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 centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Big Mac Meal
|Bottle of local beer
|Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant
|Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)
|City-centre bus/train fare
|Taxi (rate per km)
|Petrol/gasoline per litre
►For more on managing your finances, see Banking, Money and Taxes in India
What's the cost of living like in India?
"The services of anyone from nanny to cook to maid to driver isn't expensive. Doing dishes or wiping counters will become a thing of the past." For an extensive list of products and services that are cheap or expensive in India, read our expat interview with Pruma, an Indian national who repatriated to India.
"Your salary goes a LOT further in India. Food and consumer items (including designer goods) are a fraction of the cost in the UK." Read more in our interview with British expat Striddle who moved to Bengaluru.
Are you an expat living in India?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to India. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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