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Moving to India

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Moving to India? We've compiled a laundry list of advice from expats living in India about what to bring, apartments, expat life and more. It's must-read guide for anyone researching how to move to India.

Expats in India - Moving to India

Did you know that unfurnished apartments in India come without furniture, kitchen appliances and air conditioners? Plus, ovens are a rarity and power outages are frequent. And, families are the priority. Continue reading for more practical advice about moving to India.

What is it like moving in India?

When we asked expats what it's like living in India, they responded:

"Basically, in India, daily life revolves around five quadrant i.e family, work, religion, self and socializing. But for the past few years the younger generation are more focused on work and being financially secured, unlike the older generation who had a higher level of contentment," commented one expat who made the move to India.

"For the working partner, life revolves around work and related socalizing. However, there is plenty to do in terms of sport clubs, Movie Clubs, Toast Masters Club, etc..," said one expat who moved to Pune, India.

"Hyderabad is a city steeped in history and is more than 400 years old. It has a cross cultural mix of people from all walks of life. Hyderabad is now noted for its advancement in ITC and has a lot of Expats around the Hi Tech City. Hyderabad is noted for its age old cuisine and the city people are very outgoing and love eating out. Family is a very important part of life and you will see complete families, including older parents and grandparents freely doing the rounds in the city. The city is also a very keen sports city with golf sailing etc.. a very important event," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to India.

Another expat said, "I thought I would be lonely when I moved to India. However, I had an enriching lifestyle. I met loads of other expat people, enjoyed events organised by 2 expat groups in India and learned new stuff while living in Pune. I wasn't allowed to work according to my dependent visa which was a pain as I had job offers coming in. But I took the time to learn about yoga & became a certified yoga teacher as well as a certified makeup artist. I improved on my language skills as I met foreigners who spoke French and Mandarin. Instead of being lonely, I was very busy each day. I got to know the locals as well and you learn to appreciate local delicacies. I enjoyed eating Indian food. That was one aspect of being an expat that lived beyond my expectation. I will definitely miss living in India for this reason!"

Moving to India

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Choosing the Right Neighborhood

"We had the services of a relocation firm who lined up a lot of places to look at. We didn't plan it, but we lucked out as unlike a lot of the usual expat colonies in Pune, once our driver has gone for the day we aren't confined at home or relying on autorickshaws. It is a short stroll to some very good restaurants, and a couple of blocks to the local supermarket and plenty of other stores whilst still being a quiet neighborhood," recounted one expat.

Slums in India

"As for slums, there are a lot, and they coexist among the newly built condominiums too. The divide between rich and poor is so obvious. At every corner, there are beggars begging for money. It's something you have to learn to be immune to as you can't be giving all the time and some are organised gangs of beggars," explained one expat in Pune.

Typical Expat Apartments in India & How to Find Them

"We live in a 3 bed apartment with a roof terrace. There is a variety of housing available including bungalows and townhouse type homes. Most expats will live in apartments. Property rental here is expensive, we pay nearly $2,000 a month for our 3 bed, 3 bath apartment. Undoubtedly, expats pay more than locals and rental amounts are increasing quite quickly due to an influx of expats. Agents tell us that suitable properties are increasingly hard to find," explained one expat.

Another expat advised, "Ideally, talk with people who have lived there. Is the water supply ok? Is it safe? What kind of neighbours? Any mold risk? Who is paying for the gate guards and what is the deal. Are there quarters for servants and maids?"

"Be very clear to what you want and make sure the settling in people stick to your guidelines as they will waste your time showing things that don't fit; I knew what was on the boat and needed 4 bedrooms and they kept showing us 3 bedroom flats. I knew that I wanted to be close to Indian culture without sacrificing access to expat shopping. I did not want my husband and children to spend more than one hour on commuting. Ask Indians for advice; so many freely helped us navigate the waters. They were our saving grace," advised one expat.

"We live in 2000 sq ft, flat; 4 bedroom that 3 bedrooms have 2 floor to ceiling wall closets; 5 bathrooms as the smallest is for the maid; 3 patios with 2 small patios attached to 2 bedrooms. The kitchen is small with one sink and a built in stove and a patio for the washing machine. I had to buy the refrigerator. I have a storage room with shelves. I have wall sliding glass doors in 2 bedrooms and the living room, and large window in the dining area, giving the place lots of light, and unfortunately, heat. We have an AC unit in each bedroom and living room. It is smaller than most expats' homes. They tend to live in much larger flats," wrote an expat who moved to Mumbai.

You'll Need a PAN Card to Rent an Apartment

India's Income Tax Department issues each resident a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for income tax purposes. "Get your PAN card ASAP; you can't sign a lease agreement without one," pointed out one expat. For more information: Additional check list for foreign citizen PAN applicants.

Furnished vs. Unfurnished Apartments in India

"Bear in mind that unfurnished here means not just no furniture but no air conditioners, appliances and so forth. Make sure you know exactly what is included. Don't be shy about asking for things such as new mattresses and also new furniture if it looks well used! Decide before packing whether you will choose to live in unfurnished, partially furnished or furnished. A colleague packed assuming he'd find an unfurnished apartment but wasn't able to find one (mostly furnished here) and now he and his wife are having to try and store furniture that they brought from the US. No easy task," advised one expat.

"Don't expect an oven, very few places have them. We only saw one apartment with an oven (which we now live in, but that wasn't the deciding factor). Microwaves are smaller than in the US but you can get combination microwaves that also double as a convection oven. You won't be cooking big turkeys so a small oven shouldn't be too troublesome. Insist on a water purifier. When you arrive start out with bottled water and after several weeks convert to the purifed water and your stomach should adapt pretty well," said one expat.

Healthcare in India

"The quality of medical care in India varies considerably. Medical care in the major population centers approaches and occasionally meets Western standards, but adequate medical care is usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas. Outbreaks of avian influenza (H5N1 virus) occur intermittently in eastern India, including West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Assam. Malaria prophylaxis depends on time of year and area the traveler is visiting. Dengue fever presents significant risk in urban and rural areas. The highest number of cases is reported from July to December, with cases peaking from September to October. Daytime insect precautions such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and mosquito repellent are recommended by the CDC," wrote the US State Department.

"Medicine costs are reasonable compared to US. Many pharmacies sell medications. May not get exact name brands as in USA but chemically equivalent medicines can be obtained. Most medications need Prescriptions. Many pharmacies do give out medicines if you tell them the local name," said one expat in a report about healthcare in India.

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What to Bring When Moving to India (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in India what they wish they had brought when moving to India and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"Three things I wish I had brought: a good pair of winter slippers, because houses here are uninsulated, so the winters can be cooler inside than out; another set of good kitchen knives, since ones we have found here are not of very good quality; another pair of indestructible sandals from some of the big name brands, since here you can get cheap sandals custom-made...but they also require resoling, and have no arch support! Three things I wish I had left at home: electric blanket, because even despite a transformer & converter, it still blew and now the fancy function doesn't work; our queen-size fitted sheets that we were told to bring, because you can't get fitted sheets here--only to find out that 'queen size' is really closer to king, it being two single beds pushed together; my winter coats, because you can manage just fine with a sweater and t-shirt, silk underwear and normal clothes, and so on - winter coats are a waste of space and it's not cold enough," said one expat who moved to Mussoorie, India.

"I wished I had brought a good mattress, good pillows, I should have not have brought thick clothes and medicines," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to India.

"I wish I brought my vacuum cleaner as Mumbai is terribly dusty. Otherwise, I've been able to buy anything else I need. I wish I left all my oven cookware behind as ovens don't come with flats. It is an appliance I'm not willing to buy," commented one expat who made the move to India.

Moving to India soon? Crown Relocations owns and operates over 207 facilities in almost 54 countries. Their global network means they're unique in the relocations business and they're able to use Crown crews and vehicles wherever possible. Get a quote online by May 25, 2019 and you'll be entered to win 1 of 5 $250* Amazon gift cards.

Bringing Your Pet to India

In a discussion about moving to Pondicherry, one expat told newcomer who asked about brining their pet, "Pet relocation take a little planning, the dog needs rabies vaccination 30 to 60 days prior to departure so the pet passport needs to be checked to ensure that the timelines are maintained as you mentioned that you shall be relocating in March'17. To import a pet into India one will need to obtain permission from the quarantine department, in your case the pet will either arrive in Chennai or Bangalore, we prefer bangalore we are at the location and can facilitate the process faster. The permission is valid for 7 days and one needs to make sure in advance that everything is in place."

Be Prepared for Frequent Power Outages

"Power blackouts are common. Make sure you have generator back-up or at least an inverter (battery back up) or you'll spend a lot of time in the dark," cautioned one expat. Another expat recommended that newcomers looking for an apartment, "Check if there is a generator and what is connected to generator. For eg it is very important to have air conditioners connected to generator."

"You have to make do with sporadic power outbreak. Initially, I was informed that Thursday was the day where power would be cut off for a few hours. A couple of times, power outbreak lasted over 24 hours. Sometimes, it did extend to other days as well," described one expat.

Driving in India is Dangerous

According to the US State Department, "Travel by road in India is dangerous. India leads the world in traffic-related deaths and a number of U.S. citizens have suffered fatal traffic accidents in recent years. You should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets, even in marked pedestrian areas, and try to use only cars that have seatbelts. Seatbelts are not common in three-wheel taxis (autos) and in taxis' back seats. Helmets should always be worn on motorcycles and bicycles.Travel at night is particularly hazardous. On Indian roads, the safest driving policy is always to assume that other drivers will not respond to a traffic situation in the same way you would in the United States. Buses and trucks often run red lights and merge directly into traffic at yield points and traffic circles. Cars, autos, bicycles, and pedestrians behave only slightly more cautiously. Use your horn or flash your headlights frequently to announce your presence. It is both customary and wise. Inside and outside major cities, roads are often poorly maintained and congested. Even main roads frequently have only two lanes, with poor visibility and inadequate warning markers. On the few divided highways one can expect to meet local transportation traveling in the wrong direction, often without lights. Heavy traffic is the norm and includes (but is not limited to) overloaded trucks and buses, scooters, pedestrians, bullock and camel carts, horse or elephant riders en route to weddings, bicycles, and free-roaming livestock. Buses, patronized by hundreds of millions of Indians, are convenient in that they serve almost every city of any size. However, they are often driven fast, recklessly, and without consideration for the rules of the road. Accidents are quite common."

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Updated On: Jan 22, 2019

First Published: Jan 22, 2019

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