Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 02/06/14
Personal Experiences from Mumbai, India
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've lived in several major cities in Asia.
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?
Washington, DC. There's a direct flight from Newark, which is long (from memory around 11 hours) but it's nice to do the whole trip in one go.
3. How long have you lived here?
I've been here for just over a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My husband's job.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mainly apartments. If you have an apartment with several rooms, each room typically has its own private bathroom. There's usually a small quarters for household help. There are a lot of expats in Bandra. If you live and work in Bandra the commute isn't bad but if you're driving to and from South Mumbai during rush hour expect to be stuck in traffic for over an hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Depends where you shop. At the local market, produce is fairly cheap but if you're buying imported foods from a foreign supermarket then you can expect to pay more. There's an increasing trend of organic food locally produced and they have some good local organic brands, like Nourish Organics (http://nourishorganicfoods.com), that are a lot cheaper than imported organic products.
3. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes. I've known a few people who got dengue here.
1. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
In Bandra there are several good gyms: Watsons, Golds Gym, iThink Fitness, with modern equipment and personal trainers. Many apartment buildings will also have a gym.
2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Most restaurants and shops accept foreign credit cards and so do most ATMs. If you're not sure about a bank's ATM, stick to the main ones like Citibank and HSBC.
3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
For rickshaws it's good to know some basic direction instructions but in restaurants and shops most people speak English.
4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, there is a lack of sidewalks and many buildings don't really cater to people with physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I wouldn't take the local bus or train, especially at rush hour but taxis are cheap and they have some reliable services like Ola cabs. Most people up in Bandra use rickshaws, which run by a meter. In may other parts of India you have to bargain for the fare but here they are pretty good about sticking to the meter.
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?
Be prepared to get dings and scrapes. I wouldn't bring an expensive car as it's common for cars to get minor scratches, dents etc.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is supposed to be but it's not very reliable and we haven't been able to get the speeds that we were supposed to get.
Health & Safety:
1. 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?
Pretty unhealthy. When I first arrived I had a lot of sinus issues until my body adjusted.
2. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's sunny with blue skies about 9 months of the year and raining for the other 3 months. The weather outside of monsoon is pretty reliable.
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's good for singles and couples as there is a lot going on. I think the lack of green space might make life here a bit challenging for families but I don't know from personal experience.
2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel. I wish I had spent more time in Rajasthan and Kerala and also visited Hampi but there's so much to do it's hard to fit it all in. Also the vegetarian food here is delicious in both Indian and Western restaurants.
3. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
I would suggest getting the coup card through Brown Paper Bag (http://bpbweekend.com). It goes on sale a few times a year and gives you discounts at a dozen popular restaurants as well as at Nature's Basket, the main foreign supermarket here. If you sign up for the newsletter you'll also hear what's happening around town.
4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There are a ton of travel opportunities from the Himalayas in the North to the beaches down South. If you love to travel then it's a great place to be. Each part of India is very distinct in terms of what there is to see, eat, and do so you get to experience a lot of different things within one country.
Rent is probably the biggest expense here and is ridiculously over-priced in neighborhoods popular with expats. Besides that, most things are reasonable. You'll pay more for foreign food but at least it's available and there's a good supply of items at places like Nature's Basket, Food Hall and smaller stores such as Choice in Pali Market. There are lots of dining out options that range from very cheap to what you would expect to pay at a nice, Western restaurant.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?