Given its large size, the cost of living in India varies considerably. Many new arrivals are surprised to find that living costs in major cities can be pricey, though perhaps less so than in large European and North American cities.

The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Mumbai and New Delhi as 147th and 169th respectively out of the 227 cities studied. The costs of living in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata are lower at 184th, 189th, 202nd and 211th respectively.

Expats who negotiate a lucrative relocation package in India can often afford luxuries that they wouldn’t be able to afford at home, such as domestic services, chauffeurs, and having home-cooked lunches delivered to the office.

Cost of accommodation in India

Accommodation is likely to be an expat's biggest expense in India, with property in New Delhi and Mumbai being particularly expensive. Wherever possible, expats should try to negotiate a housing allowance or complimentary housing into their employment package.

Expats without assistance from their employers will likely need to factor in the costs of hiring a real estate agent or relocation company to assist with the home search and lease negotiations. These expenses may be high, though varied.

Cost of healthcare in India

Expats moving to India will have access to relatively cheap healthcare services with good standards. They will, however, have to factor in the cost of health insurance if their employer does not cover it. Medical insurance packages may vary in terms of coverage, and it's often best to invest in an international company that includes most hospitals and facilities.

Cost of education in India

Expat children can attend public schools in India, but their standards aren't in line with what most expat parents would expect. Instead, expat children usually attend international schools. Fees vary between private schools, but they are generally high. Securing a place at popular international schools in India is difficult, and calling upon contacts or even paying bribes to secure a place isn't unheard of. The latter is not advised. Instead, expats should try to negotiate a schooling allowance into employment contracts.

Cost of groceries and eating out in India

Expats who buy local produce will find that everyday groceries are cheap in India. Shopping at vegetable markets allows expats to eat fresh seasonal produce while supporting local vendors. Those who buy imported Western foods will have a considerably higher bill.

The cost of entertainment and eating out in India will vary according to an expat’s personal preferences. It's possible to eat out inexpensively in India, especially if expats are willing to try local cuisine and street food.

Cost of transport in India

Getting around in India can be cheap if making use of public transport, but most expats prefer to opt for private transport. Renting or buying a car will cost considerably more, though some expats have these expenses covered by their employers.

Cost of living in India chart

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Mumbai in November 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreINR 148,000
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreINR 71,000
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreINR 51,000
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreINR 28,000
Eggs (dozen)INR 83
Milk (1 litre)INR 65
Rice (1kg)INR 62
Loaf of white breadINR 43
Chicken breasts (1kg)INR 300
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)INR 350
Eating out
Big Mac MealINR 400
Coca-Cola (330ml)INR 40
CappuccinoINR 210
Bottle of local beerINR 200
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantINR 1,500
Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)INR 1
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)INR 730
Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)INR 4,500
City-centre bus/train fareINR 20
Taxi (rate per km)INR 29
Petrol/gasoline per litreINR 106

Expat Health Insurance

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