Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 07/14/23
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 also lived in Europe and Africa.
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?
Getting to Mumbai is a long trip. Connecting flights in London, Germany, Dubai, etc. There are some direct flights to Mumbai and Delhi from NYC/DC. But, they don't seem to always run.
3. What years did you live here?
Mumbai, Bandra West.
4. How long have you lived here?
2 years and some change.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Basically all apartments, no houses. Commutes can be very long. It's best to try to do a 7-4 work schedule for in-person work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Very affordable for local foods. Imports can be very expensive. Alcohol is also expensive, unless you have a duty free shop.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Ton of options. Lots of continental, Chinese (though it's Desi Chinese), Indian, some sushi, Lebanese. Mumbai has a lot of international food, though a lot of it is not authentic, and is basically mediocre. If you want to eat Indian everyday, you'll save a lot of money.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use the US consulate.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very affordable, compared to Western standards. Western diplomats tend to pay 2-3 times more than what a local would pay, and it's still very affordable. We paid our live-in housekeeper 45k INR/month and a part-time housekeeper (4 days/week, 15hrs/week) 15k/month. Locals were surprised to hear that we paid that much. But, if you want help who speaks English, is reliable, has cooked for Westerners before, you're going to have to pay a bit more.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are lots of gyms, but quality and size aren't great. The gyms are actually pretty expensive for what they come with.
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?
PayTM is most common. I highly recommend getting a local bank account so that you can use PayTM, which is an online payment platform. Cash is also still very common. 500 bill is the highest denomination, so if you want to use cash, you'll have to take out a lot of bills.
Credit cards are also widely accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A lot of the Catholic Churches in Bandra have services in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Having some basic Hindi would be very helpful. The working class generally doesn't speak english.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Even if you don't have physical disabilities, you have difficulties getting around in this city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, very cheap. Though, you'd have to be pretty brave and ok with crowds to take a local bus.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Carjacking/burglary is not common. I would get a small car that you don't mind getting roughed up a bit. Two wheelers are the most convenient, if you feel safe driving one.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it doesn't take too long.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
They are cheap and generally reliable.
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?
You need to get a PAN card and salaries will be based on the local market (read: salaries will be low).
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Volunteer opportunities at orphanages, I think.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Mumbai is pretty informal in terms of dress. It's also so hot out all the time, that you don't really want to wear heavy suits.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I always felt very safe. The driving is the most dangerous part.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Very good and affordable healthcare.
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?
Poor, but not as bad as Delhi.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
monsoon blues, if that's a thing
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot all the time. You will never need a coat in Mumbai, even on the coldest day. You really won't even need a long sleeved shirt, though you might want to wear one to protect you from the bugs. You will be wet from the humidity and rain during the monsoon season.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
small, compared to Delhi. Morales seems ok, not great.
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?
Yes, lots of opportunities. Though it's basically impossible to get into a formal "club" unless you are a legacy. Doesn't even matter if you're rich.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Probably best for single people. Easy to meet locals and expats. I wouldn't call it a family post, per se. However, most of the American families seem happy here, partly due to the good schooling and low cost of house help.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I have found it easy to make friends with locals.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, but I don't have personal experience, so I don't want to conjecture.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel to South India and to the mountains; hanging in Bandra; going to an Indian wedding. Goa has the best food in India, and it's not even close.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hampi and Shimla were two fun places that I'd never heard of.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, there is nothing you cannot buy in India. If you're a willing buyer, you will find a willing seller.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's dynamic and big. You will get frustrated, but never bored. There are lots of things that can make Mumbai a difficult place to live (the noise, pollution, traffic, bad customer service, etc.), but the good news is that if you're on a western salary, you can pay to mitigate these annoyances, to some degree (ok, not the pollution...but you can get multiple air purifiers).
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
1. That not as many people speak English, as I had expected. 2. It's the loudest city I've ever been to. 3. You will have a front row view of the world's "haves and have-nots." 4. I was surprised to find that Indians are quite patriotic and are sensitive to criticism about their country. 5. Regional pride is very strong in India. Everyone loves their region the best and hates Delhi (exaggerating, but not too much).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but, two years was enough.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
winter clothes, sense of personal space, and traffic etiquette.
4. But don't forget your:
raincoat, patience, and sense of adventure.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Behind the Beautiful Forevers; Slumdog Millionaire.
6. Do you have any other comments?
I found Mumbaikers to be welcoming, proud of their city, and friendly. Keep a good attitude and make some local friends.