Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 04/15/24

Personal Experiences from Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India 04/15/24


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

First post but not first time abroad. Experience in Eastern/Western Europe and Brazil.

View All Answers

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?

Very long flight to/from the U.S. and the jetlag is rough so you’ll be deterred from going home frequently.

View All Answers

3. What years did you live here?


View All Answers

4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

View All Answers

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

Diplomatic Mission.

View All Answers

Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most people with children live in BKC within walking distance of the Consulate and ASB high school. BKC housing is excessively large, with the exception of one of the buildings. Pros of BKC is the commute and proximity to other kids/school, main cons are the traffic getting anywhere outside of BKC and that BKC has little to offer in terms of restaurants/bars/shopping/nightlife/local culture.

Bandra West is where the majority of single/childfree couples live and is in a vibrant, fun neighborhood with a 20 minute morning commute, 40-50 minute evening commute which can get worse by the minute post-4:30pm. Housing is smaller but still generous and most of the properties are great. Some couples and singles live in Bandra East and are located in between the Consulate BKC neighborhood and Bandra (about 10-20 minute commute). There are a few new housing properties in Worli area that are in a new building complex that’s supposed to have great amenities when completed.

View All Answers

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

You can find basically everything in Mumbai. International cuisine is popular and many stores have specialty items for similar prices to the US, maybe a little more. India’s food delivery apps are amazing (Swiggy, Zomato) so most of us get our groceries delivered. Housekeepers do most of the produce shopping at local markets. You can get anything delivered in Mumbai, sometimes within 8 minutes.

It would be challenging but not impossible to be vegan here due to the prevalence of ghee/dairy products in most Indian food, but vegan options are available and it’s not considered an odd diet. Nut allergies may be difficult. You can’t get beef here. Great for vegetarians.

View All Answers

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

Nothing. You can find anything you want and more.

View All Answers

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

There are too many to list. Mumbai is a foodie city and there are hundreds of great restaurants of every cuisine. Indian food is incredible so the average Indian restaurant will still have excellent food. Mumbai is home to delivery apps galore.

View All Answers

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

Mosquitos during the winter.

View All Answers

Daily Life:

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

Mumbai is pouch only so takes about 2-3 weeks and there’s a liquid limit.

View All Answers

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

Household help is easy to find, affordable, and will improve the quality of your life immensely. My housekeeper is wonderful. Another officer and I split her time.

Please, please pay your staff well! The local wages are abysmal for domestic help – there's no such thing as minimum wage. My neighbor and I pay my housekeeper 24k INR per month each (total 48k full time, a little less than 600 USD). This is considered significantly above average and as an expat, you can afford to pay people well for hard work. Nannies, drivers, and other household help are also available.

View All Answers

3. Do you feel that it is safe to walk, run or hike outside? Are there areas where bike riding is possible? What is the availability and safety of outdoor space for exercising? Are these easily accessible?

No non-traffic safety concerns walking outside. The biggest concern is the traffic, but rickshaws and cars move so slowly that many accidents do not cause major injury. Running outside is not for everyone due to road obstacles and pollution. Some hiking available in Maharashtra but is difficult to get to due to traffic. Most gyms are indoor but there are several outdoor bootcamp programs in Bandra and elsewhere.

View All Answers

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

For those in Bandra, most of us find a local gym (Gold’s is popular, FloFitBox for Crossfit, Ride for spin class, etc.). If yoga is your thing, you’ll find it. Personal training is cheap. Quite a few of us play soccer and cricket with other expats and Indians.

View All Answers

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

Credit cards are easy to use. Get an AMEX if you don’t have one. Open a local account to use the UPI payment services. UPI is accepted almost everywhere. We withdraw cash from the consulate so I have not had to use a local ATM.

View All Answers

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

You can get by with English but some Hindi would serve you well, especially with directions and food ordering. English is less widely spoken outside of Mumbai and major cities. Language tutors are affordable and available.

View All Answers

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

Mumbai and India are not accessible places for persons with disabilities. Sidewalks are not in good condition (if they exist) and most buildings are not accessible for many with mobility issues. Some events and venues are becoming more accessible but they still have a long way to go. Most buildings do not have ramps or elevators that could accommodate a wheelchair.

View All Answers


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

The local train is reliable and easy to use once you learn it (go with a local the first couple of times!). It’s the fastest way to get from Bandra to South Mumbai during peak traffic times. There is an AC train that is usually less crowded and quite comfortable, as well as 1st class coaches and ladies 1st/2nd class coaches. I do not take public buses but mostly because I haven’t figured it out and they wouldn’t save much time.

Rickshaws are easy to use and common in Bandra West and local cabs are their equivalent in South Mumbai. Most of us use Uber and Ola to get around which are cheap and reliable.

View All Answers

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?

I don’t think you can import cars to India so those who buy a car have to buy locally, usually from another diplomat. Diplomatic registration is a headache. Most who have a car hire a driver although some brave souls drive themselves (would not recommend). For those doing a 3-year tour it is worth it. For a 2-year tour you can get away with the ride share apps. A few of us have arrangements with drivers to drive us to/from work in their own vehicles.

View All Answers

Phone & Internet:

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

Wifi is fast, reliable, and cheap.

View All Answers

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

There are three main networks: Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone. We get Jio on our work phones but can’t get SIMs as foreigners for personal use. Vodafone is fine; don’t get Airtel.

View All Answers

Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

You can wear anything in Mumbai. As a women I tend to wear longer pants and dresses when on public transport or walking around but you can wear anything going out to clubs or restaurants. I dress more conservatively in other parts of India than Mumbai, especially when traveling to tourist locations. Indians love when foreigners wear traditional clothes so many of us wear kurtas to work and around. It is hot and humid all year so comfort is a priority for most Indians when choosing what to wear.

View All Answers

Health & Safety:

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

Mumbai is extremely safe, especially for foreigners who present as white. Exercise caution you’d use in a normal urban area. It is generally safe to be in public spaces as a woman but you have to get used to lots of staring and leering. At night I avoid public transport and walking alone but other than that places are crowded so you’re rarely anywhere alone.

I can’t speak to personal experiences about race discrimination but anecdotally people of color face more challenges when it comes to safety, mobility, and accessing the same services. Unfortunately, white privilege is real and white-passing folks are generally offered more and higher quality services due to the perception of wealth and status.

View All Answers

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

As with many places, most of us encounter some stomach issues due to food/water. I eat some street food that is fried/reputable but avoid anything that contains water or raw veggies/fruit. You have to wash all fruit and vegetables before consuming but the housekeepers are pros at this. I’ve been fairly adventurous and eat almost anywhere and haven’t had any serious food poisoning. Restaurants in Mumbai are safe, even the smaller local places.

Dengue is less common in Mumbai than other posts and I haven’t heard of anyone getting malaria recently. Some of us take Malarone for malaria but most stop taking it. Medical care is great here. It’s easy to get an appointment with any specialist and many clinics are open after work and on Saturdays. People usually evacuate for complex surgeries or childbirth, but many are opting to give birth in Mumbai given the quality of health care.

View All Answers

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?

Pollution has gotten worse in the recent years from November-April mostly due to Mumbai’s construction boom. We have air filters in the Consulate and in every room at home but I wear an N95 when the AQI is over 200 and you have to limit your outdoor activities. Many of us have contracted respiratory infections.

View All Answers

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

Wet and hot/mild during monsoon (June to September), hot October-December, kind of hot December-March, very hot April-June.

View All Answers

Expat Life:

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

Mumbai has a fairly large expat scene, mostly Brits and Europeans. The diplomatic community exists but is not close. Expats generally enjoy Mumbai given how cosmopolitan and affordable the city is and how easy it is to make friends with locals. Many expats live in Bandra West.

View All Answers

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?

Indians are super friendly and outgoing so it’s easy to make friends at gyms, yoga classes, trivia nights, walking tours, bars, etc. I play soccer with a mixed group of Indians and expats and met many of my friends through other Indians in the group.

View All Answers

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

Mumbai is a great post for singles. I arrived as a single woman and dated casually before finding my current partner. The apps are hit or miss (as they are everywhere) and for women there’s an added level of patriarchal norms that make dating more challenging, but overall Mumbai has a cosmopolitan, progressive young population. Young people live with their families so there is less of a hookup culture and more social/familial barriers to dating outside cultures, but it’s a cosmopolitan city and lots of affluent young Indians have international exposure.

Like most places, single men will find it extremely easy to date. There are a lot of single and childfree couples at post and the Community Liaison Office (CLO) events are intentionally inclusive of those without EFMs. Making friends with Indians is easy and you’ll develop lifelong friendships. As with any post, you’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone and seek opportunities to socialize but it’s quite easy and Indians, including our Locally Engaged Staff (LES), are eager to welcome you into their culture.

View All Answers

4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Very easy! Indians are friendly and constantly smiling. They’ll invite you to events in a heartbeat and welcome foreigners with open arms. See below for prejudices.

View All Answers

5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

India is not a tolerant country towards LGBTQIA+, although Mumbai is seen as the most progressive. While it’s possible to be out at certain bars/clubs/social events, it is still considered taboo. According to friends, dating can be difficult since many individuals are not out to their families (and live with said families) or are married to the opposite sex in an arranged marriage.

View All Answers

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

As mentioned before, people of color will face discrimination to a greater extent. There is prevalent racism against Black folks and rampant Islamophobia. Although women are generally able to move freely in more cosmopolitan circles, independent single females are viewed with suspicion and disapproval by much of society outside of Mumbai. Indeed, many cases of gender violence in India have involved attacks on single women as some men perceive independent females as fair game for sexual conquest—consensual or otherwise. Mumbai is one of the safest cities in India for women; however, women must exercise extreme caution when traveling alone outside of the city.

View All Answers

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

The people have been the highlight of Mumbai. Indians are so friendly and warm and you can find community in so many different places. There is ALWAYS something to do in Mumbai so you’ll never be bored.

View All Answers

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

There are too many to count. Art Walk Thursdays, Vintage Garden/Peace Haven pop up markets, Soundrise Sunday morning concerts. Get on Instagram and start following pages – Instagram is the way most of us find out about events.

View All Answers

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

Yes, yes, yes! India is seeing a surge of homegrown brands, especially slow fashion and women-owned. Home goods are cheap and great quality. You can get jewels and gold easily and for unbeatable prices. Come with many empty suitcases. Every region has their own textiles/handicraft.

View All Answers

Words of Wisdom:

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

India is a country of extreme contrasts. Be prepared to see extreme poverty alongside lavish wealth.

View All Answers

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

1000% yes. Would move here again in a heartbeat.

View All Answers

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

Expectations about India.

View All Answers

4. But don't forget your:

Open mind and heart.

View All Answers

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

Don’t read Shantaram. Read In Spite of the Gods, Maximum City, India after Ghandi, White Tiger, Sea of Poppies (or anything by Amitav Ghosh). Watch any Sharukh Khan Bollywood films, Made in Heaven or Modern Love Mumbai on Prime, India From Above on NatGeo.

View All Answers

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More