India is a huge country with many religions and ethnic groups. Still, there are some basic rules that all expats should and have to follow if they are planning to live and work in India for an indefinite period of time. Of course this guide also helps people who stay for periods starting from 6 months on a work visa.
This guide starts off with the following presumptions: – The person moving to India is not a traveler, but will work in the country – The person moving to India has accommodation, work and visa in place
Take the right taxi when you arrive. Look for the pre-paid taxi stand. Do not let any person approach you and offer you a taxi. They are definitely overcharging by a very high amount (up to 300 percent!). Make a difference between A/C (airconditioning) and non-A/C cab. In the middle of the night and in the cooler period, A/C is not needed, it is just more expensive. ‘Luxury cabs’ do not exist, thus a higher amount for taking one is not justified.
Pay the correct amount. When reaching your destination, your cab driver will do everything to charge you an extra amount. He might give you the following reasons: driver’s charge, night charge, luxury charge, tip, waiting charge, parking fees, sick mother, grand mother, dog, cat, cow or sheep. None of this is true! Pre-paid taxis are called pre-paid taxis because they are pre-paid. Tipping cab drivers is not common and not advisable.
Get a telephone: Every Indian owns a mobile phone. Getting one takes some patience, but is quite easy. Identify the most reliable mobile provider in your region. Common ones are: Airtel, Hutch (now Vodafone), Idea. Usually you need your residency permit and passport as well as 1-2 passport pictures. You can use your European telephone or a U.S. one (although India providers are mostly using the GSM network — same as AT&T and T-Mobile in USA). But simple mobile phones can be bought starting from 30 USD.
Register at the FRRO. Within the first 14 days of your arrival you need to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO). Usually, your employer helps you with that. If not, try to find a reliable Indian person, who can help you out with the language spoken in the area you live in, as nobody in the FRRO will speak enough English to understand you. Do not forget to fill the simple form with your address and other details. And take passport pictures. In India passport pictures are needed for everything, so make it a habit to carry at least 5 with you at all times.
Get a residency permit. Once the FRRO has worked on your registration, you (or somebody in the company you work for) will be asked to pick up your ‘residency permit’ (stamped form). This paper is very important. Do not lose it and carry it with you when you are traveling, as it is proof that you are an Indian Resident and will give you discounts at many tourist sites (Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, Qutab Minar in Delhi, Amber Fort in Jaipur and many more). It also proofs that you are in India legally. The process for your permit to be approved can take anything between 5 days and 2 months.
Get a PAN card: Your employer will pay taxes for you or you will pay your own taxes. In any case you will receive a PAN card that shows that you are 1. an Indian Resident and 2. paying your taxes in India. This card you can carry with you instead of the residency permit, as it serves the same purpose and is accepted by most people and institutions as a means of identification.
Obtain health insurance: either you have taken up a private health insurance in your home country or your employer offers you a certain health insurance package with your contract. Bigger cities in India have good private hospitals and doctors at prices that are affordable.
Learn about transport: If you are not lucky enough to live in one of the cities that has a metro, you will have to rely on the following methods of transport:
- Bike rikshaw: slow, unreliable and usually the drivers do not know their way around. Not advisable after dark for single women. Price: bargain, bargain, bargain! It is cheaper than you think and foreign people pay a higher price than Indians in any case.
- Auto rikshaw: They do have meters, but those never work. If they do, in many cities the drivers have lists that show the rates you have to pay according to the meter. If the meter does not work: bargain, bargain, bargain!
- Taxis: same as for auto rikshaws. There are also taxis that have fixed prices which can be booked for a certain number of hours and kilometres with the driver. Ask your Indian colleagues for the local prices for these (and everything else). And usually, even though a fixed price had been agreed, the drivers will want more money. The only charge that really does apply is the night charge (usually from 11 PM)and parking charges (in Delhi between 10 and 20 RS). Do not pay anything they ask you without asking for proof.
Experiment with eating out: Restaurants are quite cheap and usually the food is fine. Indian food is very spicy and contains a lot of beans. In most of the bigger cities, there is a good variety of Western food available (at higher cost though). Hygiene is a very sensitive topic. Mostly the plates and cutlery are clean.It is only a myth that the food is not cooked in hygenic conditions. Today maximum Indian restaurants observe the hygiene standards laid down by the central board. Indian chefs work very hard to give you the right quality food. If your concern about hygiene is genuine we suggest you eat at a good restaurant and not at road side. Nobody can assure healthy food at road side whether in India or in New York.
Get an International Driving Permit from your home country. Indian transport authorities do not recognise a driving licence without an IDP. It is NOT recommended to drive yourself in India — driving is chaotic and random, and rules are rarely followed in India. If you wish to drive, do so with caution, and remember that drivers in India will not extend the same courtesy as expected in Western countries.
Buy food in a market. Fruit and vegetables are widely available on markets. They usually weigh what you buy, so if they don’t, insist on it, otherwise they will definitely overcharge you. There are good supermarkets as well, which sell imported products at the same prices as in your home country or slightly more expensive.
Wear appropriate clothing: This is especially important for women! Do not wear short skirts, tight clothes or tank-tops.
Try out the nightlife: Mostly nightclubs are in expensive hotels and the prices are even higher than in Europe or the US. Clubbers are either rich expats or posh Indians. Music is mostly Indian Bollywood, Punjabi etc. or techno/house music.
Observe state alcohol laws. In some states, the minimum age for drinking is 18, in others, it is 21, and some, such as Maharashtra, it is 25 for hard liquor. Transporting liquor across state lines are often illegal — eg Goa to Maharashtra, (because of high excise duties in Maharashtra); Maharashtra-Gujarat (because Gujarat is a dry state). In Maharashtra, to drink alcohol, you need to make a permit, although this rule is rarely enforced.
Be prepared to see poverty: It is everywhere. And even the poor expect more money out of you than of their Indian people. So they might cling to your legs, grab your arms or in any other way with their whining voices try to get your attention. There is no solution for this.
- Tourist vs. Indian price: Your PAN-card and residency permit allows you to enter important sights at the price of an Indian. This does not work everywhere (e.g. Taj Mahal) and sometimes needs some convincing. But do not forget: you pay Indian taxes, so you should be treated as an Indian.
- Most of the people you deal with in everyday life (vendors, waiters, cleaning people, cab drivers etc.) will not speak English, so learn your share of Hindi or whichever language/dialect is spoken where you live. Most important words: namaste = hello, seedha = straight (for the cab drivers, they do know left and right), ye bas = stop here, achhha = good, nahi = no, han or hanji = yes, nahi = no, nahi chahiye = no, I don’t want and the numbers, so that you can negotiate for prices ; Kya hua= What happen? ; Seb = Apple. Dukaan= shop; Chai= Tea; Bhai= Brother; Kal= Tomorrow.Chutti= holiday;
- You will be stared at! Find your own way to deal with it.
- Download yourself the free guide books published by New Delhi-based Knowledge Must on working, volunteering, doing internships, or studying in India  in order to get a more detailed overview of what working in India implies.
- Bargain, bargain, bargain! Foreigners in India are generally being treated as walking ATM-machines. Everybody will just want your money. No matter if that person is poor or fairly rich. They all think foreigners can just pull a 1000 Dollar note out of their pocket. Once you are familiar with the prices in your area, do not let them convince you the prices have increased. Foreigners are foreigners and you will be surprised how much less Indians around you pay for the same thing.
Edited by Choicefresh, Zoe Volt, Jack Herrick, Sondra C and 9 others