Relocating to India – Guide for Expats
With its ever expanding business opportunities in the major cities, India has become a desirable destination for expats. Here we look at some of the more important bits of info every expat will want to know before heading east…
What expat wouldn’t want to live in this vast country with its diverse cultural heritage and a history dating back to ancient times? Throughout India expats will discover a colourful tapestry with treasures linking the past with the present.
The most visited area of India is known as the Golden Triangle which includes Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Many expats settle in New Delhi, the capital of India which is one of the largest cities in the world with an estimated three hundred thousand inhabitants. Mumbai is another thriving city in India offering expats opportunities in many different industries including Banking and IT which are expanding rapidly.
For most expats, coming to India offers so much more than just the bustling cities. There are breathtakingly magnificent temples and palaces. Few have not heard of the Taj Mahal, the eighth wonder of the world, but while this white marble mausoleum can seem like the ultimate in beauty and wonder expats will find many more wonderful monuments steeped in ancient history scattered throughout India. The holy city of Varanasi situated on the banks of the Ganges has one of the oldest, continuously inhabited communities in the world and has been a religious destination for pilgrims for thousands of years.
Whilst India holds abundant treasures for those expats seeking the magic of its cultural heritage, there are many more aspects of the country to temp the palette from the palm fringed beaches of Goa and Kerala to the towering majesty of the Himalayas [below].
India is divided into twenty eight states which are subdivided into districts and there are seven territories. India shares its borders with Pakistan to the northwest, China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the East. The Arabian Sea lies to the west and the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean to the south.
The estimated population of India in 2011 is estimated to be 1.21 billion. India is one huge melting pot with at least two thousand different ethnic groups. Given the vastness of India there is a great deal of variation regarding societal boundaries, income and education and large areas of poverty.
» Language and Culture
Although Hindi is the national language, expats will discover that there are about fourteen other official languages and, numerous dialects from region to region. With a legacy from the days of the British Empire, English is very widely spoken in India particularly among the educated.
The music and culture is a rich tapestry of diversity with something to suit all expats needs and passions. Cuisine gurus among expats will be surprised, not to mention delighted, with the wonderful amalgamation of spices and diversity of dishes throughout India which will surpass anything tasted in the Indian restaurants back home. For those expats who appreciate music, India has so much to offer. Traditional folk music including the popular Bhangra originates from the Punjab region and is lively and rhythmic. The Sitar, made famous throughout the world, by the legendary Ravi Shankar is a traditional Indian stringed instrument which is plucked and has a strong resonance from its long, hollow neck. Of course, expats cannot come to India without steeping themselves in the wonderful world of Bollywood, the Indian film industry based in Mumbai. Saturday night at the cinema will never be the same.
The predominant religion in India is Hindu of which there are estimated to be about 81.3 of the population: the other religions are Muslim 12%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9% and other religious groups include Buddhist, Jain and Parsi.
» Sport and leisure
Of course, it doesn’t need to be said that the most popular sport in India is Cricket. In every park, in the streets and on areas of wasteland children will be practising the art of cricket. Cricket loving expats will be able to indulge themselves at every turn. In addition to the latter sport, India has something to offer all sport loving expats from football to tennis, volleyball, field hockey, badminton to name only a few.
In their leisure time, expats have so much to choose from whatever their particular interest: eating wonderful food, partaking in sport, swimming in the warm seas or travelling to the Himalayas for climbing, white water rafting or just drinking in the majestic beauty, it is all there.
Driving in the big cities of India is certainly not for the faint hearted, so expats, be warned. Whilst it may appear that there are only two or maybe three lanes of traffic, expats attempting to make sense of the chaos on the roads will note that often there will be five or six lanes of traffic with vehicles jostling for space. Traffic lights present a competitive challenge for all drivers not least expats trying to find their way around.
Expats must be aware that, in India, there is no concept of the good old British queue, where we politely wait for the lights to change before proceeding on our way and, of course, we wouldn’t dream of honking our horns for fear of upsetting other drivers; not so in India, honking continuously seems to be a pre-requisite. It’s always a case of getting in front of the vehicle in front by fair means or foul and expats who wish to turn right at the lights might find a string of vehicles behind nipping round them and moving on ahead.
So, the advice to expats is, stick to the kerb at all times and hope that, at some time you might find an opportunity to make a right, but don’t bank on it, you could end up a couple of hundred miles from your intended destination merely by being swept along in a tidal wave of desperado drivers. UK expats willing to steel themselves and take on the driving challenge, will need a 1949 International Drivers licence.
» Public Transport
India has a vast public transport sector catering for the needs of more than a billion inhabitants. The railway system is under single management transporting around 17 million passengers and tonnes of freight daily, across this huge territory.
Rail is probably the preferred mode of travel in such a large country when long distances need to be covered. There are various categories of rail travel from the widespread standard which can be overcrowded and somewhat uncomfortable but will get you there. There are luxury trains, express trains, and superfast trains. Rail travel across India can be an exciting and rewarding experience and reservations for long journeys should be booked up well ahead.
Bus travel is also a popular mode of travel providing about 90% of transport in the cities. India has made progress in updating bus transport with express buses, low-floor buses for the disabled and pushchairs and many of the buses are air-conditioned. It is a cheap and efficient mode of travel in the cities.
Taxis are commonly used in the cities and most are state run although some are private operators. All taxi operators in India are required by law to be registered as commercial vehicles. Depending upon which city or state, the rules of ordering taxis varies. In some places taxis can only be ordered by phone in others they can be hailed on the streets.
There are a number of airports in India with plenty of International flights and domestic flights.
Expats will be pleased to note that India is well served with a good communications network that includes fiber optic cables and satellite. Telephone networks, mobile phone services and Internet facilities are pretty well served in the cities and towns throughout India although there are areas in the very rural parts of the country that lack good communication services.
The electricity supply in India is state owned and managed at local level. Piped gas is available is some areas particularly the towns and cities and bottled gas is available in other areas. The major suppliers of LPG are Indian Oil and Bharat Petroleum. Expats will require proof of occupation from the landlord, a lease agreement or sale deed of an owned property in order to be connected to the utility services which includes water.
Most expats prefer to drink bottled water although the water is deemed safe to drink in the larger cities.
» Climate and Weather
As India is such a vast country there are a number of different climatic zones. In the region around the Himalayas there are fluctuations in climate and temperature depending upon altitude but around the foothills the weather can vary from subtropical to Alpine. In the northern part of India the climate is sub tropical. Summers are hot and wet with temperatures dipping down to freezing during the winter months. The tropical areas of India can include the monsoon period [see pic below] while some areas are tropical and dry. In the western part of India the country is arid and temperatures can soar to 50c in summer.
» Visas and Immigration
All foreign national expats must have a valid passport and an Indian visa except for nationals from Tibet and Bhutan and nationals of the Maldives who do not require a visa for the first 90 days. Many expats to India are intending to work and future employers will sometimes make arrangements. Information regarding a move to India and the requirements can be sought from India’s High Commissions, Embassies and Consular offices in the country of origin.
This should include an up to date record of vaccinations including rabies which should not have been administered more than thirty days prior to travel. The certificate should be signed by a qualified vet from the country of origin. It is always advisable for expats to ensure their pet is micro-chipped before entering the country.
The currency in India is INR known as the Rupee. INR is available in the following denomination notes Re1, Rs 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are available in Re1, Rs 2 and 5.
» Health Service
Although in the past few decades, India has strived to improve and build up a huge medical health infrastructure, there are vast areas of poverty which isn’t reached by a good service. There are private and state run hospitals but the services tend to be better in the cities and towns with little in the more rural areas. Expats are advised to take out private health insurance while in India.
The education system in India varies considerable from region to region and the facilities in the rural areas are pretty basic. India does have government and privately run schools in most parts of the country however, some offering education on a par with that of the UK system. There are numerous International schools in India for Expats wishing to educate their children to western standards through to university level.
» Buying Property/Renting Property
Expats of Non-Indian origin are permitted to purchase immovable property in India on the following conditions:
a) The property must be for residential use only
b) Purchase is met from any convertible currency through a normal banking channel.
c) Any income accrued from rent of said property or from the sale proceeds thereof shall be credited only to the ordinary Non-resident Rupee account of the non-resident purchaser.
All UK expats are advised to engage an English speaking lawyer to deal with the legal aspect of purchase to ensure that all the small print has been examined and that there are no hidden loopholes.
Are you moving due to work? We offer briefings for business professionals relocating for career reasons. These familiarise you with your new home country – looking at daily life, practicalities, social norms, business etiquette and many other topics built around you and/or your family.
Have a look at our Expat Relocation Course and then speak to your company about setting up this support for you. They are easy to set-up and worth their weight.
These benefits include:
- Prepares the individual/family mentally for relocting
- Removes some of the ‘unknown’and answers questions
- Increases cultural awareness
- Motivates and excites
- Reduces stress and provides practical tips and strategies,
- Eases the settling-in process
- Reduces the chances of relocation failure
- Minimises culture shock
Or simply contact us and one of our team will be in touch to find out a bit more about your move, needs, etc.