Housing options for foreigners in India


For many years expatriates in India used to live in communities with special security arrangements. Today you will find expatriates throughout each city but there are still areas preferred by foreigners because of their safety, services and social life.

Some popular residential areas on the outskirts of major towns are overcrowded, making it hard to find a nice apartment or house there.

Housing options in India generally include apartments, duplexes, independent houses, farm houses, guest houses and dormitories.

Apartments in India

Apartments are the most common housing options for both Indians and expatriates. They vary greatly in quality, size and cost, depending on such factors as neighbourhood or year of construction.

The term apartment is applied very flexibly in India. In the worst case scenario you get a very old flat with tiny rooms, no heating or air-conditioning, exposed pipes and no kitchen appliances. These apartments are obviously very cheap, but if you are used to western standards of living, you definitely do not want to live in them.

At the other end of the scale there are modern and luxurious apartments with central heating and air conditioning, power back-up generators, Italian marble, gardens and top floor terraces. These apartments are often built specifically for foreign tenants and include a complete range of equipment such as a fridge, built-in ovens, water filters and lots of storage closets.

The majority of standard apartments in India will fall somewhere in between these two extremes, with prices that vary accordingly. You should never rent an apartment in India without seeing it beforehand. It is advisable in many cases to use the services of a trusted Indian estate agent.

Apartments are usually owned by individuals. Since Indians are very curious about other cultures your flat hunt may feel like a job interview. Landlords often ask personal questions like how much you earn, however try not to get offended as this is merely a sign of respect for your status, if you are a high earner. There is always an option to politely deny or side step these questions, and you will not be pushed further.

Since you will usually rent an apartment from an individual who owns the apartment or even the entire apartment block, you will live in close proximity to your landlord. In many cases you will have to deal with the landlord personally in case of problems, even if you use an agency to find your flat.

There are options of both furnished or unfurnished flats, but it is worth checking out a place beforehand to see just how "furnished" it is. Some landlords also offer foreign tenants the option of furnishing their chosen flat (but this involves increasing the monthly rental price).

Before deciding on a flat, determine whether you can make mobile phone calls from inside. In many apartment blocks there is only a weak signal due to the buildings´ heavy concrete structures. Since landlines may take a while to get installed you might have to rely on your cell phone. As a general rule, the higher your flat sits, the better your network service should be.

Independent houses and farm houses

Independent houses and farm houses are the most expensive and luxurious housing options in India. They are usually built within walled communities and come in a variety of styles such as Mediterranean, American, classical European and Japanese. You will be more isolated from Indian daily life if you live in a farm or independent house, but you will also meet neighbours from all around the world.

Guest Houses in India

In India, some Hotel companies such as Taj Wellington Mews and Ascot Savoy Suites run special guest houses. These serviced apartments provide tailor-made, cost-effective, private facilities for families and guests for a longer stay. They are equipped with private bars and restaurants and, more and more, also with pools. Guest houses are much cheaper than hotels and a good option if you intend to stay in India only for a couple of months. They are much more expensive than a standard apartment, however.

Student accommodation in India

If you are studying at an Indian university, you are entitled to live in a dormitory. Quality of living in dormitories is usually far lower than what you might find at home. Expect a tiny, shared dormitory room. If you’re lucky, you will get your own little bathroom, but it is common for the entire hall to share one.

Shared flats

Another option for housing in India is sharing a flat. You can find ads posted by people looking for flatmates on Indian housing websites or on foreign community websites. If you stay with an Indian family you will usually be able to use the services of their maid or chef at a competitive price.

Sanitary facilities

One misguided impression of Indian sanitary facilities is that they differ greatly from what you are used to from western countries. However, in reality 95% of houses are modernised and will have the sanitary facilities you are accustomed to, in few cases these may be of a lower standard than you expect. This is why it is always important to view a property before signing anything.

Rental prices in India

Rental prices in India vary considerably between different cities and even within different neighbourhoods. They also differ depending on whether they are furnished or unfurnished. Rents are especially high in the big cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. For example, for a furnished 2-bedroom house in Delhi you can expect to pay up to INR 90,000 per month, while an unfurnished apartment comes in at around INR 70,000 per month. Depending on the location, you can rent a 2BHK apartment in Mumbai from anywhere between INR 7,000 per month (Ambernath, Eastern suburbs) to the high end INR 110,000 per month (Altamount Road, South Mumbai). In Bangalore, 2BHK unfurnished flat in Bangalore it will cost you at least INR 20,000 per month, those which are furnished you can expect to pay around INR INR 30,000 - 40,000. 

In some big cities, however, such as Madras, you will also find comparatively inexpensive apartments. Rural areas are generally a lot cheaper but if you live outside the city you will have to commute long hours to work. Of course, the rent also depends on the property´s size and quality.

Rent in India generally consists of two components. There is the actual rent for the property and then a maintenance charge for the watchmen. The deposit for a flat can often be three times the rent for one month. You should also check whether the landlord wants the payment each month and try to avoid landlords who are tax evaders since this gives you no sense of security.

The ground and first floors used to be the most expensive in a building. However, this has now changed because of western preferences for top floor apartments.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: