Hyderabad, India Report of what it's like to live there - 01/18/15

Personal Experiences from Hyderabad, India

Hyderabad, India 01/18/15


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've lived all over the world, mostly Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It takes about 24 hours to go from Hyderabad to Washington, D.C., with a layover in Dubai. It's a long and exhausting trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I've been in Hyderabad for about 4 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most people live in apartments, although there are a few houses left in the pool. I'm lucky to live about 20 minutes from the consulate. Others live a bit further away and it can take between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic and time of day to go to or from work. Once the metro rail opens in 2016, traffic should reduce significantly.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We can get pretty much everything we need. The fruits and vegetables are tastier than what I remember in the U.S. We can find local equivalents, e.g. ketchup, mayo, etc., which are about one-sixth the cost. For example, locally-made tortillas and corn chips are pretty good. Beef is somewhat hard to come by. However, the Park Hyatt sells beef and cheese are reasonable prices. You can also order food from the commissary in New Delhi but you have to pay for shipping. We only buy alcohol from the commissary. Someone explained that Hyderabad is the farthest southern city that one can buy meat. Chicken and mutton are available at the most supermarkets. We've bought pork bacon and pork chops at Q-Mart. Beef is available if you can find a Muslim butcher. Cured meats such as ham and bologna, as well as fancy cheeses, can be bought at the Living Room, which located in the lobby of the Park Hyatt in Banjara Hills.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Plenty of coffee; the local coffee isn't very good. Indian rice is basmati, which is large kerneled. I prefer Jasmin rice, which is more Southeast Asian, so I wish we would have packed several large sacks of this type of rice.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and KFC are here, Hard Rock Cafe too. Note McDonald's doesn't serve hamburgers, only chicken and paneer burgers. French fries are about the same. I haven't tried KFC. I prefer to go to the Indian restaurants instead. Our favorites are Paradise for biriyani and Chutneys for vegetarian food. Both are great. Hyderabadi biriyani is famous. We've eaten street food (samosas, dosas, masala tea) without any problem.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

In certain housing areas mosquitoes can be a problem. I live in an apartment and don't use a mosquito net. One of the houses had so many cobras in the yard, they had to move to a different house.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mail comes through diplomatic pouch from the Embassy. Note that when you send packages to the U.S. or receive commissary shipments, you have to pay an additional freight charge.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Everyone has a driver and a housekeeper/nanny. Costs are reasonable, between US$200 - $250 per month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are lots of gyms all over the city. Many apartment complexes have a gym and a pool.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are plentiful and we've used our credit card in stores with no problem.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Christian churches are available. Mosques and Hindu temples abound. I don't know about any synagogues.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I don't speak the local languages, Telugu or Hindi. I get along fine in English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

In many places there aren't any sidewalks. In places that do have sidewalks, they're somewhat in disrepair.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I've not taken a local train, bus, or taxi. There are several taxi companies, including Uber, that seem reputable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most people buy second-hand cars. A few have bought brand new Indian-produced cars.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The Internet is the fastest and most affordable I've ever had, 15 MB per second. Beam Telecom service is pretty good.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The consulate provided me with a cell phone. My wife easily got a rechargeable SIM card, which doesn't seem too expensive. I like this system better than the U.S. because you aren't locked into an annual plan.

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1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't know about incoming pets and quarantine. However, certain airlines are better than others about shipping your pet. Recently, when someone who had a dog departed Post, they had to drive all the way to Bangalore, about an 8 hour drive, so they could ship their dog on the same plane. They bore the expense of renting the car and staying in a hotel prior to departure.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

The Mission has a reciprocal agreement with the Government of India that authorizes employment on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are plenty of NGOs around.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. Outside, people dress pretty conservatively. Men never wear shorts, except perhaps to the gym. Older women wear saris and the younger women wear salwar kameez.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I haven't heard of anyone having a break-in. Security in my apartment complex is pretty good. A local person told me her phone was picked from her purse but I haven't had such problems. Nobody bothers me. That said, this is India and there are beggars who can hassle you. As long as you're polite and ignore them, they'll pretty much leave you alone. Wherever you go, you'll be frisked for guns or explosives. India has had its share of terrorism.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The Consulate doesn't have an RMO. However, they just hired a new doctor. I've found the medical care here to be adequate. Many Indian doctors have worked in the U.S. before. Prescription drugs are very cheap.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Compared to other places I've lived, the air quality is actually pretty good. Even in the winter months, when places like New Delhi have really bad pollution problems, we have blue skies here. Because we're on the Deccan Plateau, there's very little humidity.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Because it's so dry, those with dust allergies may suffer.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

I love the weather here -- no humidity thus far, pleasant breeze, blue skies. It's only rained one day since the day I arrived four months ago.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

While there are several reputable "international" schools, none are accredited by the Department of State. Consulate kids, none of whom are in high school, attend the International School of Hyderabad, which is located on the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) campus. The school is located outside Hyderabad, which I understand is a 45-minute commute for most kids.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I couldn't say.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I don't have young children but I understand folks are happy with the preschool and daycare options.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The consulate has about 25 Americans. Morale is quite good. The consular workload is ever increasing. There's no doubt it has become a visa mill.

I don't know many people outside of that community. I understand that there are many Indian-Americans who work in the hi-tech industry, so many live in Hi-Tech City.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many people have parties in their homes. Folks get together for brunch. There are several decent movie theaters, which show first-run U.S. movies. For about US$4.00, you can sit in a Lazy-Boy type chair in the back row. It's easy and cheap to travel around India for a long weekends.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I'd say it's good for adventurous couples who like to explore. Singles tend to hang out with each other. No matter their religion, most Indians have arranged marriage, which means the dating scene can be quite limited. I don't know of anyone dating someone local.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Hyderabad has a religious mix of Hindus, Muslims, and a few Christians. I understand it has the highest percentage of Muslim population in India. While it's fairly conservative, e.g., it's common to see women wearing burkhas, I don't feel any animosity towards me for being a Westerner. In fact, out and about in the city, the people couldn't be more curious or kind towards me.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There are interesting historical/cultural sites to visit in Hyderabad -- Charminar and its surrounding markets, Chowmahala Palace, Falaknuma Palace/Hotel, Golcanda Fort, Salar Jung Museum, Birla Temple, Qutb Shahi Tombs.

Since Hyderabad is so centrally located in India, it's very easy and cheap to fly to other parts of India.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Spending the night at the Taj Falaknuma, a 6 star hotel, is pretty special. Having the Sunday brunch or a massage at the Park Hyatt is something a lot of people do. Given its history as a very wealthy kingdom, there are certainly lots of regal palaces to visit. Wandering around the old town near Charminar is fun.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are plenty of nicknacks to buy. Saris and bangles are plentiful. People with larger stature won't be able to find clothes or shoes. It's easy enough to buy clothes through the Internet.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Before coming to Hyderabad, Indian friends told us that Hyderabad is their favorite city. We were surprised that what they said was true. Compared to other places I've lived, the traffic isn't that bad and the weather is really very pleasant. Despite having some very interesting and historical sites, Hyderabad isn't as touristed as other parts of India, which is nice.

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9. Can you save money?

If you like luxury, you can certainly find it at the fancy hotels for brunch, dinner, or overnight stays. If you have simpler tastes, you can save a lot of money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It's easy to find an Indian equivalent food item, e.g., Lays potato chips, Oreos, granola.

Indian-produced wine and coffee is not very good. You'll have to purchase your alcohol through the commissary.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! We love it here. You won't regret coming here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Worries, snowshoes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, sense of adventure, open-mindedness, positive attitude, friendliness, favorite coffee.

Jacket, sweaters and blankets. Northern India does get cold, so if you travel to New Delhi, you may need to dress warm.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It's not uncommon for people stare when they see a foreigner, They're not meaning to be rude; they're just curious. Especially at tourist sites, you will feel like a rock star as many people will ask if they can take a photo with you. Enjoy your moment of fame.

If you're respectful and polite, people are OK with you taking photos of them.

Some people live in dire poverty. It is very common to see people sleeping on the sidewalks or begging.

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