cent speaking Bengali and seven per cent Marathi.
India has distinctly different weather, with most of the country being hot and tropical for most of the year. Summer runs from April until October and can get up to 45 °C or even hotter.
The monsoon season usually starts in June and provides relief from the heat. However, it can cause flooding, particularly in areas where the road networks are not fitted with sound drainage systems.
The picture is very different in the north, and regions such as Kashmir, Jammu, and Himachal Pradesh are much colder.
It’s always wise to do your homework and brush up on the local laws before travelling to a country with quite different customs and cultures than your own.
Here are a few of the laws it is essential to know before settling down in India:
Interactions between male officials, including police officers, and women, are restricted. Male police cannot escort any women to a police station.
Public displays of affection are frowned on and can be a reportable offence in more rural areas where the customs are very traditional.
It is illegal to go topless on any beach, anywhere in India, and bikinis are not advisable in more religious Southern Indian areas.
There are several zones where taking photos or videos is illegal. That includes airports, railway stations, military and government zones.
Alcohol is legal, but the age limit can range from 18 to 25, depending on which region you are in. There are occasional statewide alcohol bands, such as coming up to an election.
Cows are sacred, and injuring or killing a cow can land you five years in an Indian prison, even in a car accident. You cannot buy, import or export any beef product.
There do tend to be plenty of job opportunities for expats, although there is also steep competition from locals given the massive 1.36 billion populations. However, many Indian businesses and corporations actively seek foreign workers.
International banks, consumer markers and the technology sector are the biggest employers in the country. Many expats also find work in tourism, financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.
Larger organisations are the biggest employers of foreign nationals, including:
– Axis Bank.
– Tata Group.
– State Bank of India.
The majority of jobs are in the northern cities, with New Delhi being a political hub and Mumbai, the home to most financial sector employers. Tourism jobs are easy to come by in Goa, and Bengaluru in the south is a megacity with many high-tech positions on offer.
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