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How Much Does It Cost to Live in India?

India is a culture shock for even the most well-travelled amongst us. It is an exotic and diverse country and the cities are rich with noise, smells and sounds. Many forget that India is a small country (covering only 2% of the world’s total land) but is home to over 1.3 billion people. This can be overwhelming, particularly in the cities. However, it can also equal a fascinating life in a country like no other.

The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, release their Global Prosperity Index annually. The survey ranks the most prosperous countries in the world. Many assume prosperity is used in reference to the financial standing of a country and, while this is included, the Legatum Institute considers more factors in its ranking.

Ranking in 104th place in 2016’s report (out of 149 countries) was India. This puts India in the bottom 30%, with its rankings for natural environment (140), health (113) and safety and security (135) being the main reasons for India’s poor placing. India’s best result was for governance, where it ranked in 47th position.

With plentiful job opportunities for skilled expats, affordable accommodation and a vibrant culture it is not hard to understand why many move to India. However, how much does it cost to live there?

India’s Economy

India plays a significant role in world trade and has the seventh largest economy in the world when measured by nominal GDP and third largest by purchasing power parity. It is a newly industrialised country which means that although It is not on part with developed countries, it has grown larger than similar developing countries. It is also one of the G20 major economies, meaning India promotes international financial stability.

Despite these positives, poor management of public finances, corruption and an underdeveloped infrastructure has put India’s 7% economic growth over the past two decades into the shadows. The majority of growth during this period has not preserved the country’s economic freedom and a restrictive regulatory body discourages entrepreneurship and has put private-sector development at a stalemate.


The official currency of India is the Rupee, abbreviated to INR. Each rupee is split into 100 paise, but paise coins are not seen in circulation often. There are eight notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 INR. There are also four coins: 1, 2, 5, and 10 INR.

How to Rent or Buy a House in India

Expats who seem themselves in India for the foreseeable future may wish to purchase a property. Whilst the process can be complicated, it is not impossible. However, only foreign nationals who have a residency permit are eligible to buy a home. Residency can be acquired by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation. Those who do not have Indian parents or an Indian spouse must acquire permanent residency by naturalisation. They will need to meet one of the following criteria:

  • Lived in Indian for 11 of the last 14 years prior to application
  • Lived continuously in India for a period of 12 months immediately prior to the date of application

Regardless of how you achieve residency, it is best to hire the expertise of a lawyer who specialises in property to take you through the process of buying a property in India.

The rental market in Indian is very competitive as the demand outweighs the supply of affordable property. Expats who do not have accommodation as part of a relocation package from their employer may find it difficult to source somewhere to live, especially if they do not speak Hindi. Hiring a local multilingual estate agent is the best option for success.

Expats may notice that many landlords like to lease informally, this is to dodge tax. Foreigners should never accept a property without a contract in place, which will usually cover a 12-month rental period. Security deposits in India tend to be two or three month’s rent and estate agents charge half a month’s rent as commission. Homes in Delhi range from £154 per month for a basic apartment or house share and up to £3,6000 per month for multi-bedroomed villa style houses.

Expat Healthcare in India

India has a universal healthcare system, but it is the job of the various states and territories to provide public healthcare. Therefore, the standard of care varies between areas depending on how the budget is being spent. Those who can afford it opt for private medical cover and it is essential that expats choose this option too to ensure the best standards of care if treatment was needed.

The majority of public hospitals throughout India have well-trained staff, many of which are English speaking. It is not the calibre of the staff that is the issue, it is outdated equipment and lack of funds causing issues in the sector. Despite many Indian people being able to afford private healthcare and taking the strain off public facilities, hospitals are often overcrowded and, in the rural areas, unhygienic.

Private hospitals in India are extremely westernised and will be what a lot of expats are used to. These hospitals double up as clinics for regular doctor’s visits and non-emergencies. Expats who want to ensure they have the best healthcare available during their time in India should invest in expat medical insurance before they travel.

Expat Education in India

India’s primary education system has improved dramatically during recent years, with literacy rates the highest they have ever been. However, only 7% of students are finishing school in the public sector and it still needs further improvements. With virtually no public schools teaching in English and large class sizes and limited budgets, expat children tend to attend private or international schools.

Private schools are championed in India, particularly due to the substantial drop in fees compared to international schools. Most of the private schools have fantastic reputations, but older children can find adapting to the Indian way of teaching much more difficult. Expats with children of primary age tend to be more inclined to send their children to a private Indian school. It allows children, particularly those who will be living in India for the foreseeable future, to become aligned with the culture and make Indian friends.

Despite the very expensive fees, many parents feel their children would be better suited to life at an international school. Children can either study the curriculum of their original country or work towards the internationally recognised IB. Tuition charges range from £3,664 (284,000 rupees) per year for younger children and £5,884 (456,000 rupees) per year for senior years. Parents will also be expected to pay a one-off admissions charge for new starters, usually around £5,000.

Jobs in India for Expats

With a population over 1.3 billion and a developing economy, competition for jobs is strong. However, due to a large portion of the population being under qualified, employers are often keen to employ graduates and highly skilled expats. If you are seeking work in India, those who speak English will not have much trouble settling in as the main business language is English.

Many expats find themselves securing roles in the following industries in cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai:

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Food processing
  • Leather
  • Machinery
  • Steel
  • Textiles

Comparison to UK

The world’s largest database, Numbeo, has a vast selection of user contributed data in regards to India. Compared to the UK, the cost of living is considerably lower in India.

The tables below provide an over view of the differences in costs between India and the UK. Please note that all Indian prices have been converted into British pounds.

Groceries UK Price (£) India Price (in £) Cheaper Country?
Milk (1l) £0.90 £0.52 India
White bread (500g) £1.00 £0.33 India
Eggs (12) £1.88 £0.70 India
Local Cheese (1kg) £5.39 £3.71 India
Banana (1kg) £1.01 £0.55 India
Water (0.33l) £0.96 £0.17 India


Transport UK Price (£) India Price (in £) Cheaper Country?
Petrol (1l) £1.14 £0.83 India
One-way ticket £2.50 £0.20 India
Monthly pass £130 £7.22 India
Taxi (1km) £3 £0.16 India


Utilities (Monthly) UK Price (£) India Price (in £) Cheaper Country?
Electricity/Heating/Water for 85m2 apartment £147.29 £24.93 India
1 minute of PAYG talk time £0.13 £0.01 India
Internet (10 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL) £23.98 £14.02 India


Clothing UK Price (£) India Price (in £) Cheaper Country?
Jeans (Levi or similar) £62.48 £27.61 India
Dress (chain store) £31.24 £27.55 India
Nike running shoe £66.04 £39.22 India
Leather business shoes £78.92 £30.55 India


Eating Out UK Price (£) India Price (in £) Cheaper Country?
Fast food meal £5 £2.77 India
Inexpensive restaurant £15 £1.80 India
3 course, mid-range, 2 people £50 £7.22 India
Cappuccino £2.62 £1.10 India
Coke/Pepsi £1.22 £0.33 India
Imported beer £4 £1.92 India

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